When I woke up it was cold. Not as bad as it was in Kansas City at the time but regardless, still cold. The cabin had a small heater that was intermittent at best. It would cough on and cut out. I laid in bed thinking about this for a minute. I decided to get this cabin so I wouldn't go straight from staying in a nice bed to sleeping in sub freezing temps in my car. I wanted to ease into it if possible.
With a 30 minute drive from this cabin to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in front of me and the sun rising at 7:30, I needed to be there at 6:30 to catch the first light. That meant getting on the road at 5:45 so I could find a good spot. I pulled myself off the cot, got dressed and packed my car.
When I arrived at the park, it was not crowded. I thought I may have planned it right to avoid the crowds. I could deal with the cold temps, but hordes of tourists not so much. I found a decent location near the geology museum and set up my tripod. As I was snapping a few photos, another photographer walked past me and we started talking. She told me about another location called Yaki Point and you can only get to it via shuttle (I later figured out you could get there by hiking to it, just no driving). That was where I would be the next morning.
After the sun rose I was walking along the trail when I spotted two elk. They weren't hard to see because they were right next to me behind a bush. I stopped, slowly got my camera out and started taking photos. Then a few more came out, then a few more. Suddenly there were thirteen of them forming a semicircle around me. I was snapping away photos and wondering how this was going to play out. There was no where for me to go (the open part of the semicircle was the cliff). Then they started down the path, together. I followed from a close distance to see where we would end up. This went on for around 30 minutes until they grew tired of me following them and they went back into the woods.
After my nature walk I went on to search for a campsite. All were closed except one so I headed there. I was surprised to see a little over half of the sites occupied with campers. I hung my camping ticket on the post, cooked up some oatmeal and coffee, then set out to hike into the canyon.
I stared in at the South Kaibab trailhead. There are signs everywhere warning hikers that you will need to be rescued it you try to hike to the Colorado River and back in one day. They said it was tougher than running a marathon. Not wanting to be one of the statistics that had to be carried out, I went in about 3 miles (roughly halfway) and admired the view for a while then turned around for the uphill version of the hike. It wasn't easy but not nearly as hard as they made it out to be, I'm a little mad at myself for not trying it.
That evening I headed to the western edge of the South Rim to places with names like Hermit's Rest and Hopi Point for sunset. Great views, but mostly cloudless sunsets...and people everywhere. I didn't time it right. I don't know if there is a time when loads of people aren't leaning in to each other to get a photo. I even had a guy ask me to move so he could get a photo of his friend that jumped a fence and walked out on a rock that looked a little unsteady to me, but who am I to judge.
Back to the campground that evening the sky was stunning. I started a fire, made some soup and kicked back to look at some stars, not a bad way to spend an evening. After that I set up my "camper", see how I made my car into a camper here, and went to sleep. It wasn't bad at all and you can't beat the location.
When my alarm went off in the morning I could tell it was cold because everything I touched was freezing, but I wasn't! I turned my alarm off and my phone was so cold I'm surprised it still worked. The comforter I packed at the last minute was a godsend. I jumped out of the car and headed to the bus stop to get to Yaki Point. There were about 5 other people there which at 6am was a little surprising, but we all piled on and were off to THE sunset spot. It didn't disappoint. I understand now why it's so popular. There is an outcropping that goes more northeast than other places on the South Rim and as the sun rises, you get the first view of it over the canyon. This is pretty impressive. As more people started to show up and begin their hikes, the sun was fully up and my job was done. I packed up my gear and headed back to the campground for some more oatmeal and coffee then hit the road to Saguaro.