Monumental Serendipity: Grand Canyon, Arizona

Sometimes Things Work Out

We’re driving Southeast from Zion National Park towards Flagstaff, and I’m on route patrol. In an attempt to break free from the destination-centric navigation of Google maps, I’m doing it the old-fashioned way – road Atlas in hand. Surveying the area I can’t help but notice – the Grand Canyon is right, there! And Emma has never seen it. 

But it’s only early April and internet warnings and informational road signs alike inform us that the East entrance to the South rim is not yet open for the season. The only route in is a 4-hour detour down to Flagstaff, then an about-face North on HWY 94. With over 20 hours of drive time behind us, that detour isn’t in the cards. But, we do have bikes.

There is something in the mind of cyclist that loves rule-breaking. The bicycle is vehicle of freedom. We grew up riding around detour signs, climbing the occasional fence and chasing the sunset down “dead end ahead” signs. And so I decide that a park entrance closed to traffic may welcome our breed. After all, just a few miles beyond that sign, the road is open and cars roll freely - along the Grand Canyon, free of crowds of the peak season, snow melted, sun-shining. 

Outside the entrance, we use the traffic turn-out to ditch the van and switch to bikes – always the preferred means of travel. The adventure-twinged departure (what awaits?!) is all the sweeter knowing how that gate and turn-about might otherwise be marinated in disappointment. 

We pedal uphill into a warm high-plateau headwind for 20 minutes when, without warning, the world opens up beyond us. We’re welcomed by the Canyon, basked in baking sun, cars forbidden, no human in site. Our gapping jaws rest on helmet straps. This scheme worked!  

We pedal calmly from look out to look out for the next hours. Beyond another traffic-gate, cars appear but they’re minimal and the early season offers a contrasting calm from the typical summer buzz of a national park. 

Bikes need no parking, so after our final stop at a viewpoint, we ditch them on the side of the road and find our seat in solitude on the rim. Alone to soak in the vast expanse of air and rock below. We naturally speak in whispers, an unspoken agreement to preserve the silence. These moments are to be savored. 

Our spirits calmed and appetite for photography satiated, we roll towards the car in peace. Cresting our final rolling hill, we find a tailwind. Enthusiasm and triumph surge, and we stomp on the pedals, running out of gears as we fly towards the car. Once again, hurrying off to nowhere, smiling. 

- More From Loren & Emma's Adventure To Come -

Images by: Emma Simonson
Words by: Loren Mason-Gere

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