The Luke Norris Travel Experience-Day 4: Hoover Dam, That Canyon is Grand

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It’s Tuesday morning and this is one of the first things I see leaving Las Vegas. It had actually been a while since I’d seen any water, so this was a nice change of pace. I think I was so excited to be heading towards the Grand Canyon that I completely forgot about the things I would see on the way. The Nevada desert is actually quite beautiful and with another clear and sunny day, I knew this drive would provide even more spectacular backdrops. One thing I really did forget about was the Hoover Dam. After only a few minutes on the road, I saw a sign that said it was only about 15 miles out. I didn’t want to get derailed for too long, but I had a little time so I decided to check it out. I’m sure if I had actually taken the time to do the whole tour that I probably would have gotten more out of it, but all I did was just drive around for a little bit. I parked the car and walked around for about 20 minutes, back and forth between Nevada and Arizona.
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I think the most entertaining event was on my way out. Traffic was a little backed up and the reason was that the Hoover Dam Police (yes, that’s a real thing) had this SUV pulled over. It looked like your everyday family. Mom is in the passenger seat and three or four kids are in the back. But Dad is on the outside, face down, knee in his back, cuffs on his wrists. Family fun day at the Hoover Dam.
I finally made it back to 93 South towards I-40 and once again, the road was full of spots to pull off and check out the scenery. I really didn’t want to stop as much as I had the day before, but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself.
The drive was full of scenic views like this, but I was on a mission. I drove on I-40 East for a while until I finally reached AZ-64 North headed towards the Grand Canyon. I reached Grand Canyon National Park and although I wasn’t crazy about the $25 entrance fee, I made my way in. The drive in was great in itself as there’s national forest land on either side of the road, but I was on a mission to find a lookout spot and after a few minutes, I found a parking lot and made my way in. As I walked up, I thought about everything I had ever heard about the Grand Canyon and all the pictures I’d seen or movies I’d watched, but to be honest, nothing prepares you for it. So instead of attempting to put into words what I witnessed, just look.
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Truly amazing. I walked along the South Rim for hours and realized that this was still only a small bit of this amazing piece of the world. One could spend weeks here and not see everything. I walked along the trails, occasionally stepping off and checking things out. While there are a few lookout points that are fenced off, the majority of what I saw wasn’t, and you could just walk right up to the edge. Talk about a rush. Of course, there were many other people walking around, but there were times that I was able to break away from the crowd and just be alone. That feeling is amazing. It’s just me and this breathtaking landscape, and the quiet of the canyon is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I continued to walk along the Trail of Time until I found the perfect spot to watch the sunset, which had been my plan the entire day. And it certainly did not disappoint.
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I could have taken pictures the entire time I spent at the Grand Canyon, especially during the sunset. I could have walked up and down that trail and run into something I hadn’t seen and tried to capture it, but after a while, all I wanted to do was just be there and be in those moments. That’s why there’s only the one great sunset shot. As I sat on top of those rocks watching the sun disappear from view, mere inches from the drop, I allowed myself to become fully engulfed in my surroundings. To be sitting there in that place, at that particular moment, was truly one of the most calming moments of my life. A time that will always stay with me.

Something I really hadn’t thought about while walking on the trail was the walk I would have back. I had walked for miles in one direction, trying to see as much as I could see before the sun went down. So, the walk back to my car was in nearly complete darkness. There wasn’t much of a moon to speak of that night, and the stars really hadn’t started to come out yet, so I had to remember exactly where I had turned to get where I was. Yet, I would still find myself constantly looking over at the canyon, still trying to catch a glimpse of this unforgettable beauty. Set against the backdrop of the night sky, I was still able to occasionally see an outline, which was cool enough in itself. Once I finally reached the car, I decided to take a different way out of the park. I found AZ-64 East, which would become 89 South, which would eventually take me back to I-40 in Flagstaff. It was more than an hour before I would see anything close to resembling a town, and this drive was dark. After the initial winding road through more of the South Rim, it was a dark desert drive. Actually, the rest of the night was like that. After hitting Flagstaff, there was really nothing big to speak of for quite a while, and it was glorious. The stars had really come out throughout the night, and I decided I was just going to drive and drive some more that night. I knew where I wanted to be the next day, and I wanted to get as close as I could so I just went. It was a crisp night, fluctuating between 30 and 40 degrees, yet I still found myself with the moon roof open, just so I could see more of the star-filled sky.

As I had encountered in Utah, there were very long stretches of nothingness along the highway, which would have been okay with me had I remembered to get gas while in Flagstaff. I noticed the tank getting low after a while, but just figured that I would run into something out here. With the number of truck stops I had seen in my travels, I guess I just assumed that there would always be one available. Out here, however, there wasn’t. My car tells me about how many miles I have left in my tank and I remember looking at it when it was around 40. But then, it got to 30, then to 20, then to 10 and there was nothing. The gas stations in the small towns I passed by were all closed by this time. I actually hit zero a few miles before an exit where I finally saw lights, right at the Arizona-New Mexico border. I pulled in and only saw diesel stations and freaked out. It turns out that I had just driven by the regular pumps, as the two guys that looked at me like I was a moron were nice enough to point out. The car died just as I was pulling in, and I coasted right up to the pump. Crisis averted. I drove about 25 more miles until I reached Gallup, New Mexico, right off of historic Route 66, and decided to crash for the night.

It had been another great day. I had always dreamed of seeing the Grand Canyon and even as I write this now, more than two weeks later, the images I saw that day remain in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so small in my entire life. While the canyon itself is between 5 and 6 million years old, there are rocks within it that are more than 2 BILLION years old. And the vastness of it all is a marvel in its own right. I’m so glad that I decided to make the trip here, as it was certainly worth the wait. The views are amazing and the quiet is unbelievably calming. It’s beauty at its very best…almost.

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