TL;DR | We skydived over the Grand Canyon (thanks Emily!), brought a cheese plate and a bottle of Sonoma wine to watch the sunset, and camped among elk and ravens at truly remarkable place (a mile deep and larger than Delaware!).
We stopped at Desert Point for first sighting of the Grand Canyon, and it did not disappoint. The canyon is massive, and the mountains and valleys rise and dip in such seemingly random ways that each vertex and striation catch the eye...nearly to the point of being overwhelming.
Of course we were already overwhelmed, each five days removed from showering and three weeks removed from laundry, so we cut our first vista short to make it to Mather Campground in time to use the $0.25 / minute coin-operated showers (loaded 8 quarters at a time) and similarly operated washers and dryers. You bet we spent a whole $20 on cleanliness and felt great about the value we got for the money!
The following morning we woke up early, grabbed a breakfast sandwich each when the local market opened, and nervously drove to the Grand Canyon Airport. The Airport resembles a strip mall (terminal) with a sizable backyard (runways), but we fought any second-thoughts and entered the door nearest to Paragon Skydive and proceeded to suit up before meeting our tandem guides Erico and Patricia. Combined they'd jumped out of more than 10,000 planes, so upon meeting these confident Brazilian adventurers we considered our already strong odds of survival that much greater.
Now we've both always wanted to go skydiving, but Stephen never really had the ready impulse to buy tickets. Emily -- in her wonderfully thoughtful surprising way -- bought the tickets as a surprise birthday present. Suffice it to say that Emily is awesome and that Stephen was slightly terrified upon realizing that Emily had pulled the trigger on this amazing yet extreme purchase.
Now that we've gone, we can attest that skydiving is incredible and we highly recommend that you all fall out of a plane in the near future (safely, that is...go with a trained tandem guide and multiple parachutes! Emily could have gotten the Groupon, but wisely splurged for the immaculately rated Paragon...and only company allowing skydives over the Grand Canyon).
If you want to know what skydiving is like, let us tell you here; if you don't care (no hard feelings!), feel free to skip the next section:
First, the plane is tiny. There was no massive cargo door at the back of the aircraft like in the movies, to which everyone leaps with a running start. The plane barely fit the five of us (including pilot).
Second, the plane is missing a wall. On the side of the plane we exited, the only thing between us and a free-fall was a velcro-ed (and tandem-instructor held down, with his foot) curtain. In fact Stephen had to open the curtain at 8,000 feet above the ground (14,000 above sea level), which was slightly terrifying.
Third, the pilot gets really bored. We found it pretty strange that he was on Facebook the entire time he directed the plane to our high-elevation starting point.
Fourth, there are practically no instructions before going. We expected a 45 minute learning session. We were wrong. We went straight to the plane with only 3 pieces of instruction:
- When you exit the plane, lean your head back on the instructor's shoulder
- When you exit the plane, bend your legs as far back as possible
- When you exist the plane, hold onto the shoulder-portion of your harness for dear life :)
Fifth, no one tells you how you're going to land. From pop culture we assumed our tandem guides would land on their feet, then we'd put our feet down and run a few feet before likely falling gently due to a lack of balance. WRONG! You land on your butt and drag until friction brings you to a stop...which is surprisingly painless given the pants we had to wear and the brunt of the force being placed on our tandem instructors' butts.
Sixth, you can take off your goggles the moment the parachute opens. We didn't know that, and in the videos you can probably identify some confusion therein.
That's about it! Skydiving was an absolute thrill and we'd genuinely do it again. We highly recommend a scenic landscape, and the Grand Canyon certainly fit the bill.
After skydiving we laid low and replayed our skydives over and over again in our minds before bringing an extensive charcuterie plate to the South Rim of the Canyon with a bottle of wine we'd imported from Sonoma via our very full car trunk and watched a beautiful sunset. The next morning we walked a bit of the South Rim including the Mather Point vista and then hit to the road to Sedona!
We feel like we should write a lot more about the beauty of the Grand Canyon since it was so memorable, but will let the pictures provide thousands more words instead.
Also, we posted our skydiving videos below in addition to our usual selection of unedited photos.
We struck a deal to get the raw footage at a discount and didn't edit much beyond adding a background tune -- our apologies, but hope you enjoy as much as we did!