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Day 3/4: Road Trip in the Time of Covid

Day 3: Sedona > Grand Canyon

I was up at the unreasonable hour of 4:15 this morning in order to start the sunrise video. Usually the sky starts to lighten about an hour before actual sunrise, so I’m going to try to drag myself out of bed early each day. Arizona does not adhere to Daylight Savings Time, so their sunrise is at 5:15. Fortunately, as the time lapse video is recording, I don’t have anything to do, so I was able to relax in my bed under the covers with the hatchback up.

I putzed the rest of the morning away, catching up on my blog, editing photos, and wandering around Sedona window shopping. It’s a unique experience to be in a destination and not have guests to coordinate or a schedule to maintain.

By mid-afternoon, I was ready to move on, so I headed towards Grand Canyon National Park. Along the way, I was planning on stopping at a campsite to use their shower. There were a few campgrounds enroute, but I made the fateful decision to wait until I got to GC for the night since I know right where the showers are at Mather Campground. Unfortunately, the public showers were closed due to Covid-19. I’m planning on staying in the park two nights, so I guess it’s more Honest wipe baths for me. Hopefully my dry shampoo keeps my hair under control. So far, I don’t smell myself, so that’s a plus.

Due to Covid-19, the east entrance to the park is closed. It’s not a big deal, it just adds more driving time to go around to the south entrance. I’ve been trying to get pictures of each National Park sign, so I drove straight to the motorcoach parking section behind the main visitor center. (They have an identical sign back there for tour groups, so the motorcoaches don’t clog up the main sign on the way into the park.)

I encountered the SADDEST sight of this whole pandemic. There was not a single motorcoach in the lot. I’m not gonna lie - I got misty-eyed. Typically, June in the Grand Canyon is crawling with coaches and guests about to get their first view of the canyon. So sad.

After the photo, I stopped at the market to pick up dinner and then headed to another free BLM campsite I found on Campendium. Unfortunately, I must have read the information wrong, because there wasn’t one where I thought it was supposed to be. I lucked out, however, since there was an overlook with overnight parking for people who are super hikers and spending the night below the rim. Due to Covid-19, they are not issuing backcountry camping permits so the parking lot was empty. There were no signs prohibiting camping, so I felt relatively confident. The best part: there was a toilet! It was a rustic pit toilet, but anything is better than risk peeing on myself as I frog-it in the woods.

I guess I wasn’t the only one with the idea - there was another stealth camper in an SUV at the other end of the lot. We were both first timers stealth camping in the park, so we had a moment.

Turns out the overlook was a perfect place to watch sunset, so I set up my camera and folding chair and settled in for dinner and a show.

One of the greatest things about spending each sunrise and sunset taking time lapse videos is that I’m forced to just sit there for 1.5 hours and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. No cell phone to play with. No one to feel obligated to make conversation with. I can’t walk away and abandon my cell phone, so I literally sit and do nothing. I can’t even blog since my cell phone is occupied. As a person who has an excess of kinetic energy and a wee bit of a caffeine addiction, not being on the move constantly feels weird. Now, granted, I could be reading a paper book during this time (I intend to buy a few along the way) but for some reason, it almost feels wrong to be ignoring the beauty in front of me.

That said, I’ve only been at this for a few days, but I’m already looking forward to this routine of stillness over the next month.

Day 4: Grand Canyon

I spent today in my trusty, ol' Grand Canyon. Last year, I did the math and calculated that I had been to this park over 70 times. I can honestly say that the view never gets old. I have a motto I live by professionally, “If seeing the Grand Canyon starts to become ho-hum - then I need to get a new career.” I never want to take for granted that I have this amazing opportunity to see all these breathtaking National Parks over and over again. People often ask me, "Doesn’t it get boring seeing the same parks repeatedly." The answer is an emphatic, no. For three reasons:

1. We are blessed to have so many different types of parks in the USA.

2. They are all incredible in their own way.

3. I get to see them for the first time all over again through the eyes of my guests each and every trip.

After filming sunrise, I took a drive over to the main hotel section of the park. It was pretty quiet compared to a regular season. One of my cheap thrills I get each time I go to the Grand Canyon is the multitude of foreign languages I overhear along the rim. It's like everyone is speaking in tongues! It is so cool to see just how many other countries know about, and want to visit, this awesome geologic attraction. Fortunately, today I did hear a few foreign languages, so I was heartened that Covid can’t keep the world down for long.

I hung around the historic El Tovar log cabin hotel for a bit, just soaking up the atmosphere and the views from the rim. Back when I was a guide with Contiki, this was my chill out spot during the day when guests were hiking. It was the only place with decent (ish) WIFI to do my paperwork.

I made another stop at the market to pick up supplies before leaving the park and I was shocked to see only two employees working. (It was the same, yesterday, but I thought that was a fluke.) Usually there are about a dozen at the checkouts and restocking the shelves. The lines were outrageous (about 30 mins each), but everyone was pretty chill about it. I guess they are really short staffed since most of their summer employees come from overseas on a J1 visa. With Covid, that would have all stopped. Another cheap thrill I get at the Grand Canyon is reading the staff name tags to see which country they are from. What an incredible opportunity to travel and work in a National Park!

I spent the rest of the day alternating between hiking the Rim Trail and napping. The sunsets and sunrises aren’t giving me as much sleep as I prefer, so a nap with a view of the canyon out the back of my hatchback is kinda neat.

Because I have been to the GC so many times, there weren’t really any hikes I was jonesing to do. I had thought to walk the entire 12.8 mile Rim Trail, but the park shuttle busses weren’t operating, so I would have had to backtrack the entire thing to get to where I parked my car. 25 miles was asking too much, so I just did a few sections.

After my sunset video, I returned to the same lookout parking lot as the night before. The SUV guy was there, again, plus we picked up a few more stealth car campers.

Once the sky turned black, I spent a couple hours stargazing. So. Freaking. Amazing! I saw at least a dozen satellites whizzing by and two shooting stars. The Milky Way band of light was also visible. It truly is magnificent to see the entire sky lit up by twinkling starlight. It's wild to think that prior to electricity, everyone got to see this view every night.


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