Grand Canyon Rendezvous
I didn’t expect snow at the Grand Canyon. All I could remember from my first visit 30 years prior was the scorching Arizona heat of 103° F, and add about 10 degrees to that and you get what the temperature was in our non air conditioned family van. My brother, sister and I were passing ice cubes to each other—ice we grabbed from our Coleman water chest—and rubbing it on our faces and necks as my baby sister was bawling because she found the heat unbearable too. It was so damn hot. That’s what I remember from my first trip to the Grand Canyon.
But this time was different. It was my first Christmas with my boyfriend, Steve, who was visiting from Toronto. After our courtship blossomed in Scotland, then grew in England, Steve and I found ourselves in a long-distance romance that was taking us to the Grand Canyon in the winter.
We took our time driving the 500-mile journey from Salt Lake City, stopping in Las Vegas for a night and exploring sites like Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats and Hoover Dam along the way.
It’s a different road trip when it’s not over 100° F. There was no crying baby sister, no suffering in a van with my brother and sisters. Just a quiet ride with a fella I met nine months earlier. This time I could really pay attention to the landscape. And it helps when you’re traveling with a geologist. I learned more from Steve than I ever did in my college geology course. (Even more helpful is an instructor makes you swoon.)
As we approachedt the Grand Canyon it was dark and snowy and I couldn’t see a thing. I hate driving in the snow and so I pulled over and had Steve drive into the park.
Snow in Arizona. I couldn’t quite make sense of that. Arizona is supposed to be freaking hot, not wintry.
We stayed in the park at the Yavapai Lodge, which had painted cinder blocks for walls. resembling a college dormitory and a toilet that ran all night. The accommodations weren’t lush, but they were practical and we got a good night’s sleep. After a full hot breakfast in the cafeteria we made our way to the rim of the canyon. Tourists filled the pathways near the edge, just like they did when I was nine, except people were in parkas, scarves and wool caps, not t-shirts and shorts.
Snow was falling and my fingers could barely stand the icy chill as I snapped photos with my little Kodak camera. This is not the same Grand Canyon I saw when I was nine.
I looked over the edge to look down in the canyon–the Grand Canyon–to see that it wasn’t the hot, scorching beast I remembered, but it looked like a grand dessert with layer upon layer of oranges and browns and golds with a dusting of powdered sugar on top. A geological Mille-feuille.
I’m not a fan of winter or snow, which I know is weird because I live in Utah where most people really like the stuff. But to see snow blanketed over the Grand Canyon is a spectacular treat, which most people never get to see. So, you think you’ve seen the Grand Canyon? Sure, maybe you’ve seen it in summer when it’s blowing its hot breath at you, but try seeing it dressed with snow. It’s a much kinder and sweeter Grand Canyon. It will blow you a snowflake kiss.