We had gathered out things together the night before so we could leave early for the canyon. Awoke early and eager, loaded the car, and skipped the breakfast at our B&B. They were good meals, but waiting until 8am to eat and then leave, we had decided that we'd rather have the extra hour or so at the Canyon. So off we were about 7:15. Took 89A up through Oak Creek Canyon one last time. Actually it was a bitter sweet moment--excitement for the adventure ahead, but at the same time a distinct sense of loss, as we were leaving a place we had enjoyed so immensely. Hard to explain unless Sedona touches you the way it did us. For some--you will know exactly what I'm speaking of. One last look, then over the headwall......
Stopped in Flagstaff and filled up the car, as I wanted a full tank, and did not want to pay the high prices near the GCNP. Caught Hwy 180 very easily. Ate cold left-over pizza from the night before as we drove. (oh quit groaning---you love left over pizza)Hwy180is amazing. Look at the Ponderosa Pines! We were just in the desert. Wow--there's Aspen trees too! It was a beautiful easy drive. Followed a Pink Jeep tour van at about 75mph. Not curvy at all.
Got to the gate and drove straight through as I already had a park pass. Since it was about 9:30 on a Thursday, there was surprisingly little traffic. We were grinning at each other and giggling like kids about to come down stairs on Christmas morning. We're here! Can you believe it?! etc.etc etc. Woah--there-Mather point--now we can't be contained. Drove through twice and found parking in the lot.
Now, if you're still with me--this may be the coolest thng we did on our trip, and if you have the chance--try it. I mean this was soooo cool.-----
We got out of the car, neither had tried to sneak a peek yet, pulled the brim of our caps down to our brows, looked down and made our way to the railing. At the count of three---1--2--3 LOOK. And we lifted our heads in unison, having not even seen a glimpse prior to this point of what lay in magnificant splendor in front of our eyes. I can't even begin to try and explain the awe and wonder when the canyon, wide open in all its glory, hits you smack dab in the face with full force. Anyway, like I said, it was the "coolest" thing we did on the trip.
After composing ourselves and spending around 45 minutes trying to soak it all in, we walked to the visitor's center, spent some time there then back to the car. Decided to get our bearings and find Bright Angel Lodge since we were staying in one of the cabins. Had to park near the train depot, and then walked around the Lodge. Now we were back at the rim again. Went into Kolb Studio and read about the CCC. Then over to the Lookout Studio and browsed around there a short bit. How the Kolb's built that house/studio I'll never know. And Mary Coulter's architecture complements the Canyon so well.
Lunch at Bright Angel. OK food, nothing great, but it is after all a park, and it't the total package, not just the food. Checked with front desk (take note it does not hurt to let them know you're there even if you can't check in till 4pm) Then off to the shuttles and Yaki point. Another beautiful overlook. It may be my favorite, I don't know, I think they all were my favorites. Back on the shuttle to catch the village (blue shuttle) and stopped at the market just to see what was there. After finding the deli etc, we walked to the rim and casually, stopping often, strolled back the rim trail to BA Lodge, arriving about 4:30. Checked in and went to see our cabin. This is why it doesn't hurt to let them know you're there--we had a historic cabin, not a rim cabin. Yet, we had the closest cabin to the rim you can get. We were 30-40 yards right off the rim and didn't have to pay the extra for the rim cabin! What fortune. Went to get the car at the depot and to pull up and back right up to our door---but we couldn't. Everyone around was looking in the direction of our cabin. Well look there--standing right in front of our door eating on a bush was a doe and 2 fawns. Watched that for a bit, then got out of the car and walked up to about 5 feet from her. She couldn't care less, and eventually meandered off. Unloaded into our small but very clean and cozy cabin.
Now it was time for a bit of the adult beverage relaxation and sunset. Got some large coffee cups, as we saw nobody walking around with any containers or wine bottles and went off to see the sunset. By now we really didn't feel like catching a shuttle somewhere and then having to catch one back after dark, so we just went to lookout studio, cups in hand, and sat on the stone wall and watched the canyon change before our eyes. What beauty. Can't describe it if you haven't seen it. We thoroughly enjoyed this. Back to the cabin to get cleaned up for dinner at El Tovar.
Dinner was at 7:45 and it was dark. Hostess said "you'll enjoy this table--one of the best--number 11. Well, that meant nothing to me. We were seated in the far corner right up against the window. But as I said, it was dark, so scrambling for a window table is a waste after sunset. But the table was a good one, as I sat with my BACK to the window and could look over the whole dining room. What a neat ambiance that place has. Dinner was actually quite good and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. after dinner, picked up some trail mix in the gift shop for our early morning hike down South Kaibab in the morning and headed to the cabin for a restful night's sleep.
Next (and last) installment: Our last day, SK hike, and the east rim drive. That's all for now......