I'm not sure whether to classify my experience at the GC a complete disappointment or awe-inspiring. I guess the canyon was awe-inspiring but my performance was a complete disappointment. We'll get to that in a minute.
First off, April and Chad (Durango) told me I should do a couple things on the way to the GC, and since they were spot-on with the trail suggestions I decided to do everything they suggested without question. The first one was to stop at the 4-corners monument near Teec Nos Pos (look it up). It's the place where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado all meet. I would say that it was spectacular and I felt the "Power Of Four" or something, but it was just raining and cold and I had mud in my shoes and that's pretty much all I have to say about that.
After that, you have to drive through Navajo country, which is pretty impressive. They really milk the code-talker angle though. April said there was a cool Burger King I had to visit in Kayenta, AZ. She said it had a neat code talker exhibit that I had to check out. I heard her say "Burger King" and I guess I should have expected it to be somewhat less than a Smithsonian-level exhibit, but I was expecting a bit more than a what it was. It didn't even have its own room! C'mon, BK! The play room out back could fit 9 SUVs in it, yet these guys helped defeat the Nazis and only get half of a wall in the main dining room. Where's the Navajoian Rosa Parks when you need her. Respect!
So anyway, I arrived from Durango at the canyon around noon and hit the visitors center, since that's what you're supposed to do according to the lady who took my $25 at the entrance. The view really is amazing, but I was there to hike into the damn thing, not look at it from the top, so I moved on. There was a trail called "Grandview" that sounded promising, so I headed for that. I didn't really do any research on it, but figured I'd just wing it and hope for the best. There were a bunch of people at the overlook where the trail started, but no one actually hiking the trail, for reasons which became apparent pretty quickly. The trail basically heads straight down along a windy, rock-filled path no more than 2-3 feet wide at any point, with a rather sobering drop into the canyon on one side and a wall on the other.
So I went down about 1/4 mile before realizing that this was not a bright idea. The wind was starting to gust, and it was beginning to rain, which told my primitive brain that maybe walking on a thin, already-questionable trail with a 4000 foot drop on one end might not be a good life choice.
So after backtracking I decided to find another trail not designed specifically for population control, and so I took a shuttle to the South Kaibab trail. This is one of the ones they take the mules down, and if a damn mule can walk a trail, I figured I was alright.
At this point is was already about 2pm so I had to get down as far as possible as quickly as possible so I could get back up before dark. Luckily the trail was wide enough that I could basically run down the thing, so that's what happened. I was a bit surprised how steeply it went down but it was really well-maintained. It didn't take long at all to go down about 1000 feet, just 15 minutes or so. There was a landing there with a restroom and some really great views. Most people were turning around here to go back up but I saw a lady coming up from the trail below and asked her if there was any reason to keep going down there this late in the day. She said if you go around the bend about another 1/2 mile you could see the river. I figured that was worth going for, so I started jogging down some more.
After about 10 minutes I still hadn't seen the area she was talking about, and was getting a bit worried about the time, since the trek back was going to be a pretty steep ascent and I'd just done a 15-mile hike the day before. I kept going a little further until I was pretty sure I was the lowest person on this trail who wasn't camping the night, and decided it was time to head back. I really wanted to see the river though, so that was disappointing, but I'll just have to go back and do it right next time.
The way up was pretty tough, but didn't take as long as I thought. I was back at the top around 5pm, well before dark. There was definitely time to have kept going down for a bit longer. I guess the highlight was the black tarantula that sauntered into my path about mid-way up. Ugly little bastard.
I guess the bottom line is that if you go to the GC, you have to go into the canyon if you're at all able. Standing on the top is still worth going there for, but it's an amazing thing standing inside it away from all the crowds snapping photos up top.