My older kids, Jonathan (10) and Elena (6) thought they had seen a large mountain of rock yesterday when they visited the Meteor Crater but that was nothing compared to what the ninth day of our journey offered: sightseeing around the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Jonathan and Elena were instantly BLOWN away when they beheld just one of the numerous views that the Grand Canyon has to offer. I think that the
Grand Canyon is so breathtaking that were I an atheist, upon seeing it, I would instantly believe in God.
The summer time is one of the few times of the year that you can drive all the way from the south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, which is located in a higher elevation and during most months is covered by snow. Due to time constraints we didn’t drive to the north rim.
Instead we took spent some time around five of the most popular vistas, where the kids and even Angela made strong use of their slingshot for rock throwing. From there we proceeded to the often overlooked, 146-square mile Painted Desert that starts just 30 minutes north of the Grand Canyon’s Desert View.
THE PAINTED DESERT
According to Wiki, much of the Painted Desert region is located within the Navajo Nation. The Navajo and the Hopi people have lived in the region for at least five hundred and one thousand years, respectively. The popular name for the desert comes from the Colonial Spanish who are said to have named it El Desierto Pintado due to its brightly colored landscape.
The desert is composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale of the Triassic Chinle Formation. These fine grained rock layers contain abundant iron and manganese compounds which provide the pigments for the various colors of the region.
To get a real sense of the Painted Desert you need to budget about two to three hours round trip and don’t miss the Dinosaur Tracks that you will find off road near Tuba City, one of the two large settlements of Navajo. When you get there you will be greeted by one of several Navajo tribe guides that will eagerly give you a brief overview of the dinosaur tracks. You pay them with a tip.
I’m not sure if the footprints are real (the guides say they are and I’m inclined to believe they are too) but the kids enjoyed putting their feet next to tracks that apparently belonged three or four different dinosaur species many years ago. What strikes me about these tracks, which our guide told us are imprinted on limestone, is that the swath of hard ground features all sorts of dinosaur footsteps near each other. The only way I can imagine this happened there is if the dinosaurs landed in the same area at the same to salsa dance, fight or something.
Again, none of this really matters to the kids. For them these are dinosaur tracks and that’s that. The guides are very nice and family friendly so it was a pleasure to bring a little tourism their way.
IN AND AROUND THE GRAND CANYON AREA
During our trip to the Grand Canyon we stayed at the Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn, which we highly recommend. The hotel is conveniently located just about two miles from the parks’ south entrance and is very family friendly with large, clean rooms, large soaking tubs and a refrigerator.
From a kid’s perspective, the hotel also offers great amenities because it has a pool, a large game room and (drum roll please) a six-lane bowling alley. Jonathan, Elena and I had a blast bowling together.
There’s an IMAX theater just down the road from the hotel that features the Grand Canyon IMAX movie but I don’t recommend you see it without first visiting the park because it will ruin your experience. For some inexplicable reason this IMAX does not display other movies.
The food in the Grand Canyon area is not bad but we favored the local McDonald’s for almost all our meals because of their fresh salads (which Angela loves) and the Frappes, which my kids are now addicted to. I’m favoring the new wraps.
FAMILY ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY (Sponsored by Sprint Nextel)
While visiting the Desert View of the Grand Canyon, my favorite one, we met the Henry Family of 10 from Arkansas, a fellow road tripping clan that featured three adults and SEVEN young children. Briani caught their attention with a cute tantrum and before you knew it we were asking them for their road trip tricks.
You can catch the Henry family’s interview by clicking on the YouTube video uploaded here but one thing I thought was interesting was that they dress the kids uniform-style in specific colors so they don’t lose them, especially during rest stops. Each rest stop taxes them 45 minutes!
We wish the Henry family safe travels and many blessings as they go on to Yellowstone National Park.