Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Magic of History and Television

*This post contains slight spoilers to season six of the the Starz show Outlander.

I'd always had a love of all things Scottish and reveled in a short trip to Scotland in 2011. However, my fascination grew greatly when I began watching the hit Starz television show Outlander in  late 2014. Outlander the show is based on the book series of the same name first published in 1991 by American author Diana Gabeldon. It chronicles the life of WWII nurse, Claire Randall as he departs her 1940s like and time travels to the  1740s Scottish Highlands. It is a work of historical fiction/fantasy against the backdrop of real historical events. 

While enjoying multiple seasons of this show, I sunk into the real history behind the episodes. The Outlander books and show are known for their mostly historical accuracy and watching real incidents  play out on screen left me thirsty to learn more and more about the actual events. Over time I drank up mid-eighteenth century Scottish History. Mostly the history surrounding the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion and the Battle of Culloden, one in which a group of Scottish rebels led by Prince Charles Stuart rose up against the British rule. 

Five years later, after my initial viewing of the Outlander series, I got to travel to Scotland to see many of the historical places discussed in the books and show. In fact, I planned about half of my month-long trip to the United Kingdom around Outlander. I journeyed to far locations such as Inverness, Loch Ness, and Culloden moor. Not only to see these locations from the show, but also feel the real history that the show was based on. 

Whilst walking around Inverness Castle I saw a statue honoring a women named Flora MacDonald. Never having heard of her, I read the plaque and did some additional research about her significance while in Inverness. I learned she was responsible for aiding Prince Charles Stuart escape to the Isle of Skye after the devastating loss for the Jacobite Rebellion at the Battle of Culloden. 

Four months after seeing that statue in person, while watching the current season six of Outlander I saw a scene beginning to play out on screen. I knew exactly who the character was and exactly what she was doing. Not from former knowledge of the show, but from just learning about the exact historical event on my trip to Inverness.

It was a scene of Flora MacDonald as she was helping the Bonny Prince Charlie, dress as a woman in disguise, flee to the Isle of Skye in a boat. The Scottish hold her as a hero for this act. 

A television show had taken me to Scotland, where my travels taught me even more than I already knew. Finally, I got to see what I learned play out on screen. It felt like a very immersive and full-circle learning experience. What I love about historical dramas is that they bring the past to you. I often yearn to travel to the past, but unlike for Claire that likely won't be possible for me. But, with shows like Outlander, and the courage to travel I might try and get a glimpse of what life was like for people before us. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Life list item #22: Skydive

For at least 15 years, this item has been on my list. My boyfriend Jason also had the ambition to skydive so once we got through the very restrictive times of the Covid-19 pandemic we booked our jumps with Skydive Tecumseh. 

Jason had been booked before, roughly two years ago and due to weather he was not able to jump at his scheduled time. Unable to get a weekend that worked, he got a refund and left the dream to later on. For his birthday in April 2021, I bought him certificate for a 14,000ft tandem jump and we looked out later into the summer to actually schedule our time. 

After months (well years actually) of anticipating and waiting we were about to enter a plane to jump  at 14,000ft above Napoleon, Michigan. 

When you tandem skydive, you are pretty much just along for the ride. Your tandem instructor is there to explain everything that is going to happen and what you will need to do. But, mostly they do everything. They are basically skydiving with a willing participant strapped to their chest. 

My tandem jumper was Scotti, a guy from Brazil. He was charismatic and lively and spoke with a thick accent that made me have to listen to him extremely closely. As he got me into my harness, he explained what exactly would happen. Of course this part is extremely important and it seems Skydive Tecumseh does a great job at making jumpers feel comfortable. 

When it was finally time to go myself, Jason, and his friend Temma, plus our three tandem jumpers got in the small plan that was made for about 10 passengers. We lined up in the rows, not side to side but front to back as our tandem jumpers would soon be attaching to us. The plane ride was one of my favorite parts, it still felt like there was control. It was a nice moment being next to Jason as we were having this adventure together. It was nice having Jason nearby, but a certain point all my focus was on Scotti and what he had to say and do. As much as I love my boyfriend, this new, strange man strapped to my back was MY WORLD right then! He held my life in his hands. 

When you are in the plane, there is pretty much no where to go but out, and the only way to get down is to jump. I'm sure if a person is clearly freaking out, they will gladly just fly you down. However, there's not tons of time and space to cower in a corner. 

Scotti had given me only two directives for our jump together. The first one was to dangle my feet outside the plane on the ledge then he would do the rest when it was time to exit. This is the moment I think I was most dreading. When you see the Earth below you, I was afraid this is when my mind would go crazy and want to pull back. NO CHANCE for that. Once my feet were out he had pushed his body weight forward and we came careening out of the plane. I was instructed earlier to put my head back and my legs bent between his. Our freefall was to be about 45 seconds, and I read that we were traveling at about 120 miles per hour. It felt like an eternity, and certainly felt like that speed.  It was absolutely freezing up there and barreling through the air didn't make it much warmer. I closed my eyes a few times, but was trying my best to keep them open so that I could see what we were dong. This 45 seconds was quite terrifying, not in a I'm going to splat on the ground  kind of way but, more of this is so loud, so fast, so cold, so intense kind of way. I couldn't really get my bearings or my wits about me so I just "held on" and hopped the chute would open soon. 

I knew when the chute opened we would be blasted back up into the sky and yes, that feeling was intense when it happened. Definitely yelled a few holy shits!! At this point it felt as if we were just hovering and the ground didn't seem to be getting closer to us very quickly. There were moments here I tried my best to relax, but it was still pretty freaky. It wasn't the fact that I was several thousands of feet of the ground it was just the movement of our bodies through the air.  When we were falling slowly it felt nice, then when Scotti would turn or steer us the speed would pick up and more holy shits would come out! 

I did get to see Jason in the air. Not close enough to make out his face or anything, but it was neat knowing he was falling not far away. The time it took us to fall the rest of the way was roughly five minutes. Scotti and I chatted a bit on the way down and he kept me informed about what would happen next with our landing. 

The landing was perfectly fine and I am pretty sure we landed on our feet. There's a few different good landings that can happen, and of course many bad ones. But, luckily ours was uneventful! 

The whole thing felt like being on all the roller-coasters I've even been on in my life, combined! I didn't exactly love all the sensations by body was going through, but being miles above the ground, floating through the air was indeed a rewarding experience.  I was asked a couple times what was my favorite part. It was hard to figure that out right away. I was extremely happy with the experience as a whole; being with Jason, being well taken care of by Skydive Tecumseh, the unique plane ride, the perfect weather. I'm ever so glad I got this item checked of my list. Jumping out of a plane is not an opportunity you get every day. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Life List Item #26: Go Sailing

This one has been on my list for many years (more than 10) and it was kinda a surprise that it happened. When spending time in Camden, Maine, Jason and I were planning out the short amount of time we had there. When Jason mentioned that getting out on the water was a priority of our trip, I figured I'd do it because he wanted to. We walked to the harbor to see where the boats come and go. There were a couple of companies with tables there advertising their short cruises. Turned out we walked up to one that had a tour leaving in a half hour and it was $50 per person to sail for two hours. With our great luck in timing, we booked our tickets on the Schooner Surprise. Turned out there were only two other couples with tickets for this ride, so it seemed like it would be a pretty low key ride. 

This is when I started to get very excited. For a reason beyond me, I didn't even think about sailing on this trip and I seemed to have long forgotten about this life list item. But as the gravity of the situation was becoming more clear, I was going to be out on the water, in a boat, with sails, I realized I was going to be checking off a dream that day! 

Our time on the water was perfect. We couldn't have asked for better weather, it was cool and fresh as we cut through the air. I learned so much about the boat as our captain shared the information about her. She was built in 1918 and had gone through six owners in her lifetime. Hearing about the craftsmanship that goes into crafting sailboats, I walked away with a newfound respect for them as a work of art. 

It felt tranquil out on that water. It was long enough and not long enough. Looking at the mansions lining the coastline, I was momentarily dreaming about being from a wealthy New England family and living in one of those homes, having our own boat. (I have since come back to Earth!) 

It was one of the more memorable times of our trip. The sights and sounds of that experience were relaxing and serene. 

We ended up heading over to the Mount Battie trail head right after our sail. Another one of Camden's must do activities. I had heard the trail up the small mountain was just one mile round trip, so I didn't expect much difficulty for us. I wasn't prepared for all the climbing on rock and scrambling across them. We both were not prepared with the right footwear, water, or anything else for this hike, but we made it through. It was more difficult of a hike that I had envisioned, but fun nonetheless and the views were spectacular. 

Our time in Camden was made even more special by the beautiful bed and breakfast we stayed in, the Elms of Camden. We were hosted by a great couple, had a tranquil, private room, and had a delicious breakfast in the morning. For my first bed and breakfast experience I was left with an amazing impression. It was fun getting to stay in an old colonial home. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Visiting Acadia National Park

Just as National Parks never do, Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine did not disappoint. Covering half of Mount Desert Island, Acadia became a national park in 1919.

We had about a day and a half in the park, so I'd researched a bit ahead of time to see which spots most people were recommending. In our first afternoon there, we drove almost the entire Park Loop Road, a 27 mile loop through the park, just to get a lay of the land and get acclimated to the the area. It also served as a way to see most of the park quickly, at least from a car window. 

After getting my bearings on the place in the first drive through, I made a little list of highlights that I wanted to go back and do on our second day.

Here's what we did and why I loved it:

Jordan Pond Path- A three mile, mostly flat hike around the entire Jordan Pond. It was a fun hike because it was pretty easy, but some rock obstacles and about a half mile of walking on raised wooden planks made it more dynamic. There are lots of things to look at and it was a very tranquil way to spend about 90 minutes. 

Beehive Trail-This is a trail that is on the extreme side. I read about it ahead of time, knew about as much as I could (not tons) and really wanted to give it a try. I knew it wasn't a very long hike and I also knew that there were iron handles and ladder runs installed in the side of the mountain to help you climb. It is pretty much like rock climbing without any gear on, like ropes or harnesses. My camera battery died about 30 seconds into this hike, so I just had to carry around a worthless piece of nothing the whole time! Check out this blog post for a really great description of this and pictures of the trail. It was a fun challenge and admittedly terrifying at times. Luckily it only took about 30 minutes or so to get all the way up, so the fright did not last too long. 

Bar Island Path-This is a small island right off of downtown Bar Harbor. It can be accessed by a sand bridge only in the time of low tide. People can walk across on the sand, but then that path is gone at high tide. So essentially we walked across the ocean floor. You need to be sure and walk back early enough before the tide comes in, or you'll lose your way back. Even when we walked back a part started to go underwater already. We hopped between a few rocks to not get our shoes wet. 

Bass Harbor Head Light House-This is located a bit away from the main part of the park, but was perfect for us because it was less than a 10 minute drive from where we stayed. This was the first light house I ever went to that you couldn't really stand on solid ground to see. In this case, we had to climb along the rocky shoreline along side the lighthouse to get a glimpse of it. We were there right when the sun was starting to go down, so it made for some heavily back lit photos. It's always fun stepping around on these rocky coastlines. 

Thunder Hole-The thunder hole was a cool stop. There are amazing rock formations to sit around on to experience great views and tranquility. Carved naturally out of the coastal rocks, waves have been hitting the small inlet for centuries. Because there is a small cavern at the bottom of the inlet, the combination of the waves hitting the rocks and the release of air from the cavern cause a sound just like thunder. You need to be here at the right time to hear and see the full effect, which is half way between low and high tide. We got a little action while there, but defiantly not the amazing powerful display that it's known for. 

Top of Mt. Cadillac-There is a hike to the top of this, but we just drove our car up. It's a popular spot to catch a sunrise, technically the first place to see sunrise in the U.S. I wasn't too enthusiastic about getting up before sun-up to do this. We went in the morning and it was quiet and tranquil, no wind at all. It's the highest point in Acadia and the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard. 

There are tons of accommodations around Acadia National Parks. Lots of small motels, bed and breakfasts, off site campgrounds, yurts, and cottages. Most area all located in the surrounding communities to the park, many in Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and more. I did some research, but from my computer in Michigan I feel I was only exposed to a fraction of the places to stay that there actually are. I thought it would be fun to try and stay in a small cottage while there so my Google search ended up pointing me to Acadia Cottages in Southwest Harbor. It was adorable, nice, private, and quite as a place to stay for two nights. The cottage was located about 15 miles from entrances to Acadia, so it meant about a 25 minute drive to and from the park a couple of times. I'd probably recommend staying a little closer if you can, but it wasn't too much of an inconvenience. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Visiting Portland, Maine

I didn't know anything at all about Portland, Maine before I went. It was just a city name I knew, and knowing that it is one of the bigger cities in Maine, I figured it was a necessary stop. 

As our first stop in Maine, Portland did not disappoint. I expected somewhat of a small, big city and with a population of about 66,000 I wasn't wrong. I chose a small boutique hotel called The Francis that I found on Expedia. I wasn't sure about the location, but the reviews described it as a good one. The area was pretty nice and close to things including restaurants and attractions like the Old Port. The Francis is a converted home, built in 1881. I'm attracted to unique accommodations, ones that you can feel some history in or at least feel like your room is a little different than your neighbors. It was quiet there, so for the most part coming and going felt like were were coming from a private home. It's the closest to living in a mansion that I'll ever get! 

We spoke with the hotel front desk clerk, who was a young Portland native. I enjoyed the opportunity to pick his brain about the general vibe of the city, including what it was like for young people living there. What I got was a description, not far from what I would have expected. A pretty liberal, inclusive town, lacking some diversity however. This is likely once of the most diverse parts of Maine, I still did not see people of many different ethnic backgrounds. 

It was nice to be in a place that publicly took the pandemic quite seriously, even still. There were several signs and banners in support of mask wearing and protecting each other. You could tell the city made a huge effort in marketing a protective stance on stopping the spread of Covid-19. 

We enjoyed some walking around, including in the Old Port area. The night-life areas felt bustling, but not too busy and it was vivacious and full of life. Being a very old city, there are many areas of roads that are still paved with brick and loads of historic architecture to admire. Portland was originally settled in 1632 and incorporated as a city in 1786.

I came up with Fort Williams as a Portland attraction that I wanted to check out. It was about a 15 minute drive out of the city center in the South Portland area. It was home to the famous Portland Light Head,  the oldest lighthouse in Maine, finished in 1791. The park also encompasses the decommissioned and mostly demolished U.S. Army post Fort Williams, which was a working fort in WWI and II. We had such a great time hopping around on the rocks along the coast of this area and exploring the ruins of the old army fort. There were also ruins of an old mansion, over taken by nature and time.

A trip to The Holy Donut was another fun thing to do. When there is a funky donut shop in town, it's always seems to be worth a stop. There were colorful, unique creations with fun flavors. They are actually made from potato and included some that were made from sweet potato. 

Lastly, steps away from our hotel, we came upon a unique drinking establishment. I was immediately attracted to the stone stairs leading down to what I described as "creepy" and "dundgeon-y." We walked down to what seemed like an old wine cellar, dimly lit with exposed bulbs and candles. I enjoyed a gin and tonic for my pre-birthday celebration.

Our one and a half days in Portland left me with good vibes about this cool, quaint, and hip city. Definitely a place I'd return or recommend. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

My Worry Limit

I want to put out there what I'm thinking. I can think of no clearer way than to just copy the words directly from my journal. So here you have it, unpolished and uncensored. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020 7:30 p.m.

Today I hit a breaking point with this Coronavirus crisis. For the past 6 days-since it started to get really real and life changes snowballed all over the country- I have thought about nothing but it. My mind is full of half baked thoughts that I can't fully reflect on, share, or do much with. My cell phone has been stuck to my hand. I've been obsessively checking Facebook newsfeed, messages, email, WhatsApp, Google News. In part to ease my idol mind, check on my friends around the world, and also stay informed quickly of the next big life change this crisis will inflict. Now, after I'm done with this entry, I'm going to put it all out of my mind until 10:30am tomorrow when I rejoin society. No more being buried in my phone or internet usage. I never thought it would be god to binge watch a tv show and let your mind go elsewhere. I started rewatching Stranger Things and it's been fun to get into their world for a while. 

Right now Coronavirus is spreading and we as a country-as a planet-need to "flatten the curve", stop from continued spikes in cases. This situation feels so surreal. State by state leadership is ordering closures of gyms, restaurants, bars, museums, libraries, bank lobbies. Basically anywhere large crowds can gather. Grocery stores are a bit weird. Mostly they are stocked, but are out of certain things. Stores are selling out of soap, sanitizer and toilet paper as people stock up. I don't know whether to try and stock up on food and supplies if we really get stuck in our houses or not to worry about it too much. I don't even know how to prepare for something like that. I make my grocery list based on what I need for 1 week, not weeks. I mean I know I could buy beans, dry goods, frozen vegetables. But I don't even want to spend lots of money. I don't even want to eat those things long term. Honestly, I'd rather stock up on junk food which can bring me some pleasure. Things that I'd crave if I really can't leave my house. Right now we are just advised to limit outings and stay home. To stay home and self-quarantine if you are feeling sick. You shouldn't go to work because you could be infected and not know it or not have symptoms. So we are all washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, practicing "social distancing"; staying out of places where people congregate. So far outside is still not off limits. :) It's about all we can look forward to doing.  

So how do I move forward after this mental capacity limit? Things are slow enough at work that I am looking at my phone too much to occupy my mind. I need to find projects to keep me busier. The past few days have been slow, but not dead, but I've been annoyed at people that come in. Thinking don't get too close, don't touch me, why are you people even out? But I need to remember that most people are totally fine. If I use the best practices of keeping my distance and washing my hands after working with someone I'll be fine. A lot of hype mixed with uncertainty leaves me as a big ball of nerves. I was wanting a break to reflect and think, lay low and watch t.v. But I am giving it to myself now and since I don't have to be into work until 10:30 tomorrow I'll do it more in the morning. The unknown of whether or not we will close has been getting to me. Whereas I don't want to lose income if I can't work, part of me just wants a break to not have to worry about being around people. But now that we have reduced hours I am getting a little bit of a break and the change of job has already happened-a bit. As for most of those public places closing, even after two days I am accepting it as the new normal. We will have to find entertainment elsewhere. And be conscious of finding joy by using our imagination a bit more. I need to stop being pissed at every little thing. Become more chill, but remember to keep boundaries and respect where I am too. 

I'm not suggesting me, or anyone get all lazy or stop being informed. We all need to do what is in our control. Washing our hands, sanitizing surfaces, being away from large congregations of people, stopping non-essential travel. But if we are doing those things, to the best of our ability there is nothing more we can do. Paranoia, overly worrying, and obsessively checking on the situation isn't going to help us. I'm coming to terms with some of the new temporary normal. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

When You Put Your Mind to Something

I have wanted to go back to Scotland ever since 2011 when I visited there for a brief 2.5 day visit. I loved it so much and Edinburgh quickly became one of my favorite placed I'd ever visited. 

Year after year I prioritized other places, ones I'd never been to, above returning to Scotland for my travels. I never could quit thinking about Scotland. Late last year I decided 2020 would be the year and I made this as a motivator. 

I put my mind to making it happen. Nothing was going to stop me. Until the bizarre happenings of the past few weeks permeated our lives.

It's unclear with the uncertainly swirling all around us whether my trip to Scotland in May will be possible or not. With the feeling of hopelessness washing over me, I'm thinking not. What kind of travel restrictions will be in place then? What will be shutdown?

I'm sure nearly every single person has an instance of something they were looking forward to that will be cancelled due to Coronavirus. My situation is mild, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing. I really thought this was going to be another great instance of putting my mind to something and getting it. Turns out something completely beyond my control is stepping in and putting a stop to it.

As a person who loves to travel this situation leaves me feeling deflated, hopeless, and stuck. This situation is unprecedented for most of us and a first time experience. We can't have predicted it or had any expectations for how we would feel. This is what it feels like to me, although I do feel thankful that I am healthy, safe, have food and other provisions. Fortunately, if I am to be off work, I do have a financial safety net. For some others, and in other crisis like situations, this isn't always the case.

Coronavirus aside, do you have a dream of a trip in your future? Take these tips for making it happen.

1. Figure out what sacrifices might need to be made- I usually like to take two trips per year, but when I set my mind on Scotland I figured that due to the cost I may only be able to afford one trip and that was fine with me.
2. Make fun visual reminders-I made that picture to put on my computer desktop when I decided that I really wanted to do this. I also have a Celtic ring that I like to wear to give me a fun reminder that I'll be going to Scotland.
3. Set aside money-Any extra money that I am earning on top of my normal paycheck I was putting in an account that I named "Scotland". I was dedicating extra savings to make it happen.
4. Make plans to remove barriers-If you need to save up vacation time, arrange child care, or work around schedules, make a plan to make this barriers possible to overcome. If you really set your mind to it, you can over come all barriers.

This Coronavirus barrier is a big one for me. One that I can't overcome with planning, will power, or positive thinking. I still may make it to Scotland in 2020, but that is unknown at this point. For now, I'll focus on the wonderful memories and images that I do have of my brief trip to Scotland in 2011.

*Hang in there, be safe, be well. Be there for each other. This too shall pass. And in the meantime lets think about those who have already lost their lives to COVID-19 and their families. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

For two nights between days at the Grand Canyon, Rababe and I stayed in Williams, AZ, 60 minutes from the park.

When we checked into our hotel, we got an earful from Scott, a fellow midwesterner, who was working the desk. He was full of suggestions on how to enjoy the area. We got our things unloaded and headed off on foot to the main town area, simple walking distance from the Red Roof Inn.

We found some fun shopping. Several shops full of any type of item with Route 66 on it you could want. The stores are blasting music from the era gone by, the 1950s, when people would road trip through small towns like this one.

We found a old west setup complete with a jail, courthouse, saloon, and more. We ate dinner in Route 66 diner, again nostalgic of the 50s.

One of the random small suggestions Scott had given us was to see the cowboy show. From Williams to the Grand Canyon is the Grand Canyon Railway. Visitors can buy round trip tickets for this one-of-a-kind historical experience. The train takes you into the park and several hours later, brings you back. Part of this experience is the cowboy show, before departure. We were not riding the train but since the show took place out in the open before passengers boarded, we could just blend and no one would know the difference. It was fun and a cool historical experience.

We left Northern Arizona from Williams on our final day of our 4-day road trip. It was suggested to us that we take a detour back and head through the mountain town of Jerome, which we were told was a ghost town. Once we got there it proved to be more of a quaint, mountain town with lots of classy and fun shops, places to eat, and nice views. As explained by a local, to constitute a ghost town a place must have 15% of less of it's original population. Jerome is small, but still alive and well. The only ghosts we saw were the Halloween decorations, which the town seemed to have in great supply due to their festive spirit. It made for a fun place to eat lunch, get some rest from driving, and experience a twisty mountain road. (The last bit being the least fun part!)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

One of the Wonders of the World

My trip to the Grand Canyon began in Phoenix, Arizona where I flew in to stay with my Moroccan sister, Rababe. We rented a car in Tempe and headed out on our Arizona road trip. It would first take us to Sedona (more later), but eventually we made it to the Grand Canyon.

We waited in a short line of cars to pay our $35 entry fee, which would be good for 7 days. Our first stop was the super busy (at least the parking lot) visitors center so we could get our bearings within the park. I'd done some research and solicited some advice from friends, but without being there it's hard to make a concrete plan. We first headed to Mather Point, 5 minutes from the  visitors center and the most popular outlook of the canyon. Once we headed to the edge, I grabbed Rababe's hand in joy. This was it! The Grand Canyon.

Grand it is. I was completely mesmerized by the view. The colors and the patterns are simply majestic. It's unreal to think about how this was formed. It's impossible to comprehend, so it's best to just admire and awe in the grandiose view of this incredible natural wonder.
We then traveled to the market and the village. There was some shopping and sightseeing there. It seemed necessary to get the full experience, plus we had lots of time. We knew we had a second day here so we headed out of the park about 5:00. We were staying in Williams for a couple of nights. (More later)

When we discussed how we wanted to spend our second day we decided we wanted to catch a sunset at the Canyon, so we headed there later in the day. We parked at the village and took one of the 4 free shuttle bus tours on the red loop, to the east of the park. We got off a few stops in and wanted to walk a couple miles on the Rim Trail. Once we found a nice spot we camped out there and awaited the sunset. It was early at 6:07pm. We had a peaceful time.

We got on the shuttle back at a good time to beat the rush of the many other people needing rides back after watching the sunset too. This is a pretty popular activity at the park.

Now that I've been there I feel full of advice so here it is!

1) I recommend staying overnight in Williams, AZ. This town is called "Gateway to the Grand Canyon". It was one hour drive to the park on a simple, straight road. There is lodging in the park as well as in the village of Tusayan (5 minutes from park entrance), but Williams is likely the least expensive option and it offers a fun and interesting side experience. It's located on historic Route 66 and the town plays up this distinction well.

2) If you are not up for any kind of major hiking (descending into the canyon) or you are not prepared with proper food, water, and gear-walk the Rim Trail. It's a long trail that literally outlines the upper rim of the canyon. You can walk for hours with the canyon directly to the side of you, seeing various different views of the Canyon along the way. It is paved in spots and is dirt in spots. It's perfectly marked and easy to enjoy.

3) If you just choose to hit hot spots walk down the Rim Trail a bit at those hot spots. That way you can get away from the majority of people and experience the Canyon without a railing. Just don't fall in!