As we were entering the Grand Canyon, I felt like we were heading to an amusement park. The entrance alone is enough to make you feel like you're heading towards a world of roller coasters and funnel cakes. We arrived to the main entrance around 11 AM. There were 5 gates to choose from, and there were cars waiting at each one. Luckily, since we knew ahead of time that we were going to be seeing a ton of national parks on our trip, we had a national parks pass that allows free entrance into all national parks. Otherwise, we would have had to fork over $25 just to get in. Even if we had to pay that, it was worth it.
The journey continued to feel like an amusement park as we drove for miles just to find parking. Most of the roads were two lanes, but it was surrounded by trees. Nothing even resembled what I envisioned the Grand Canyon to be just yet. After driving for maybe 10 minutes, we parked, and started to wonder. There was a massive visitor center, which was next to a separate book store building. That was just next to the shuttle services. There was shuttle services. Most of the parks we had seen so far had a parking lot and a small trail for you to walk on. If this place had friggin buses, it had to be huge.
Everyone has seen photos of the grand canyon. When we saw it in person though, I thought every photo I had ever seen of the grand canyon stunk. There is no way you can capture how crazy this place is on any type of film: still or motion. There were photographer's displayed inside the book store of works of the grand canyon. Even the professionals can't come close to displaying how enormous this natural wonder is.
When I first pulled out my video camera to tape some of it, I just laughed. I could maybe get .00001% of this place on film when completely zoomed out. Maybe if I stitched 100 photographs together into one 12 foot long photo you might be able to understand how insane it all is. While at the top, you can see miles down, and even more miles out to the horizon. I think my brain had a blue screen of death when my eyes first saw it. No park or anything I have ever seen has come close to seeing this.
We had to go back a second day, and Kim and I decided that we were going to hike instead of just wondering around the top of the rim like we had the day before. Leaving early, it wasn't cold, but the winds made it cold. Without wind, it was around 45 or so. With the 80 mph winds alongside the path, it felt much colder. We started close to 8000 ft elevation, and hiked about 3.5 miles down to 6000 ft or so. The path was extremely steep, so the way down went fast. Everyone knows that going up would be harder, but this was nuts.
Each step seemed to grow in height, with our legs getting heavier, and the temperature rising. All of which combined to make the hike more difficult. Signs at the top warned to plan your hike; suggesting that it would take twice as long to get up as it did to go down. Kim and I soon realized that it felt so hard going up because we reached the top in the same time it did for us to go down. Not that we're any kind of pro hikers or claim to be, but I suppose hiking 3.5 miles up the grand canyon at a decent elevation is doing pretty good. After realizing that we could easily spend a month at the Grand Canyon and never see it all, we had to move onward.
Joshua Tree National Park was our next stop. It was also a stop that we almost lost Westy. Well, maybe I should start by saying this place was an enormous desert with massive rocks. Even by climbing one of these huge pieces of rock, you could still only see small portions of this place. Luckily, Westy's Border Collie instincts must have kicked in or something, because she circled a rock a couple of times (out of our sight, though) and then went back towards the bus to hang out in the shade. Although losing one passenger could help on our gas mileage, I guess it's a good thing we found her. We are making our way towards L.A. to meet up with Kim's sister, Krissy. Hopefully the smell of pet dander and lack of showers doesn't overwhelm her too much.