Grand Canyon North Rim – Vacation Part 1

In May 2007, my kids and I accompanied my mom, aunt and uncle to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park.  We came back with such a glowing report that my hubby said, “I want to go, too!”  That was totally fine;  I could visit the Grand Canyon every weekend and not grow tired of it.  My only concern, cheap-o that I am, is that it is really expensive, especially if you’re staying in a cabin.  We used to be a camping family that roughed it every vacation, but recently, my husband decided that he was tired of camping.  It is a lot of work for him, setting up camp… kind of like it is a lot of work for me, preparing beforehand, and spending seemingly all day in the camp kitchen.  For me, the extra work of camping is worth it, because you’re so connected with nature, and can vacation forever on minimal $$ — gas is the biggest expense while camping.  But, for my hubby, the experience now trumps nearly everything else.  Still, our funds are not limitless, so I, the planner, have to do stuff on the cheap, while accomodating my dear hubby.  And, the Grand Canyon is not cheap.  But, the experience is worth it.

Our “worth it” experience started before we actually got into the park.  Driving south on the road from Jacob Lake to the North Rim, we saw…

…a herd of bison.  Bison!   I think I saw bison in the wild at Yellowstone when I was a kid, but it’s been a long time.  There were probably about thirty of them.

After our long day of travelling, we got to our cabin.  I had decided, after our last stay, that it would be worth it to spend the comparatively few extra bucks to stay in the roomier, nicer Western Cabins, which we did.  I did feel a wee bit badly, because there was technically a maximum of five people per cabin, and we’re a family of six… but we have long crammed extra bodies into hotel rooms, etc., to save money, and I figured we could do it here, too.  So, Martin and I had one queen bed, and the three boys were spread out the short way over the other bed, and Audrey was in the playpen.  I’m not sure what we’re going to do next year when we have another baby, but that’s another story…

Here’s the four kids on the front steps of the cabin.

It’s always my goal to be able to bring the kids on a hike that is perhaps a bit of a challenge, but that gets them out there…  Otherwise, they would spend the whole day playing pinecone baseball.

Not that pinecone baseball is bad;  they had a fantastic time searching for bat/sticks and figuring out what kind of pinecone sailed further, and squabbling over which tree was second base.  But, though not quite as dramatically, it reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote:

“… Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

In other words, kids sometimes need to be encouraged to participate in something grander.  I hope this is making sense.  I am ALL FOR digging in the dirt and picking up sticks and finding unusually colored pebbles.  But, my kids would be satisfied with doing that at the rim of the Grand Canyon and not ever actually experience the Grand Canyon. 

So, I was the Official Hike Encourager.  I kept them around a mile, so no one would get too exhausted.  I wanted to help them enjoy the Grand Canyon, not kill them with it.  😀

Fortunately, throughout our vacation, there were plenty of short hikes.

Here’s on the walk out to Bright Angel Point:

And, more goofiness by the cabin (Ethan is posing — don’t worry):

In our eight-day trip, we ate out ONE meal.  Part of this was to save money, and part of it was because of our weird dietary restrictions, we’re hard to feed, and lots of times, it’s just not worth the stress.  It’s hard to accomplish this when staying in the cabins if you want a hot meal, as there are NO grills by the cabins, and portable stoves are not allowed.  So, we had cold breakfasts and lunches, and travelled down the road a bit to a picnic area to cook our dinners on the Coleman stove.  Well, actually, we had one cold breakfast.  The first one, I knew there was a good breakfast buffet in the dining room of the lodge, with enough gluten-free options.  So, that was our one meal out.  The corner table is my favorite…  Here’s the view from where we were sitting:

Here’s my dear hubby, Martin, outside our cabin:

And… we took a drive out to Point Imperial:

After the short walk out to the viewpoint, we started the Ken Patrick Trail, headed southwest.  We knew we wouldn’t make it very far — we hiked out a half-mile or a little more, before we turned back — but as it’s right along the rim, it’s a very rewarding, scenic hike.  And, it’s a well-marked trail that’s good for kids, with not too much elevation change.  The only drawback was that streches of the trail were lined with thorny locust bushes, so you really need to be wearing long pants, and be prepared to carry your small children through those patches.

The boys also completed the Junior Ranger program (again).  Both Ethan and Grant had advanced a level, so they got new patches, which I will sew onto their floppy hats.  Well, I’ll sew Wesley’s, too, even though it’s the same patch as last year…  That is, when we can find his hat.  We looked fruitlessly for it before we left.

Also, we attended the “star party” — after 9:00 p.m. or so, a couple nights a week, they turn off all the lights in the lodge and on the canyon-facing patio, and a guy sets up a super-powerful telescope.  Martin and the boys got to see a fantastic view of Jupiter, but by the time I got there (after Audrey was in bed), the scope was pointed at a star cluster, which was cool, but not like a planet.  But, we learned where Jupiter is right about now.  And, we learned to identify the “Teapot,” an asterism inside Sagittarius, and from whose spout spews the “steam” of the Milky Way.  Very cool.  (Obviously, we also learned what an ‘asterism’ is — it’s a mini-grouping of stars inside of a larger constellation, like the Big Dipper is an asterism inside Ursa Major.)

The thing that pleased me most about the Grand Canyon portion of our trip was that Martin really loved it.  In fact, he wants to return next year, and spend three nights, instead of two.  I’m going to try to get a rim-view cabin, though that’s another $10/night, and they’re frequently booked 18 months in advance.  But, if we do next year like we did this year, staying mid-week, I think my chances of finding a rim-view cabin higher.

As great as the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, when the vacation was all over, we all decided that it wasn’t our favorite part of the trip.  We all favored the next location, the unlikely-sounding Podunk Guard Station outside of Bryce Canyon National Park, proving that money can’t buy you love a good vacation experience.  But, that’s the next installment.  🙂


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 1, 2008, in Arizona, Family, Hiking, Loving Nature!, Parenting, Summer Plans, The Dear Hubby, The Kids, Travelling. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Beautiful pics. You may want to try and visit the Grand Canyon in the winter. Usually the rates are very reasonable and you don’t have the summer crowds. It is cold but very beautiful!!! We got a deal, as Valley residents, to stay on the rim and we had deer and other small animals right outside the patio door. If you time it right, it is a great time to go up there although you don’t escape the heat down here.
    P.S. – We also play pinecone baseball when we camp. I thought we invented it 🙂

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed your stay. I work as a seasonal ranger at the North Rim, and also eat a gluten free diet. I ate breakfast at the lodge a couple of weeks ago, and had their gluten free pancakes. Delicious. And I just wrote about Jacob Lake Inn introducing gluten free cookies at their cookie counter. I was so glad to see them, even if I only get one every other week or so. Look me up next time you come!

  1. Pingback: Probably more than you care to read about the Podunk Guard Station « Only Sometimes Clever

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