Next stop with my parentals was the Grand Canyon, via a big Dam, a naff ghost town (so dead I hope the town haunts itself) and some pretty rocks in a thunder storm.
More conventionally the Hoover Dam, which to my chagrin the parentals especially Gaz (stepdad) seemed quite interested in, my version would be look at the big cement wall, and look at all that water, think bet that was hard to build, now everyone back in the truck. The damn highlight of the dam was the Gents, very nicely appointed I must admit, see pics.
Then the pretty coloured rocks in Sedona, they really are rather pretty, and we got ok weather until on a four wheel drive road just outside of town our classic 80’s power ballads on the radio were interrupted with a “beep beep beep” and a severe weather warning. Realizing that this was not a quirky remake of Total Eclipse of the Heart we hightailed it out of the dirt roads, which unfortunately meant we were heading directly towards the storm and the half dollar size hail stones*. Fortunately we missed the hail unless half dollars are microscopic. The plan for the next day had been to climb Humphreys peak, but as we drove back to our campsite in Flagstaff we saw its peak was covered in snow so we resolved to climb a small peak behind our campsite instead.
We woke up to find that peak covered in cloud, my Mum gamely asked if we were still going, I told her that there was no way in hell we were going, the wind was whipping through the campsite and my only priority was getting the tent away and gear packed before the heavens opened.
With the hike a no go and camp packed considerably earlier than planned we decided to make our way slowly to the Grand Canyon.
We were greeted with an incredible and unexpected site as we looked out over the canyon from the Dessert View Watchtower. We saw nothing, the cloud was so think that we could barely see the rocks a few feet below. My heart sank, I knew this was something that my Mum had been excited to see. We retreated into the cafe to dry off and get some warm food, hoping that the three days we had planned here wouldn’t all be like this, apparently Arizona has a monsoon season, who knew, not this guy.
As we left the cafe the clouds were starting to lift, bee lining it back to the viewpoint we were rewarded with a dramatic view of the canyon, the clouds cast crazy shadows over the peaks and valleys below, Gaz had a field day snapping pics.
Buoyed by the slight turn around in weather H and Mum decided to go and put our names on the waiting list to hike down to Phantom Ranch at the base of the Canyon. We knew that this was going to be a long shot, a month or two earlier we had tried to book it and were told that typically you need to book 13 months in advance. Initially things seemed bleak when the guy behind the desk said sure “I will put your names down but no one ever gets called”, Heather asked if they ever get cancellations, and was told the mules were so popular that no they never get cancellations. Hang on we don’t want mules we want to hike, we were then told that you could hike but all the cabins were taken, Heather then asked about the dorms, turns out there was space, geez these guys don’t like offering up solutions.
The next day we didn’t set off super early, the Kaibab trail was only 7 miles down and we figured as we only had to carry light packs it wouldn’t take much more than 5 hours. We took our time enjoying the spectacular views, making sure to look back up the canyon to appreciate how far we had descended, we were also treated to several Californian Condor sightings. The massive bird** are relatively newly reintroduced to the area and are thriving.
The hike down was pretty easy, a little tired in the legs but no real aches and pains, everyone else seemed to be in pretty good shape too. We arrived early in the afternoon and lounged around taking in the views and reading our books.
Dinner was great you pre-book one of three options, the stew was sold out so we were left with a choice of veggie chilli or steak. The meals are served family style, so we got to chat to some of the other folks who had hiked in or taken the mules.
After dinner we headed to the ranger talk, don’t typically go to these things for fear that they may be educational. Emily the ranger was great, she engaged the crowd in games before talking about the history of the ranch, Heather even competed with some of the other children in the crowd to win a sticker. After the talk, Emily asked if anyone wanted to go scorpion spotting, how can the answer to this be anything other than a resounding yes.
Scorpions glow in black light, nobody quite knows why they do this, it must have served a purpose in their evolution at some point. It does make them easy to spot though (under black light), and we found plenty hanging out at the rocks around the mule corral. They look like little plastic toys, until they move.
We were all in bed by 8:30 ready for an early start the next day. We left at around 6:15 to start our hike up the Bright Angel trail. The going was pretty easy all the way to Indian Gardens about 4.5 miles into the 9 mile hike. We told the parentals that we would probably have to slow down from this point, as we had done half the distance but only a quarter of the accent. Not sure they were initially convinced, but as the groups panting increased and the conversation dwindled I think they understood what I was getting at. In fairness we still made fantastic time, I had guessed it would take 6 hours and Heather thought 7 hours. We actually made it out in 5, I was super impressed and proud of my folks, we were undoubtably the fastest family in the canyon on that day.