Being down around 4,000 feet, there hadn’t been snow overnight and so pulling down the tent in the morning wasn’t too bad. While taking my tent down I spoke to Tom a bit more and then got hot water from the Conoco for my oatmeal. I was ready to go around 8, but each time I was about to ride someone else came over to talk to me and I didn’t end up leaving until 8:45. It made my hope to get to Canyon Village for 1pm an unrealistic one.
As I began to climb, I was thankful that wind had dropped since the day before. It meant that the headwind which would have done it’s best to keep me from climbing wasn’t there. I was making steady progress, but the knowledge that I was probably only going to spend one night at the canyon was making me consider getting a lift. If I did so, it would mean that I would get up before lunch and have the whole afternoon to explore. That would give me a chance to hike before it got too cold. The idea stuck in my head until I got to the second viewpoint and saw another loaded touring bike.
It didn’t hit me as soon as I saw the bike, but as I got closer I realised that it belonged to Chris, the English guy that I had met in Mesquite. Sure enough, just after working it out, I saw him walking back to his bike. He seemed as surprised as I was to meet. He walked back to the viewpoint with me while we caught up on where our paths had taken us since Mesquite and decided that we would ride together up to the canyon.
I climb a bit faster than Chris and so it was mainly me talking as he was working hard to keep up with me. We discussed a variety of topics, our biggest disagreement came on getting lifts from people. In the 18 months since he started riding, he and his bike have only been in a car once and that’s when he crossed from New York into Canada. He had the choice of getting a lift or doing a 2 day de-tour, looking back he wishes he had taken the de-tour. Our different take was highlighted by a recent choice we both had to make. I got a lift through the tunnel at Zion with Otto and his family, Chris took a 100 mile de-tour and missed the eastern part of Zion to skip it. While I don’t see myself ever having the same opinion, I don’t see it as a negative. I see it as an example of why cycle touring is so great, everyone has their own style and they all work. One of the most impressive things Chris told me was that in his time on the road, he has only spent $6 on accommodation which was simply phenomenal. He frequently wild camps and would not be staying at Canyon Village but instead riding straight through so he could get out of the park and camp for free.
A couple of hours of climbing later, we made it to the park entrance and a little later were greeted by our first view of the Grand Canyon at Desert View. Wow. I had been told by countless people that it was going to amaze me, and honestly I was a little skeptical, but I was in awe. The idea that nature had eroded it to that level was just mind-boggling. It immediately shot to the top few places that I’ve been to during the trip. We sat by the side of the canyon and had our lunch.
It started to cool down and so having gone past a couple more viewpoints, I went past one while descending. Chris, who was riding behind me, pulled in. I’m not a huge believer in braking unless it’s essential so I kept rolling and then pedaled slowly to let him catch up. A couple of miles down the road, when he hadn’t caught up, I pulled over and stopped for about 15 minutes, read my Kindle and waited. After I’d read a couple of short stories, I was getting too cold to stand round any longer and so headed off. I was saddened not to be able to at least say my goodbyes to Chris as our routes are not likely to cross again, at least not in the near future. His visa is running out and so is heading down to Mexico, whereas I’m going slower and won’t be heading that way for a good while.
The road to Canyon Village follows along close to the edge of the canyon and so there are frequent viewpoints. I stopped at quite a few to take shots, my favourite being Grandview Point. I pulled in there even though it was about a mile and a half detour. It’s the trailhead for the very popular hikes down into the canyon and I was a little frustrated to not have the chance to hike at least part of the way down.
After a few miles more cycling, I made it to Canyon Village, and headed over to the visitor centre. It had taken a lot longer to arrive than I had expected and I didn’t get there until around 4:30, about an hour before sunset. I went in and spoke to a ranger, asking about weather and camping possibilities. He mentioned that I should go to Mather Campground where spots would be about $18 and that they didn’t have hiker-biker spots which shocked me. It sounded expensive and I was tempted to follow Chris’ lead and ride straight out of the park, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Just after I arrived at the entrance to the campground, a car pulled in. A guy got out and started to walk over to the office to register. I walked over and introduced myself and asked him if he minded sharing a campsite. It was mutually beneficial for us and Olly agreed so we would each only have to pay $9. He registered and we paid. Then I asked the lady in the office about the lack of hiker-biker spots, she said that of course they had them and they were $6 each. Olly, being English, said that he had no problem with me backing out and paying only $6. The lady at the office suggested that instead of doing that I should just pay $6 instead of $9, we agreed and so we both ended up better off.
We headed over to the pitch and put our tents up. I met Amy, the girl he was travelling with. They were 30 days into a 45 day trip mainly using Greyhound. The reason they were in a car was that there is no Greyhound service up to the Grand Canyon and so they rented a car. We spent the rest of the evening together seeing the best of what the village had to offer and then spent a couple of hours talking and playing cards in the lodge.
Hanging out in Cameron
First view of the Grand Canyon
In the watch tower
Another view of the canyon
More of the canyon
At the visitor centre