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Southwest Ramble - Day 2 - the Grand Canyon, North Rim

I was bound and determined to see the sunrise on the Grand Canyon. I had never paid a visit to this ultra famous national park, and after arriving late the previous night (see Southwest Ramble - Day 1), I still hadn't seen the canyon itself. I could barely sleep in anticipation.

I had already cleared things with Laura that if she woke up tired she could sleep in and I'd do an early morning stint, returning later in the morning to get her. That is indeed what we ended up doing. I had everything laid out and ready to go and was headed out the door before 6 am for a 7:30 am sunrise at the canyon about 15 minutes away.

I had planned to grab some coffee and maybe a little food at the McDonald's on the way - it turned out it was closed and would be for quite some time due to remodeling. So, I found some gas station coffee and some banana bread to get my system going and was off.

The entry to the park has an automated ticketing system for the off hours. It was a little tricky getting it to work in the low light, but I made it in. I headed to parking lot number one by the Visitor Center where there was one other car already there. I headed for Mather Point using Google Maps in walking mode and it did a good job, though I wished I'd brought my micro-spikes as the parking lot and the asphalt trail was a sheet of ice.

This has been a very snowy and cold year in the area. Early morning temps had typically been single digits above or below zero, but afternoon highs were warming to at or above freezing causing the sheet ice in the parking lots and some parts of the trails. With a little caution I made it over to Mather Point with no issues.

That particular morning the temperature was actually in the mid-twenties, but the wind was fierce. I was regretful at not having brought my hand warmers which were back at the hotel. But, even in the near darkness, the scene was so overwhelming I wasn't thinking much about my hands. I'm not a great descriptive writer, but even if i was, I'd never be able to scratch the surface of doing the Grand Canyon justice with words. I've seen some truly beautiful places in the world, and the Grand Canyon is certainly one of them.

Sunrise at he Grand Canyon
Winter Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

I was there with more than a half hour to go before the sun would be peeking over the rim to the east of Mather Point, and of course I filled much of this time taking photos - but it also gave me time to just absorb the moment. In fact, for awhile, I had Mather Point all to myself.

To be alone in a place like that is a special gift. Of course I had no special right to be alone there, but I surely did appreciate the blessing that I did get those moments. Soon, folks started to arrive and it was still special and beautiful - but my thoughts were inevitably distracted by the voices around me.

The sun rose in magnificent fashion as I expected. Perhaps it was more psychological than real, but the warmth I immediately felt made me think that the light and its warmth were like a force that brought the canyon awake and alive. Almost immediately the ravens took to flight - in this case mostly below our vantage point. I could just imagine the other creatures less visible and hidden in this wilderness gradually standing and stretching and welcoming the sun's life force.

After awhile, I departed. By now there were perhaps a couple dozen or more people who'd arrived and I was ready to get Laura and explore some of the snowy trails in the area. I managed to find my way back to my rental car and headed back to the hotel.

We ate some oatmeal we'd brought and headed back to the canyon. Our general activities included going back to Mather Point so Laura could see the magnificent view it offers, a trip to the Visitor's Center, and then hikes along the rim.

Grand Canyon Snow Scene
Grand Canyon Snow Scene

The trail along the rim (Rim Trail) is in summer an asphalt path. This year, with all the snow it was either ice covered or snow covered nearly everywhere. We did use microspikes which I'd encourage you to have if you go in the winter months. They greatly improved our experience. From the Visitor Center, we hiked about two miles east and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On this particular trek, we did not take any of the trails down into the canyon as we just did not have the time. That will certainly be on our agenda for next time.

As we had a four hour drive ahead of us, we came back to the car around 3 pm and began the beautiful drive to Phoenix. The trip back down to Williams and then from there to Flagstaff and down out of the mountains is some of the most scenic highway miles I have seen. The balance of our trip was mostly of no great interest for the purposes of this blog, though I may add some information eventually on the drive between Phoenix and Las Vegas as it was quite stunningly beautiful.

North Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon with Snow
North Rim Trail with Snow


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