“So Julia, what should we do today?” I posed this question to my 12-year-old daughter. We were in Flagstaff, Arizona for the day and I was hoping for some quality mother/daughter time.
With no plan, and no suggestions forthcoming, we stopped at the Flagstaff Visitors Center and scoured the brochures for ideas, which were plentiful such as venturing to the Flagstaff Pioneer Museum and Lowell Observatory.
Flagstaff to Grand Canyon
After some discussion we decided on the skyride up Mount Humphries, but in the back of my mind I couldn’t shake the idea that maybe we should have a Grand Canyon experience. Julia was the only one in our family who hadn’t been to Grand Canyon National Park; a fact she liked to remind her father and me of on a regular basis. We got in our car and headed out of Flagstaff on Highway 180, but when I saw the sign - Grand Canyon 74 miles - I knew what I had to do. “Julia, would you rather go to the Grand Canyon?”
After an emphatic “YES!” and an hour or so car ride, we were at our destination. Our schedule only allowed for a few hours but we didn’t mind. We pulled into the parking lot at Mather Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and headed to the overlook. Julia was awestruck, and as someone who has been there multiple times I too am always amazed at the vastness and beauty. We walked along the trail wondering aloud, How far down do you think it is? How do those trees grow in the Canyon wall? How long would it take to get to the other side? How did a river create this?
The Grand Canyon: A Natural Wonder
Mather Point is the perfect jumping off point for exploring the Grand Canyon. There is a well-staffed visitor center with a theatre showing the park orientation film, a bookstore, a bike rental facility and outdoor exhibits. The park also operates a free shuttle service with buses offering four different routes that will take visitors throughout the park, including the popular view-points along the south rim. We hopped the village route shuttle right by the information center and in 20 minutes we were standing at the Kolb Studio soaking in iconic images that most people only see in magazines. After a light lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge and a short hike along the rim trail to Hopi House, it was time catch the shuttle back to Mather Point and head home.
While two hours in the park is really just a tease, it was enough time to create a memory that will last a lifetime. One of the seven wonders of the natural world in our own backyard – amazing!
Mary Ellen Kane is the Senior Administrative Services Manager at the Arizona Office of Tourism. She enjoys getting out and exploring the beauty of Arizona with her family and friends every chance she gets.