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Our trip to Grand Canyon to celebrate Leah’s college graduation

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Our youngest daughter Leah graduated this year (in spring 2021) from college with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Graphic Design. My husband Ray and our family are so proud of her for this huge accomplishment! Ray and I have rarely been able to take our children on vacation throughout the years, due to the expensive cost. But because Ray and I received our stimulus checks this year, we were able to travel to Arizona to visit the Grand Canyon to celebrate Leah’s graduation. What an amazing blessing from God!

Ray, me, and Leah at Grand Canyon

Ray, me and Leah at Grand Canyon entrance

Due to Coronavirus, masks are required in all airports and at all times on the planes, covering the nose and the mouth. This was hard for me because they make me feel claustrophobic, hot, and sweaty. This is a heads-up for you if you decide to travel anywhere by plane, train, or cruise ship. I was greatly relieved that the masks weren’t required everywhere outside at the Grand Canyon, although they were at some viewpoints and in the shops and restaurants there.

Leah & Ray at the Kansas City, MO, airport in their masks

Leah & Ray at the Kansas City, MO, airport in their masks

Our flight to Dallas, Texas, actually got cancelled the evening before our trip! I still don’t know why, but it was likely due to the recent storms in Texas. When I got the alert on my phone from our airline about the cancellation, I had to quickly decide which alternate flights to choose to book.

We winded up traveling on three planes going there, instead of just two–and we almost missed our 3rd flight going to Flagstaff, Arizona, due to our plane arriving late! We walked fast to get to our final gate, and had to RUN toward the end as they were already boarding and about to close the cabin door. Thank God we made it! This just confirmed to me the importance of getting fit and healthy again.

Leah coming down ramp off plane to Flagstaff, Arizona airport

Leah coming down ramp off plane to Flagstaff, Arizona airport

I was a flight attendant for a short season years ago, and I reassured Leah that all the things we were experiencing were just part of traveling by plane! One the plane coming back to Kansas City, MO, our plane sat on the tarmac in Dallas, Texas, for 45 minutes! It’s important to stay in prayer as you travel, as anything can happen.

I’m an extremely organized person and as my coach Diane C. Ellis jokes, my to-do lists had to-do lists! I emailed these to Leah, too, and told Ray suggestions for packing. This is not my first rodeo traveling, so I already had my roller-board luggage for the plane (I try NOT to check luggage, as it can get lost) and knew many of the things we needed beforehand for the trip, such as:

  • plastic ziplock bags for liquids (4 oz. and less) and my makeup to carry on the plane;
  • travel toothbrush and toothpaste;
  • travel saline solution for my contact lens and the case, and extra pairs of contact lens;
  • a small, zippered laundry-type bag for my underwear, socks, and bras;
  • a plastic zippered bag for electronics such as chargers;
  • journals, pens, books, and a travel-size Bible;
  • plastic bags to cover shoes that were going in my rollerboard to keep the clothes clean;
  • kitchen trash can-size bags to keep dirty laundry in, separate from other clothes;
  • good walking/hiking boots (don’t wear flip flops!);
  • a binder that I kept all important documents in for the trip, which I’d printed out beforehand (plane itineraries and receipts; hotel info and receipt; car rental info and receipt, recommended restaurants from Trip Advisor, etc.).

Originally I had booked a hotel only a couple of miles from the Grand Canyon, but Leah found a gorgeous, big cabin at an even cheaper rate altogether for us to stay at, and I’m SO glad she did. We all loved it!

In the next post in this blog series, I will write and show pictures of the beautiful cabin. What another huge blessing it was! The KDPrime Vacation Rental agency has many beautiful vacation rental properties there. You can find out more here: https://www.kdprimevacationrentals.com/vacation-rental-home.asp?PageDataID=172699

our amazing cabin

our amazing cabin

I’ll also be blogging about different places we ate there and things we did, but this post is going to share the pictures of the Grand Canyon. Of course, pics can’t do it justice! It is just incredible! I strongly encourage you to go there, if you ever can.

I had done research before traveling there and read that it was best to buy your vehicle permit online for the Grand Canyon, so that is what we did.

I also made sure we all had hats, bought lots of water to take with us, and brought sunscreen for us to apply liberally over ourselves, so we would not get sunburned. I got several compliments from different people about my cute heart hat, which I bought from Amazon. It did a great job shading my eyes and face from the sun. I’d brought an extra hat for Leah in case she forgot hers (which she did), and she really liked it. It looked so good on her!

me in my heart hat

me in my heart hat

Leah, Grand Canyon

Leah, Grand Canyon

I bought gallons of water at the Dollar General store near our cabin, and we refilled them throughout the day. Ray’s dad had also warned us about bringing enough water there (his lesson from going there before). Be sure to stay hydrated! I also packed snacks for us for the day, such as different types of nuts and chips. 

Make sure you have plenty of water to drink at Grand Canyon!

Make sure you have plenty of water to drink at Grand Canyon!

Thankfully, the line at the Grand Canyon entrance was not long that mid-morning and we had no problem with our online booking, which Leah showed on her phone. 

line at Grand Canyon entrance

line at Grand Canyon entrance

You drive and park at different places throughout the canyon to see the many, breathtaking views. It was not that crowded when we went, and I was grateful for that. Ray heard many different languages from people there. People from all over the world visit the Grand Canyon.

Here we are at the first view. I could hardly contain my excitement!

me, our daughter Leah, & Ray at Grand Canyon

me, our daughter Leah, & Ray at Grand Canyon

Leah at Grand Canyon

Leah at Grand Canyon

Ray at Grand Canyon

Ray at Grand Canyon

me at Grand Canyon

me at Grand Canyon

As you walk toward the first view, there is a stone watch tower, in the style of ancestral Puebloan towers. This was intriguing, but unfortunately it was closed due to Coronavirus. Leah also got a great picture of it from a distance.

watch tower at Grand Canyon

watch tower at Grand Canyon

watch tower from distance

watch tower from distance

It took us about 1 1/2 hours to drive from our cabin near the airport in Flagstaff, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon National Park. I had rented us a SUV to drive when we arrived at the Flagstaff airport from Enterprises Car Rental and highly recommend them. Our black SUV looked almost new, and was big, very comfortable, drove great, got good gas mileage, and started with a button to push (instead of a key)–how cool! We all loved it. 

The great SUV we rented

The great SUV we rented

Ray loved driving our SUV that I rented!

Ray loved driving our SUV that I rented!

Just a heads-up, my iPhone GPS did not work in Arizona, nor Ray’s Samsung phone GPS, but Leah’s GPS did  work. (We use Sprint’s phone service. Leah has a Samsung phone, but uses Verizon’s service.) If you use Sprint’s service, you might consider getting GPS with your car rental there!

My iPhone GPS did not work in Arizona or Ray's, but Leah's GPS did. (We have Sprint service; she has Verizon.)

My iPhone GPS did not work in Arizona or Ray’s, but Leah’s GPS did. (We have Sprint service; she has Verizon.)

The canyon encompasses 277 miles  of the Colorado River and adjacent uplands. We went to the south rim. The north rim has a short season (closed to all cars from December 1 to May 15), is harder to get to, and is more wild and secluded. If you have respiratory or heart problems, be aware that the elevation is high (8000 feet/2438 m. in elevation).

One of the best times to view it is at sunrise and sunset, with the sun revealing the gorgeous, various colors on the canyon. We weren’t able to do that, but we still saw its magnificence and the variety of colors in the canyon.

There’s really no words to describe it. You just need to go! I took pics with my iPhone and Leah brought her new camera. One of the prettiest things to see was the blue water of the Colorado river. The canyon is a photographer’s dream!

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

blue waters of the river

blue waters of the river

Colorado river

Colorado river

Grand Canyon is incredible

Grand Canyon is incredible

The park protects and preserves all of human history and culture found within the park, from archeological sites which preserve ancient Native American structures and artifacts, to stories about exploration and the settlement of this region by European American explorers, miners, and pioneers.

In many of the little shops around the canyon, they sell different Native American and other items you can buy for souvenirs. We bought Leah a pretty stone necklace, sold by a Native American woman selling jewelry at one of the view points. If you can, buy from the locals to help them.

Native American woman selling jewelry

Native American woman selling jewelry

stone necklace souvenir we bought Leah

stone necklace souvenir we bought Leah

trees and shrubs in canyon

trees and shrubs in canyon

It was amazing to see the layers and depths to the canyon. It is 277 miles long, averaging 4,000 feet deep, and 18 miles wide, with over one million acres to the park.

I don’t usually have a fear of heights, but even so, it’s scary to look down into the depths! There is an average of 2 to 3 falls a year over the rim each year, so be careful! Ray and Leah got WAY too close to the edge of one cliff one time to look down and to take pictures. I was freaking out, telling them to COME BACK!

I honestly felt like Ray was trying to tempt fate. When Ray was a child and visited the Grand Canyon with his parents, he was swinging on one of the rails and almost fell off. His mother Judy screamed when she saw him do this, and his dad caught him before he fell, thank God! I told Ray he was NOT going to try this again with me and Leah, haha!

Leah watching her dad

Leah watching her dad

Ray tempting fate

Ray tempting fate

Ray and Leah too close to the edge of a cliff!

Ray and Leah too close to the edge of a cliff!

Leah way too close to the edge! I was freakiing out!

Leah way too close to the edge! I was freaking out!

Ray living life on the edge

Ray living life on the edge

You can see all sorts of unusual rock formations, cliffs, trees, and shrubs in the canyon.  Many of the trees looked very dry.

Unusual rock formations

Unusual rock formations

dry tree

dry tree

The canyon is home to desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lions, coyotes, gray fox, and a large variety of reptiles, birds and rodents. Leah was taking pics of black ravens (or a crow?) and lizards, which I found amusing. 

black raven or crow

black raven or crow

lizard

lizard

Elk and deer cross the roads throughout the canyon without blinking an eye at the traffic, and we even saw one deer come right up to the shopping area! As Leah and I watched out the SUV window at one deer laying beside the road, chewing on grass, it looked right up at us and we both busted out laughing.

deer at shopping center

deer at shopping center

deer looking up at Leah & me

deer looking up at Leah & me

There were a lot of dogs at the canyon with their owners. A couple of them came up, spontaneously, to Leah. She loves animals so much and I believe animals can sense this about her. Here was one dog who came up to her, which she happily petted. 

Leah making a new friend, petting a dog

Leah making a new friend, petting a dog

There were also beautiful flowers at the canyon.

beautiful flowers
beautiful flowers

bee on a flower

bee on a flower

I reminded Leah, Ray, and myself to LOOK at the canyon and admire it, not just take pics. I’m guilty of doing this so many times in my life at special events. But it gave me great joy watching Leah taking pictures with her new camera, that was a gift she received from her university for a photography class.

Leah taking pics

Leah taking pics

This time I deliberately paused to be present in the moment, and so did Ray and Leah. I asked Ray what he thought and he said it was spectacular. We were all amazed at God’s creation!

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Leah and Ray, Grand Canyon

Leah and Ray, Grand Canyon

Leah and me, Grand Canyon

Leah and me, Grand Canyon

me and Ray, Grand Canyon

me and Ray, Grand Canyon

Leah said she had a fun time on this vacation and was glad that she went. That was my prayer, for her to have fun, smile, and laugh, and she did. And Ray and I did, too! Thank you, Jesus!

Ray and Leah looking out on the canyon

Ray and Leah looking out on the canyon

Leah Jones, Flagstaff, Arizona

Leah Jones, Flagstaff, Arizona

Leah took this picture of me (below) when I wasn’t looking. A great, natural shot. In my next post in this blog series, I’ll write about the restaurants where we ate and other fun things that we did. 

me looking out at the Grand Canyon

me looking out at the Grand Canyon

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