The best travel bargain is the yearly pass to the National Park system. I bought my pass June 2014 for $80. I used it for 3 days in Yosemite ($20 a day per car = $60), then I used it in Zion (+$20) and then Grand Canyon (+$20). So I ended ahead. I ended ahead from day one, because it is a bargain to have access to such beauty in nature for just $20 a day.
So get off the couch or pool lounge chair and grab your car keys.
Remote is not the best way to describe the crowded Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon National Park. However, it was our word of the day after we saw a funny t-shirt at the Market Plaza store: “Remote is not just the thing on the coffee table.” And as we hopped on and off the bus to Hermit’s Rest, we actually experienced that refreshing peace one does in a truly remote place between the Abyss and Mohave Point.
It was one of the few sections of the trail where it is not paved or without the rock barrier built by the CCC. We agreed as a security to stop if we were going to look at the canyon or take photos or gape at California Condors. It was quiet and beautiful and felt remote.
We had 24 hours to enjoy the Grand Canyon. We lucked in and grabbed one night in the Yavapai Lodge next to Market Plaza. We dropped our bags and walked about 40 minutes to view the South Rim for the first time (for my friend) about a mile from Veerkamp Visitor Center. Our goal was to mooch along the Rim Trail to Bright Angel Lodge and stop at anything of interest along the way.
We had 7:45 p.m. reservations at El Tovar dining room. This was also when the sun would have set and the bus would stop running to Hermit’s Rest. We planned to watch most of the sunset from Maricopa Point or Powell Point and catch the bus to El Tovar. Turns out that very few of the bus stops pick up/drop off in both directions. And we stopped to take photos so often that we reached Maricopa Point about the time we needed to turn around. That is when we discovered the only return bus stop was another half mile up the trail. We did not realize there was a 30 minute grace on our dinner reservation so we ended up dashing back on foot.
The El Tovar dining room is decorated in the classic Bavarian dark hunting lodge style. The patrons are noticeably grayer than the people we met on the trail. This is the only proper dining room we could find (the Yavapai Cafe was closed for remodeling) and it is expensive. The food was good, not great. Our server was competent but glum. And we were tired from hiking in the altitude and sun. It was a relief to get on the bus and ride back to Yavapai Lodge and crawl into bed.
We set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. so we could watch the sunrise. The Grand Canyon sunrise deserves a post of its own because it is delightful. Afterward, we ate breakfast at the cafeteria at the Market Plaza and bought sandwiches and salty snacks for our day pack. (We used my Nuun tablets to help us stay hydrated.) Our plan was spend the day riding the bus to Hermit’s Rest and hiking our way back.
It was a great day and not as hot as the previous afternoon. Wear sunscreen even when overcast! It looked like thundershowers might cross our paths but they were always at a distance. About 3 p.m. we were satiated. So much beauty!