The question for day 1 isn’t what we did on day 1.
The question for day 1 is what we didn’t do on day 1.
The answer is nothing… there is nothing we didn’t do
which, as double negatives go, is the same as saying
We did everything.
From the top to the bottom to the top,
and round the outside.
We woke up in Flagstaff, which for the love of all the cheese in the universe I can’t call to the front of my mind when I need to. I keep thinking, Tucson, Tallahassee, Taledega, Toronto. (JK on that last one.. I haven’t once thought I was staying in Canada). But for whatever reason, I keep thinking we’re staying in a place that begins with a “T.”
Anyway, we woke up relatively early but with the time difference, we were both wide awake at 6AM and not feeling like sleeping more. We therefore had plenty of time to start scheming. Before I knew it, we were committing ourselves to driving to see the sunset at the Grand Canyon. Pretty Grand right?! But hold up… I just said we woke before 6am, so that would mean a monster long day. Add to that the plan to take an 8 hour tour to the bottom of said Canyon during the day (a guided tour, not driving ourselves). But when you go to the Canyon, you go big or you go home… I guess.
That tour started at Williams Arizona and we traveled by a vehicle that was bigger than a van but smaller than an actual bus along interstate 40 to the old historic Route 66.
It’s the longest stretch of that old highway still operational and much of the pre-recorded tour info we had on that part of the route included details about the highway and history of tourism in the area. It was fun to hear that and also passed the time as it took a little over an hour to get to Peach Springs which is where the descent into the Canyon begins.
Peach Springs as well as all the surrounding land we traveled on from there into and to the bottom is Haulapai land. The two most prevalent tribes that reside on reservations at the Grand Canyon today are the Havasupai and the Hualapai. The canyon is also described as the place of emergence for the Navajo, Hopi, Paiute and Zuni.
From Peach Springs (and arguably the worst maintained porta-potty I’ve ever visited) we began the long dirt/rock road down to the bottom of the Canyon. This is a little known access point apparently because most visitors of the Grand Canyon opt for views at the rim looking down at the majestic cliffs and geologic wonders.
This slow and bumpy ride took just about 2 hours and as we rode, the walls of the canyon consumed us. The terrain and temperature changes are so drastic that different plant life exist at various points along the way.
Ponderosa pine trees give way to pinon trees/bushes. The endless shallow hills of desert brush turn almost instantaneously into steep hills full of different varieties of cactus and low brush. Prickly Pear, Jumping, and other varieties whose actual names I can’t recall.
It was a rough-ish ride but after about 2 hours of historic stories and a brief stop to say hi to some wild donkeys, we arrived at our drop point, one mile from the Colorado River.
We walked the last mile, just the two of us, marveling at the oasis that diamond head creek has created in this otherwise unforgiving terrain. We walked in the cold water and took some pictures and I’ll never admit to peeing there, so don’t bother to ask.
Rejoining our small tour party at the river, we were handed our brown sack lunches and were given a quick overview of the area. This included several suggested “do’s” and a number of soft “don’ts.” We took it as a singular list of items that all begged to be done.
This included walking into the river near the rapids instead of from the beach area where the water was smooth as glass. Well… Jim walked in… I’m too much of a chicken shit when it comes to rapids. That’s what a near-death experience does to a person. I digress.
The rest of our time there was spent eating our sammiches, walking to different parts of the river, and taking lots of pics. I was a little jelly of the rafters. If I ever do this trip again I’ll have to get over my fear and just do it.
This was the highlight of our day. We both agree. And when our time was up we had to retrace our steps and make the 3 hour journey back to Williams. To best represent how bumpy the ride was, I’ll just say that we likely walked less than 3K steps on the day as a whole yet my FitBit recorded 17k on the day. That’s bumpy!
Our big plan to catch the sunset hinged in timing. Arriving back to Williams, we needed to get dinner and high tail it back north with a quickness. Trouble was, nothing was happening very quickly.
First.. the restaurant we planned to order takeout from was closed on Mondays. Second, the only fast food option I was ok with was Taco Bell and after 10 minutes in line with little movement we peeled outto hit the gas station instead. Third.. the gas station was packed and the line there was no joke either.
Third was the gas station stop to fuel up and grab a quick bite. For me, that was a gas station hot dog. As I stood at the rollers I tried to think of a time in my life I’ve eaten a gas station hot dog. I could not think of one. So I thought to myself, why not.
I’ll be damned if I didn’t even know where they were hiding the buns. Like the last person on the planet to be let in on a grand secret. Not labeled because even an idiot knows where they keep the buns. Good gravy!
The hot dog was a good decision for about 20 minutes until the last few bites when it became a bad decision. But I finished it anyway.
Part of our navigation challenge came when hunting for a sunset spot. It was not something I had researched at all so we were googling as we drove from Jim’s phone (my service is really quite abysmal out here).
We picked #1 on the list and that is where we went but because of our timing, we sort of missed the bit where the sun was lighting up the cliffs on the south and east walls.
We did catch the sun dipping behind the trees on the horizon (no clear shot of the sun from across the canyon at Mather Point and watched the shadows creep up and consume the entire void. Still very cool.
When the sun was completely set, we left that vista behind us and drove back to Taledega (or Tulsa or Texarkana or Tuscaloosa).
As Jim drove, the sky became a shade of dark that only the great wilderness, free from light pollution, can provide. The stars came out and I watched them from my passenger window, eyes scanning for Orien’s belt. It took a little over an hour to get back to our AirBnb.
A full day of “everything” indeed. Or at least it felt like everything. Little did I know that we were just getting started…
With peace and love,