Since October, many of the national park trips I’ve taken have been with Hannah. And for our last hurrah before she went off to grad school in London, we took a quick overnight trip to the Grand Canyon, specifically the North Rim.
Apparently only 10 percent of visitors go to the North Rim and I’ve got to say: They’re definitely missing out. I mean, I haven’t been to the South Rim and maybe it’s not all that different, but if the views are the same why wouldn’t you go to the place with fewer people?
As one of the most visited parks, if not the most visited, we spent most, if not all of our time, on completely paved walkways. I don’t think I’ve been a park with paved “trails” since Yellowstone. That was a big adjustment. We couldn’t do any hikes into the canyon because of our time was short. (We arrived Saturday afternoon and were leaving Sunday morning.) We still saw plenty of gorgeous views. (See what I did there? Gorgeous?)
My favorite place we stopped was Roosevelt Lookout. Parts of the area had recently been closed because of wildfires, but luckily this was open. Literally no one else was stopped here either, so Hannah, Anna, Peter and I got to experience a type of solitude that I feel like few people get somewhere as busy as the Grand Canyon. It was a short loop “hike” (more like a nature walk) that we didn’t actually do the loop of, but it was incredible.
If there’s ever a loop that you don’t have all the time to do, or just don’t want to do, there’s nothing wrong with going as far as you want and then turning around. This is something Peter, Hannah and I have done a lot at national parks. Usually it is because we’re short on time but want to see at least a little bit of a trail. We decide that we have time to hike for 30 minutes more, so we go out for 15 minutes and then head back to the trailhead. It’s not ideal, though it is very effective.
We watched the sunset at Cape Royal Point, along with about 10 or 15 other people. Though all things considered, that was a pretty small crowd. From this point we could look toward the South Rim and enjoy rain and lightning from a distance. (That night it absolutely poured at our Jacob Lake campsite, but we stayed dry as can be!)
Everything in the area was a little hazy because of the wildfires, which was somewhat unfortunate but also oddly beautiful. That combined with the already breath-taking clouds made for an amazing time. At one point everyone standing around the lookout area fell silent, watching the rain fall and the clouds move. It was electric. There was no reason for everyone to be quiet, defaulting to whispers if talking was needed, but somehow we all just stopped for a minute or two. I’ve never experienced anything like it before, and I don’t know if I ever will again. It certainly shows how special the national parks are to everyone individually. I don’t know what other people were thinking in those moments, what experiences they were maybe reliving. But it doesn’t matter because we still shared a lived experience in a wonderful place.