This Christmas we visited one of the natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyons! Oh! They are truly grand!!! 277-mile long, 18-mile wide and a mile deep, one can hardly fathom the dimensions.
I have to start my blog with this panaromic photo I took from South Rim, opposite to El Tovar Lodge Parking lot.
|Our first view of the canyons at South Rim|
Preparation for the winter at Canyons
We were constantly following the weather in Grand Canyons (from now on GC) and knew for sure that end of December is extremely cold there. Following were the few things which we packed alongwith our clothes from home:
a) Flashlight (very helpful during the night walk)
b) Hand warmers
c) Gloves (layers)
d) Snotrax crampons for shoes while walking on ice (bought them at Costco)
e) Ear mittens (for the windy weather)
f) Weatherproof layered jackets
g) Thermal tops and pants
h) Woollen caps
i) Sun-glasses (snow can be very reflective)
j) Thermal blankets (very compact to pack)
These were the ones which we packed in our luggage from Seattle.
k) Water bottles - bought it at Las Vegas (henceforth LV) before leaving for GC.
Arizona is Mountain Time Zone so it is ahead of PST by 1 hour. This information must be kept in mind while booking your flights so you can maximize your time at GC.
Booked our room at Kachina Lodge, canyon-facing room. It was worth it as in the morning had a fantastic view from the window. Higher floor would have been even better! I know, desire has no bounds!
Captured some nice aerial views of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood with the sun rising during our flight to LV.
We landed in LV and picked up our rental car from Enterprise rentals. We got a Chevy Traverse LT AWD(All Wheel Drive). It was a fantastic car and being an AWD was very steady on snow and black ice while we were on the South rim.
I-515 --> I-93 --> Enter I-40 at Kingman --> Enter I-64 at Williams after Kaibab Forest
Journey time: 10:45 am(PST) to 3:40 pm (PST) [4:40 pm MT] (about 5 hours with a halt of 45 minutes at Seligman for gas)
We had packed lot of sandwiches from home so practically we were taken care of till dinner. This way reduced our halt time for food. It being so cold, they were fresh the whole day!!
There is the historic Route 66 (made famous by CARS movie) we wanted to venture but it was another 60 miles addition to our original distance so we decided to stick to the regular route, I-40.
We did halt at Seligman at the intersection of I-40 and Route 66. We filled up gas, bought some souvenirs as a memory that we touched this historical town, built around 1880s. It had that vintage look.
En route, found this interesting Restroom stop option!! Sign points to open fields! ;)
At around 4:40 pm, we reached GC South rim and parked at El Tovar parking. As we walked towards the canyon from the parking, the revelation was breathtaking! I surely must have skipped a beat or two...... just have no words to describe the exhilaration. We were about 7,000 feet above sea level. Here are some pics of what we witnessed.
At night, we walked along the trail for some time but it being a no-moon day there was no moonlight either. :( Trees on the sides, lights of the hotels, and pitch dark in the vast center....something the effect as seen in the photo.
Kachina Lodge check-in needs to be done at El Tovar Lodge. Considering the parking problem (discussed below), one must plan about stoppages.
Parking lots of the lodges facing the canyon
The lodges have limited parking, there were times when one of us(my husband or myself) would drop off my mom and our 6-year old son at the lodge and then park it on a street little far away.
It made us wonder if in winter this is what happens, we cannot imagine the problem in summer.
The streets are one way so if you exit from the parking lots, then make a mile loop back to your lodge again!!
Parking is a problem here, so you have to get a hang of the place.
There are shuttle buses that ply between various view points from the lodges. It is a nice way of avoiding the parking hassle and driving. But we preferred driving as wanted to be independent.
But, shuttle buses are definitely a good option.
We drove in the morning around 7:45 am to Yuka point but when we reached there, it was closed for private cars, only shuttle buses were permitted, guess because of the snow.
We did stop at a view point on our return.
|Canyons from 7500 feet above sea level|
|Parking lot at the view point|
There is a snack bar here so we had breakfast here and then finally returned to Kachina Lodge to checkout. Meandering through various parking lots, finally we checked out.
One mention about Bright Angel Lodge, it is the oldest one there, probably since 1920s. They have maintained the vintage look and neatly merged the present technology. We had dinner there and really enjoyed the service, food and the ambience. If at the south rim, then one must plan for a meal over there.
My husband's research added Desert View Drive and Watch Tower to our itinerary. It is the best place to get a panoramic view of the Canyons, provided the day is clear, but all we could see was clouds and snow. The drive was beautiful and the tower itself was designed and built as an ancient Indian tower. Icing on the cake would have been a clear view, which didn't happen for us! :(
|Desert View Drive|
|Watch Tower paintings|
If you squint, probably you can see the canyon in the photo below.....hmmmm.... Well no I could not....that was a disappointment, but the drive and watch tower was still beautiful.
We booked the movie tickets online. Tickets are good for any show for a year. On our return to LV, we stopped at the National Geographic visitor center for the movie. Movie was very informational and definitely amazing on that big screen. The movie depicts the power of Colorado river and human settlements starting from the first Indians, thousands of years ago.
The Pizza Hut café inside the center had winding queue so we went to We Can Cook Pizza and Pasta restaurant right across the road. The food was good and helped us last till we reached LV.
|Grand Canyon IMAX Theater|
After a 4-hour drive we finally checked in our hotel The Venetian at Las Vegas.
The trip to GC was a memorable one, memories to last forever! It is a geological wonder and researchers are constantly trying to figure out how such a river could carve such fabulous canyons out of a huge land mass! Mystical force of nature!!!