National Parks,  North America,  Travel

Grand Canyon

January and February are probably my least favorite months of the year. The holidays are over, it’s still cold and the excitement of a winter wonderland has passed. Typically it’s the time of year that wanderlust sets in and we go on a trip. This year that isn’t happening though due to school and various other things. So instead I thought I’d take a few weeks and share some of our vacations. Maybe it’ll cure the wanderlust in me, or maybe it’ll make me spontaneously book plane tickets for us…This could be dangerous. This week I’ll focus on the first trip we did as a family of 3. The Grand Canyon.

Oliver was only 3 weeks old when we decided that we should drive down to the Grand Canyon. Mauricio had one more week off work and we had a decent handle on how to be parents to our tiny human. So we decided to use the time off to go somewhere close, but new. Neither of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon despite living about 5 hours from it. It was one of those places that because it’s so close we always figured we’d go some day but never made a true effort to get to.

Oliver in Monument Valley
Oliver ready to go on his first road trip

So one Monday morning we loaded up our little family and away we went through the reservation and Monument Valley to see the biggest canyon around. Oliver did great, sleeping most of the way. About 2 hours in he woke up raging hungry and we were luckily not in the middle of nowhere so we took a pitstop in Bluff and explored the tiny fort there. Then we packed up and made it another 2 hours before we had to pull of the side of the road to feed him again. Luckily Oliver has always been a pretty quick eater, so even though we were stopping a lot it was only for about 20 minutes each time, tops. The worst part about the 5 hour drive was the fact that our air conditioner wasn’t working. It hadn’t been hot enough at home to turn in on yet, but driving through the 80 degrees of the reservation without AC, we were feeling it! I was worried about Oliver overheating, but we put up blankets to cover the windows in the back and it was way cooler back there for him that it was for us in the front.

Relief came when we started to go up in elevation. That meant we were getting close! We didn’t have a real plan about where we were going to stay or when we were really going to see the Grand Canyon. But we made it to the park entrance in the late afternoon and decided it was worth it to go on in and see what we could see before it got dark. We bought a National Park annual pass, which I would highly recommend if you are planning on seeing some sights within a year. We live right by 2 national parks, and within a few hours of several others. We figured within a year we would get our money back, and we did.  

Oliver’s view of most of the park, in his “vintage” stroller
The one stop Oliver let me carry him

We were visiting later in the day on a Monday, so there was no line to get in to the park, but I was amazed at how many people were in there! We were visiting the South Rim, which was decided for us since the North Rim wasn’t open for the summer yet. The South Rim is more family friendly aka sidewalks and visitor centers. From what I read while we were there the North Rim offers a more nature focused visit. The sidewalks and visitor centers worked well for us on this trip though. I brought Olivers boppy carrier to try and carry him around, but most the time he wasn’t having it. So we had to use his stroller every stop we made. We got a lot of comments on Olivers stroller and how little he was. His stroller is actually the stroller my mom got for me 26 years ago, some teens even commented how cool it was that I had a vintage stroller. I guess I’m vintage now?

Since we were at the canyon later in the day, we had to opportunity to experience the sunset over the canyon. It was amazing! I grew up around canyons and have seen my fair share of beautiful sunsets, but there really is something special about the Grand Canyon. It was so amazing to watch the colors change and just take it all in, along with about 200 other people and their selfie sticks. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely took pictures, but I don’t feel like a lot of people there were really seeing the beauty right in front of them, it was more about getting the selfie and moving on. I’ll share a picture, but I’ll add the old cliche that a picture doesn’t do it justice.

Sunset at The Grand Canyon
First night in a hotel

Once the sun set, we figured we needed to decide what we were doing for the night. We could drive 2 hours back to Kayenta, or go in to Tusayan which is basically a town there for the Grand Canyon. We opted to find a place in Tusayan and come back to see more of the park the next day, before we went back home. We found a decent little hotel in Tusayan for not too much and it had a mexican restaurant attached to it where we got 20% off, so dinner was decided for us as well! Oliver was a great little baby and slept through dinner and slept just as good in the hotel as he did at home. We had him in the bassinet part of the stroller to sleep in on the bed next to us and it worked perfect.

The next morning we got some breakfast and sandwiches to go from a restaurant next door, where we also got a discount from staying at our hotel. I’m pretty sure the owner of that hotel owns that whole block in Tusayan. But I’m not complaining because all the food was good, and discounted. After some breakfast and souvenir hunting we went back in to the park and experienced our first car tantrum/breakdown from Oliver. For this whole trip any time that he had been hungry it was really easy for us to stop within a few minutes and he never really got too worked up. But when we tried to park in the under construction mess of the Grand Village, we had a whole new experience with our precious baby. We had looked at the map and decided a good place to park where we could probably ride the free bus to a few other viewpoints. Well, that parking lot was full, so we went to the next one, which was also full. After 4 full parking lots, one of which we saw twice thanks to confusing construction signs, about 20 minutes of seemingly aimless driving and a screaming baby, we were finally able to find somewhere to pull off the road and get Oliver happy again. That 20 minutes was probably the most panicked and frustrated I had been as a mom so far. Usually I do my best to help Mauricio with navigating, especially in construction. But I was so distracted by the fact that I couldn’t get to my crying baby that I was probably just adding to Mauricios driving frustration instead of helping.

Taking in the sights

We finally parked at the biggest parking lot in the park and made our way to the edge of the canyon again. I think by the time we finally got out to a viewpoint, we had been in the park for about 2 hours. Then we decided to try and go on the bus with about 10,000 other people. After standing in line for 20 minutes, I read the sign that said “strollers must fold down and be stored in the front of the bus”. Well my awesome “vintage” stroller doesn’t really fold down much, so we wouldn’t be able to get on the bus. So we just got back in the truck and worked our way out of the park, stopping at viewpoints we hadn’t stopped at the day before. While our second day was no where near as successful as our first day in the park, we did make a few good stops and it was worthwhile for us.

Once we determined we had seen enough of the Grand Canyon, we started our way back home. Which meant working our way back down in elevation, which meant back to heat with no air conditioning. We were prepared this time though and covered Oliver’s windows long before it got hot, so his back seat stayed a perfect temperature. We thought we might be able to do a little detour and go to Four Corners on the way home, but we spent too long at the Grand Canyon and the state lines would have been closed by the time we got there. Because state lines can be fenced off and closed in case you didn’t know. So we just made our way home to our animals and called it a successful mini road trip with a baby.

Overall, it was a great little getaway for our first time out as a family. Oliver did great in the car and sleeping in a new place. I’m glad that we were able to go on a weekday before the summer season started up. I was honestly shocked at how many people were in there on a Monday and Tuesday, I can’t imagine being there with many more people than we were. I’d like to go back sometime when Oliver is older to visit the North Rim and do some hikes and explore the nature more, but for now I can at least say we’ve been to the Grand Canyon.

My sweet guys
There’s a baby under that hat
Baby on the edge
Oliver and I at sunset, and a glimpse of the crowds I mentioned

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