I got up this morning, and only had one thing on my schedule – my mule ride at 12:30 p.m. Now granted, this was not one of those famous Grand Canyon Mule Rides – where you ride a mule all the way down to the bottom of the canyon, spend the night and come back the next day. Those rides are out of my price range, and require at least a 12-month reservation. No, I took the 3-hour ride – where we ride a mule through a forest, get to the Abyss Overlook of the Canyon and then ride back. And that was just fine by me!I arrived at Bright Angel Lodge this morning, with a little over two hours to kill before my mule ride. So I decided to walk along the South Rim of the Canyon – going west from the Lodge (yesterday, I went east.) At daytime, the sky was so much bluer – which added a whole new dynamic to the Canyon. Pretty soon, I found the Bright Angel trail – which goes all the way down to the bottom of canyon. I knew I wasn’t going to have time to go very far down, but opted to see how far I can get down – and what the perspective looks like a few hundred feet below. As I headed down the trial, I started kicking myself about not having chosen to do the Mule Ride in the morning. If I’d done that, it would have freed up more time for me this afternoon – and explored the Canyon further down. But there was nothing I could do about it now, so the best I could do is take in the scenery.
On a nearby ledge, I saw a beautiful black Condor bird. The Condor is native to California, and was threatened with exctinction. But thanks to help from preservationists, it has been brought to the Grand Canyon – where they are a thriving and majestic creature. I sat down on the trail, and waited for the Condor to spread its wings (which spans up to nine feet) and fly. But the condor just stood there on the ledge, as its audience continued to grow. Animals at the Grand Canyon are used to the attention, and they are totally non-chalant of what’s around them. It’s really quite wonderful. The condor probably didn’t feel her audience was big enough!At 12:30 p.m, I’m back at the Mule stables to get on my ride. It’s been 20 years since I’ve ridden a horse/donkey/mule, but I’m reasonably confident that it won’t be a problem. The first mule doesn’t react to me very well, so they give me another mule – a female named Sassy. Mules are used in the Grand Canyon, because they have twice the life expectancy of horses – and twice the stamina!
We all line up, and walk in a single file through a beautiful and serene forest – as we head towards the western edge of the South Rim. Arriving at the Abyss Overlook, I can finally spot the Colorado River – the only place on the South Rim where it’s visible. While I didn’t ride a mule down to the bottom of the Canyon, this is a part of the South Rim that would have taken me a long time to walk across – so it was a real treat to be there. If I’d had more time at the Grand Canyon, I could have made it there myself. But because I’m leaving tomorrow, this was perfect.
The Mule Ride ends at 4:00 p.m., and I’m eager to get back on the Bright Angel Trail – and see how much further the Canyon I can go down. But it’s getting awfully windy, and it’s much colder than it was yesterday. I realize that I won’t have the option to walk down the Canyon, so I explore the South Rim further west.
A word on my fear of heights. For my whole life, I’ve been afraid – but it’s been my determination in recent years to overcome that fear. The Grand Canyon was incredible, but it’s important to keep your eyes focused on what lies ahead. Once you start looking straight down and see how far up you get, your legs start to tremble. I got into that habit this afternoon (really testing myself, in a way), so the rest of my walk on the South Rim was less pleasant.
But this trip was just to get an initial taste of the Grand Canyon. I’m leaving tomorrow to continue my Route 66 trip, but I have every intention of coming back here soon. The beauty is nothing short of remarkable …