After backpacking to the river and back, we stayed at Mather Campground in the park a little longer to regroup and see the last few sights we had yet to see. An entire village resides in the park, complete with grocery store and a branch of the state library, so we didn’t need to leave the park to grab a couple days worth of supplies (though there is a bit of a premium on the convenience).
Prior to our visit to the backcountry permitting office, I had been disappointed about the timing of our trip: starting in Florida in the heat of the summer to drive north to Maine for our amazing 100 Mile Wilderness hike, then trying to outrun winter back south again. We were alway rushing to get to the next place and experiencing much more extreme (hot and cold) weather than we had anticipated for the mobile life. But the limitations to the backcountry permit and the crowds that descended on the park by the time we exited the canyon from our hike made me really appreciate the off-season camping we have been doing. Most of the campgrounds we’ve arrived at were mostly if not completely unoccupied; we’ve had solitude and never had to worry about availability. The experiences we’ve had are worth a little off-season weather.
Wildlife abounds in the Grand Canyon National Park, and they do not show particular fear of humans. A group of elk range over the campground, munching on trees and resting in the shade among the campsites. Ground squirrels dig burrows beside the road. Ravens will help themselves to any food left unattended, and for the unwary camper who leaves their supplies out while they are away, they will destroy a campsite. Despite the ample warning signs to keep food locked up in vehicles, some don’t get the message and we saw one campsite with packaging and marshmallows torn up and scattered all over. In the evening deer come out to browse and bunnies hop around in search of food.
On our final evening in the park we rode the free shuttle down Hermit’s Road to watch the sunset over the canyon. As the sky displayed its nightly rainbow of colors, we had occasion to appreciate the opportunity we have to explore the country, visiting these spectacular and beautiful places and glimpsing the animals that inhabit them.
March 10-11, 2014