It was warm and sunny over Christmas week in Las Vegas when we decided to ditch another day sitting in windowless casinos in favor of a giant dose of Mother Nature by way of a first-time visit to the Grand Canyon. Besides, it looked to be awfully close by on the map and at 250 miles, sounded like a fun drive, maybe five hours.
We had only just over 24 hours for this side trip before we needed to be back in Las Vegas for a New Year’s Eve party. So, we booked an overnight hotel room at the Grand Canyon and got off to an early start with visions of sunset at the Canyon and a cozy fireside dinner to follow. Wrong.
By halfway into our drive, outdoor temperatures had already been slashed by more than half, a distinct and sudden drop from 76 degrees to 36 degrees. We pulled in to get some gas, piling on jackets, scarves and gloves from home out of suitcases in the car trunk. It wasn’t very encouraging to hear from fellow travelers that they’d experienced some ice on the road heading out of the Canyon.
We called ahead to the hotel we’d booked and they advised us that snow was beginning to fall and that we were best off to get there as soon as possible. Snow? We were in our bathing suits a few hours ago.
Three more stops along an isolated, dark road to scrape ice off the windshield, low visibility and with batteries running low on everyone’s cell phones we were more than a little worried. We kept the emergency telephone number provided by the US National Park Service close at hand. Mind you, once you are there you are still not there, depending on where you’re going at the canyon. The North Rim is closed in winter, so pay careful attention to the road signs, and avoid an extra if you can clearly see them. We couldn’t.
Even thought the average distance across the canyon is only ten miles, it is an additional 215 miles between the North Rim (Utah side) and South Rim (Arizona side) of the Grand Canyon! Only 10% of all visitors make it to the remote North Rim, which is closed from mid-October through mid-May.
We finally arrived way after dinner hour, but were determined to rise before dawn for the sunrise, having missed sunset. There is a recorded message with weather conditions (see below) and as I write this it is a sunny day in San Francisco, with the feeling of spring in the air. What’s the current temperature at the Grand Canyon? A mere 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally got there exhausted, unprepared, in the wrong clothing, verging on frostbite, but boy, was it worth it! Spectacular! Memories forever. Next time, I’ll plan ahead.