Park Life via the Grand Canyon


A photo taken of the Grand Canyon south rim with a dusting of snow.

The Grand Canyon is a bucket list item. Now celebrating a centennial birthday, most can picture the multi-colored layers of rock carved incredibly from winds along the Colorado River. Enough reason to visit are the dozen endemic plants in the region, so after finishing the summer of 2014 in Yosemite, Nico and I set out on a long road trip with our new puppy, Daisy, heading for jobs at the Grand Canyon South Rim (no dogs allowed…) The beauty of the area is awe-inspiring and undeniable, but after the idyllic tent cabins of Yosemite employee housing, we found a lot about our new home disappointing. Living in Yosemite, most jobs were through hospitality titan Delaware North Company (DNC) so it was an easy transfer to rival conglomerate, Xanterra Travel Collection (Xanterra) at the Grand Canyon. We didn’t get to spend as long in Arizona as I would’ve liked, but this article is a personal comparison of the experiences.

We left from Yosemite and stayed in Fresno with Nico’s family, waking at dawn for the drive. We spent the first couple hours in a thick fog, as dense as if the interstate didn’t exist, until finally the October day warmed and we were greeted with sunshine. We crossed the Tehachapi Mountains near Bakersfield on State Route 58, heading for Needles, CA on the border of Arizona. Approaching five hours into the trip, we were already delirious. Excitedly skirting the southern border of the Mojave Desert, with nothing to look at except the long highway behind and in front, and the endless line of cars on it, we pretended to be pirates. On our way back we took the same road overnight, and this stretch was a long line of cross country travelers, lights creating a barricade across the dark, barren land. We made videos and jokes, taking pictures of the plants and sky changing, always trying to give our tiny puppy a comfortable spot among the clutter of all our belongings stuffed into Nico’s Chevy Tahoe.

In another five hours we were cheering as we reached the Arizona border, getting our first glimpse of the Colorado River. Nico was kind enough to pass me control of the wheel for a while, so I immediately took us on a detour towards Route 66, wanting to see the classic stretch of highway. Immediately I was on the wrong track and swerving into a pull out, intending to turn around. Stuck in the sand. Welcome to Arizona. Luckily there were quickly several people pulling over to help us. The first had a small car and wasn’t much help, but he jammed a bunch of logs under our tires and stuck around, for support and traffic control, as a truck with tow chains dislodged us. Back on the road we found Route 66 and continued. Our stop for the night was the Flagstaff Quality Inn, a clean room allowing pets for forty dollars a night, so we could prepare for our orientation the next day. When we finally arrived, we ordered