I am an Arizona fanatic. I absolutely love the state I live in. I love it so much that I put up with 115 degree summer days without letting them bother me. Okay, maybe the really hot days do make me a little grumpy, but it is a short 90 minute drive into the mountains to escape the heat and enjoy the
mountain pine forests. I can smell them now...
I also love taking my family to places in the state where we have never been. So when Big E got her Fourth Grade National Parks Pass, I figured this was the year for us to go to the Grand Canyon. None of the kids have ever been there, and my wife and I hadn't been there since before we started dating. Yes, she started dating me right after we did the stupid college kid thing of hiking down and up the Grand Canyon in a day with barely enough water and hardly any food. Just like all of the kids that I was mentally judging when we were there this time.
So we got a camp site for two nights, we loaded up the faithful Chevy Avalanche, and we headed to the mountains. I had very low expectations for the campsites at the Canyon, expecting them to be crowded, with few trees and lots of litter. I was certainly wrong about that, and we had a wonderful time lounging in hammocks and using our camp stove to cook s'mores since we couldn't have a campfire due to fire restrictions.
One of the best things about camping there was that there were free shuttle buses taking us to the various points around the Canyon's south rim. Once we parked our car and unloaded, we did not have to get back into it until we left.
The Grand Canyon, if you have never been there, is beyond description. No picture can capture its majesty or enormity. No description can paint a picture for anybody who has never been there. There is absolutely nothing that I can say to describe how amazing it is.
I can tell you that we came up with a great way to hike the Grand Canyon with kids. When we were crazy teenagers (see above about pre-dating life), we only had to think about ourselves. But on the hot day we were there with our kids, we had to figure out how to go down and make sure that our kids could make it up. We set a timer for 30 minutes, knowing that it would take us two to three times that long to get back up, and knowing that the 30 pounds of food that I carried in my backpack would last our kids less than an hour. True to form, we made it out just as the last packet of fruit snacks was consumed, and we survived.
But the coolest part of the trip happened back at the campsite. We were lounging around, trying to remember what our legs should feel like, and two of the kids and I went to the water pump to fill our jug. I noticed something in the bushes, I told my daughter to turn around slowly, and an elk came walking up to the pump. I turned the pump on, and she (the elk, not my daughter) started drinking from the pump. She drank and she drank and she drank. At one point, I thought that surely she must be done, so I turned the pump off. She got her nose about a foot from my face, scraped her hoof through the water on the ground, and looked at me. I turned the pump back on and she drank some more. Luckily, my wife and other daughter came looking for us, so we all got to witness this amazing experience.
As we were driving home, I asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was. Each one of them said that the elk drinking from the pump was their best memory. At the Grand Canyon, one of the Natural Wonders of the World, a thirsty elk is the memory that will stick with them forever.