Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Road Trip: Barstow to Grand Canyon National Park

Date         Stop   Odometer             Location                                Time        

6/18/20130210193Barstow, CA7:20 AM
6/18/20131210195Rest Stop9:18 AM
6/18/20132210362Rest Stop10:26 AM
6/18/20133210386Kingman, AZ10:53 AM
6/18/20134210599Kaibab Nat'l Forest, 10-X4:30 PM

From Sara's travel journal:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 3:00pm 
Ten X campground, Kaibab National Forest, AZ

We left Barstow nice and early in the morning. We got everything packed back into the car by 7:00am, and we had some of the free breakfast offered by the hotel. We set off for the east on I-40 by 7:30am, with Grand Canyon as the next destination. 

Mists settle into Grand Canyon in the evening at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
I think "grand" might be an understatement

Follow the jump for our Grand Canyon adventure!

We drove pretty uneventfully across the rest of California and into Arizona. The gas prices dropped pretty dramatically once we were in Arizona, which was a very welcome reprieve. We turned north in a town called Williams, which is about 50 miles south of the park, and drove through the Kaibab National Forest, which is mostly composed of ponderosa pine trees. Once we got to the park, we made a beeline for the visitor’s center to ask about campground availability. The grounds closest to the visitor’s center were completely full, but 25 miles to the east is another campground that they said had 20 more spots and we should have no problem finding one. Cory and I wanted to savor our first view of the Grand Canyon, so as we booked it over to the other side of the park, we averted our eyes from any viewpoints visible from the road. To our dismay, when we got to the other campground, it too was full. I don’t know if the ranger at the visitor’s center was misinformed or if the campsites filled up that fast, but we were really disappointed. We stopped by a viewpoint on that end of the park to eat lunch and take in our first view of Grand Canyon. It definitely lives up. The viewpoint had a watchtower built on it, and Cory and I climbed to the top, but it really isn’t that much improved on an extra 100 feet up. It’s amazing on its own!

Here at the Grand Canyon, all of the warning signs are about hiking. Rather than all of the grizzly warnings we saw in Glacier, the biggest concern they have here is ambitious hikers who think they can make it to the river and back in one day. Lots of people get really sick or die trying to make it every year. There are some camps in the bottom of the river, but there is little to no water on some of the trails themselves, so you have to rely on what you have with you. It’s also about 20 degrees hotter at the bottom of the canyon than at the top, so people sometimes don’t realize how dangerous it is until they have hiked all of the way down. Hiking up takes twice as long, so you can really get into some trouble. 

Since no campsites were available inside the park, we went back across and out of the park to the Kaibab National Forest, which is about 5 miles south of the park entrance. There were plenty of campsites available there, so we snagged one and set up our tent. We made a dinner of beans on toast, and then went back to the park to watch the sunset over the canyon and see the stars come out. We parked our car and took a shuttle to the west where the recommended viewpoint for sunset was, but we changed our minds once we saw the throngs of people heading to the exact same place. We strolled along the south rim trail instead, which is a pretty easy hike on a paved road. We walked about 2 miles on it, taking in the views along the way and watching the colors change inside the canyon. We turned around once it started getting dark, and saw the stars as they came out. The moon was so bright that we didn’t even need our flashlight to see the trail as we went! It was a lovely evening. We returned to our camp after that and fell asleep.

Sunset settles into Grand Canyon as layers of different rock are seen at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Bright red colors pop up all over the rocks during sunset

The next morning, we woke up very early, around 5:00am, and made some oatmeal and coffee for breakfast. We drove back to the park and took a shuttle to the South Kaibab trail where we met up with a ranger for a guided hike to Cedar Point, which is about 1.5 miles in and 1,100 feet down into the canyon. He stopped along the way and told us the history of the trail we were taking, about the layers of rock in the canyon, and the plant and animal life. It was great! The pace was nice, and he gave us some great pointers about climbing back up the trail whenever we were ready to head back. We spent about half an hour at Cedar Point, eating a snack and drinking a lot of water. Then we started our ascent. It took us about an hour to get back up using a slow, steady pace, as the ranger recommended. He said that if you start feeling out of breath, just slow your pace down. It’s much easier on your body than sprinting up switchbacks and stopping to catch your breath. He also said we should be proud of ourselves because only 3% of the park’s 5 million vistors/year actually hike into the canyon, so go us! Back at the top, we were covered with red dust from the canyon, and we binged on more water to rehydrate.

Cory stands on a rock on the edge of the canyon  in the morning at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Cory surveys the landscape from inside the canyon...

Frog sits on the edge of the canyon at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
...and Frog checked it out too!

We went back to the visitor’s center after the hike and watched a short film about the Grand Canyon’s history, geology, and ecology. We walked to a viewpoint near the visitor’s center for one last look at the canyon, and then left the park. A burn ban had gone into effect that morning, so we made some tuna salad for lunch courtesy of some mayo packets we swiped from a restaurant. We rested for awhile back at our campsite, and then went into the town of Tunsayan, just south of the park. We checked out several of the gift shops and kitsch-y things, and then took it easy all evening before we went to sleep.

Tuna salad sandwiches for supper because of the fire ban at the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
Making some cold sandwiches since fire and charcoal were not an option

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