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Grand Canyon

We made a pit stop last year on our cross country road trip taking our daughter to college and visited the Grand Canyon. It was on my bucket list to see in person.  We arrived, parked, and walked up the walkway to the very popular Mather Vister Center viewing area. Initially I thought this viewing was going to be enough to satisfy my bucket list wish.  Little did I know, I would instead be left unsatisfied and craving more. 
I was instantly amazed at the enormity of the canyon. Pictures or television don't give this natural wonder of world enough justice. Until you are standing face to face with this beauty, you have no idea how minoot we as humans really are in nature. A few small bad steps, a slip or carelessness and she can eat you alive. I remember thinking, I wonder what the first settlers thought. Where would one even begin to try and cross this beast of a canyon. Did she take their breathe away? It's hard to even fathom how nature carved out this piece of land. 
Having only one night and early morning figured into our schedule we left unfulfilled and wanting to revisit sooner than later. We had a cruise scheduled for this year's vacation so we thought maybe the following year. It's funny how God has different plans than you do. Our May cruise got cancelled due to Covid-19, so we rescheduled another for July. Then our July cruise got cancelled. It became apparent that cruising was out this year. We quickly threw plans together to travel back to the Grand Canyon and some other nearby Utah parks. 
Having visited the same national parks the previous year, I can honestly say if there is any silver lining in Covid, it would be being able to visit the nationals parks this year without the millions of other tourists that typically visit every summer. Normally there are thousands of international tourists visiting our parks. Even though they bring a great deal of needed income to the parks, the parks do typically become very crowed. This year none of those visitors were there, leaving the parks to US visitors. It felt as though we had many of the parks to ourselves. I am sure I will never be able to experience these parks as peaceful as they were during Covid again in my lifetime. 
Driving into Tusayan felt like visting a ghost town. At one point we were the only car on the main stripe into town. The feeling was eery. Normally this stretch of the road is bumper to bumper. Proceeding to the national park enterence was more eery. Anyone who has ever visited a national park in the summer months knows to pack many patients. The line to pay your enterence fee, get a map, directions from the gate workers usually takes some time to get through. We traveled in and out of the park several times in our 3 day visit and never waited longer than a car maybe two in front of us. Had the park had all enterence lanes opened the wait would have been even less.
The Grand Canyon is a massive park, allowing the capability to hold thousands of people visiting  at any given time. Travel through the park normally takes quite some time as traffic moves slow. The parking is normally limited and requires some luck in finding an open spot. Restaurants, gift shops, grocery stores and restrooms normally hold long lines and take quite some time to get through. Campgrounds are usually always booked solid during the summer months and require many months ahead reservation. 
During our recent visit none of these normal occurrences happened. Once inside the park we were able to quickly drive anywhere we needed to get.  The traffic was light and sparse. Four-way stops seemed pointless to require a stop, as we were the only car traveling at that point in time. Parking was never an issue. We were able to park front row everywhere we went. The restrooms had no lines. We shopped a gift store with just my family inside. The trails had few people hiking them. There were times we were the only people in sight on the trails. When others were in sight, everyone was respectful of other's space. We took turns passing, wearing masks in the presence of others, and tried to avoid touching things that could pass any virus to others. 
We hiked the Bright Angel trail down to 3 Mile Resthouse and had the rest areas to share with few hikers. With minimal hikers on the trails it allowed more areas to rest in the shade. 
Though the trip held many postivies there were a handful of negatives. Covid-19 caused services to be limited or shut down all together. We wanted to rent bicycles but the park didn't have the rental huts open. We wanted to ride the train but never saw it running. We wanted to talk to rangers about some of the trails and only saw three the whole trip. We wanted to go to the east side and visit Desert View and it was closed off. We needed to travel out of the east side of the park to head to Utah and had to add several hours to our trip and retract back out the south and drive around. 
Even with the negatives, all the positives out weighed the inconveniences. The park was peaceful. I will remember this year's vacation the rest of my life. 


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