The Grand Canyon: aptly named for its jaw-dropping landscape, it makes the top of every "must-see" list, drawing millions of visitors each year. It is inarguably worth the trip. For us, the Grand Canyon was memorable because of the seemingly insignificant moments strung together into one incredible adventure.
After extensive research, we decided to visit the North Rim of the park. My obsession with camping beneath towering pines secretly impacted our chosen destination, but I argued that smaller crowds and particular points of interest made the North Rim an obvious winner.
We were amidst herds of bison, grazing in lush green pastures when we spotted the park's entrance sign. Idyllic? Absolutely. Expected? Definitely not. Our perception of the Grand Canyon was painted with arid landscapes, tumbling weeds, and slithering rattlesnakes. This lush contrast caught us off-guard in the most wonderful way.
Our first stop was the visitor's center, where we could gain valuable insight to maximize our one-day experience. We expected to receive maps and tips on must-see points of interest. While this was included, we received the best advice one could ever hear: in a place so massive, it's easy to miss out on the tiny things... but in them, the real magic of this place is discovered.
We took the advice to heart, keeping aware of the seemingly insignificant treasures hiding amongst the grandeur. The artistry of river-carved canyons dressed in splendid hues of crimson and rust vie for your attention, and views span in every direction. Our first steps onto the patio of the Grand Canyon Lodge were silent. Words were replaced by tears of awe. Throughout the day we experienced many breathless moments as we absorbed the raw beauty of this untamed landscape. Yet we all agreed, the myriad of small things made our adventure to the Grand Canyon so memorable.
There is an intoxicating mix of cool forests clinging to the edge of sun-scorched cliffs. The road leading to the Lodge winds between giant pines, providing shaded refuge. You'll wrap a flannel around your chest to guard against the chilly breeze that whispers through tree tops. Don't forget your water bottle and sun protection... without a canopy of trees the heat quickly warms your body, and you'll be peeling those layers back rather quickly. This diversity of temperatures gives you a greater appreciation for the hardiness of all life within the canyon.
Beauty can be found away from the rim. Although you want to spend every minute gazing out across the hazy distant canyon walls and peering down perilous edges, the inner park landscape offers its own unique splendor. Challenge yourself and your family to a spur of the moment photo contest. Get in a snowball fight (yes, snow!). Spot wildlife: mule deer, bighorn sheep, and the kaibab squirrel whose only home is the North Rim.
Engage with one of the park's most interesting elements: the people. While there are moments where solitude is healing for the soul, one of the best parts of traveling is meeting people from all walks of life. Talk to those who share the trail with you. Save people from so-so selfies by offering to take a decent photo of them. Learn the stories of the men and women who protect, guide, and study within the National Parks System. Listen to them; they are passionate about educating visitors and preserving our parks.
Take a moment to appreciate the incredible creation we are called to steward. Thank the Creator. It is a privilege to travel. Some people never leave their little corner of earth. When you've soaked in the awe and wonder of our incredible planet, do something to care for it. Many generations have yet to drop their jaws in awe of vast canyons, gushing geysers, snow-capped mountains, and turquoise waters. Let's give them something to talk about.
The thousands of tiny, simple moments made our adventure to the Grand Canyon magical. I find myself closing my eyes tight, sealing in every recalled detail, lest I forget. Though I doubt I ever could.
Born with a severe case of wanderlust, I'm always searching for new adventures and sharing those stories here.