Vacations are what summers are all about! I mentioned earlier that my family planned to take an extended camping trip vacation exploring our national parks. Today, I finally sit down to try to collect my thoughts on some of our amazing journey.
I thought about doing a post for every week we were gone, but there was just too much to cover. So, this will be the first installment of “several” posts about our summer vacation. I hope these posts will inspire you to get out and explore some of the amazing sites in your locale!
Vacation Camp #1
Our first campsite was at Mather campground inside Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim. We had done a few, shorter, camping trips with our girls to get them used to the idea of camping, but this vacation was by far our longest endeavor. Our mantra is “when camping, everybody helps.” The girls were fantastic helpers and we had camp set up, dinner made, enjoyed, and cleaned up all in two hours time. Not a bad start.
Obviously though, the highlight of our vacation was not the speed with which we set up camp, but the sites we explored. I had to laugh when our six year old commented on our first night, “are you sure there’s a canyon here? Because all I see are trees.” She would not be disappointed.
Our first glimpse of the canyon came as we rounded the bend on a hiking trail. The girls had been looking for animal tracks and filling out their junior ranger booklets and suddenly, our oldest looked up and simply said, “wow.”
Honestly, we took loads of pictures, and it is impossible to capture the beauty, the grandeur, the majesty of the canyon. We stayed at that overlook for some time, while our girls sketched their perspective of the vista in their junior ranger booklets. They weren’t wondering about the canyon’s existence any longer!
Our family spent three nights at Mather and hiked many miles during the day. We saw two spectacular sunsets, one at Yaki Point and one at Yavapai Point, and saw glimpses of the Colorado River from the canyon’s rim. We even saw some endangered California condors flying overhead. I can’t help but have an overwhelming sense of my own smallness when surrounded by such vastness.
Vacation Camp #2
We moved on to our second campground in the Kaibab National Forest just outside of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I am happy to declare the north rim as my favorite park of our trip. We had wanted to stay within the park itself, but it’s one campground was already full when we attempted to make reservations in late November of 2016, so we settled for the lesser known national forest campground.
The North Rim is the forgotten rim of the Grand Canyon. It is closed from October through May due to the 10-12 feet of snow they receive each winter. We arrived just two weeks after the park opened for the season. It takes 5 hours to reach it from the south rim, and it is not located near any major cities. I was already predisposed to like this park on those reasons alone. I think the north rim offers views every bit as remarkable as the south rim, despite its less touristy nature. You will just have to visit both rims yourself and make your own determination.
As I looked around at the Ponderosa Pine and Aspen forests, I was reminded that I was no longer in the desert. At almost 9000 feet, our campground was significantly colder than anything we’d experienced earlier in our trip. We even had frost on our final morning!
Our first morning there was the only time we experienced any rain on our entire vacation. So we opted for the scenic drive instead. We stopped at several overlooks to just bask in the scenery. We were even able to do some shorter hikes in the afternoon when the weather cleared.
One of the highlights of the north rim was our short, but challenging, hike into the canyon itself. No, we didn’t even attempt a “rim to rim” journey but we did take a tiny portion of that same trek. We descended only about 3/4 of a mile down into the canyon, but it was spectacular. Coming back up was less exciting, but we were all proud of ourselves nonetheless. And we were all reminded that we are used to living much closer to sea level!
The Vacation Continues
We couldn’t have asked for a better start to our vacation. Exposing the girls to the Grand Canyon was the perfect way to kick off our grand adventure. But don’t take my word for it! Add a trip to the Grand Canyon to your bucket list. And if you can only make one rim, go for the north!
I’ll be blogging more about some of the other stops on our vacation. If you want to know any of the specific hikes we did or any of the logistics of our plan, feel free to leave me a comment below!