North America / See

[see] The Mother of all Canyons: Grand Canyon National Park

— 12 Nov 2013 —

After 2 glamourous nights in Las Vegas, it was time to leave. I was devastated, but E* was ready to go (he has been to Vegas several times before). So reluctantly, I obliged, but only because we were going to stop by Hoover Dam first!

The Journey

Point A: Las Vegas
Point B: Hoover Dam
Point C: Grand Canyon National Park
Distance: ~300 miles (~480 km)

Having already done 2 states in 2 days, I was pretty exhausted but *E wanted to get to the Grand Canyon for the sunset. It’s one of the more popular activities in the Lonely Planet guide. So I hooned like a mad woman, from Hoover Dam to the viewpoint but only made it in time just as the sun was going down behind the North Rim. *E was disappointed and tried to mask it with the usual “It’s okay” and “Let’s just do the sunrise” but there was no fooling me! It was sombre over dinner that night.

But all was forgiven when we woke at 04h30, left the hotel in darkness (bar the street lights) and got to the view-point 20 minutes before the sunrise. We even had time to finish our coffees and watch everyone set up their massive cameras. Who’s the woman? Booyah! 

The sun began to rise, and the sky went from  pink to yellow to orange and then became blinding. As we turned away from the blinding sun, we caught the other view which was just lighting up as the sun inched its way up. Each geological layer came to life; the dark Kaibab Formation to the Coconino Sandstone, Supai Group and the Redwall Limestone, all part of the Paleozoic layer. All of which sits on Grand Canyon Supergroup and Vishnu Basement Rocks.

[Source: Grand Canyon NP, NPS Guide]

Side info: The Paleozoic layer is the oldest in recent times and dates back 540 to 248 million years ago. Inside each of these layers in the Grand Canyon you can find fish, amphibian, reptile and plant fossils.

Once we were done with taking a gazillion photos of the same thing, we set off for our first hike. We decided on doing 2 short hikes for the day, at different points of the South Rim to see the difference (if any) in terrain. I chose the Ooh Aah Point trail because it sounded awesome, plus it was only 1-2 hours at a moderate level, and *E chose the 2nd Tunnel trail which is 5 miles west, a 1-2 hours hike at an easier level.

There are shuttle buses that run to each trailhead and runs (from memory) every 15 mins but you can check that on the billboards outside the Visitor Center, amongst other useful information.

Ooh Aah Point is on the South Kaibab Trail and offers quite a good panoramic view of the North Rim. The trail descends 760ft (230m) quite quickly at the start via a windy track (below photo) before plateauing at the viewpoint to allow trekkers to take in the view.

As one treks down, the geological layers become more apparent. White, red, white, red, with a little bit of green on top. One should not ignore the vegetation as there is an array of plants to be found; cacti, succulents, pinyon pine and Utah juniper. Quite remarkable seeing as the South Rim is mostly desert and there’s no surface water.


At Ooh Aah point, the view was amazing and overwhelming. I sat there thinking “This is surreal”. Most people have Grand Canyon on their bucket list just like myself, but when you get there, what are you meant to do? Have a Barbara Streisand moment on The Guilt Trip? I didn’t know what to do nor did I know how long I was meant to sit and contemplate on its’ awesomeness. So I just sat on the edge, drinking in the view, thinking “Holy shit I’m here. Woooooo!”. I really can’t describe the feeling.

I’ll post some more photos when *E puts them onto Dropbox. (Yes *E, I’m talking to you…)

Once I had had my moment and we reenacted an “Ooh” and an “Aah” (Yes, this was the whole point of hiking this trial. No, I have no idea what *E is doing there.), we made the painstaking climb back up.

[Source: Random passerby using *E’s camera]

*E managed to rip his pants on the way down, God knows how. I’m no prude but shit, that rip was from the bottom of his bum to his knee. Even though he was wearing pants underneath, I made him walk wayyy in front of me because I ain’t wanna see any of that shit. So just a word of advice, wear appropriate hiking clothing even when you’re hiking short distances.

Our next stop was the 2nd Tunnel on the Bright Angel Trail (blue shuttle bus) with only a 590 ft (180 m) drop in elevation. The trail was not as steep so it made for a pleasant stroll after lunch.

The terrain was quite different over this side of the South Rim with flatter (and smoother) surfaces and the snaking river route became more evident as we strolled down towards the 2nd tunnel.

The 2nd tunnel trail was uneventful and I don’t recommend it unless you’re looking for a very easy stroll. The tunnels are essentially just archways in the sandstone/limestone. This trail offers 4 other destinations which may or may not be more eventful.

We were running out of time as we needed to hit the road and onto our next national park, Zion. So on the way back to the Visitor Center, we jumped off to spend just 30 mins on the rim admiring the canyon for the last time.

And that’s where I conquered the South Rim! Wooo!

*****************************************************

Grand Canyon National Park
Open
South Rim: All year round (even Thanksgiving and Christmas Day!).
Get to the South Rim from Vegas: Take Highway 93 south to I-40 east (slight left at the intersection), turn left on Highway 64 north (just past Williams) directly to the South Rim. Directions from other towns and cities are available here.
North Rim: Season runs roughly from May to October due to road closures for winter. Check weather and road closures closer to your trip to avoid any hassles.
Get to the North Rim from Vegas: Drive north on I-15 towards Rt 9 (just past St. George), turn right on Rt 59 which changes to Rt 389 as you pass the state line. Turn right on US 89A to the junction Rt 67, turn right and drive directly to the North Rim. Directions from other towns and cities are available here.
Park entrance fee is USD $25 per vehicle for 7 days.
Other attractions include the Grand Canyon Skywalk at the West Rim (my friend recommends you to not look down), rafting on the Colorado River (seasonal, tour length varies) and the helicopter rides from the South Rim (apparently worth the ~ USD $300).
Other modes of transportation in and around the Grand Canyon can be found in Lonely Planet’s Guide to Arizona.

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