Day 8: The Grand Canyon

Our day started very early, we got up at 7am.  We got dressed, put on sunscreen, got all the cameras and phones charged up and grabbed some water.  We headed out an hour later and headed to the Grand Canyon!  Matt was really really excited and I was too but I didn’t really know what to expect.  We had about an 3 1/2 hour drive ahead of us so we tried to stay focused and not turn off the road too many times.  We took highway 17 all the way to Flagstaff and then went slightly West towards the Canyons.  We took a lot of pictures as we drove and noticed how things changed as we got closer.  It started off with a lot of cactuses everywhere and the color was mostly just brown.  As we got closer things started to get a lot more green and the cactuses disappeared and were replaced with pine trees.  As we were driving we saw a sign that said Sunset Volcano 2 miles.  We turned down that road and after a couple of miles, the road opened up into a big open space.  When you looked left and right there were two different mountain ranges.  The one to the left was a single mountain, that was the volcano.  This was written on the plaque: “Sunset Crater Volcano! Roughly 900 years ago, the eruption of this volcano reshaped the surrounding landscape, forever changing the lives of people, plants and animals. Hike the trail through the lava flow and cinders and you’ll likely discover colorful, ruggedly dramatic geological features coexisting with twisted Ponderosa Pines and an amazing array of wildlife.” Also stated under  Did You Know?: “Sunset Crater was nearly dynamited in 1929, to create a landslide for the Hollywood movie “Avalanche”. Local citizens were outraged and lobbied for its protection. The result was establishment of Sunset Crater National Monument in 1930. “Volcano” was added to the name in 1990.”  

Once we finished there we headed straight to The Grand Canyon.  We had to pay $25 to get into the park and only a few hundred feet after the entrance was the first view of the Canyon.  We walked for about 5 minutes and then….there it was.  The space to view it was so big and open, it was incredible.  I just stood there for a few minutes, just staring out at the Canyon.  It was something that is hard to describe, you really have to see it for yourself.  It was definitely worth the 3 hour drive.  There were so many things to look at, I didn’t know where to start.  I can see how people end up staying here the whole day.  You could see a river all the way at the bottom and the canyon seemed to go on forever.  A lot of spots where we stopped didn’t have any kind of barriers so you really had to watch what you were doing.  We stepped out onto a few of the rocks that were close to the edge but not close enough to where it was dangerous.  There were a bunch of tour guides you could take on these big pink jeeps.  We decided to just drive ourselves but I did hear one of the guides say they had to air lift someone a couple of weeks ago because he fell over the side of one of the cliffs and almost died.    We kept driving on the road and pulled off a few times to see different angles of the Canyon.  There was a “village” a few miles down the road, so we headed that way to get something to eat and see if they had any gift shops.  When we got there Matt found what he calls PTP, prime time parking! We were right in the very front of the shop.  The “cafe” or place to eat looked like a section out of a hospital.  The food looked like it had been under the lights all day and it didn’t smell very good so we decided to pass.  We ended going across the road to building that said “Market” we figured we’d have a better chance there.  Matt got a hot dog that was about 3x the size of a normal Nathan’s hot dog and I got a small pizza.  We also got a couple of power bars to keep us going.  I heard a little boy crying really loud and when I looked over, he was in a cart all by himself. I looked around for his parents and they were about 30 feet away at the cash register paying for food.  Maybe it’s just me but I would NOT leave my kid alone and definitely not that far away from me.

We got back in the car and headed back to do more sight seeing.  As we drove along the main road we came up to a big traffic jam.  There were cars parked along both sides of the road and we saw all these people walking across the road.  We weren’t near the Canyon or any look off points so we couldn’t figure out what they were all doing.  As we got closer we saw what they were looking at, a really big male Elk.  We pulled into the driveway to get a closer look.  It was one of those areas where you could pull off to go to the bathroom or eat at a picnic table.  He was standing right next to one of the picnic tables really close to the road, just eating off one of the bushes.  He must have been about 6ft tall from the ground to his back and his antlers were about 8-10 feet across.  People were standing behind him taking pictures and then people started to slowly walk beside him, in front of him and all around the animal.  I could tell he was starting to feel agitated or cornered because he started to look around and move a bit, like he was ready to defend himself.  A family with 3 kids got really close to him and the parents put the kids on the picnic table that was near the elk and then they stepped back to take a picture.  I said to Matt “what the hell are they doing?, do they know how dangerous that is?”  the lady next to me said she agreed and she couldn’t believe the were doing that.  People are so stupid sometimes, they don’t think.  We aren’t in a zoo, dumb asses…this is the real world, the wild…their territory.

We got a few more really good pictures at the last pull off before we headed back to our villa.  The edge of the cliff was so close but there was a small rock wall to keep people on the path.  We stayed there for about 20 minutes and then we both felt like we got our sight-seeing and were ready to leave.  Just as we were going to the car a family walked by, they had 4 young kids with them.  The kids were probably 5-10 years old, they were running around and the dad was really distracted with 2 of them.  The mother was holding the hand of one of the young ones and then the last kid was straggling behind them.  He then stepped over the rock wall onto a rock ledge that was shaped like a triangle.  From the rock wall to the end was only about 4ft.  He picked up a handful of rocks and walked 2ft toward the edge.  My heart started racing and I looked around and the parents didn’t even know he was on the edge like that, they were about 20 feet away looking at the Canyons.  He kept coming back for more rocks and then would get closer and closer to the edge, he did this for a couple minutes.  I was just about to say something to him because he got really close to the end and looked over.  I swear I was holding my breath the whole time because it wasn’t like this rock was above other rocks, it literally was a straight shot to the bottom of the canyon.  There was nothing under that rock.  He could have slipped on gravel or the rock he was standing on could have just fallen with the weight he was putting on it.  Again I thought, these stupid parents, why aren’t you watching your kid!?!  We were both so freaked out but he finally came back over the edge and ran to his parents, who were still clueless as to what was going on.

We got back in the car and headed home.  As we drove we would both keep an eye out for any wild life and we did see a female elk at the side of the road with her 2 babies, they were so little and cute.  We took a few pictures and watched the babies play together.   We kept driving and about 5 minutes down the road, Matt yells out and slams on the breaks.  He put the car in reverse and he said he saw another elk.  As I looked behind me I saw that it was another female but this time she was alone.  She was also really close to the road, so when Matt pulled up next to her I was about 6 feet away and I started to back up because I wasn’t expecting her to be that close.  I was freaked out that she might feel threatened and charge the car. My window was open too so that didn’t help my anxiety either.  It was so much fun though to see all these animals in the wild.  The drive was so beautiful and the day was so sunny and warm out.  It was overall a great day, probably one of the best on our trip.

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