Still on day 7 - We drove from Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument to Grand Canyon National Park, through the east entrance. The first visitor's center we reached was Desert View with the Watchtower.
About five minutes after we reached the edge, Second Son asked, "Can we go now?"
There are lots of nice people visiting the national parks who are willing to take family pictures. Too bad our five-year-old makes that face every time.
We reached our campground in time to have lunch there and managed to come upon a very enjoyable Critter Chat. Kansas Dad thinks the National Park Service sends their A team to the Grand Canyon.
We hiked just a tiny bit of the Rim Trail and visited the Yavapai Geology Museum. There were lots of mule deer wandering around. Our extra layers kept us warmer during the night, though walking Second Son to the bathroom in the freezing weather (low of 31) was only bearable because of the astoundingly clear night sky (which he didn't appreciate, sigh).
Total driving for Day 7 - 126 miles.
Day 8 - We had new neighbors when we woke up, a young family from San Francisco with a two-year-old who won the hearts of our children, especially the girls. We could barely pull them away from him quickly enough to make it to an 11 am Ranger-guided Fossil Walk. She talked a lot about the geology of the canyon but the highlight for the children was the last part when she wandered on the rocks and pointed out fossils under our feet. I think First Daughter took pictures of each one.
After the ranger talk, we walked back to the main visitor's center for a packed lunch of peanut butter and honey roll-ups before attempting a little hike on the Bright Angel Trail.
Second Daughter, as usual, spotted a small creature of interest as hundreds of other visitors wandered obliviously past.
We also spied a California Condor just after lunch.
The hike on Bright Angel Trail was breath-taking, but emotionally exhausting. Kansas Dad and I were both too concerned with keeping our four children away from the edge to appreciate the views. So we only hiked about twenty minutes down the trail before turning around.
The highlight of Grand Canyon for the kids was the shuttle ride we took to Hermit's Rest and back again. Second Son especially loved riding the bus more than looking at the canyon.
Kansas Dad and I would love to return to the Grand Canyon and hike some more without young children. I'm glad we visited, but it was probably one of our least favorite parks because there were so many people (and it must be much worse later in the season!) and we were always discomfited by the distance or lack thereof between our children and the edge. The main visitor areas all have fences along the rim, but the disadvantage there is the theme-park aura of parking lots, large paved areas, lots of people and restaurants, and (ironically) the fences.
Total driving for Day 8 - 10 miles (and most of that was Kansas Dad trying to find us when the kids were tired, the shuttle bus was full, and he hiked back to the van to come back and pick us up).