Grand cycling in the Grand Canyon

29 August 2018

“Not yet, Cowbat. Later.

I don’t know when dressing up day is. Maybe tomorrow.

I said not yet, Cowbat!”

Cornelia did some brilliant sleeptalking this morning, and having had a full twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep, she woke in a joyful and playful mood, chatting away nonstop about pretend friend Ellie, and how excited she was to be going on a bicycle today, as she was too big to go on a tandem like Cornelia was going to do. Total morning chatterbox!

We went down for breakfast and were immediately reminded of the terrible waste with single use plastics that we haven’t seen for a while (notwithstanding the exceptional amount of paperwork generated by the cruise, with its fabulous printed daily schedules, together with “shopping opportunities” etc). Anyway, we tried to have a quick breakfast, as we had booked bikes for a half day trip in the Grand Canyon, and we didn’t want to waste time paying for the bikes and not using them! Bugsy managed two pieces of toast and a bowl of yoghurt to give herself lots of energy for cycling on her tandem later (it’s actually a tag-along bike attached to Ian’s but we’re calling it a tandem!).

We set off in good time, once we had filled up at a Route 66 gas station, and drove the hour and a bit to the Grand Canyon National Park without incident.

We had a short wait to purchase our National Park pass and then it was a few more miles to the bike shop, where there was plenty of parking. I mentioned that it was quieter than I thought it would be (the leaflets all day to arrive early to ensure a parking space), but Ian thought that maybe it would be busier in the Village area.

The bike hire people were friendly and efficient and recommended that we cycled first to Yaki Point, then retrace our steps and head west to Hermit’s Rest, stopping at Yavapai Tavern for lunch. So that is exactly what we did.

We exchanged the vast icy blues of Glacier Bay for the vast earthy reds, browns, yellows and greens of the Grand Canyon. The scale of it is unimaginable and the Colorado River at the bottom of the valley looks like a small quiet river, rather than the enormous raging beast that it actually is!

Cornelia was on a tag-along bike for the first time, and although she could only just reach the pedals, she managed an extraordinary 27.5 miles on it, on a constantly undulating route. We were on “normal” bikes and some parts of it felt quite tough – I had a heavy rucksack on my back, and of course, Ian was towing Cornelia, but it was simply the best way to explore the South Rim with the limited time that we had.

We were lucky enough to cycle past some elk and squirrels at one point, and only saw a handful of other cyclists out and about. I mentioned again how few people there were on the roads, although there were plenty of walkers and hikers, some of whom looked better prepared than others. There were also loads of signs at all the different viewpoints reminding and warning people to carry adequate water and food and not to underestimate the difficulty and severity of the Canyon. Ian said that when he was here many (many!) years ago, it had been snowing, and as he was in a tent (!), a guy in an RV had taken pity on him and let him stay in his van. They had then hooked up with another chap that they met in the queue for National Park passes at 1am, and all hiked together. They saw a number of people being collected and rescued on that trip! It was difficult to imagine it being covered in snow as it was well over 90 degrees when we were there!

Lunch was good at the Tavern that had been recommended to us. We had quite a long wait for our food to arrive, but Cornelia filled the time collecting pine cones and needles to “make the fire” (are you seeing a theme??!!) and counting the various fly-catchers that were around. There was also a fat raven doing the rounds, polishing off leftovers that remained uncleared from the tables.

Once we’d visited Yaki Point and had lunch, it was time for the long stretch to Hermit’s Rest, so called because of the man that lived there in about 1890, having chosen isolation from the world. Ironically, his subsequent knowledge of the Canyon led him to be in great demand by travellers and he ended up working for a big company leading groups through the Canyon safely.

We crossed over the railroad watching out for the Grand Canyon carriages, and we stopped at various viewpoints to catch our breath, only to have it taken away again with the epic vistas. As with all great views, once you think you’ve seen something wonderful, you move around the corner and it’s even more wondrous!

Despite a sore bottom (unsurprising given the length of time she was sitting on the saddle) Cornelia did fantastically well and we were so proud of her stoic nature, particularly towards the end when she was getting so tired. Once we’d reached Hermit’s Rest, we decided not to do the last half mile walk (which involved a steep tough ascent) and, as it was nearly 16:00 (the time the bikes should’ve been back) we decided to try and get back as quickly as we could with minimal stops, much to Bugsy’s horror. Understandably, she wanted to rest quite often, but we persisted and we were back within an hour, exhausted, sweaty and very happy.

Cornelia had most definitely earned herself an ice cream, and chose an Oreo ice cream sandwich, which she demolished, despite the ice cream headache she had with every big bite!

Once she’d finished it, we went to meet up with Ian at the Visitor Centre and discovered she could earn her Grand Canyon National Park Junior Ranger’s badge! We joined the queue and (because we hadn’t watched the information film about the area, thought we should ask her a few questions that she may have to answer. Ian asked first… “How was the Grand Canyon created?” She answered “By a dog!” and we thought she was just being a bit weird when we suddenly realised she meant Paul Bunyan’s dog, who created the Grand Canyon when he buried his bone, then dug the valley when he tried to find it! It’s in her storybook!! 😍

Immediately after that brief Q&A, she needed to scratch her foot and got stroppy with Ian who tried to put her down so she could sort it out (apparently she wanted to scratch it while he was still holding her). Anyway, she sat on the floor in a mood, then somehow managed to fall backwards and knock her head on the hard floor, resulting in a complete breakdown, bless her, sobbing “I don’t want to get my badge, Mummy, I just want to go back now. I’m just so tired!” So I hoiked her up from the floor (internally slightly devastated that she wouldn’t be getting her badge!!) and we found Daddy outside, reading an information board, and went back to the car, where she settled down with Cowbat and some nursery rhymes.

As we left the car park, Ian said “It’s not nearly as crowded as I thought it would be!” 🙄 I bit my tongue…!

Predictably, Bugsy fell asleep in the car, and missed all the attractions we passed, like the gloriously tacky Flinstone’s Bedrock City, as well as another beautiful sunset.

She was perfectly happy when she woke up on arrival at the hotel, and although we had initially planned to go into Williams for dinner, Cornelia was keen to go back to Kicks, and given that time was ticking away, we agreed that would be sensible. Having burned off over 900 calories today (yahooo!) I treated myself to the most scrumptious dessert – white chocolate key lime pie. Pure indulgence, and worth every calorie back!!

Although Cornelia was totally knackered, she was impossible to get to sleep, and even though I stayed cuddling her, it was midnight before she slept, by which time I was knackered too! But what a brilliant fun day we’ve had exploring.

7 thoughts on “Grand cycling in the Grand Canyon

  1. That was one glorious day! I have been down to the river, four times..It is far beyond the scope of a four-year-old, but she can dream of one day making the jaunt. It has taken me ten hours, down and back, via Bright Angel Trail, which has water stations between May and October. I will have to try chocolate key lime pie, next time I am in Williams.


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