Like most families, we have a Thanksgiving tradition that we cherish. Every other year, we spend Thanksgiving at the Grand Canyon. We started our tradition five years ago, although we’d been talking about it for years.
While my husband and I both love Thanksgiving — for causing us to pause and reflect on our blessings, for the family time and of course, for the yummy food — as our boys got older we became less and less interested in the labor of preparing the Thanksgiving meal. None of us really wanted to spend the morning in the kitchen when we could be outside playing, hiking or skiing, or cuddled up watching the Thanksgiving Day parade.
Somewhere along the line, we heard about Thanksgiving at the Grand Canyon. No details, no particulars, not even a particularly glowing review of the experience. We just heard that someone had been there for Thanksgiving and we knew, almost viscerally, that we needed to go there too.
And so we do. We take advantage of the four day weekend and make it a five day weekend, taking the boys out of school on Wednesday and driving through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Southwest. We leave early in the morning, so that we have time to stop and take in the beauty of this land.
We have made detours to Newspaper Rock where we try to decipher centuries of petroglyphs. We’ve stopped along the San Juan River in tiny Bluff, Utah for a snack and more Native American etchings. We’ve driven out of our way to check out the Goosenecks of the San Juan near Mexican Hat. We’ve spent an hour or two at Monument Valley, basking in its grandeur and learning about the Navajo codetalkers in the museum. We’ve pulled off the road between Kayenta and Tuba City, not for something to see, but just because it was a beautiful day and we needed to toss a football.
And then once we enter the park, we stop, without fail, at every turnout until we reach Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. Because no matter how many times you have seen the Grand Canyon, each time is like the first time, even it you just saw it 10 minutes ago. It truly is that awe-inspiring a sight.
So once we are there, what do we do? We hike, we eat, we play cards, we browse the National Park Service bookshops and we hike some more. The first year, just our immediate family of four went. We had such an amazing time that two years later, we invited my parents. We awoke on Thanksgiving Day to fresh snow. It was magical (and muddy, but we still went hiking). Last year, we stayed home for Thanksgiving, but the following weekend we were at the Canyon hiking down to Phantom Ranch were we spent two night before trekking back out. This year, my parents and my husband’s mom are joining us up at the South Rim.
Thanksgiving is a day for traditions. This happens to be ours. It is a tradition I hope we can continue even as our boys grow into adulthood and have their own families. We are thankful that we have found something so meaningful to us. I am sure you have some wonderful traditions of your own. I would love to hear about them if you want to share them in the comments for this post. Happy Thanksgiving.
More on Thanksgiving and Winter at the Grand Canyon…
Although the crowds are much smaller during the Winter season at Grand Canyon National Park, it is still important to reserve your room or camping spot as early as you can. Reservations are taken at www.xanterra.com up to one year in advance.
But be aware! Reservations for a given month start on the first day of the month. For example, when we hiked to Phantom Ranch last year, we booked our stay for mid-December 2009 on December 1, 2008.
While meals at the historic El Tovar Lodge often require reservations months in advance, no reservations are accepted for their delicious Thanksgiving Feast. Instead, you give them your name and the number in your party and they will tell you how long the wait will be. Easy as…..mmmmm……pie!
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