Driving to Arizona one week ago, the Grand Canyon was not on our radar. We obviously knew it was in Arizona but we were so zeroed in on spending time with friends and attending Spring Training Baseball, we had not thought of much more. As soon as Grand Canyon appeared on the highway mile marker sign just outside of Albuquerque, Cortney and I both looked at each other and I knew that look in her eye meant adventure. My initial response was, “Take Nolan (our 6 year-old wild man) to the Grand Canyon, are you serious?!” But I knew she was. I tried to brush it off, not wanting to over commit during our low-key week away. I told her we’d have to see, maybe another trip when the kids are older. However, the thought of an unexpected adventure kept lingering. Days went by and as the week unfolded it became clear that we would have a possible window to leave Phoenix a day early and make a quick overnight visit to the canyon on our way back home to Colorado.
About six years ago I took a trip with my parents to the Grand Canyon and joked with them that I’d never take Nolan until he was 21 years old! You see, Nolan is a boundary pusher and experiential learner; two qualities that do not pair well with the Grand Canyon! But the opportunity was there to visit and it even shaved our 12.5 hour drive home down by 1.5 hours – we were in! More and more I have come to expect the unexpected.
The weather was forecasted to be cloudy and cool (actually cold compared to the heat we had just left in Phoenix) so we bundled up and hit the road early heading toward The South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We stopped just outside the park gate to grab sandwiches for a picnic lunch. If you are ever driving through the tiny town of Tusayan, just outside the South Rim entrance, RP’s Stage Stop has to be on your places to stop, an unexpected historic and culinary gem outside the park!
Our first stop in the park was the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, where we parked our car, got acquainted with the shuttle bus schedule, stamped our National Park Passports, picked up the kid’s Junior Ranger books and watched a 30 minute film on the canyon.
We determined the orange shuttle route was the best, given the time of day and attention span of our kids. First of all, it is so nice to just ride and take the park in, without the stress of road construction and driving ourselves around and finding parking. Our first stop was Mather Point, where Hadley immediately asked, “Are these colors natural?” Her innocent question points to the awe of such a gaping and beautiful canyon.
Pictures can not even do it justice and artists who attempt at capturing it have to mix countless colors together on their pallete to even come close! Nolan had fun spying all the trails and caves below. Both kids enjoyed finding all the various colors that exist along the canyon walls. We held on to them tightly!
We caught the next shuttle to visit the Yavapai Point and Geology Museum. The panoramas here were stunning – pretty spectacular views. We were able to spot the Colorado River a mile down in the Canyon.
The kids studied a cut away of the rock layers that comprise the canyon, then completed a page in their Junior Ranger book putting their senses to the test; documenting what they could see, hear, feel and touch, before heading off to the next stop.
Funny story as one of the kids got to the part of what do you smell, they sniff around and of course and unassuming tourist behind us had just lit up a cigarette. Pretty sure this is not the smell they were going for when the author wrote this educational booklet.
We continued on the orange route with a couple more stops. Included were elk and mule deer sightings and of course all of our corny deer jokes that accompany such sightings.
Q: What do you call a deer with no eyes?
Next, we hopped lines, taking the blue shuttle to The Village, where we scouted dinner options (as the kids are ALWAYS looking for their next meal), checked out at few sites walking the trail along the canyon as we planned where to watch the sunset. We walked the Rim Trail until the canyon disappeared into darkness and we could no longer see our hands in front our our face.
It was a complete day, what an experience to be able to share with our kids and together as a family. We reminded them on the shuttle ride back to our car that people come from all over the world to see this great place and encouraged them to look around at all the passengers on the shuttle (the kids were the youngest by more than a few decades) and realize how lucky they are to have seen it at such a young age.
Nolan would have been content to ride shuttles around the park, all day long! He is already plotting his return visit, he informed me that he and I will be coming back for 7 weeks (very exact) so that we can do everything! All the hikes, ride every shuttle bus, ride the mules, raft the river and ride the train. The boy dreams in adventure!
I am continually learning the beauty of living with margin – not over planning and allowing life to unfold one day at at time. It has given us some of the greatest experiences and memories as a family. It is not my nature, I like to have a plan, the drive mapped, gas milage calculated and the budget set. However, I have learned over the last year there are so many little moments I have missed by not being open to spontaneous plans. Honestly, it probably goes back even further to when I was diagnosed with cancer, making plans is hard when you don’t know what tomorrow holds. (And maybe it goes back even further, like when we had our first child, Hadley. Kids will do that!) It has really shifted our family’s focus to living each day to it’s fullest, allowing us to experience more life and to be available for adventures.
Now… Stop waiting for tomorrow – Get Living Today!
Ready for the punchline to the corny joke…No ideer
Now, what do you call a deer with no eyes or legs?
Still no ideer!
oh deer! 😃