Monday, July 3, 2017

Big Canyon, Small World: A National Park Odyssey Day 12

Grand Canyon National Park

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View from the south rim near El Tovar
Josh and I woke up in time for sunrise while the kids slept in.  We walked just outside El Tovar to the overlook and gazed at the rays of sun peeking over the canyon.  A handful of other people had crawled out of bed to witness the beauty of the morning, but it was far less crowded than I expected.  We enjoyed some quiet time together, and then we woke the kids up to eat breakfast with us along the south rim trail.  We sat on a bench eating and drinking and watched the colors change on the canyon below as the light began to hit the rocks.
Breakfast on the trail near the rim
My pathetic photography skills don't do the majestic canyon justice.

Along the paved trail which goes all the way from the Bright Angel Trail past El Tovar to the visitors’ center, Knox was interested in the geologic timeline markers and placards that told the story of the carving of the canyon.  When we got to the marker that represented 2000 years ago, we all took note that there was a giant crack.  The pavement wasn’t cracked anywhere else, just here, at about the time that the veil would have been torn in two after the crucifixion of Christ.  It was a meaningful symbol to us of the Creator who was there to watch the carving of this canyon with a front row seat.
This crack was probably just happenstance, but it bore meaning to us.
As we got nearer to the visitors’ center, the trail grew more and more crowded with people who had apparently been dropped off by tour buses.  90% of tourists never get beyond this trail, and we started looking forward to the relatively sparse crowds that we assumed we’d see the next day on our way to the bottom of the canyon.  While we walked, Knox grew increasingly annoyed at the amount of trash on the trail and decided that, as a Junior Ranger, he should be doing something about it.
The crowds continued to grow as we got near to the visitors' center.
Knox picks up trash as a part of his (mostly self-imposed) Junior Ranger duties.

Days 13 and 14 were to be spent riding mules down into and out of the canyon with an overnight at Phantom Ranch, the park’s nearly-impossible-to-book cabins on the bottom of the canyon.  But before we could mount up the next day, we were required to check in and go through orientation at the Bright Angel Lodge down the trail from El Tovar.  We had to weigh in (yes, really), affirm that we all had come prepared with appropriate footwear, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and wide brimmed hats with chin straps.  Our camera had to be on a neck strap, and we weren’t allowed to carry any bags on our person.  Everything we wanted to take with us had to be placed in a clear plastic bag (the size of a 10 pound bag of ice).
Here are two of our bags of gear and water canteens that were provided by Xanterra, the concessionaire who runs the mule ride to Phantom Ranch.
As we waited to be weighed, I thought Josh was going to have another anxiety attack.  He had weighed 177 when we left home, but he was worried he would be over the strict 200 pound limit with his gear on.  He needn’t have worried.  He was 186.  I didn’t have the courage to look at my own reading as the attendant quietly recorded it on a paper that I assume was passed on to the mule wranglers to help them decide how much extra weight in gear my mule could carry since none of the mules carry more than 200 pounds total.

In addition to our plastic bags, we were handed a yellow rain slicker each and a leather and plastic water bottle on a string that looked kind of like my Sunday school teachers always described a wineskin.  We were to bring all of this back the next morning to the corral by 5:55 am.

After orientation and check in, we looked around the gift shop at Bright Angel (learning in the process that the rooms in this lodge were not air conditioned as ours at El Tovar were).  Knox assumed his normal gift-shop position in the children’s book section while the rest of us browsed.
Knox has read a lot of books this summer by sitting on the floor of the gift shops!
To end our day, we attended a nightly non-denominational worship service at an area set aside just past the Bright Angel Trailhead.  Every night during the high season, a group of college-student volunteers from around the country lead a time of worship at the rim for all who wish to come.  The students work with A Christian Ministry in the National Parks (ACMNP) which has representatives in 25 parks across the country leading worship services for travelers.  Grand Canyon’s program is different in that the services aren’t just on Sundays; they have a services every single night of the summer.  We loved the singing and were moved by the thoughts of the ACMNP member who shared her personal testimony.  The setting was awe-inspiring and certainly directed our thoughts to the master sculptor of this planet.
The sign leading the way to the worship site
We sang some new worship songs and an old hymn or two as well.

At the end of the service, Kinley gestured toward one of the ACMNP team members and said, “I know her.”  I was stunned.  How could Kinley possibly know some college student in the Grand Canyon?  She told me that she was pretty sure the girl was a McCutcheon graduate who had been in the musical Beauty and the Beast with Kinley.  It took a lot of encouragement, but I finally convinced her to approach the girl and strike up a conversation.  Sure enough, Kinley as right.  Kayla had just finished her freshman year at Taylor University and was excited to be a part of this mission team. 
Our family with Kayla, a McCutcheon grad from Lafayette

At a place where the canyon is mind-bogglingly huge and the geologic time table seems impossibly long, we were reminded that it’s really a tiny little planet after all.


  1. So cool about the "small world" experience! Your sunrise and following colorful photos are so majestic! The mule ride is so appealing and I hope we get to do that one day. When we visited, we had on flip flops, but the trail for the petroglyphs on Bright Angel was icy/snowy and muddy, so we could not explore it. Did you?

    1. Our guide pointed out petroglyphs but we didn't get off to get a closer look.

  2. I am so jealous after looking at this post and totally want to go on either an adventure or a trip far away, I really like this post and enjoyed it thanks for posting.

    1. Thank you! I hope you get to go somewhere soon!