Bathroom Readers: The Grand Canyon

Two weeks after the plane ride back to California, we took off again.

What? You can’t blame us for having itchy feet! Fortunately for our funding, this place is just an eight hour drive away yet is still one of the top world destinations and completely free. I’ll give you a hint, before I actually saw it, I always imagined it would look something like this in the ground:

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Thank God I was wrong. The Grand Canyon was more like a hundred butt-cracks all mashed together, especially if you recently sat in some dirt.

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But I guess describing it as your rear end doesn’t really do it much justice; I was truly caught off guard by the regal, indomitable way the ancient canyon rose from the thread-like Colorado River snaking through the valley thousands of feet below. It wasn’t just gritty brown either, the range of purple hues softened the coarse landscape while deep crimsons evoked mystery and prestige. One of the most remarkable things to me about the canyon was the horizon line that seemed to cut through the land as if the top of the canyon had been shaved off with a ruler, but in fact the North  Rim rises an astonishing thousand feet higher than the South Rim, where we camped.

Yep, we camped. The sleep-like-sardines, if-someone-farts-you’re-screwed tent camping, along with our posse of friends turned family for our annual camping trip.

We set up tents in the Grand Canyon National Park, in a campsite called the Sage Loop. For the first two days, it seemed the Sage Loop was the only area among the surrounding “loops” that was plagued with dust storms the Tasmanian Devil would have been proud of. On the second day it got so dusty, we ate lunch in our car. Due to the dust, our late afternoon trip to the showers that day was a must, I realized as I watched murky water swirl down the drain.

But don’t get me wrong: our five days in the Canyon were exquisite. Especially knowing that what the travel brochures don’t say (as you peer precariously over the edge) is the number of deaths that occur there each year. Day 1 consisted of arriving, unpacking, and catching up with our “cousins”. In all, our camping posse for this year included eight families; or 15 kids and 15 adults. The second day was a little more exciting as we all hopped onto the painstakingly packed bikes and cruised a few miles around the National Park. A typical viewpoint flaunted landscapes something like this:

The trail etched in the side of that mountain is actually the trail we hiked.
The trail etched in the side of that mountain is actually the trail we hiked.

Unfortunately, during this time of the year there is a fire hazard, so the most commercialized aspect of camping- late night campfires- was a no-go by order of the Park. Well that wasn’t going to fly with us, so Dominique whipped up some smores on a camper-stove and we all pigged out. At night when the temperature plummeted from mid-80s to 40s, I bundled up in two pairs of sweats, Tomb Raider boots, a ski jacket, and a beanie and the kids all crowded up on each other’s laps in camping chairs while we farted on each other and laughed. During the down hours, the kids of our group played poker, cut down National Park wildlife, sharpened sticks, kicked around Flapjack, and played more cards. *Flapjack is a baby doll that has been on countless camping trips with us. He has been burned, stabbed, thrown into water, bucked off cliffs, rolled in dirt, and stoned.

Flapjack and Co.  Courtesy of Ms. Lisa King
Flapjack and Co.
Courtesy of Ms. Lisa King

On day 3, I biked something around 6 miles with the guys after a three mile hike straight into the Canyon with the group. On the way back up, my friend Morgan and I played an alphabet game, naming every animal we could think of that started with a chosen letter. Somehow Morgan was right: the whimsical bantering ended up taking our minds off the uphill battle as we- plus other friends shouting out their input- tackled letters from A (aphid, arthropod, anteater) to Q (quail…quail……….quuaaill).

When day 4 rolled around, I ended up going for a strenuous bike ride with the worst possible people to bike ride with (no offense guys, I still love you.) Brent is the Mr. Mountain-Biker/ unnamed leader-of-all-bike-rides. He’s the kind of person who will tell you to keep on going even if it’s hailing and you have to carry your bike while hiking uphill on the edge of a cliff. Micah is kind of like me on the competitive count, except I don’t think he’s learned to recognize his limits. So he pushes himself just as hard as the person biking in front (aka Brent). Basically, you don’t want to end up on a bike ride alone with Brent and Micah, or you will fall far behind and they probably won’t notice for a while. Lori and Christy went as well, and although they weren’t biking too competitively, they are both ripped and work-outy so it’s pretty plain to see they do not mess around. Then there’s Papa, who was an actual biker at one point with those gloves with the fingers cut off and everything, so you know he could cream everyone if push came to shove.

The best person to bike ride with is Tio Tony. He talks most of the ride, which is a tried and true tactic like Morgan’s alphabet game. Besides that, he is the only person who vocalizes any signs of strenuosity (“Oh man- huff, huff- how big- huff- is this hill?”) which makes me feel a lot better because I know I’m not the only one who’s thighs are burning like hellfire. But despite his pains, he continues to ride just as fast as everyone else, which begs the question: why are all my friends so tough? It would be nice to have a couple lackeys so I wouldn’t look so average when the fitness scale shakes out. (Just kidding, the challenge is fantastic and who wants lazy friends anyway?)

After twelve-ish mile biking, the group all perused down to the iMax theatre to watch to the Grand Canyon film, which is actually the most viewed iMax movie ever. It focused on the evolution of human history in the butt-crack, from original native tribes to the early exploration of the 1800s to today’s technology- flight- that allows the world to completely explore every crevice of the world’s most revered crevice. In addition to the theatre, there was a spacious souvenir shop and restaurant, interspersed with informative wall-decorations and the like.

Day 5 was our last at the canyon. We packed, ate breakfast, and headed our separate ways- which actually turned out not to be that separate. Most of the clan drove down to various hotels in Palm Springs, where we got our much sought after shower time plus food service, drink service, cleaning service, and every other service that we did ourselves while camping. So I guess even my tough friends can lazy it up from time to time. Thanks guys for another amazing year of camping and all the family memories that go with it. Like Blake’s answer to this question: “So, Blake, would you ever take your kids back here?”

B: “No I’ll just go on google, look up pictures of the canyon, get a bowl of dirt and a fan and turn the fan on high then make them squint while they try to look at the picture.”

“What about when it wasn’t dusty?”

B: “Then I’ll turn the fan to low.

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