When I was planning out our trip and making reservations, we were supposed to be coming to the Grand Canyon area from our hiking Chiricahua National Monument for a few days. The campground we would have been staying at (if you are new here and missed the previous posts, we arrived at Chiricahua just in time to see it shut down and evacuated due to a forest fire so we had to scrap our plans and come up with a plan 'B') did not have electricity, water, bathrooms nor allowed solar showers (although I'm not sure why) so the PLAN was to get to Grand Canyon and stay one night in Mather Campground because they had pay showers.
Now, I'm not a fan of campgrounds. I do not enjoy being packed into campsites like sardines, I don't like having neighbors that close, nor do I like the noise that goes on late into the night or cars driving through all night long. BUT... Mather Campground has showers. Yes, you have to pay for them but 8 minutes for $2 sounded great to us when it was going to be our only shower that week.
We got to the campground and stopped at the front desk. I knew we were precisely 1 hour early for check-in but I asked if it was ok to drive through the campgrounds and get my bearings and figure out where our site was? They instantly got defensive. They immediately shot words at me like a machine gun - I was NOT to stop at the site. I was not to EVEN SLOW DOWN at the site. I absolutely was NOT to bother or even TALK to the people currently on the site. But yes, I could drive through... and they AGAIN admonished me I could NOT SPEAK TO ANYONE.
Okay...? I didn't want to. I just wanted to see where our site was because I hate driving to new places and not knowing where I'm going.
And you know what? NO ONE WAS THERE ANYWAY! They were already long gone and checked out. So it was a moot point.
Even with the site empty, we couldn't check in anyway so we headed into the Market area for a bite to eat (the first 'fresh' and cold foods we'd had since the previous Friday!). Then we started in on our site-seeing.
I was going to post a photo of the shuttle buses here - but I just went through my files and didn't see it.
The park is trying to figure out how to handle the 'too many' visitors it gets every year because it was never really designed to handle that many vehicles coming into the park. So they have free shuttle buses that run through the park and stop at various points.
You will get a map when you arrive and it's fairly easy to follow; it's all color coded. The only things to remember is that some stops are 'double' bus stops; you have to get off one and get on another to get where you are going. Follow the map and follow the signs posted at the stops.
The other thing to remember is that the buses can be packed full of people and more need to get on so "move on back, people!" Seriously. As you make your stops, be sure to continually filter to the back if you are standing and hanging on to the poles.
Oh, and most of the bus drivers are friendly and cheery but there was one... oh that one. HE IS A JERK. He even makes a pathetic 'joke' during the drives that everyone in the park needs to be friendly... except the bus driver. He's an asshole. Seriously. A sarcastic, mean, absolute jerk. But the rest? Pretty awesome. Oh - and they DO NOT all run the same rules on the buses. So on most of the buses they use both the front and back doors. Mr. Jerk will (literally) SCREAM at you if you attempt to board the bus by the back door... or if your shoes are on the white line by the doorways... or if you aren't so close your body parts are squished up sexually next to the stranger beside you. The rest of the drivers are much better at getting everyone to follow rules without being an ass. Just that one. I heard MANY people discussing this guy throughout the day.
You can walk between all the different parts of the park as well as taking the shuttle or driving; and I figured we'd do a bit of both walking and shuttle riding. And we did. But what I didn't foresee us doing was the crazy thing we did.
Because the Grand Canyon is so overly 'touristy' I honestly didn't think we would do any hiking at all since we didn't plan an actual all-day hike down into the canyon with a group or anything. We would go with our little daypacks and purse; maybe a couple bottles of water and our cameras. Play tourist. Save the hiking for some of the less visited lookouts later that week.
Right after arriving, the first thing we ended up doing was going to Bright Angel Trail and before I knew it, we were hiking it. Whaaaaat? How did this happen?
BEAUTIFUL views and great trail - but remember, going DOWN is optional. Coming back up is MANDATORY. :)
We didn't hike far - but far enough. Hot, tired and dusty... thus we started our day at Grand Canyon!
The pack mules have been in use in the Grand Canyon for almost 125 years. They are housed and live right in the park. They share the same trail(s) so when they approached we all moved to the wall to let them by.