Sadly the eastern entry to the park was closed (due to Covid restrictions), which meant a rather considerable detour south to Williams, before driving 100km back north again to enter the park.

The small silver lining was visiting this historic Route 66 town, complete with some vintage bars/restaurants and other shops. In case the snow on the ground in the photos didn’t make it obvious, it was pretty cold here.

Grand Canyon

I didn’t really know what to expect visiting Grand Canyon. I mean, I kind of knew what to expect as far as the canyon itself looked, but I hadn’t really thought about what the actual park would be like. It’s like several small cities, with lodges and shops, and a maze of roads and parking areas.

Oh, and the queue to get into the park…

It was getting late, but I really wanted to ride out along the Scenic Rim, since it was currently closed to cars (but open to bicycles). It was freezing, and with the sun slowly receding, the temperatures were just going to get worse. It’s a trick – cycling faster warms you up, but the wind chill also cools you down. I put on all the clothes I had, and was still feeling pretty cold.

But, enough about the bike, what about the canyon! Well, it was grand.

The canyon was almost too large to really comprehend. It was so big that it didn’t really look like a canyon – though, I can’t think of what else it really looked like.

It was also hard to really judge just how deep the canyon was. You could certainly make out details in the Colorado River, but the scale of the valleys just really confused my perspective.

Just before the sun set, it started to light up the opposite wall of the canyon in beautiful warm hues – but it also made it uncomfortably cold.

We had accommodation within the park (which actually didn’t cost all that much money, compared with accommodation outside), however, the catch was a lack of dining options. 

It was tempting to just eat muesli bars instead of driving 30mins to get dinner, especially when expecting an expensive and uninspired meal – there weren’t many options that had better than a 3-star ratings.

After more than six months of restrictions and limited indoor dining options in San Francisco, it felt really strange to be in a restaurant that was at full capacity, with next to no concern about masks or distancing. Thankfully neither of us got sick on this trip, but, if it was going to happen, it would have been from dinner at the Yippee-Ei-O! Steakhouse this evening.

Day Seven

It was a hard thing to balance this morning. I wanted to start the day early, and begin hiking before too many others were out on the trails. However, I also didn’t want to get frostbite.

It was cold outside this morning, with a nice crust of ice coating the rental car, which sadly I needed to drive to get to the starting point of the hike. 

South Kaibab Trail

This trail was highly recommended, and it seemed like there were trails that stretched out from here as far as your fitness/ability would take you.

The trails started with a beautiful set of switchbacks that seemed to cling to the side of the cliffs before eventually levelling out and stretching out down into the canyon.

I’m so, so, so happy that I ventured down into the canyon. It was now that I truly got a sense of the scale. Somehow looking up at what looked like mountains seemed easier for me to comprehend than a valley that cut away into the ground below me. I felt absolutely tiny and insignificant. An ant.

It was incredibly difficult to turn around and return. The deeper I hiked into the canyon, the more I wanted to continue. It’s like after a first bite of some chocolate. Now that I have had a little taste, I had to fight the urges for more. I could clearly make out the trail that snaked its way down to the river, and the allure was almost too much. 

But, the logical part of my brain reminded me that I didn’t pack food/water for a much longer hike, and that it will sadly have to be saved for another day, another time. 

The climb down was freezing (as in, cold enough to freeze water). But, and I’m sure this will surprise no-one, the climb back up really got me warmed up, and I was starting to regret wearing thermal tights underneath my pants.

I’m so glad to have dipped my toe into the Grand Canyon, and not just settled for views from the rim. The difference in perspective, and the effect that it has on the perception of scale of this area just can’t be compared. I was slightly underwhelmed when I arrived, but left with a sense of awe.