By Sarah Sekula
While traipsing around the South Rim of the Grand Canyon last month, I brought back a few nuggets of wisdom that might be helpful next time you plan a trip. (Note: Consider going on Nov. 11 when the U.S. National Park system offers a fee-free entrance day.)
Rule # 1 — Never put down your camera.
As soon as you do, there’s an unexpected and amazing shot like a giant raven trotting along the rim or an 800-pound elk nibbling on the gorgeous grass outside of your hotel room. Therefore, keep your lens cap off and be ready to shoot at all times.
Rule # 2 — Eat twice as much as usual.
Okay, this rule actually pertains to those doing vigorous hiking, which I did not partake in this time around, however, I think you should apply it regardless of your activity level. Why? The food is just that good. In fact, when I told my sister I was organizing a family trip to the Grand Canyon, the first thing she said was “Remember that cafeteria we ate at last time?” Yep, she clearly remembered the breakfast we had there six years ago.
Rule # 3 — Do not, I repeat, do not feed the squirrels.
I overheard a fun-loving German man talking about his encounter with a squirrel during our first day at the Canyon. And, yes, it sounded painful. But, what’s worse is that he had to spend most of the day at the hospital getting rabies shots. Later on that day a shuttle bus driver joked about how these 2-pound cuties are the most dangerous critters at the canyon. Surely they rank right up there with, let’s say, mountain lions and bobcats. Oh, and deer, too. There hooves are so sharp, they can slice a tourist like a sword.
Rule # 4 — Bring plenty of layers.
When we landed in Vegas on an August afternoon it was a stifling 103 degrees. Five hours later at the canyon it was 62 with wind gusts up to 30 m.p.h. The next morning, it was still chilly, but by noon is was really pleasant — the perfect combo of sunbeams, breezes and beauty — and I had peeled off the layers. There were times, though, each morning when we’d hop out of our rental car only to shuffle back in after two snaps of the camera. Yes, we are wimpy Floridians, but there was a bite to the air that I’m sure even the toughest northerner could feel.
Rule # 5 — Make time to see the sunrise or the sunset.
If you leave the canyon without doing this, that is just plain stupid. It’s not one of the seven natural wonders of the world for nothing; to see it painted with oranges, blues and pinks is always worth it. Take the free shuttle up to Hermit’s Rest for a fantastic view. Hopi Point and Mohave Point are good, too. If it’s chilly, grab a perfectly chocolate cup of hot cocoa. If it’s warm, angle for an Eskimo Pie.