After a 4 hour drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon we checked into the lodge. Yavapai Lodge is actually a collection of little lodges all spread out inside the National Park. While not spectacularly luxurious, the lodge was lovely and clean and was right in the heart of the woods, with wild deer and elk walking around freely just outside the door! You also have to look out for moose, bears and mountain lions apparently but luckily we didn’t see any of those!
We got changed quickly and decided to go exploring. We hadn’t seen the Canyon on the drive in and assumed we were miles away from the ridge so we weren’t expecting much, we just wanted to have a little look around and find somewhere for dinner.
So there I was, driving down the road on the look out for some food and BAM! There it was! We were expecting at least some signs or something but it was just there by the side of the road, unannounced, understated and truly breathtaking. We couldn’t believe it! Seeing it in real life after seeing it so many times in photos was surreal, like meeting a celebrity! You can probably tell from all the exclamation marks that Jonathan and I were simply blown away.
I pulled the car over (very carefully by the way; it was my very first time driving on the wrong side of the road and there weren’t any barriers!) and we got out and took it all in.
We booked a table that evening at El Tovar, a restaurant near the Bright Angel trailhead. It was amazing and if you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a visit (if only for the desserts)!
The day after, we took bikes from Bright Angel Bicycles to explore the Canyon. It only cost around $33 dollars each for a whole day’s hire and the staff were all so helpful and enthusiastic, suggesting routes to us, helping us set up the bikes and making sure we set off in the right direction!
We took the easiest route, which took us around 2/3 hours to complete (but only because we were constantly stopping to marvel at the views!) Cycling really is the most amazing way to see it all and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s visiting the Canyon.
On this ride I also took the opportunity to spot where would be nice to do a little shoot of our own. As a photographer, you’re forever looking out for great locations and Yaki Point was my favourite. Its panoramic views of the Canyon were stunning and if you walk a little further down it’s really quiet and you’re not disturbed by other people.
We returned our bikes and headed to the visitors centre where we watched some cool educational videos on the Canyon’s history (did you know, it’s been getting deeper by the width of a sheet of paper every year and is now a mile deep? Isn’t that amazing?!)
I love a gift shop. Love a good bit of merch. I can sniff out a gift shop anywhere. So there I was, in the Canyon gift shop flicking through the photography books and one book recommended the best times of day to photograph the Canyon. Basically either sunrise or sunset are the best because you can capture more shadows in the rocks. This was was such a great tip so I decided 4pm would be a great time to go back to Yaki Point.
If you do ever want to go to Yaki Point yourself, be warned: it’s not accessible by car. The only way there is either by parking at the end of the road and going the rest of the way on foot, catching the free shuttle (which comes every 20 minutes) or by bike.
We opted for the car and foot option, which led to a really nice walk through the woods at sunset and us even meeting a family of elk on the road!
I will admit, shooting with a tripod is so hit and miss for me. Everyone always says ‘your shots are always in focus, you must have such a good camera’. But the fact is, even the best cameras need someone to focus them and believe me when I say there were tons of useless, out of focus shots I had to just delete when I got home!
On top of that, setting up the camera and then running into shot is a tricky preamble to a casual looking photo! Combined with the fact that Jonathan is terrified of heights meant there were quite a few shots of one- or both- of us looking stressed or flustered!
As a couple, we often move around a lot for more natural-looking shots but this isn’t the best thing to do when working with a tripod because it ruins the focus. We also usually end up laughing as Jonathan gets embarrassed or says something inappropriate which means the photo is out of focus again!
Anyway, after a lot of effort (and hundreds of deleted fuzzy shots!) we managed to get a few photos of us in this incredible location, which we will treasure forever.