The booth seats were red leatherette, and the coffee refills were never-ending.
As we ate our breakfast, Elvis watched over us from sepia photos on the walls. Our diner of choice, just off Route 66 in Arizona, couldn’t have been more quintessentially and stereotypically American if it tried.
We still had a long drive to reach our destination that day, so a hearty breakfast (and plenty of caffeine) was more than necessary. I wasn’t the driver (I’m yet to take that particular leap on this side of the pond!), but I was itching to arrive at our next stop.
From the car park where we stopped three hours later, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. If I had wanted to jump to conclusions, I might have even been initially disappointed. But we walked a few steps further, past the trees and towards the edge and then – awe. Sheer awe. In front of us was one of the world’s most famous natural wonders: the Grand Canyon.
I stared, and stared, and then stared some more. I couldn’t not stare at this beautiful landscape laid out before me. When I think about it now, all I really did for hours on end that afternoon five years ago was simply stare in awe at the red rocks beneath a blue sky littered with puffy, storybook clouds.
As the afternoon wore on, and the sun slowly got lower in the sky, the canyon seemed to shape shift in front of our eyes, transforming from pink to red to orange and back again. Seeing the Grand Canyon was a bit like star gazing: the longer you look, the more you see.
The variable layers of rocks and scrub close at hand. The undulations and waves on the opposite rim. The craters and cliffs and hills that make up the canyon itself, a cleft in the earth that stretches a mile below to the riverbed of the powerful Colorado River.
We didn’t hike into the canyon itself, or explore away from the highly-visited South Rim area (although I did watch nervously on a few occasions as my husband walked to the edge of a precipitous cliff edge).
Our whirlwind road trip through the desert only allowed for an afternoon at the Grand Canyon, and in the years since, I’ve dreamt of returning, of seeing this natural wonder again, taking the time to experience it slowly, up close.
But whether you spend a day or a week there, hike into the canyon and raft on the river, or simply stand at the edge and stare in wonder – like I did – you can’t deny the draw of nature, the thrill of seeing such a stunning natural landscape with your own eyes.
My husband and I sat together at the edge of the Grand Canyon past sunset, as the crowds began to dissipate, torn between knowing we had a long drive to our next stop on the road, and wanting to soak up every last moment. By the time we left, the air was dark, in that way you only experience when surrounded by nature, far away from cities and towns.
Our wild west road trips took us to plenty other sights that summer, natural and otherwise – Sedona, the Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Tombstone – but none could come close to the awesome beauty of an afternoon at the Grand Canyon.
Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon, or would you like to? What’s the most spectacular natural wonder you’ve come across on your travels?
Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!
This post is sponsored by Grand Canyon Deals, but – as always! – all opinions are entirely my own.