Arriving at Grand Canyon South Village
The drive from Petrified Forest to Grand Canyon South Village was a bit rainy until we hit the AZ state line. It was there we realized it was closer to drive to LA than home. With all the fun we had been having it was hard to realize we had traveled so far already!
The sun was dropping in the late afternoon sky and I knew we would be lucky to arrive before dark. We had no reservations for hotel or camping (as we had no firm date of arrival – we were on a road trip…) So when we saw the signs for Tex X campground just 4 miles south Grand Canyon NP and 2 miles outside of town (Tusayan) we stopped to check it out. This campground is stunning! Ten-X is situated in a pleasant Ponderosa pine and Gambel oak forest at an elevation of 6,600 ft. We were pleasantly greeted by a Stellar’s Jay as we checked in at the pay station. there were 70 campsites and 2 group sites but only a dozen seemed occupied. We came at the right time of year!
After setting up camp we headed back out to try to get our first glimpse of the canyon before dark…. but there was a distraction. Just after we turned onto the main road we saw 5-6 cars pulled over. We slowed down and I saw them, ELK! We pulled over and I pulled out the only camera I had at the ready – my cell phone! There were 2 young bull sparing with each other in between grazing just 20 ft from the road and a bit further up a majestic mature bull elk just grazing and looking up every now and then at the younger one. They were beautiful! So large compared to our tiny Florida White-tailed Deer. I could have stayed there till dark… but the sun was setting fast and we had to move on.
As we approached Tusayan I was amazed, they had a fully functioning tiny city right there. Everything you could want was there. There were elk grazing at the McDonald’s parking lot, dozens of hotels and motels and more stores and restaurants than I could count. They even had shuttles that ran back and forth to the park.
We continued past town and finally saw the main entrance gate. We pulled out our National Park Pass that we had just purchased at Petrified Forest NP collected our maps and headed for the canyon rim…or so we thought. It was still another 10-12 miles to the rim! Well I knew we surely miss sunset there but at Center road we saw a herd of elk doe and fawns and that cheered me up some. Not really knowing our way around we parked by the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and walked around a bit (not knowing we were a short 5 min walk away from the rim at Mather Point) and headed back to camp.
The next morning we were up early and after a quick breakfast and coffee we were off like kids going on a field trip! We arrived at the same parking area and headed into the visitors center for info. The guides there are wonderful and shared so much info with us. We decided we would not need the car the rest of the day as the shuttle system there is amazing and ran every 15 minutes to all points all day. Before the shuttle we headed to Mather Point. This would be our first view of the Grand Canyon. What a sight! There were no words exchanged between Rob and I for a while as we just stood there taking in the size of it all. There were so many shades of pink and grey and green. You cannot in your wildest dreams begin to relate to the size of this place unless you have actually been there. More amazing is the fact that only 1/3 of the canyon is a National Park!
After some time we headed out to catch the Blue Shuttle that would take us through Market Village where you can visit the Pioneer Cemetery, general store, bank and access the Campground and past Grand Canyon Village where the lodges and hotels were located where we picked up the Red Shuttle that took us to all the lookouts. What is I think the best option the park offers is from here you can walk the rim trial or take the shuttle or do a combination of both at your own pace and between the points of interest you wish to visit.
There are 9 points of interest and everyone has a unique beauty! Where we walked the trail was marked well and most was very easily traveled. MAKE SURE you take an adequate supply of water if you plan on doing any walking/hiking between stops.
The end of the route is Hermits Rest. There is a small concession area there ( you can get drink ice cream and a small selection of snacks) The building is gorgeous, growing right out from the rim of the canyon. One of the many hikes into the canyon starts here – one of the Rim to Rim Trails runs from the Village to Hermit’s Rest. After spending some time there we got back on the shuttle and headed back to the visitors center where we bought a fantastic sandwich for lunch and then boarded the Orange shuttle headed in the other direction to 6 other viewpoints. There is a hiking trail along the rim for a portion of this route also but this time we opted to just take the shuttle between the point. The shuttles were starting to get busier later in the afternoon and we saw many riders with their backpacks heading out to the South Kabib Trailhead at the end of the orange route.
The day was passing fast and there still was so much more we wanted to see. We got the details for the ranger led sunset hike along the Trail of Time and went back to the car where 2 warm cans of mini ravioli were waiting for us on the dashboard (a quick easy dinner!)
It was raining when we arrived for the hike, but we were not to be deterred. The Ranger gathered all of the group in the museum and started telling us some wonderful details about the canyons, his history with the park and gladly answered some wonderful questions, all the while encouraging us that the rain would soon end because he ordered it in. He said, “I can’t provide you a rainbow in the canyon without a little bit of rain”. And almost as if on cue a rainbow appeared. Beautiful and delicate against the harsh edge rim of the canyon. Our rainbow rose gently out of the canyon drawing everyone outdoors in the last remaining drizzle of the shower to photograph it’s beauty.
What a way to start a sunset hike! With all the moisture in the air I knew we would be in for a beautiful view. Stopping along the way we were entertained but a comical, yet historical tale of the first :pioneers” to visit the canyon. Just before sunset started to show us some amazing colors the ranger directed us to turn away from the sun and look at the canyon. This was the way to view sunset, watching the changing light on the canyon walls, so many people miss the show going on behind them to watch the sun set behind the horizon. We spent the rest of our daylight hours at that spot, with about 100 others taking in the sights and sounds of the night before returning to our vehicle to head back to camp.
This was a day I will never forget. I have heard said that everyone must visit the Grand Canyon at least one time in their lifetime. I have to disagree, you need to visit more than that to be able to take in the full majesty of the place! Set a date, plan your trip, make it happen. 5 Years ago I said we were coming and finally we are here.
To see more of our photos of (sorry there are lots of them – 3 separate albums) this stop on our trip visit: https://notaclueadventuresphotos.shutterfly.com/
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