Saturday, July 24, 2021

Southwest Parks 2021 - Day 2 (7/10/21) - To the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

We were up and ready to head out by 7:45am, wanting to get to the airport soon after the rental desks opened at 8am. We wrangled up a little breakfast at the hotel (one item of note: they had an automatic pancake maker, where all you had to do was wave your hand at it and it would make you a pancake - first time I've seen this before; I had a (manually made) waffle, though). We hired a Lyft to the airport, arriving around 8:15am. After checking with Budget, we found that they wouldn't have a car ready for us for probably two more hours (somewhat complicated by us having a one-way rental), so we went next door for the more expensive Hertz car I had reserved just in case the night before.

After getting the car we began our 4-ish hour drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had a bit of a scare when the dashboard displayed a malfunction warning, but it turned out to just be a problem with the anti-collision emergency braking system. The warning went away then popped up a few more times during the drive, but we just ignored it. About 1.5 hours into the drive, Fran realized that she had left the (only) battery for her Canon camera in the charger plugged in at the hotel. Not wanting to be set back by 3 hours, we decided to press on, while knowing that it was unlikely that we would be able to find a replacement within the next few days. Fran did call the hotel to confirm that the battery was still in the room, and made arrangements to have it sent back to Brooklyn. Nevertheless, she was quite upset that she wouldn't be able to use her camera (with my additional zoom lens that we had brought along) at the Grand Canyon. We tried a couple of gift and general stores that we came across along the way, but none had anything like what we were looking for. Along the drive we also stopped at the Historic Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River.

A couple of things surprised me when we got to the North Rim. First, the area has quite a lot of vegetation, which was in contrast to the more desert-like Flagstaff and most of the drive along the way; it was also greener than I vaguely remembered from my visit to the South Rim many years prior. Second, the temperature was "only" around 90°F at the North Rim, which was ~20°F degrees cooler than the peak that we encountered while driving up; e.g., it was close to 110°F when we were walking on the Historic Navajo Bridge, which didn't make for the most comfortable time. Apparently the slightly higher elevation at the North Rim (~8000 feet) keeps things a bit cooler.

Fran exploring the edges of the Grand Canyon, and giving me a heart attack
Fran exploring the edges of the Grand Canyon, and giving me a heart attack

We purchased the yearly national park pass upon entering the park at the North Rim and made our way down to the visitors center. The Grand Canyon Lodge, our lodging for the next couple of nights, was at the same place; in fact our cabin was perhaps 50 yards from the visitors center, and maybe 150 yards from the lodge itself, which is at the edge of the canyon. We checked in, stowed our gear in the cabin, then headed out for a walkabout. Our primary destination was the Bright Angel trail, a short half-mile (slightly hilly) walk out from the lodge, jutting into the canyon. We enjoyed some spectacular views, and I played the coward while the interpid Franimal explored some off-trail outcrops.

Fran and me at the Grand Canyon

We then headed back to the cabin, and then to the visitor center to ask for recommendations about sunset views and day hikes. The two men working there were very helpful, and we chatted for a bit before realizing that we were about to be late for our 5pm dinner reservation at the lodge. Dinner at the lodge was nice, though a bit on the expensive side (well, not too expensive for us, but would have been for the meat-eaters). The dining room in the lodge was cavernous and comfortable despite not having air conditioning. I noted that none of the wait staff was wearing face masks; this was somewhat surprising as we were technically indoors, but the room was so big that it was understandable to let that slide. Also, almost nobody was wearing a mask at the park, but that made sense for all the outdoor stuff.

After dinner we made a stop back at the cabin, and then headed out to the Bright Angel trail once again to catch the sun setting over the canyon (at ~7:45pm); we picked a spot on some rocks about a third of the way down the trail. After sunset we returned to the cabin to clean up and call it a night.

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Full pictures for the trip here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FQpbDfmdGRksjimi9

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