Last week, I finally made it to the Grand Canyon.
I've heard people say, What's the big deal? It's just a giant hole in the ground! I even overheard one lady at the canyon declare, You've seen one view, you've seen them all.
People who say stuff like that are big, dumb idiots.
I've somehow managed to see all seven continents, and I can assure you the Grand Canyon is one of the most stunning places on earth. In fact, I can't think of a place I've been so viscerally affected by nature. You stand at the rim-- which used to be at the bottom of an ocean!-- peering a mile down at rocks that used to be mountains as high as the Himalayas. I mean, I dare you to wrap your head around that. You can't, especially if you're not standing there looking at it.
Even if you're standing there looking at it, it's still like wooosh! It's a place that hung around with the dinosaurs; where water proved its dominance over rock. It makes you feel like the tiny, insignificant thing you are.
And if you think you can outsmart the Grand Canyon, I've got news for you: One misstep, and it will eat you alive. Plummeting hundreds of feet because you took one too many steps backwards for a selfie? Happens! Hiking to the bottom without enough water? Not a good idea... just ask the people who never made it back up. Thinking you can make it to the bottom and back in a day? Your heart isn't going to like that very much. I know because I'm reading a book about it.
I'd always wanted to see it, so when I unexpectedly found myself heading to Arizona, I tacked it on to my trip.
My dad joined me on this little adventure. Sixty-six candles on his birthday cake last weekend and yet this was also his first time the big hole hole in the ground.
Five million people visit the canyon a year, but I'm fairly certain only three-percent of those arrive in the winter (a totally made up stat!). Sure, it's a bit cold and yes, it can be slippery/snowy, but who cares! It's the Grand Canyon! And you basically get it all to yourself.
We stayed at the Kachina Lodge, which is this weird 60s-style bunker of a hotel right next to El Tovar, which is a cool 100+-year-old lodge the just reeks of Teddy Roosevelt (in a good way!). While I would've liked to have stayed at the historic hotel, I was just thrilled to have a place near the canyon.
And when I say near the canyon, check out our view:
The reservation staff actually asked if we'd be interested in paying an extra $10 a night for that view.
What do you think I am? A dummy? Sign me up!
Since it was my dad's birthday, and since we were at the Grand Canyon, we decided to experience the national park like I'd imagine Beyonce would: In a helicopter!
We booked with Papillon, the first-ever aerial sightseeing tour... which basically means you + helicopter + amazing sights = winning. My dad, who didn't earn the nickname Captain Safety for nothin', was a bit apprehensive about this whole helicopter thing. It helped that Papillon has 50 years of experience flying at the canyon.
Before our departure, Papillon employee and super nice guy Monty, gave us a briefing on what to expect, which basically consisted of "pay attention to the safety video" and "pay no attention to what I say about the ride because you can't put it into words."
Before we left, Monty said the ride is guaranteed to make your mascara run. I'm not a particularly cry-y person, so I said, we'll see.
We piled into the helicopter, put on our headphones, lifted off the ground, and bam! There we were, flying over the forest with Enya's Orinoco Flow blasting through our headsets.
So cheesy and PS I LOVED IT!
Off in the distance, I saw the the canyon.
As we approached the rim, the pilot slowed considerably. I think he said something like, ready?
And then he flew over the edge.
It was as though the air had been sucked out of the cab. My heart did a loop-de-loo. This photo, obviously, doesn't even begin to do it justice.
The beauty, the vastness... It's overwhelming. I've honestly never been so acutely aware of my own mortality, and definitely never felt as patriotic. From sea to shining seeeeeeeaaaa! I suddenly wanted to buy a big, blue pickup truck with a bald eagle scape in the rear window.
Monty was right about my mascara.
I'm not going to bore you with details because my words just don't cut it. Go see the canyon for yourself.
Our ride lasted 45 - 50 minutes, but it felt like 10. So for those of you deciding between the short version to a longer one, go for the long one if you can! And btw, I know helicopter rides are expensive, but I can say without a doubt it was one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life.
So start saving up.
Next time I visit the canyon, I'm hiking to the bottom, camping and experiencing it like only FIVE percent of visitors do. Can you believe that only five percent go below the rim?! Another crazy stat: 85 percent of the canyon hasn't been explored. So almost all of it. WHAT?!
It's one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth, and yet still so wild. You need to see it. If you're in Vegas or Arizona or anywhere within a drive (or helicopter ride!) of the GC, go. It's way better than just a big hole in the ground.
And if you wear mascara, make sure it's waterproof.
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This trip to the Grand Canyon is part of my latest goal to see as much of America as possible... because traveling in the USA is pretty darn great! PS here's a recap of my first trip to the real south, which obviously involved going to Walmart.