First of all, I should start this report with a big mea culpa. I committed the cardinal sin of modern-day traveling by NOT doing my research on TA before my wife and I went to the Grand Canyon. Had I done that, I probably would have made some different choices, and I think that my review will probably reveal that lack of planning.
So, that being said, my wife and I just came back from visiting GCNP. After two days with her grandmother in Phoenix (that's redundant- it's like saying "grandfather in Florida"...but I digress) we headed up to GCNP for our first visit ever. The drive up from PHX was great, there was no waiting at the ranger station to get in and little to no traffic on the way to the Village. We parked near Mather Point (I think that's where it was) because we just HAD to see if the Grand Canyon was there before checking into our lodge. Oh, it was there alright. It was everything I'd imagined, only bigger. There were plenty of tourists, but everyone was, for the most part, courteous and quiet. We enjoyed the setting sun for a bit before checking into Yavapai East. The wooded setting is perfect and the location right next to the General Store and bus line is really ideal. And that's about where the positives end. Granted, we weren't in our room except to sleep, but that was a bit of a problem. The beds were not exactly soft and the pillows were rather flat. The walls were extremely thin and the water pressure was just so-so. El Tovar clearly looked like the place to be, but we booked this trip rather last minute, so we get what we planned for, you know?
After a less than restful night's sleep, we had a big breakfast and then hiked the Bright Angel Trail (but not before snapping some pics of two mule deer munching away not ten steps from the bus stop). This is the superhighway of the GC. Lots of people, lots of mules (occasionally indistinguishable from one another in attitude) and lots of what mules leave behind. But just absolutely breathtaking scenery and, for the most part, friendly and respectful hikers. Saw about 5-6 condors flying around and perched on rocks and took tons of pictures. The squirrels and ravens are plentiful and not bashful and they seem to know JUST when you've finished your sandwich to come check and see if you've left them a little something. We obeyed the signs and cleaned up after ourselves. We hiked down to the 1.5 mile rest house, chatted with some other folks, then headed back up. Going back up was, imho, much easier than going down. Perhaps it was also because we had two mule trips behind us and we didn't want to get behind them lest we be stuck behind their...behinds.
We unwound with a drink at the El Tovar Lounge (here's a tip after a long hike: take your shoes and socks off and walk around in the grass in front of the patio. THAT'S the way to relax!) before heading back to Yavapai, cancelling our second night there and driving to Flagstaff for a night at the Marriott Fairfield right off the highway. That was another adventure in sleeplessness (the AC didn't run all night but the toilet did!). But we did eat at Oregano's (upon the advice of the front desk clerk) and that was a true highlight of the trip!
As someone said in an earlier post, we "saw" the Grand Canyon. Perhaps next time, we will "experience" it. But my wife and I are better people for having gone. I'll say this: if you're a person of faith, as my wife and I are, the Grand Canyon is truly God's canvas. If you don't swing that way, it's a really, really impressive hole in the Earth!