On The Edge (Day 9)

Ravens are smart, some say the smartest birds on the planet.  They will bother hunters until the hunters follow them to where their prey is walking around, knowing they will likely get some scraps.  They will place nuts on the road so that an unsuspecting future road kill will walk into a trap and get tagged by a speeding vehicle.  They are good with faces – one park employee angrily shoed a raven off of her bike seat, and from that day on all of her future bike seats were torn up, can I say, ravenously?  The special trash can lids at the Grand Canyon aren’t because of bears, they are to keep out ravens.  They used to have a design that required pushing down in four places and twisting the lid to get it off, but the ravens would form teams with one on each pressure spot and one in the middle squawking when it was time to turn.

Today, a raven woke me up early with a laughter-rich caw that sounded like a slow “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”  Pause.  Repeat.  Pause.  Repeat.

Owen and I, being the light sleepers, started peeping across the beds at each other, making silly faces while the other two dozed unaware.

We started the day with a scrumptious breakfast in our dining tent, with waffles made from cast iron waffle makers crafted in 1910.

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Carb-loaded and hydrated, it was time for our hike into the depths of the Grand Canyon.

We loaded the kids up with sunscreen, hats, and Osprey water packs, and Don loaded us into the shuttle.

We headed to the South Kaibab trail (pronounced Kai-uh-bab, or, if you’re a local and cool, Sky-bab).  The trailhead starts with some somewhat slippery switchbacks (due to tiny pebble rocks and dirt, not wetness), and we ventured down gripping the kids’ hands to prevent their untimely demise.

We also tried out a new piggy-back contraption for Owen, and it was really cool.  You can see it in the featured image, along with this one, when Owen was “hiding.”

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After about an hour venturing down next to rocks with progressively changing in birth eras, we made it to our destination, Ooh Ahh point.

I have a physiological fear of heights.  In fact, while typing this and thinking of Ooh Ahh, my hands just started sweating.  We got the kids up with us on a boulder for a pic that shows that kids need sunglasses too.  I guess Andre’s (borrowing Don’s for the pic) weren’t helping.  Regardless, #ParentFail.

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Katie then dragged me out further onto a cliff boulder so that I could once again face my biggest fear, letting my legs freeze up as I stoically sat by Katie adjacent to our impending doom.  The neurotransmitter or adrenal fluid that was allowing me to do this ran out, so I scurried back to safety.

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After rehydrating and a sufficient break, Don and Andre led the hike back up the Canyon.  Andre, thinking this was a competition for some reason, didn’t want to take breaks and wait for the rest of the group.  He pulled Don up the Canyon, making it up in less than half the time it took to go down.

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I carried Owen with the piggy-back contraption, and that free-loader loved that, thinking the way up was SUPER easy.  By the top, my body was pretty glad we were finished.  Katie played pack-mule and carried up all of the water, so she was glad, too.

We headed back to camp for the lunch Mark prepared (Don’s wife had created this one), some amazing chili.  More 2nds.

We followed lunch with Andre’s favorite part of the Grand Canyon, biking the Hermit Trail along the rim.  Only shuttle buses and employees are allowed on this road, so it’s like taking a bike ride alongside the Grand Canyon with a road all to yourself.  Our tour guide was incredible, and, despite two flat tires, had a wonderful time.

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Don picked us up after our ride and took us to a Grand Canyon spot that is just getting discovered.  Out of respect for him, we won’t share the exact coordinates, but trust us it was worth it.  A quick hike on a forest path, and it opens up to a beautiful spot on a cliff that sticks out, giving you a near 360 degree view of the Grand Canyon.  It was early in the evening, so the shadows added that much more dimension to the view.

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We closed the day with filets in our dining tent, a strawberry desert (did he know that was my favorite food?), and, of course, more Smores.

The Grand Canyon experience, thanks to Don and ALE, will be a hard one to beat.

Grand Expectations (Day 8)

We woke up at our Navajo cabin B&B wondering if it would be inappropriate for the kids to pee on the ground outside (there was only one bathroom inside the house remember).  While pondering, they just did it anyway.

We went inside the house for the breakfast, which was basically old cereal and spoiled milk, so we skipped that and started our journey to the Grand Canyon, snacking in the car.

Katie plugged something about the South Entrance to the Grand Canyon in her phone’s Google Maps app, which seemed fine for about an hour, and then it told us to take a right off of the highway onto a dirt road.  About a mile and a half onto the bumpiest dirt road we have ever been on, and some intense discussion, we turned around.

We found a rural desert gas station where a nice lady sent us back the right way.  We arrived at our Grand Canyon stop about 1:30 and met Don from Arizona Luxury Expeditions.

Yes, this was our splurge for the trip.  We figured, when are we going back to the Grand Canyon?  We should do this right.  Don and his crew made sure that we did.

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Don started us out by shuttling us right to a Yavapai Point where we walked around, seeing sights, and talking about how the Grand Canyon came to be.

It’s time for Ten Key Trips TRIVIA!

Q:  How old is the Grand Canyon?  (meaning, when did the Colorado River start cutting this thing up?)

A) 6 million years old

B) 60 million years old

C) 600 million years old

D) 5,000 years old, since that’s how old the earth is.

If you said D, at this point, I won’t try to change your mind, so you’re right and you are going to some version of HEAVEN!

If you said B or C, you guessed one of the ones I would have guessed originally.

The scientifically correct answer is A, 6 million years.  The rocks that you can see at the bottom though, unearthed by the Colorado River, are up to 1.8 Billion years old.

On to trying to keep our children from falling into the Canyon.

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Quick lesson, children behind glass are easier to keep from falling to 5,000 feet.

We got back in the shuttle and ventured to Maverick Helicopters for our Grand Canyon helicopter tour.  The boys had no idea we were doing this.  Even when we were standing by the helicopters, we were still selling the boys on this being a special time that they get to see the inside of a helicopter.  Eventually we spilled the beans and got in for our ride.

The helicopter tour was as incredible as you might expect, definitely worth it as a life experience, and the best part was listening to the boys chatting back and forth on the headsets.  Owen even serenaded our group with a stunning rendition of ba ba blacksheep.

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We finished with the copter and followed Don to our campsite.  Arizona Luxury Expeditions was founded by Don Stevens several years ago after he spent about a decade doing day trip tours from Phoenix to all of the Arizona hotspots (and other regional amazing sites) like the Grand Canyon, Page, Sedona, etc.  What he learned was that a day trip just doesn’t cut it for these experiences, and these trips should be treated more like a safari in Africa.

His service is glamping in an amazing place, eating food prepared by a legit chef (Mark), and the special treat of hanging with a tour guide that knows everything you may want to know about the place you are and can take you to all of the neat spots not yet discovered and destroyed by the internet.

I can’t say enough about what a great job they did and how everything was well worth it.   This post can’t possibly capture their 5-star hospitality.  Okay, back to what we did.

Owen took to the campsite cornhole like it was his calling.

Next up was our private family dinner in our special dining tent.  Mark poured the wine… generously.

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Katie said she was going to do some portion control on this trip.  Well, that was before we tasted Mark’s food.  2nd’s please.  (Mark used to be the executive chef on a cruise line and knows a thing or two about destroying well-intentioned diets.)

Mark’s assistants included Sam, Don’s 23 year-old son (one of the nicest guys you’ll meet), and Andre, our kid.  Andre’s favorite part of the trip so far was probably hanging out in the kitchen tent helping with the plating and food crafting.

I had promised the boys all the Smores they could eat that night, and man did they hold me to it.  How do you do your Smores?  We had an epic debate about whether or not to light the mallows on fire.  Andre charred those suckers.

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Finally, we ended the night in our heated tent with two Queen size beds, watching the boys’ epic light battle with their flashlights.

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A “couldn’t be more perfect” first day at the Grand Canyon.  Thanks Don!