Leaving Grand Canyon

Snow. It has found its way into almost every Spring Break trip I have ever taken. This one was no exception. As we got ready to sleep (in the minivan) last Wednesday night, we noticed that the rain had turned to snow. Not expected, but not totally unexpected either. It was enough to prevent any excursions to the facilities before dawn…

We had considered trying to get up early enough to see the sunrise, but the precipitation and low clouds convinced us there wouldn’t be much to see. So we woke up naturally, folded bedrolls haphazardly, and hit the road around seven. The wintery surroundings were almost otherworldly.

The weather also meant we had the road mostly to ourselves–a rare treat in a crowded National Park! We could see that the Canyon was obscured by low clouds, so we did not stop at the first several pullouts. We did stop at Moran Point and Lipan Point and were rewarded with some beautiful interplay of light and canyon.

The Tusayan Museum and Ruin weren’t open yet, but we were not too disappointed, as we had not yet caffeinated or eaten. We moved on to Desert View Watchtower, which was open. This is another Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter project and it is pretty fantastic. Each level has a different motif, and there are also murals by Fred Kabotie illustrating Hopi life. The views are spectacular too.


Among my favorite attractions at the Watchtower were the reflectoscopes on the ground floor that allowed artists (and visitors) to see reflections of the Canyon in black glass, changing the color and allowing for easier sketching and painting.

We dutifully stamped our National Parks Passport, then visited the snack bar for coffee. We had hoped for a picnic breakfast, but 30 degrees and windy is less than ideal outdoor cooking/eating weather. 

Our planned next stop on this adventure was Bryce Canyon National Park. Considering the weather and mountainous roads between Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon, we revised this plan. We cancelled our Bryce hotel and booked one in Monticello, Utah, not as far away and on a more direct (and less hilly) route towards home.

We stopped at the Cameron Trading Post along the way, but mostly just chugged on through, arriving at the hotel right at the 3 o’clock check in time. I decided to rearrange the minivan to get the bikes in, both for security and to keep them from getting any slimier on the road home through Colorado’s mountains. When we finished, we went right for the hot tub. As we walked down, we saw the rain roll in, followed by (smallish, non-van-damaging) hail–lucky timing! (The pool and spa were indoors, so we still got to enjoy them.)

It’s amazing how nice a budget hotel can seem after two nights in a hostel and two nights sleeping in the van in a campground. One’s own bathroom, shower, and decent wifi. Aaah.

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