The Other Side Of The Canyon

Grand Canyon’s South Rim made a convenient detour as we traveled north from Kingman to Monument Valley, and the view there was completely different to the North Rim. While North Rim is rustic and less visited, South Rim is iconic for a reason. Wider, more colorful, and much more approachable.

Simon had been to the South Rim before, but my first view of it was shocking, in a good way. It struck me as a grand amphitheater with a story to tell in each of its folds and crevices, and its sloping sides are so enormous no binoculars are necessary to see them, though we used ours anyway and were treated to intricate views of the canyon’s smaller details.

There was a little interpretive center not far from where we parked, with a panoramic view through its windows. Sitting right on the edge of the canyon, it offered an exceptional sight line right down to the bottom.

Among the displays were two panels that hit smack at the heart of what bothers those of us with a fear of heights. We’re thinkin’ it, Grand Canyon, we’re thinkin’ it!

Fear 1

Fear 2

South Rim has three main areas that look into the widest part of the canyon, and we checked each of them out.

When we had our fill of the main overlooks, we continued along the spectacular East Rim drive, where several more turnouts provided views over the canyon’s less-visited eastern arm.

Obligatory Selfie.

If you read our blog about Monument Valley, you know we had begun using a “points” system when it comes to things that challenge us as we travel, but we do them anyway. Simon cashed in some of his points to avoid driving the valley’s rough road, and I cashed in some of my points by asking to skip an overlook accessed via a steep, narrow road along the East Rim.

This is what a thousand points looks like.

Standing on this wall earned me a billion points, but I can’t post the photo of that moment because you can see my mouth and it’s really obvious what word is coming out of it. Look at these happy people instead.

The rest of East Rim was spectacular, and it was also a convenient shortcut toward the road to Monument Valley, so the decision to head that way rather than backtrack to I-40 was a double win.

We saw quite a few people just hanging out on rocks near the edge of the canyon.

The main area only allows tiny glimpses of the Colorado River, but it’s much more visible from the East Rim.

Skipping the steep road also led to our first wildlife sighting in a long time when we came upon five or six elk grazing along the East Rim road, which made for a happy sign-off to our visit.

We didn’t get a photo of the many people who were foraging for something in the forested area, but it looked like they were picking up small pine cones. During one of our turnout stops, my guess was confirmed; they were harvesting pine nuts from the mini pine cones. How cool is that?

As we continued north after leaving the park, we came across one of the furthest reaches of the canyon, near where the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River meet. A huge fissure runs along the highway, and we stopped to have a look at a big parking area set up just for that purpose.

Etc? What the living hell could “etc” be?!

That night we stayed in Navajo Land Hotel in Tuba City, having driven into dusk through scenery lit by the fading sun. The name is an odd side-step meant to honor Hopi Chief Tuva, but the Mormons who were guided through the land by Tuva apparently had trouble pronouncing the letter “v” (but did they, really?) and simply replaced it with “b.” We’ll leave our comments at that, and instead revel in the glorious hillsides.

We were glad to have seen both sides of the Grand Canyon, with their distinct personalities that earn the National Park its place as one of the United States’ most iconic destinations.

The Grandest Canyon Of Them All

Simon had been to the Grand Canyon, but Susan had not. The South Rim was on our schedule, but with the change in our itinerary in Month Two, we now had the option to fit in the North Rim as well. Could we make it happen from 156 miles away? You know we could!

Donkey’s years ago (“a long time ago” for our U.S. readers), Simon visited the South Rim during his first trip to the States. We had heard the North Rim was pretty special, and much less crowded. While it would be a very long day, we agreed to make the trip, reckless vagabonds that we are!

Our dear friend Richard recommended a stop at Little Hollywood Land in Kanab on the way to the North Rim, for its Western movie props. Simon was all in; he absolutely loves that sort of thing.

Little Hollywood is as kitschy as it comes. Homespun, quirky, it’s a curiosity for those who don’t know the old Westerns well, and if the AARP-aged man visiting with his son and pointing out all the little details is anything to go by, it’s a delight for those who do.

Some of the movie location props we saw were:

The backdrop for Kenny Loggins Live from the Grand Canyon concert in 1991

The barn and homestead sets used in the Clint Eastwood movie, Outlaw Josey Wales

The barn

Inside the homestead

Simon, pointing at the cross-shaped window that featured in the movie’s final, dramatic gun battle.

And many more, along with a smattering of atmosphere props

The drive to the Grand Canyon felt like it took forever once we left Kanab. This is pretty much what we saw the whole way:

But once we arrived, the WPM (Wows Per Minute) cranked right up. We took the advice of previous visitors and made the drive from the entry straight to the end of the scenic road, then drove back and stopped at the overlooks, which were now on the right-hand side of the road, saving us from having to cross traffic to get to them.

It was the right decision. There was some pretty dicey roadway those last four miles, with big drop-offs and no guard rails, so it was better to get that over with quickly so that Susan could enjoy the rest of the visit.

Again, it’s impossible to get the scale. You’ll see people part-way into this video, which helps give some perspective.

Click on photo for video

The “mood” of the canyon changes, depending on how the light hits it, and this has always been something that intrigues me (Susan). Some might say I relate to “moody,” but that’s a discussion for another time.

Simon scampered around the park like a squirrel on a mission, taking all the narrow pathways and leaning out over all the railings, and as part of his exploration he discovered a room inside the lodge where guests staying at North Rim check in for their accommodation.

The room had huge windows overlooking the canyon, and while it was right on the edge of a drop-off, like most overlooks are, he took me by the hand when I returned from getting Ruthie settled in the car with some water, and said, “Come see this.” I’m SO grateful for that loving gesture, which gave me a view with a sense of safety.

This is an incredibly proud moment. Tears may have happened.

On the way out of the park we were treated to a wildlife sighting, which capped off the day just right.

Mule deer doing mule deer stuff

We had two more major National Park experiences coming up, and one unexpected mini canyon. While it was nowhere near as grand as the Grand Canyon, the emotional impact of little Parowan Gap would prove immense.