One of our favorite things is getting out into nature, and if it happens to be at one of the iconic natural wonders in our national parks, well, that is an opportunity not to be missed! For that reason, when we recently had to travel from California to Illinois, we opted to go by train and stop off in the Grand Canyon on the way. We made our plans and reservations with just two weeks notice (not recommended during spring break season!), and were grateful for God’s provision of this refreshing and inspiring experience soaking in the beauty of God’s creation before our 3 weeks of flurried preparations to move to South Sudan!
We got off the Amtrak train (at about 4AM) in Williams, AZ, and took the historic Grand Canyon Railway up to the Grand Canyon. We wandered along the rim at sunset, marveling at the variety of colors of the rocks and the way that each new spot presented a different landscape and a new persepctive on the spires, canyons, and cliffs within the vast space that is the Grand canyon. We had not realized that the canyon is more than 250 miles long, 10 miles across, and 1 mile deep—that’s big!
On our second day, we took a hike down into the canyon on the South Kaibob trail. We met a couple of men on the shuttle who were backpacking – taking the South Kaibob trail all the way across to the North Rim (over 2 days), and then coming back again. We were inspired, and set the goal of someday hiking all the way across ourselves. One of these backpackers told us his favorite view of the canyon is from the bottom – and truly you can see more depth and appreciate the vastness of it from down inside it. But not this time! Just a couple miles down for us, and then we turned around the start the endless climb back up to the rim.
Pictures from the hike – on the lower right photo, do you see the people? There are switchbacks all the way up the cliff, and you can see people on the path on almost every level if you look close!
Our final day at the canyon, we had the privilege of watching some Native Americans performing traditional dances and singing songs in their language. This happened to be the first weekend of the year that they were doing it! A real highlight, especially right at the edge of the Grand Canyon, which has been such a significant historical place for some of these tribes.
And then we got back on the train, to return to Williams, and then rejoin the Amtrak at four o’clock in the morning again as it headed east. We did not have a sleeper car, but the coach seats work OK for us as long as you are only on the train for one night at a time. The seats are wider than airline seats, with more legroom (and therefore the seats can recline more) and there is a leg-rest that extends the seat—so it is rather comortable. We also spent lots of time in the lounge car, enjoying the big overhead windows and interaction with other people. We even got some work done and figured out how to create a hotspot with our phone!
A great trip – so nice to have that time on the train to slowly transition back to Illinois and the busy pace of our preparations to leave. We are becoming big fans of train travel – if you are planning to try it and want any tips, let us know!