Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ

May 7, Monday

The drive from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon is short and easy, a straight shot up 64. When I arrive at the entrance booths there’s virtually no waiting to get in, but for it being before Memorial Day, it’s still a lot of people inside the park – only to be expected with a popular tourist destination I suppose. The entrance fee is $30 for a 7-day pass like most national parks, although with my $80 Annual Pass all I need to do is wave my driver’s license along with that and I’m in.

I’m not camping inside the park. I follow 64 east along the canyon rim, passing several view points that I’ll go back to visit without the Casita at a later date. My turnoff is unmarked and unassuming, a dirt road with a turnaround and solitary picnic table. On maps this is Fire Road 310, and it bounces along to the south for a short ways until it leaves the park boundaries and enters Kaibab National Forest, where boondocking is allowed.

I pass the first network of sites just past the cow grate boundary, to an open field where fire damage has claimed most of the trees. There’s a rough logging road here to the right with a single camp site along it. Privacy, good cell signal, ample sunlight for my panel, and only minutes away from the park. This’ll do! I park with an eye to the standing dead trees, having one fall on my rig would put a crimp in my day.

Later in the evening, I take a walk down the logging road. The clouds are breaking up which bodes well for tomorrow’s explorations.

May 8 & 9

The next morning I make a brief stop at the Visitor Center. Brief, because it’s busy and the energy of all the tourists in a rush grates on me. Sometimes I enjoy people watching in a place like this, but I’m not feeling it today.

I learn what I came to find out: there are shower facilities on site and I get directions to them. The showers at the “Camper Services” building are nothing to write home about, but I do get clean, which was the point.

Afterward I play tourist myself, taking my truck out to some of the less popular pullouts for photos. After a simple dinner back at the rig I drive out to Grandview Point, the closest point to camp for sunset. The Grand Canyon is best viewed during the golden hours, that is, the hour after sunrise and before sunset. The lighting conditions then really make the color in the canyon walls pop, and the longer shadows add depth to a view so vast it almost doesn’t look real.

It becomes a trend. I work at my computer during the day, and go out to the canyon for the golden hour. On the 9th I take my poi with me and do some dancing near sunset, what a great backdrop!

May 10

There’s this phenomenon I’ve heard described before, I like to call it ‘wonder fatigue’. In the RVing world it would be put like this: When you’ve been traveling for a while and see amazing things on a regular basis, they stop seeming so amazing.

The Grand Canyon is amazing, it’s listed as one of the seven wonders of the natural world after all. Many people say it’s their favorite national park. I love it, but it’s not my favorite… and I blame wonder fatigue. I see an amazing viewpoint and think that it’s fantastic. Then I hike or drive to the next viewpoint, which is also amazing, but it’s the same type of amazing as the last one, if you get what I mean. All the viewpoints are different, but they share a lot of similarities. They start blurring together. Someday I’ll have to take a backpacking trip below the rim, because I suspect seeing the canyon from a different angle will bring back the wonder.

If I shared a photo of every single viewpoint I visited during my eight day stay here, I bet a lot of people would look closely at the detail in the first one, and spend less time on each consecutive one, because of the similarity.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, I’m not going to share every photo of every scenic overlook I visit on this trip. But here’s Moran Point, which I stayed at this evening for close to two hours watching night descend. It was a pretty special experience.

May 12

I think a lot about authenticity when I’m making content for IO. I want to present things in a way which is pleasing to readers and viewers – because that gets the most attention which increases my visibility which attracts new readers and viewers. But I personally hate it when bloggers/vloggers portray full-time travel as an continual effortless vacation. That kind of disinformation gets newbies into a lot of trouble when they start RVing and discover it’s not always a walk in the park. And it’s all too easy to make RVing look like a fairy tale at a place like the Grand Canyon.

Today I take the short hike out to Shoshone Point to get this photo, which ends up being a big hit on the IO Instagram and Facebook accounts:

It embodies what everyone wants to imagine the RV lifestyle to be: a carefree, joyful exploration of a beautiful place. What the picture does not portray is the amount of time I spent picking the exact perfect location and lining up the shot using my mini tripod and the timer feature on my phone, and how uncomfortable it was sitting on that rock ledge – not to mention the pine sap everywhere. The result looks whimsical and natural, but in reality it was anything but. I worked hard for this photo, it wasn’t just an accident.

RVing in general works much the same way. It may look like a carefree way to live on the surface, but there’s a lot of work that goes on to attain and then sustain the lifestyle (especially when you’re still working age), and it’s not always a comfortable way to live. So for you future RVers who are following my blog for inspiration and knowledge know this: You will have moments on the road that reflect the magic and serenity of these photos. But you will also have unsexy, daunting, frustrating moments on the road too.

Still, with the right preparation and attitude, the good moments will outweigh the bad.

May 13

Rim Trail time! The rim trail is a paved, easy trail that yes, follows the edge of the south rim offering gorgeous views pretty much the whole length. It runs for miles, and if you want to walk a large section you can leave your car at the visitor center, take a shuttle out to the west end, and then walk back to your vehicle.

I don’t want to bother with the shuttles, so after lunch I drive out and park at one of the pullouts along the rim where the trail runs past, and walk out and back.

While walking (I don’t really consider this a “hiking” trail), I spy a man with his hammock strung up right at the edge. “Wow, you have the right idea.” I tell him. He asks if I’d get a picture of him, which I do, and then I go back to grab my hammock which I always carry in the truck for just such an occasion.

I walk the trail until I find a suitable spot: two dead trees that are still intact enough to hold my weight. I like that I won’t be damaging sensitive bark on this well-traveled route where potentially lots of visitors hang hammocks in the trees. About an hour later, my new friend passes me on the trail, his hammock put away in his pack. “Want a picture?” He asks. Of course I do!

What a view, huh? Hammock rules vary from park to park because of differing vegetation types. Not all areas within the Grand Canyon allow hammocks, and the tree straps need to be at least 1” wide here. Always check the rules before you hang your hammock at a national park, and please be kind when you do: don’t use nails to hang your hammock, don’t leave it up unattended (wildlife can become snared in it), and don’t place it where you’ll block visitor access to anything.

Learn More

  • Start Here – With my webpage redesign comes a hub for new people to the site and RVing to learn more about what I do here, and more about this lifestyle. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should!
  • Boondocking Answers – Everything you need to know to get started boondocking, including how I find beautiful free camping locations like the one in this post!

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

27 Comments

  1. Randylj on June 1, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Thank You Becky! That was about 40 years ago! It’s a wonder how time flies! Can’t wait to read about your new ‘Teardrop trailer’. That’s on my ‘Wish List’ also. RandylJ



    • Becky on June 9, 2018 at 5:27 pm

      You’re welcome Randy! I’m looking forward to the teardrop too!



  2. (Ms) Randyl Johnson on May 31, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Becky,
    Even though I’ve past retirement age, I really enjoy your posts and I just finished reading your excellent eBook that I purchased for my Kindle on iPad: “Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget: Go Small, Go Now.” I worked at the Grand Canyon in the Fall of 1976 for the Fred Harvey Concessionaire and remember the fun of ‘snowshoeing’ to my job one morning on the South Rim. Since then I’ve visited many times and once had the opportunity to fly out over the Rim in a helicopter. What an awesome’ drop off’ to which my stomach protested! I love your travel maps and will keep following your adventures. A Teardrop trailer sounds wonderful! Randyl J (Full-time Solo Female RV traveler in soggy North Carolina).



    • Becky on May 31, 2018 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks for following along and I’m glad you enjoyed my guide! I bet working at the Grand Canyon was a lot of fun.



  3. Mr Wheat on May 29, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Great pics, enjoyed the description of getting the Facebook shot, with pine sap included.



  4. Dawn in Michigan on May 27, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    Love your Moran Point shot…and the rest too. Especially the hammock image…don’t own one, but this shot makes it looks fabulous! Good advice about hanging one too. I’ve always wanted to walk down to the bottom, stay the night and come back up the next day. It’s the coming back up part that seems to keep me from trying though. I walked down, in the late 80s, one mile with my then 60 something parents. Took us 30 minutes to walk down, stopping at places to take pictures, and 3 hours to walk back up, stopping at places to gasp for air and drink water. But I sure wanted to keep going down, to see what was around the next corner. Now I’m in my 60s and still wonder…h



    • Becky on May 31, 2018 at 10:41 pm

      I love my hammock! I don’t get to use it as often as I’d like Dawn, but I sure am glad I have it for moments like this.



  5. Red Cloud on May 26, 2018 at 12:35 am

    I’m glad you mention there is work to RV-ing and it is not all glamour. It can take a lot of time to properly research the next camp site, route you take, dump stations, maintenance, setting up camp, shopping, you may go out of the way and spend a lot of time/gas trying to find boondocks sites, driving. These are all things that you don’t have to do when you have a when living in a home without wheels & could be spent on higher level activities. And driving and being out in hot sun going from place to place can get quite tiring.

    It also can be tough to be on the road alone so much and constantly going from place to place to place to place, and not feeling any roots in community. Even after week long road trips sometimes I’m ready to go home!



    • Randylj on June 1, 2018 at 10:06 am

      VERY Cool Name, Red Cloud! I imagine the original one would LOVE the Grand Canyon area! Maybe a little of his spirit is around Flagstaff, even though he was Lakota.



  6. Jodee Gravel on May 25, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    The photos you chose are stunning. I’d love to spend some extended time at the Canyon to avoid the rushing energy I’ve experienced on our two visits. Still amazing, but not the peace of multiple hour sunsets. I had no idea there was boondocking that close to the rim. We too get overwhelmed with the wonder we see, often taking intentional breaks in between to avoid saturation. Everyday isn’t rainbows and unicorns for sure, still love most every minute 🙂



    • Becky on May 25, 2018 at 9:43 pm

      Yes, the park doesn’t make it very clear that there’s free camping nearby which I guess makes sense – the more people that stay there the greater the chance for problems to arise and the more cleanup and work that needs to be done. Definitely check it out when you go back and stay longer!



  7. Cinn on May 25, 2018 at 12:26 am

    I love this post! Keeping it real. 😉
    Great photos of the canyon. and good to learn about the “Camper Services” building.



  8. Traveling Troy on May 24, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Great Post, Becky. You blog is looking awesome! Every time I see pictures of the Grand Canyon, it reminds me of the time my brother and I pulled up to the entrance (he was driving) and he didn’t want to pay the entrance fee and said to me “walk”. Ha! The jerk! Still haven’t been, but I’m hitting the road full-time in early June, so we’ll see. Heading to higher elevations for sure. Houston’s 50 elevation makes for hot days and night. 🙁

    I signed up for Escapee’s RV Club and set up the mailing service. Gave them your name at sign up. Hope that does something for you. 😉 I actually went to and toured the Livingston, Tx. location. Good stuff, Becky!



    • Becky on May 25, 2018 at 9:42 pm

      Wow, you’re almost there now Troy! Congrats on your impending departure day and I hope full-timing goes as well for you as it has for me. You’ll definitely need to stop by Grand Canyon when you’re able.

      And, thanks for mentioning my name to Escapees RV Club, I do get a small kickback!



  9. Marsha on May 24, 2018 at 10:18 am

    “Wonder fatigue.” Hadn’t heard the term before, but I definitely experienced it while seeing the Utah National Parks this month. After a while, it was “Oh, yeah. Rocks.” Kidding, of course, but I was ready to move on.



    • Becky on May 25, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      Yes, I totally understand. Utah was another place where I experienced this same phenomenon. There’s a lot of beautiful spots in Utah but they start to look the same after a while.



  10. Charlene Swankie on May 23, 2018 at 7:58 am

    Becky, you did that visit just the right way… i have boondocked all over that area, following the forest roads south for miles. I love it there… so much better than being amist the hoards of tourists. Good job.



  11. Paula on May 22, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    You are correct that the views vary more as you backpack down into the canyon, or even hike a ways down. The rock in each layer is different, so even the trail changes color! Not to mention many trails follow streams and there is interesting vegetation and wildlife. The main trails – South Kaibab, North Kaibab and Bright Angel – are the ones to start with and have established campgrounds. So it is not really hardcore backpacking, but well worth the effort. I would schedule it in spring or fall – not during the summer when temperatures at the bottom can reach well into the hundreds.



    • Becky on May 23, 2018 at 3:29 pm

      I have friends who’ve backpacked it and shared their experiences (and photos) and have looked into it some on my own. It’s definitely on my list! I’d go earlier in the season than May I think, I actually had a friend who went on an eight day trip in February, they had some snow. Probably a bit too early for me, haha.



  12. JR on May 22, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Added to the list: 1 Hammock to counteract Wonder Fatigue



    • Becky on May 22, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      You won’t regret bringing one with. 🙂



  13. Tim on May 22, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for your post on the Grand Canyon . My girlfriend and I were there the same time you were there. However we left our Rv in Prescott. We have been living in it now for 2 months and only partly understand how difficult Living a full time lifestyle is. We have only Boondocked for single nights and have not had to deploy the solar as we have stayed at places with at least elec connections most of the time. I have followed you for about a year or so. So I thank you so much for your posts and pictures.
    Tim



    • Becky on May 22, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      You’re quite welcome Tim, hope you had a good time at GC. I tell people the first 6 months on the road are the hardest, after that you’ve learned the toughest lessons and find your groove.



  14. Kim on May 22, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    My husband and I were in AZ in January and visited Grand Canyon for the first time. It had just snowed a little bit which was so pretty in the park. The best part for me was watching the little kids run up to the rim trail and seeing the expectation in their faces as they were about to see the canyon…priceless! I think that’s what my face looked like as I was doing the same thing earlier in the day 🙂



    • Becky on May 22, 2018 at 5:15 pm

      That first look is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face! Glad you had a good time and I’m a bit jealous you got to see it with snow. 🙂



  15. Ingrid on May 22, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    You hit on a couple of very valid points in this post. We love boondocking south of the Grand Canyon and have made good use of that camper services building. Have a great time on your family vacation.



    • Becky on May 22, 2018 at 5:17 pm

      The building ain’t much, but it’s far better to have it than to go without! Thanks Ingrid.



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