Today's trip route on Google Maps.
"Oh My Gosh!" was Bryson's genuine, unprompted response when he came over the rise from the first parking lot we pulled into after entering Grand Canyon National Park. You know it is one of the top parks simply by the fact that it is one of the most expensive parks to enter - $25. But who cares when the vistas are breathtaking, and the crowds are thin.
We hiked the rim trail and "oohed" and "aahed" with regularity. We learned about the geology and origins of the canyon at the Museum. We particularly liked the spots where you could see all the way down to the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch. We watched the mules heading out and down Bright Angel Trail towards the distant ribbon of muddy water a mile below the rim. We marvelled at the sheer audacity of mines set up along the West Rim Rd. that drilled down deep into the cliff face, often with a small tunnel poking horizontally out a thousand feet below the rim. We celebrated when a California Condor flew over our heads at the Grand Canyon Village. They had been released in the area from a captive breeding program over the last 20 years. There are now 60 condors flying free over Arizona -- unmistakable with their 9-ft wingspan.
And of course, we visited the gift shops. I had promised Bryson and Spencer each $20 for spending money to purchase whatever souvenirs they chose. Both boys quickly opted for small bags of polished rocks - beautiful, but certainly not unique to the area.
During our picnic lunch at Grand Canyon Village (made easier with our electric cooler), the steam locomotive made a grand entrance from Williams, AZ. Bryson bit into a chip and his loose tooth made a grand exit!
After about 5 hours at the rim, both boys were exhausted and fell asleep on our 80-mile drive back to Flagstaff.
That night, we ate at the Beaver Street Brewery (great restaurant & very kid friendly). Next, we visited the Lowell Observatory and saw a fantastic show about the Big Bang and peeked through operating telescopes at Saturn and Arcturus. The site dates back to the 1920s and Pluto was discovered there in 1930; it's open to visitors most nights of the year. Just as we were about to leave, the astronomer pointed up into the sky with his impressively powerful green laser pointer and there at the end of his green beam was the International Space Station hurtling across the night sky. Great evening!