Get Up, Get Up for Sunrise at the Grand Canyon!

Waiting for the sun to peak over the horizon, the crowds grew at Mather Point.
Waiting for the sun to peak over the horizon, the crowds grew at Mather Point.

We watched the sunset and so it seemed logical that we would get up at 4:30 a.m., throw on clothes and dash to Mather Point to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon.

We hoped our photos of the canyon would be lit in a way that allowed our phones to catch more accurately the canyon colors that we were seeing with our naked eye.

We drove the short distance from Market Plaza to the Visitor Center parking lot at Mather Point. We joined the crowds walking to the cement deck and rails to stake out spots and watch the sun rise.

There were groups of boisterous young people and contemplative adults. Families kidded one another and couples took turns taking photos of each other and the sunrise.

We enjoyed chatting with Jane from the UK.

The sunrise illuminates an already gorgeous canyon to new heights of breathtaking.
The sunrise illuminates an already gorgeous canyon to new heights of breathtaking.

After about an hour our craving for coffee and our hunger got the best of us and we turned for the car.

As we walked towards the parking lot we saw a herd of female elk. It was exciting and yet we remained cautious.

The National Park doesn’t pull punches. There are signs that are blunt: “Do not feed the squirrels. They have fleas that carry bubonic plague.” Or stay 75 feet from elk and other wild animals. They also warn you of the perils of going to close to the canyon edge. We witnessed people ignoring all of this advice. Sigh. I guess people feel they are special and nothing bad will happen to them.

Do not be the fool who gets injured by the wild elk.
Do not be the fool who gets injured by the wild elk.

So enjoy the beauty of the park. Appreciate our forefather and mothers who set aside these special places. Thank the people who dedicate themselves to protecting them today and making our experience possible. And respect the wildness of the place.

24 hours at the South Rim of Grand Canyon

Our first view of the Grand Canyon.
Our first view of the Grand Canyon.

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.

Looking back at the South Rim Village from Trailview Overlook.
Looking back at the South Rim Village from Trailview Overlook.

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.

To see one riding the air currents wild and free was thrilling!
Finally I saw a California Condor! I have been reading about their decline and recovery my whole life! To see one riding the air currents wild and free was thrilling!

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.

Sunset: I have so many pictures on my phone of the Grand Canyon that it is a huge challenge to select photos for this post.
Sunset: I have so many pictures on my phone of the Grand Canyon that it is a huge challenge to select photos for this post.

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!