In case you missed it, read this post about my epic adventure walking in (and out) of the Grand Canyon.
My legs still hurt when I look at the post.
The Grand Canyon defies words. As glorious as it looks in photographs, textbooks and PC desktop wallpapers around the world, nothing can effectively convey how spectacular that place is unless you see it in person.
It honestly and truly took my breath away the first time I looked into it.
I’ve seen a lot of amazing things in my life: pyramids, monuments, skyscrapers, mountains, oceans, and dozens of majestic sites in between. None of them compare to the size and scope of the Grand Canyon. Being so close to it, you get overwhelmed with the feeling of how small you (as a human) really are compared to the entire planet. Epic. Majestic. Grand. The place is everything everyone who went before you told you about and much much more.
When we made the decision to go, I knew that this would probably be a once in a lifetime trip – so I opted to make sure I did it right. The closest you can stay to the southern rim of the canyon is a place called the El Tovar. The El Tovar opened its doors in 1905 (over 100 years ago!) and has housed the likes of Albert Einstein and Teddy Roosevelt. How close is it? About twenty feet away. Check it out:
(Click here to see the larger version. That’s Shannon on the far right.)
Not one for just idly watching from the sidelines, I decided that we should trek down into the canyon to see it up close. We walked out of our hotel room at 6:30 AM to watch the sunrise over the canyon and, with latte in hand, we started the walk down the trail. It was 18°F and it had snowed the night before so OF COURSE I was wearing shorts. Along our way to the entrance of the trail, we ran into this:
Up until that moment, all of the elk we ran into were docile and just ignored the passing humans. This one, though, was not in the mood to put up with anything from anyone and would make noise and charge at you if you walked by on the trail. SO, I took that picture and we snuck around by entering and exiting the resort behind us. The photo doesn’t do justice to the fact that those things are HUGE.
So we walked six miles into the Grand Canyon by way of the Bright Angel Trial. I continued to get cell phone signal all the way in and, as a result, I managed to score a check in on Foursquare at the end of the trail at Plateau Point. (Kudos to Sprint and my Samsung Galaxy S Epic 4G phone for pulling it off!)
Here we are looking around at the bottom:
It could babble on here for hours about it being a whole different world, connecting with nature, the peacefulness of you feel… or I could just tell you to do it yourself. No amount of grammatic gymnastics on my part will ever do the experience justice. This photo, though, is one of my favorite ones from the trip that kind of captures the “feel” of being there.
After the moment of Zen in the canyon, we started the hike back. Then I saw this:
(No, I didn’t see a red arrow; I added that to the photo.) I saw how far we had to walk back. The arrow is pointing to the small speck that was our resort – a six mile walk away. Refer to the post I mentioned at the beginning of this one for details after that.
THE EL TOVAR
The El Tovar is expensive and it sells out fairly quickly; if you ever plan on staying, make reservations months in advance. The money you pay for staying, though, isn’t for amenities or comfort. The rooms are small and, while they have been kept up well, they show their age. Every penny paid is the price for ambiance and location.
The place is as much an old museum as it is a hotel. We loved it. The lobby, aside from the addition of modern furniture, is almost identical to they way it was in 1905. After a cold evening in the canyon, nothing tops sipping hot chocolate next to the fireplace. It was all so, well, grand.
My only complaint was the food. The restaurant in the El Tovar is the top notch/reservations only class of eatery. This is great except when you’re lying half dead in your hotel room jonesing for room service. Room service to me means a burger of chicken fingers (neither of which are available there) – not roast duck. If you have kids, the El Tovar is DEFINITELY not the resort to stay at.
The mornings are just as amazing. This was the view outside our window:
You just don’t get much more “back to nature” than that.
Thus endeth the Vegas Vacation posts!