March 12 – 15, 2017
We arrived early Sunday morning at the Grand Canyon entrance gates.
The first thing we did was get maps and information at the Visitor Center. Then we went to the campgrounds to see if there were any walk-in or cancellation spots available, but there were not. Fortunately our backup plan is to camp at Kaibab National Forest since it borders Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP).
We had stopped in at the NF headquarters and got an up to date map with all of the areas you are allowed to disperse camp. The ranger was helpful and gave us a couple of ideas on where to camp. We ended up spending each night on a different forest service road! That’s the beauty of having your house on wheels!
Grand Canyon – Wow! Seeing is Believing.
We parked at the Desert View Visitor Center and walked out to the rim and saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. We were in awe of the beauty and magnificence of it.
The Grand Canyon is huge – no picture or words can capture or describe the beauty or depth of the landscape.
It is said to be one of the earth’s most powerful and inspiring landscapes that can overwhelm the senses.
There are multitudes of colors represented on the rock walls due to different erosion formations over time.
There are 277 river miles in the canyon and it is 1 mile deep and over 18 miles wide at its widest point. When you view it, you are only seeing a tiny microcosm of the canyon.
One other thing that we thought was notable about the Grand Canyon is that they do not sell any water in bottles. They have numerous water fill stations with their own spring fed water which was very good. This is to prevent excess litter from water bottles. They have water fill stations at multiple stations going down the major trails as well. They do sell refillable bottles though!
The Desert View Drive
We drove the 22 mile Desert View Drive along the east portion of the South Rim. We stopped at all of the view points and enjoyed the views. The highest point was Navajo Point at 7461’. The North Rim of the GCNP is closed until around mid May because it is still cold and snowy!
There were people rafting however, it was barely visible to the eye when looking from the top of the canyon. We zoomed in to the maximum setting of the camera, so the picture is a bit cloudy.
Trouble at Camp
The second day didn’t start out so good. When we turned on the generator to warm up the camper and make coffee, the CO2 detector started beeping. That really sets Heidi off and she becomes a nervous wreck. We had to use the Mr. Buddy and make percolated coffee! We later went out and investigated to see what could be causing the issues. We did find a mud dauber nest in the refrigerator vent area near the gas flame.
We also believe we dislodged some debris from the generator tailpipe with a long thin stick. We ran the generator for quite a while with no more incidence of the alarm going off. So we got off to a late start.
Here is a picture of our camp in Kaibab NF. It is only a few miles from the Grand Canyon and our camp was private and cozy and best of all – it’s free!
We went to the Rainbow Forest visitor center and walked on the rim trail in that area. We took Heidi with us since she didn’t want to be in the camper.
The canyon is different looking from every direction. It is so vast it is hard to get a grasp on how deep and wide and especially how long it is. The colors of the rocks are quite varied and the Colorado River is visible at points.
We stopped at the National Geographic Visitor Center to view the Imax film: Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets which was really awesome. What a great film – we felt like we were flying and rafting in the canyon. It was well worth the cost of the ticket.
The Shuttle System
The next day we took the shuttle system and toured the western side of the south rim. We got off at every stop and hiked between numerous lookouts.
We got off to an early start to avoid the crowds. The shuttle bus started running at 7am. We had the whole bus to ourselves – for a little while that is.
One time we stopped and had a picnic and enjoyed watching a couple of helicopters ferry pallets of supplies in and out of Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. The pallets were really swaying! We couldn’t see around the bend to where they were taking the supplies, but there is a big lodging facility for the hikers and mule riders at the base of the Bright Angel Trail.
It was much more enjoyable than the eastern side and the area right by the visitor centers as there weren’t nearly as many people. At times, we were the only ones out on the trail between the bus stops. It was an enjoyable day.
The Grand Canyon was absolutely beautiful and the weather was gorgeous. However, we did not anticipate how crowded it would be. We knew it was the most visited NP with an average of 5.5 Million visitors per year but we were surprised that even in mid March it was that crowded. We didn’t think about spring break! When we checked at the campground for vacancies, they said it would be doubtful that anything would be open all week as it was spring break in Arizona! We did see a lot of kids as well as a lot of international travelers. We saw people holding their tablets over the edge of the rim face timing family showing them the canyon live! And of course, no matter where you looked, selfies were the rage!
The only wildlife we saw were a few elks. They seem to have adjusted to getting their picture taken!
We were ready to move on and get away from all the crowds. In fact, we were going to head to Zion and Bryce NP and changed our plans. We will hit those on another trip!