Grand. At 10 miles wide, 277 miles long and 5,000 feet
deep-there really is no other word for it. Except maybe
magnificent, magical or mesmerizing.
The Grand Canyon was all of those to us, the perfect outdoor
family adventure for our three girls, their legs finally long
enough to hike their way into the famed landscape that has carved
itself into the list of seven natural wonders.
We came by the Grand Canyon in a roundabout way. Most everyone
does. Unless you fly into Flagstaff, you're about five or six hours
from the nearest airport. Most people fly into Phoenix or Vegas. We
Some say most of what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas, far
from little peeps' little peeps. Even though my Facebook page lit
up with warnings from eager-to-advise parents, I was certain we
could experience Vegas in a family way. And we did.
We stayed at the Four Seasons, plopped right at the back door of
Vegas, a straight shot from the airport. We spent the rest of the
day poolside at this lovely little non-gaming boutique hotel. We
did sneak out to the CSI exhibit at MGM, where you investigate a
crime scene and solve a murder. The girls loved their dive into
forensic science. Grace even decided to re-create the exhibit for
her upcoming birthday party. As I tried to explain away the
gambling on our way through the casino, my girls just rolled their
eyes. "Oh Mama, we've all seen The Lightning Thief," they said.
So much for what stays in Vegas.
Between here and there
Literally in between Nevada and Arizona, you'll find the Hoover
Dam. It was a delightful half-day learning experience-the kind
where textbook lessons come alive. We liked the movie and the tour
of the power plant, but mostly liked walking our way from Nevada to
Arizona and back again, marveling how workers toiled seven days a
week in crazy cold and crazy hot days to build the seemingly
impossible Hoover Dam. We also got a kick walking along the new
Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. At a knee-knocking
height of 840 feet, it's the second highest bridge in the U.S. It
was great scary fun and a little warm-up to the heights we'd climb
the next day.
We checked into The El Tovar Hotel under the cloak of darkness.
The El Tovar was built as a destination resort in 1905 and is
located right on the edge of the South Rim-just 20 feet from the
Canyon. It's rustic and elegant. There's a fireplace in the lobby,
a piano on the landing, stuffed elk mounted on black paneled walls.
The rooms are small, but quaint.
Our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon was at its finest
moment-the crack of dawn.
It takes your breath away
I mean that figuratively, and if you brave the Cedar Ridge
hiking trail, literally. The Cedar Ridge trail is quite a hike,
with the first mile a straight vertical drop down steep narrow
rock. Of course, the Colorado River did not whittle guardrails in
the Canyon's steep limestone, and there can be snow and ice, so
it's not for the faint-of-heart mom. But it is a gorgeous descent
with numerous places to stop, catch your breath and snap a
We took the trail about 1,200 feet down and had a memorable
picnic lunch against a glorious vista. We lingered, then eventually
hiked back up. The return climb is harder-OK, crazy-brutal in
spots-but we made it.
For us, it was well, a grand triumph.
See more of Donna's stories here.
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