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Grand Tour of the Grand Canyon

Trip Report: The Grand Canyon and more Day One: This trip began with a little confusion. We couldn’t decide when we wanted to leave, and finally got out of the house on Saturday…driving to Barstow in time to eat dinner at Mr. Kabob—which was unexpectedly delicious!

Day Two: Drove into Death Valley and grabbed a cheap campsite in the Sunset Campground near Furnace Creek. Just spent enough time there to make sure we had a spot, and then left to eat lunch on our way to the Keane Wonder Mine. After lunch, we hiked up to the mine on a warm day—good preparation for the Grand Canyon.

And then back to the van for dinner as the full moon rose over the mountains. Spectacular. As was the next morning’s moonset over mountains to the west.

Day Three: Took a scenic route (including the old Route 66) down to a Hipcamp site just outside of Ash Fork, near Williams. We liked the area of Ash Meadows east of Death Valley, and will have to explore that more. And lunch was a Basha’s sandwich in Kingman in the park there. As we texted our Hipcamp host, we discovered he was driving right behind us on the road in…so we had an escort! Very quiet here…and the skies were dark and clear. The next morning it was 27F. Cold. This is ice inside Le Vin Blanc.

Day Four: Into Grand Canyon NP today, where we were allowed to bypass at least some of the long line at the entrance due to our Senior Pass. Whew! We claimed our campsite and then drove over to hike Grandview Trail, only to find it was very icy—and after the first few sections of black ice, we chickened out. Drove to Desert View instead, and spent the afternoon enjoying grand views of the Grand Canyon. Then got a text from our daughter about buying a car, so we were sidetracked by that for about an hour. (Car is bought; everyone is happy.) That's an icy section of the trail, below.

Day Five: After yesterday’s frustration, we were looking for a trail with a lower starting elevation, and found one off the beaten track. We hiked down into the canyon for three miles without seeing another soul, then met a total of ten people over the next couple of hours, before hiking back out again. Truly a wonderful experience in one of the most crowded parks in the USA. Tonight the low was only 50F. M enjoying lunch below.

Day Six: Up early today to see if we would find a way to park and hike the Bright Angel Trail. Since the shuttle buses were running an abbreviated schedule with limited capacity, it was a bit tricky, but we did it. What a difference from the day before. We were never out of sight or hearing from large groups of hikers on this trail. Screaming children, mule trains, and wild and crazy teenagers all added to the fun. And M managed to slip and take a hard fall right at the top of the trail in the black ice---luckily, she landed flat on her back on a platypus bottle…which broke her fall and exploded the bottle. We made it down a few miles, and decided that we’d had enough.

We pulled out the map and found another way to get to the rim far from the crowds, and spent a wonderful hour staring off into the depths. After an early dinner, we headed back to the rim to watch the sunset—always a good idea here.

Day Seven: More of the same, as we retraced some of our steps from yesterday along the rim, and the hiked a ways further, finally heading back to the car cross-country through the forest.

This time we saw exactly two people on the trail along the rim, and nobody in the forest—although the elk tracks were ubiquitous. Too many elk here, in our opinion. And after that adventure, we made sure to take in the sunset one more time from the rim before calling it a day.

Day Eight: Stopped in Williams to do a little shopping, and then drove through the desert via Nipton all the way to Tehachapi, where we ate dinner at the Red House BBQ—and loved it. Now we have a reason to stop in Tehachapi!

Day Nine: An easy drive back home via Highway 99, so we could stop at one of our favorite taco trucks—this time birria tacos—that were wonderful.

It always seems like a long drive to the Grand Canyon—twelve hours—and we were disappointed that so many of the trails were still icy on top. We had planned to avoid this by visiting in April, but a late snowstorm threw us a curveball. Still, a stunning place to visit.

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