Day 4 – The Grand Canyon

The next day, we packed our things and set out for the Grand Canyon. The initial plan had been for my dad and I to hike to the bottom from the North Rim, stay the night, then hike back up via the Bright Angel trail to the South Rim. We ended up deciding not to do it since we just didn’t have enough time in our mini vacation to do it; good thing too, because my knee was not in great shape for descending.

On our way there, we took this scenic route (89A), and stopped numerous times to take in our surroundings: the Vermillion Cliffs.

 

The moon, always visible

 

We stopped again shortly later at some cliff dweller ruins where two Navajo women were selling gorgeous handmade jewelry and pottery. My mom and grandmother perused the items on display while I took the opportunity to snap some photos (of course).

Throughout the whole trip, the conversation theme tended to be “How on Earth does anything/anyone live here? Where do they get their water??” Alas, it’s a mystery we never solved, as every single creek and riverbed we passed along the way was bone dry. The world may never know (except for those that live there >.<).

After a few hours of driving (and stopping, and driving, and stopping), we finally made it to the Grand Canyon! We parked the car and went into the visitor center for our first glimpse.

 

The Colorado River

 

I was, believe it or not, a little bit underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon. I think I had such high expectations of it, but when I was actually standing there, amidst droves of noisy tourists snapping selfies left and right, it just didn’t feel real. It felt like we were looking at a backdrop of a movie set. I think the real problem is that we didn’t hike down into the canyon. That makes all the difference. Just standing on the rim, walking along the ledge, you see pretty much the same view the whole time and you really can’t grasp the enormity of it. Regardless, after almost immediately losing my mother and grandmother, my dad and I set off along the rim trail.

Along the way, the crowds thankfully thinned out a bit, and we were able to enjoy the walk a little more.

We walked for more than an hour, thinking we were getting close to the Bright Angel trailhead which leads down into the canyon until we saw this view from a rocky outcropping:

To clarify, I’ve overlaid the path in red:

That’s the trail. It was about this time that I started to realize just how massive the canyon is. I couldn’t even see people on the trail from up there.

Despite how disappointed I was in not having the time or the knee function to be able to climb all the way down and back up, I was also a bit relieved because I hadn’t realized how incredibly wide the canyon is. I couldn’t even be sure where the other side was (and the layer of smog on the horizon didn’t help). After one last snack at an overlook, we turned and headed back to the visitor center.

The whole day walking along the trail, the most wildlife we spotted were a couple of brazen squirrels trying to steal things from peoples bags. Then, back at the visitor center, there is a family of Elk just hanging out in the middle of the square!

We left a bit before sunset and started on our way to Sedona. As it was getting dark, we turned onto scenic route 89A (same name as the one we were on earlier, but not the same road?). During this ride was probably the most car sick I have ever been in my entire life (which is really saying something). I was in the back of the car, and I swear we were just driving down a spaghetti road. We would all yell “WOOOOAH” going around tight turns that never seemed to end, and of course we really couldn’t see anything at all since it was dark out. We FINALLY made it to the bottom and to our hotel for the night.

Day 5 – Sedona

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Day 1 – Las Vegas

 

After being up at 5am for a 7am flight, we arrived after 7 hours of travel in Las Vegas at noon (time zones are so weird). We took some time to become human again (ie. a much needed shower), ate a super delicious home cooked meal, and headed out on the town. I never realized how ubiquitous gambling is in Vegas. That may seem like a stupid revelation, but I mean come on, WHY do you need a slot machine in the grocery store? In every gas station? They’re even at the airport, which is somewhat less surprising, but still.

Our first stop was to see the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, and pay our respects to the memorial for the recent shooting.

The Welcome sign, with the memorial and Mandalay Bay visible in the background

The memorial was incredibly humbling. Seeing the names and faces of all of the innocent victims of a senseless murder spree, the majority of whom weren’t even native to Las Vegas, hit home with a lot of the people visiting, especially when seeing mourning family members placing flowers on the crosses.

The memorial with the light from the Luxor shining vertically in the background

After that uplifting trip, we headed to the Bellagio to see their gardens.

Ceiling of the entrance to the Bellagio

The gardens were incredible! I can’t imagine how much work they put into building and upkeeping the displays. Next, we went outside to the fountains in the front to watch the show, synced with classical music.

We went on our way, heading downtown to explore the nightlife there. We entered a casino, where my family enjoyed playing the poker machines, and I lost $5 to a slot machine. I really don’t understand the appeal of gambling; I work very hard for my money, and don’t want to just feed it to a hungry machine! I’d much rather have something to show for it….so, naturally, my grandmother and I went to a little souvenir shop across the way and spent our hard-earned money on candy 😀 We spent a good deal of time hanging out in that casino, but the omnipresent smoke was really starting to get to all of us, and we took our leave and headed back. Finally, after being awake for ~21 hours, we passed out in our beds.

Day 2 – Zion National Park