Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Grand Canyon - finally

Hi everyone,

Got all our clothes put aside and washing the rest of the ones we need.  Starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, sort of. Now my biggest thing to deal with is the nagging fear that always sets in a few days before I have to fly.  I’m a horrible flyer.  I used to be able to hide it from my kids because I don’t want them to learn my fear.  Unfortunately, the last time I flew it was without them.  I saw this as a license to let my fear run wild and they saw mommy in full-blown panic mode. Brilliant.  Now my son is worried, too.  Good mommy.

Anyway, after we get our fill of road kill for lunch (see yesterday’s post) we’re on to the Grand Canyon.  We’re camping at the canyon, in the National Park itself.  There’s the North rim and the South rim, each with campgrounds.  The South rim is far more popular.  It’s on the Arizona side, the Grand Canyon Village is there and lots of hiking trails, etc.  The South rim campground is the Mathercampground.  They take reservations which they strongly recommend you make, especially during the summer tourist season. I will only stay in a campground that takes reservations. I repeat – I will only stay in a campground that takes reservations.  Think about it.  You’re tired, with KIDS, in an area that you’re unfamiliar with. Do you really want to start looking for alternative campsites because you’re too late for your first choice? Not for me, baby.  I made my reservations several months in advance.  Of course I changed my reservations when I changed our route only a few weeks ago and they were still able to accommodate me, but that’s not the point. The point is unless you don’t mind potentially camping by the side of the road, choose a campground where you can reserve your spot and give yourself one less thing to think about.

Another recommendation I can whole-heartedly make is to visit the national park’s web site.  That’s where you can learn about everything you need to plan your visit.  They even have a tab called “Plan Your Visit”. I found the campground that way and booked it on-line through the site. Most of the National parks that I looked at had a park newspaper on their site. That’s where all the best information is, especially for hiking and any touring you want to do.  Usually there’s an overview of the park and a map and list of all the trails, divided up by Easy, Moderate, and Strenuous. It’s so important to know what you’re getting into before you start heading down a trail. And it’s important to remember that not all trails loop. So before you keep going for a few more miles, realize you have to walk those same miles back.  We’re going smack in the middle of summer so we’ll probable melt or spontaneously combust. 

There are Ranger-led programs/hikes.  However, they often occur on specific days and at specific times.  If you don’t happen to be at the Grand Canyon on a Tuesday at 8:00am you’re SOL for that program. So you’re better off planning most stuff on your own.

This is how our days at the Grand Canyon are scheduled – roughly.
We’re going to have about a 5 hour drive with a stop for lunch. (yeah, yeah you know this already)  When we arrive at the campground, we’ll need to set up camp.  I anticipate this first set up will be the longest and most difficult. 
After that we’ll be heading off to the Hermit road Shuttle to catch some great views. See map below.

These shuttles are another great thing many of the Southern Utah parks have to offer.  They are continuously running buses that stop at lots of great views and trail heads.  We can only hike a few trails so these shuttles are perfect for getting in those extra awesome sights. The Hermit Road Shuttle will give us the chance to see more of the canyon off to the West moving north. We can get off wherever we choose, see the great views and then take another shuttle to the next stop.

For dinner we’re going into Tuscayan, which is the closest real town to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  There are a fair amount of restaurants in Tuscayan, nearly all of which are considered over-priced and touristy according to the reviews I read. I’ll repeat this several times, but if you’re going to choose a restaurant, see what others have to say about it.  I look at Urban Spoon, Trip Advisor and Chowhound. Note: almost no restaurant has a perfect record.  There’s always someone who doesn’t like a place for whatever reason.  Not to mention, restaurants sometimes have bad nights.  Maybe the chef had a fight with his wife, or the waiter was up all night partying, or the hostess is an idiot but she’s the owner’s niece.  You never know.  I figure as long as 90% of the comments are really good, I can consider it.  After all, 90% and above is an A.

I chose The Coronado Room in Tuscayan for dinner.  This is a much nicer and more expensive restaurant than I would have preferred but my selection was extremely limited.  The reviews for everything else were so bad, I didn’t want to waste my time. Besides, The Coronado Room has elk and buffalo.  This meets my criteria of food we don’t usually see. 

As a treat before or after dinner, we’re heading to the IMAXtheater in Tuscayan for a really cool 47 minute movie about the Grand Canyon.  My husband looked at me quizzically and asked why we were seeing a movie about the Grand Canyon when we’re actually at the Grand Canyon. Because it’s IMAX, baby! A screen six stories high with 12,000 watts of thunderous digital surround sound. Ya gotta see it.  Besides, it’ll be fun and we’re on vacation.

The next day we’re hiking the Bright Angel Trail.  I chose it because it’s popular, there are several places along the trail to get water, and because it’s long enough that you can make it a short, medium or long hike depending on where you decide to turn around. If it’s disgustingly hot and the kids are whiney, we can turn around and start walking back.

We’re cooking at the campsite this night. My husband is an awesome cook and he loves campfire cooking.  Have at it honey!

Hopefully we’ll be able to do either the Twilight ZoneFamily Program or the Campfire Program tonight.

My husband complained that my posts are too long.  So I’m stopping now.
Tomorrow – Zion National Park