I’m almost ashamed of myself for not having been there.  From our home base of Santa Barbara it’s just a nine-hour drive.  Nine hours is nothing.  We drive the eight hours back and forth from Lake Tahoe all the time.  20 hour driving trips aren’t out of the question for us.  Heck, we’ve driven from one end of the US and back.  We love driving trips.  And one of the natural wonders of the world is just a nine-hour drive away.

The Grand Canyon.

What makes having not been there even worse is considering how close we’ve been.  Two years ago we spent three days in Sedona.  Three days in Sedona.  To get to Sedona we went through Flagstaff.  Flagstaff is practically the official jumping off point for the Grand Canyon.

When we set off on our 6 month road trip at the beginning of 2009 w planned to close out our adventure by visiting 2 great icons of the American Southwest.  The Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam.  By the time we were closing in on Santa Barbara however we were running out of steam and running out of money.  While the Hoover Dam was in our direct path to Santa Barbara and was merely a stop, the Grand Canyon was out of our path and required more than a stretching of the legs.

We reasoned that it was an easy trip.  Just a few hours away.  Two years later we still haven’t been.

Spring and summer in our home of Santa Barbara are barely distinguishable.  But I’m well aware of the fact that May is one fine month to be traveling.  And today my mind is escaping.  My body is here in the American Riviera.  I could do far worse.  But my mind is at the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is so well-known by name that it’s easy to gloss over some of the statistical wonder.  It’s elevation differential is more than 7,000 feet.  When I’m standing on the beach in Santa Barbara and look to the Santa Ynez Mountains I go from sea level to no more than 3,000 feet.  So I’m talking more than double.  Although I now live in Santa Barbara I grew up in Indiana.  I can think of absolutely nothing from the midwest to give me any type of spatial context for what it’s like to span 7,000 feet in elevation.

You have to start somewhere and I’m starting in Flagstaff.  Most do.  90 Minutes from Flagstaff and we’re at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Most people who say they’ve seen the Grand Canyon have seen the South Rim.  It’s by far the most accessible.  5 Million people visit the Grand Canyon each year.  Almost all of them see the South Rim.  If 5 Million other people think something is worth traveling to see I’m going to see it too.  People debate whether you should tour places on the well beaten path or if you should go off the path.  I think the well beaten path is that way for a reason.  I’m going to see it.  But I’m not stopping there.

Lodging is a big question.  I’m torn in two directions.  With so much area to cover you want to hang loose and take a move along the trail approach when it comes to lodging.  Yet with kids there is nothing like settling in.

So on a Grand Canyon Trip I’m looking for a little of both.  There will be a few one-night stays along the trail as we cover some ground.  But I’m also looking for a place to settle.

There’s something about the desert that makes a truly good resort feel great.  A nice pool, sure.  But a spa is what we’re looking for.  A massage and a cool glass of white wine.

As we explore the Grand Canyon I have always thought that it made sense to start on the beaten path–the South Rim from Flagstaff–and then take the road less traveled, eventually ending up back on the beaten path at the end of Zion National Park in Utah.

I’m not going in the middle of summer.  That’s when everyone goes.  Neither am I going in winter.  I want to get off the beaten path and the snow in winter will close too many of those less trodden roads.  Fall is almost perfect.  Yet not as perfect as Spring.  May.  Yes, is there a finer time to travel than May?  That’s what my mind is saying to me this morning anyway.

I hope that before I die I’ll raft the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  This is a must do with some of my buddies.  Or, even better, with my kids when they’re grown.  But a family trip with toddlers does not include white rapids.  Helicopter Trips.  Jeep Trips.  Sights.  Cool water holes.  And hotel pools.  The majesty of our surroundings.

I don’t know when we’ll get there.  But today it’s my mental escape.

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