Last January, I went to a desert for the very first time. After returning home from a week-long vacation in Phoenix, Arizona everyone’s first question was, “How was your trip?” All I could do was laugh and say, “It was interesting.” To be honest, it seemed like a complete dud, but one year later my boyfriend and I are able to laugh at our terrible timing. The plan was to spend three days and two nights at the Grand Canyon, but things didn’t go quite the way we planned.
We drove the three and a half hours to Grand Canyon National Park. About halfway there, we started to get hit with snow. Every photo I’ve ever seen of the Grand Canyon has been beautiful bright reds and oranges in perfect sunshine. In a state known for deserts, I assumed it was like this all year round. I was wrong. I was very very wrong. The canyon, which I always thought of as a big hole in the ground, is actually a big hole in a mountain. Shocker, I know. Meaning that we were at seven thousand feet above sea level in January. In case you haven’t done the math: it was winter.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, I decided who cares. It’s kind of pretty, and I hadn’t seen snow yet this year. Plus, how many people get to see the canyon in the snow? I’d be one of the special few. It’s in my nature to want to do things that others haven’t. I don’t know if it’s my competitiveness or my inane need to feel like a special snow flake. Either way, I figured it’d be fun.
We got out of our car in the freezing cold and trudged through the snow to our hotel. We checked in and decided to take a walk around the rim before supper. I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Which way?” He looked at me confused and pointed like it was super obvious. I walked toward the canyon with a mixture of suspense and confusion because as I approached, I couldn’t see the canyon at all. I reached the edge and my hopes and dreams dropped so low that I swear I could hear them hitting the canyon floor with a thud.
In front of me, were clouds. Miles and miles of clouds. Not the pretty fluffy kind that look like cotton balls, or even the dark scary ominous kind. Nope, they were the kind that looked like fog. And not a pretty hazy fog. It was a thick dull opaque fog. I was staring at grey. Grey as far as the eyes could see, in every. single. direction. Just grey. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like grey. My bedroom’s grey. My bathroom’s grey. Half my wardrobe is probably grey. But, when you look outside, and all you can see is grey? It’s like flying across the US and driving 3 hours to see the world’s largest accumulation of dust.
We opted to walk around regardless and checked out the local shops. I purchased a pair of warm winter socks while being taunted by the abundance of Grand Canyon memorabilia, all of which were bright and sunny. Lies I tell you. I lifted up a post card and tried to picture how it would look in the massive cloud filled hole, to no avail. We ended up grabbing dinner and heading back to our room to snuggle up. Since the desert was out of the question, we figured we’d settle for dessert. So we ordered an obscene amount of sweets from room service to make up for a lackluster trip. I chased dessert with some NyQuil since this epic trip was taken while I had a severe cold. Clearly luck was not on my side.
As I was starting to drift off to sleep, my boyfriend began to curse under his breath. It took me a while to figure out that he was looking at the weather forecast on his computer, and a blizzard was coming our way. We were going to get two feet of snow within the hour, the canyon wouldn’t be visible, and we might get stuck on the mountain and miss our flights home. Since this trip was going so well, we decided to head out before the storm hit us. My cold was in full force so I was absolutely miserable in the wintry weather anyway. Going back down to the warmth of Phoenix sounded like a relief.
We packed up faster than two people robbing a bank, hopped in the car, and set out right as the snow began to come down. I was in charge of navigating the GPS on my phone while Gary focused on the extremely hard to see road. If you know me, you know that I go to bed at like 10pm, (Go ahead and take a second to get all of your grandma jokes off your chest) so it was no surprise that I started yawning and feeling sleepy about 20 minutes into our trip.
Every so often my head would jerk up, and I’d realize I had almost fallen asleep. While I was focusing extra hard on the GPS, something dawned on me. I had taken NyQuil before lying down to go to sleep, and it had just started to kick in, in the middle of nowhere, in the worst snow storm I’d ever seen, in a car that I was supposed to be navigating.
I turned to my boyfriend and said something along the lines of “Um, Gary…” to which he responded a deadpan, “What?” Because what else could possibly go wrong. “I may have taken NyQuil before we left….and it may be kicking in…right now.” I’m pretty sure the next few minutes were actually filled with some choice words, but looking back I actually remember us laughing. Possibly from delirium. Because how did we end up in the middle of a desert, in a snowstorm, in the middle of the night with a drugged up navigator?
The rest of the journey was a blur. All I remember is snapshots of the drive in between bouts of NyQuil induced sleep. We got in after 1am and passed out. The next day we heard that all of the highways had been closed after we left. I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Remember that time we drove to the Grand Canyon and couldn’t even see it?” to which he replied, “What a crazy adventure. Feels like just yesterday.”
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Michelle Della Giovanna
Writer at Full Time Explorer
I’m just your average New Yorker who quit her job in the fashion industry to explore the world. Come find out what it’s like to trade in five-inch heels for squat toilets.