We’ve made no secret that the time we spent in the U.S on our RTW adventure was without a doubt our favourite time during the whole trip. One of the main highlights had been hiking the North Kaibab Trail of the Grand Canyon in one of the best day hikes we’d done. We vowed at the time to return and attempt the 24 mile Rim to Rim, little did we know that our return date would only be 12 months exactly from when we left.
Our time in South America had been great fun but I’d gotten to the stage where I was griping about a few things and ready to move on. When we started looking at flights home we found a great deal via the U.S which would allow us with just under 2 weeks to do a bit more exploring Stateside. We were going to treat it like a sort of holiday at the end of the trip and had plans to visit Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, along with a return to the Grand Canyon. This time we’d been hiking at altitude for 3 months and felt the fittest we’d ever been, it was going to be great.
That is, until the Federal Government decided to shut down 3 days before we flew into Vegas. Along with the many other jobs and services that shut down without federal support, the National Parks Service is one. We were absolutely gutted, those 2 weeks were supposed to be our way of going out with a bang and having done no planning for months in South America, I’d planned out every day to ensure we made the most of it. I know it sounds dramatic given the huge cluster**** that was caused by the shutdown but I was genuinely angry that the U.S Government was ruining my holiday.
Lucky for us we had a couple of friends in San Diego who saved our bacon. We gave up the plan of visiting Sequoia & King’s Canyon and decided to head to SoCal, somewhere we’d wanted to visit and just not gotten around to. This is a prime example of why I love travelling so much, you make friends from every corner of the earth and never know when you might get to see them again. We’d met Shannon and Ryan when hiking the Inca Trail in Peru and I’d found myself daydreaming about visiting San Diego after they described the little beach town they live in just outside the city.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea is a stunning piece of land right on the Pacific with gorgeous beach houses and the most laid back atmosphere. It makes a massive difference spending time in someone’s home rather than just a hotel and we had such a blast over a couple of days. We visited San Diego’s famous zoo and ate both fabulous Mexican food and the most amazing tuna caught straight from Pacific on the Mexican coast by Ryan. At this stage we were still frantically hoping Grand Canyon NP would open in time for us to visit. I’d even managed to secure a couple of bunks at Phantom Ranch for our dates, this lodge at the bottom of the canyon gets booked up a year in advance so this was a miracle in itself.
We packed up from San Diego and headed East, basing ourselves in Palm Springs for a couple of nights. We got to see the local high school Homecoming parade and took a cable car up to the snow-covered mountains that towered above the dry desert. We were having a great time, despite flying by the seat of our pants, and decided to head to Flagstaff in Arizona where we would have access to amazing scenery, even if the parks stayed shut.
I distinctly remember having a conversation with Paul over lunch one day where I told him he had to make peace with the fact that we weren’t going to get to visit the Canyon. We’d heard that Bryce and Zion were opening and started talking about going up there instead, but there was definitely an atmosphere between the two of us. We headed to Sedona for the day and although it’s very beautiful, we were both in bad moods and ended up having a row that now feels like serendipity. Paul wanted to hike and I didn’t, feeling sorry for myself I just wanted to head back to our motel and figure out what we were going to do next. After I’d thrown my toys out of the cot we arrived back at the motel and turned on the news as had become the habit over the last few days. This time though, the Governor of Arizona was on t.v – we sat glued to the screen.
It was 7pm on the night before we were originally supposed to set off hiking from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We were in Flagstaff, a 5 hour drive from there and had just been told that the National Park was going to open its gates in the morning for the first time in 2 weeks. It was like Christmas had come early and I seriously could not believe our luck.
Our Grand Canyon Rim to Rim experience is up next week!