Brooke had wanted to return to the Grand Canyon for a few years now, but we wanted to wait until Calvin was a little older to appreciate it and to be able to deal with ridiculously long car rides. Thus, this year was the year to finally made the trip. We didn’t want to hit the South Rim, which is more “desert-like” and covered in tourists, so we focused on the North Rim, which only gets 10% of the Grand Canyon visitors per year.
Preparations began last Fall with some cursory Google searches, and one of the first things Brooke learned was that camp sites at the North Rim can be hard to get, especially for consecutive days, so you need to plan ahead and campsite reservations open on Christmas Day. Brooke reserved 3 nights after opening presents, which ended up being a good plan because, while we were there, we noticed a lot of folks coming and going and relatively few staying for more than a night.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself… 🙂
A friend of ours from St. Louis, Mike, started a travel planning business (appropriately) called Mike’s Travel Planning and he gave us a few good suggestions on where to stop on our way out and on the return trip, some of which we were able to hit, and others we didn’t end up having enough time for. We decided to take 2.5 days to get out there, stopping in Limon, CO for the first night at a hotel, then Junction, UT at an Airbnb, then get to the North Rim early-afternoon on the third day.
That first day, we didn’t stop all that often because, well, Kansas… But the kids were excited and had a box full of activities to play with, so they stayed relatively occupied. We picked up some new boxes for the hitch rack that weathered a little bit better, and we secured them much more efficiently with different straps than last year. However, we did have them just a touch too close to the exhaust pipe and melted a hole in one. Whoops.
While we were in Limon, we visited the Limon Heritage Museum and Railroad Park. The latter part of it was what piqued Brooke’s interest, but the museum associated with the park proved to be pretty interesting, with an old one-room school house, some train cars, and some other Native American exhibits and artifacts. It had been a long day driving and the kids weren’t particularly patient with us, so I didn’t get to read through many of the displays, but it seemed like a nice museum!
The hotel at the end of the day wasn’t spectacular, but it served its purpose. Brooke and I actually stayed in the same place under a different name when we came back on our Oregon Trail trip, and this time around, it was definitely better.
We also found a Mexican restaurant for dinner in Limon, but they didn’t do beer or margaritas. That was a disappointment…
The second day gave us quite a bit more to see out the windows, as we passed through the Rocky Mountains (literally) and toward Utah. We stopped a few more times on this leg of the journey to sight see. The kids generally paid attention more this time, as the landscape was far more interesting and we kept pointing things out to them. Meg’s old enough to have questions about how mountains form and what “elevation” is, so that occupied our time in the car to some degree.
Our destination at the end of this portion of the trip was Junction, UT, which was kinda in the middle of nowhere, but was charming in its way. We grabbed ice cream from the local general store and Brooke had food along to make dinner in the kitchen of the house we stayed in. There were 3 bedrooms at this house, so Meg and Calvin got to sleep by themselves for once. I also took this opportunity on some (very limited) WiFi to do some work for my online courses before I’d be mostly unavailable.
The next day, we got loaded up again and started heading south into Arizona. Seriously, once crossing the border to Arizona, it felt like we had entered a different world. It was flat, dry, and straight-up desert. Like, nowhere to stop, rare road intersections, no houses – just desolation.
It took about an hour of that before we started seeing the terrain change again, and that change was radical as elevation continued to increase. We saw more hills, saw more trees, saw more bodies of water – it just felt more like we were driving through parts of Colorado than the desert we had just been through. It was certainly a welcome change.
After what felt like an eternity, we were finally there! More on that later…