When visiting family in California in the summer of 2012, we decided to do something a bit different. The choice was between driving up to San Francisco and spending a week there or engaging in a road trip through California, Nevada and Arizona. Obviously we chose the latter (like anyone would). This road trip would consist of driving 6 hours from California to Las Vegas in Nevada and staying there for three nights. Then driving another 6-7 hours along route 66 to Hoover Dam and then to our hotel in Arizona where would spend two days.
After spending a few days in Las Vegas we set off to Arizona. We stayed in a 'Little America' hotel about an hour’s drive away from the Grand Canyon National Park. The day we arrived in Arizona it was late afternoon. We literally spent about 20 minutes in the hotel unpacking before we were back in the van on our way to the Grand Canyon. We decided to take the scenic route through the Arizona Canyons before making a stop in 'William's Old West' town. Arriving there, it felt like we had just travelled back to the Wild West. There were cowboys carrying guns on horses roaming the quiet, sand stricken streets. Cacti and buildings made entirely out of wood engulfed the little town.
After spending around an hour there, we knew we didn't have a whole lot of sunlight left and we still hadn't arrived at the Grand Canyon. With that in mind, we jumped back in the van and took off. When we finally arrived it was still light. We bought our ticket and entered the national park. It was different than what we expected. Trees as far as the eye could see. We looked at each other in slight confusion and carried on driving. After 10 minutes we decided to stop.
We spoke a little and got out of the van. By this point, light was fading fast and shades of orange and yellow engulfed the sky. We started walking though the tree line. Within seconds, we stumbled upon it, the Grand Canyon. The beauty was overwhelming. The ancient canyons and rocks beautifully painted in shades of the setting sun. Our breath was stripped from us as we looked out at the jaw-dropping view.
Endless stories of how people going missing and some never to be found after venturing down into the canyon never seemed so real until seeing the sheer scale of the place. It would be quite intimidating if it weren’t for the overwhelming view. About 15 minutes after arriving, darkness fell and that’s when threats started becoming all too real. Other stories of people losing their life after falling into the canyon started playing back in our heads. Walking on trails that were feet away from a 200 ft. shear drop in pitch black was one of the most heart-stopping experiences of my life.
The next morning, over breakfast we decided to scrap the plan to head back to Las Vegas for the day and visit the Grand Canyon for a second time. After packing up our stuff we jumped back in the van and set off en route to the awe-inspiring national park. On arrival, we decided to venture to the opposite side of the canyon in relation to the night before. There we visited a museum like building where we watched short films and learned the history of the incredible land mark.
We decided to take our own trail across the top of the canyon. 2 hours and hundreds of photographs later, our trip was unfortunately cut short. It started with a light rain that within minutes turned to some of the heaviest rainfall and the biggest thunder and lightning storm I have ever had the pleasure to see. Experiencing a storm of such great magnitude would have been one to remember if it weren’t for the fatal shear drop offs only meters away.
We knew this was our cue to leave as the roar of thunder and striking bursts of electricity grew ever closer. We raced back to the van with again, the media stricken stories of people falling into the canyon due to lightning only days earlier began to ring. Upon arriving at the van, we took off at high speed down the lethally slippery roads. Only 30 minutes later, the storm was gone and the sun began to shine once again. It went as quickly and abruptly as it came. By this time however, we were already on the 11 hour drive back to California.
We were unable to spend as much time as we had hoped at the incredibly beautiful landmark. But that only made the experience that much more special. Looking at photos, watching videos and hearing stories of the Grand Canyon is nothing compared to seeing it with your own eyes. Despite how much I tried, the experience of visiting this iconic place is simply indescribable. Despite the endless threats we were faced with, overall visiting the Grand Canyon was an absolutely breath-taking and heart stopping experience and one that I will never forget.