After a cold night with not very much sleep, I awoke to Lizzie’s iPhone alarm, which she then turned off. I felt very guilty later that having woken her up to turn it off, she didn’t get back to sleep again. Now that the sun was up and it was not quite so bitterly cold, I got the the best sleep I’d had all night in the two hours that followed. At about 9am Lizzie woke me up and after getting dressed, having breakfast and making our picnic lunch, we headed off in search of the Red Route bus.

Our First View of the Canyon

Our plan for the day was to walk the 13 mile rim trail, visiting the Visitor Centre along the way and finishing with a sunset at Yaki Point. Arriving at the Red Route transfer point, we were met with a large queue, but more importantly, with our first view of the canyon. I must take the time at this point to make you all aware, that in response to a challenge from Mr Oli Walker, Lizzie and I are not allowed to use the word “big” in any of our blog posts relating to the Grand Canyon… so here it goes. Our first view of the canyon, in the late morning sun was quite impressive, it wasn’t a major overlook point, so we could not see very far, but the scale was still breathtaking. The bus soon arrived, but did not have enough room for everyone, so another 10 minutes later we were finally on our way to Hermit’s Rest. The bus ride took about 25 minutes, since it stops at every overlook as it heads westbound (but only at a select 3 on the way back). At Hermit’s Rest, as everyone else rushed immediately to look at the view, we took a more practical stance, visiting the pit toilets and refilling our water bottles. After a quick visit to the shop, and a few photos at Hermit’s Rest, we began our walk along the first few miles of the rim trail.

From the Rim Trail

The first 2.8 miles from Hermit’s rest were paved and were also open to cyclists (or bicyclists according to the sign) and to be honest, it was only really cyclists that we saw, we seemed to be the only ones walking any distance along the trail at this point. It seems that the majority of visitors take the bus to each of the overlook points and then get back on it again to go to the next one. The trail wound close to the edge of the canyon for the most part, offering us stunning views through the trees as well as terrifyingly steep drops just a few feet from where we were walking. After the 2.8 miles of paved trail, these drops became a little scarier, since the unpaved trail was rocky and uneven in places. Liz, being considerably braver than I am, ventured closer to the edge for photos on a few occasions, while I stuck to the trail. We reached “The Abyss” at around 1.30pm and settled down to eat our packed lunches before continuing on to Mohave Point.

The Abyss

The time spent waiting for the buses earlier that morning was beginning to take its toll on our schedule. There was no way that we were going to manage at least 5 or 6 more miles to the visitor centre before it closed at 5pm… time for a rethink. We would continue a further 2.3 miles to Powell Point, where we would catch the bus to the visitor centre and then return by bus to complete the trail when we were done. The various overlooks offered expansive views up and down the canyon, but I think I preferred the views from the trail in between these points, which were not so crowded with other tourists. By the time we reached Powell Point it was getting on for half 3, confirming our worries that we would not be able to walk to the visitor centre before closing. At the visitor centre we spoke to a ranger called Chris, who clearly thought Lizzie was the more attractive one since as we approached he said that he would help her and I could go talk to “him” (indicating his colleague)… charming! While inwardly laughing at us, he gave us the workbooks to complete to be Junior Rangers and talked to us a little about what there was to do in five days in the Canyon. It was then time to watch the ubiquitous introductory film, which was interesting and made me want to take lots of impressive photos. By this point, my disturbed sleep of the night before was beginning to take its toll and the prospect of hiking several more miles was not overly appealing, sunset was also fast approaching. Instead of waiting for the bus at the village we decided to hike back towards Powell Point and then wait there for the sunset. Having looked forward to the trail being all downhill from Hopi Point earlier in the day, this decision meant that it was mostly uphill, but we just about coped. There wasn’t an amazing westward view from Powell Point, but the play of colours and shadows over the canyon was fascinating to watch, so we decided to stay. There were several other people there for the sunset, so there was a little competition for the best place to stand, but the photos turned out ok. Once the sun had set, the temperature dropped considerably and we were shivering while we waited for the bus. By the time we got back to the campsite, eating dinner outside wasn’t an option, so we piled into the car to eat a somewhat makeshift meal of salsa, cheese and tortilla chips with the heating on. A little warmer, we got ready for bed and were in our sleeping bags pretty early, there really isn’t much to do when you are camping when it is cold.

Sunset over the Grand Canyon