We wound our way towards the Lodge to check in, parked the car and tried to work out where, exactly, the Grand Canyon might be. But it was dark, and by this point – after a long drive and an even longer flight – we were exhausted, so we decided to leave it to the morning and get some sleep.
We awoke bright, early and ready for breakfast. Grabbing a couple of unspeakably cool tourist hats from the gift shop, we set out to find the Grand Canyon. Which wasn’t difficult, as it turned out our cute little room was pretty much on the South Rim.
Any closer and it would have been halfway down a canyon wall.
So there we were, coming out of the gift shop, our pristine new hats upon our touristy heads, and suddenly I saw the Grand Canyon stretching out into the distance, for the very first time.
Living up to expectations
There are lots of things that don’t quite live up to expectation; that or I’m quite hard to please. I saw the Godfoss Falls in Iceland and thought, yes, they are quite spectacular, but I am hungry and it is cold and ten minutes looking at them is enough for me, thank you all the same.
I’ve been to Cape Reinga in New Zealand, the very tip of the North Island where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific, and I thought, yes that is really quite interesting, but now I would like a sit down, and have a biscuit.
But the Grand Canyon – I could have stared at it for hours. Which is lucky, because that’s just what we did. We strolled along the rim for a while, and every few feet we would stop and just gaze off into the distance – and believe me, one thing you get a lot of at the Grand Canyon is distance.
The moment where you glimpse the Colorado River sparkling in the sunshine is pretty special, or when you realise that perspective has played a trick on you and the smallish rock you thought you were looking at is actually a huge rock, much further away – it’s all incredible.
What I remember most clearly is the feeling of stillness, and as the people in front of you disappear around a corner and the people behind you are yet to appear, in that stretch of time you could be quite alone.
You know there are thousands of people out there, all exploring and marvelling at everything just like you are, but the place is so big it just swallows everyone else up.
We meant to go back for lunch, have a quick snooze and then go watch the sunset – but we overslept, and when we woke up it was dark.
Instead we decided on an early night so we could get up to watch the sunrise instead, which is why 4am saw us huddled at the bus stop, freezing cold but quite excited about the dawn – sunset is apparently a very crowded affair, with people vying for the best viewpoints, but from the looks of things, we were the only people interested in the dawn.
And it was perfect.
The most beautiful sunset
We sat on a rock, shivering and sharing a breakfast biscuit bar, in that strange light before the sun comes up, when a noise behind us made us turn. There, in the quietness, a deer stood looking at us.
It twitched its ears and appeared to have a good old think about the situation before it decided we were of no interest and started trying to eat a cactus. It stayed with us for a while, then heard more people approaching and with a graceful hop it disappeared down into the valley.
The sun rose, and we took hundreds of photos, and it was everything you’d expect – awe-inspiring, beautiful, unforgettable – but the best bit for me was before the sun came up, before other people arrived, when it was just us and the deer.
Experience the Grand Canyon for yourself on a 'National Parks Discovery' holiday with Saga