It was pitch black, and we were cooking sausages on a broken barbeque and failing absolutely miserably when it happened. We were camping a few miles south of the Grand Canyon, our next stop on the Great American Road Trip, and the place was deserted save for a couple of parked up campervans.
“Hey guys, do you want to watch a movie with us? We’re gonna break into the park and set up a movie, there’s a really cool cinema in there.”
A guy and a girl had appeared out of nowhere, and I eyed them up warily. Now there’s an offer I can’t refuse, I thought, as I pictured our bodies abandoned and left to rot unglamorously on Fred Flintstone’s bed.
The guy looked at us earnestly, about to pull out his trump card.
“There’s also a MASSIVE dinosaur slide.”
You see, we weren’t just at any ordinary camp site.
Oh no – we were at a FLINTSTONES THEMED CAMP SITE! Complete with a crazy theme park, a diner and a shop, this place was probably an absolute hit in the ’70’s – and indeed looks like it hasn’t been updated since.
We had arrived in the dark after Google Maps helpfully told us to take a shortcut along a 20 mile dirt track – a “road” that I now cannot even find on Google Maps – and we ended up taking a massive detour through Flagstaff instead. We literally drove around a mountain!
Finally, here we were, faced with one of the weirdest invitations we’d ever received.
But that’s how I came to finally watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show – in a pre-historic themed theatre that usually ran Flintstones cartoons on a loop.
It turned out – assuming he was even telling the truth, which I think he was – that the guy was the grandson (or great-nephew? There was something great or grand, anyway) of the founder of Bedrock City. It was apparently a hoot back in the day – but he absolutely hated it as he grew up. “It was just so lame to me,” he laughed, trailing off. “But I come back here now and realise how cool it actually is… or could be.”
Now, he says, his aunt runs it and has done absolutely nothing to update it, because she wants to retire. After travelling for some time, he’s returned there with motivation to turn the place around, but no money to do it. It’s really sad, he told us. It’s a really fun place, but it’s dead now. It needs revitalising.
He took us to a gap at the end of the wall and I pictured our fate as we walked through the long grass to get to the park (normally you go through the gift shop – but we never did!).
We were faced with this incredible little village of dilapidated buildings, full of the characters you know and love, with chipped statues and decaying windowsills.
Unfortunately I only had my old phone on me, and it didn’t take the best photos. And everything was pretty dark anyway! So this is my tiny bit of proof that this night did actually happen.
We looked around the hospital, the classroom, pretended to be in jail, and of course I went down the brontosaurus slide! I do believe I’d had a couple of drinks at that point.
And yes, we were offered a selection of Evil Dead 3 and Rocky Horror to watch in the theatre. After a discussion of how Evil Dead 2 is FAR superior and that I’d never seen Rocky Horror… well, there was an obvious winner.
So, um… THAT was probably the weirdest night of the trip.
We were staying at the campsite for two nights, but we didn’t see the pair again. Sadly, I don’t even remember their names, though I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember. We also didn’t go into the park again, because we had more important fish to fry.
Ash hadn’t been too bothered about the Grand Canyon – so it was quite funny to see his jaw drop as we faced the mile-deep, seemingly endless hole in the earth when we rocked up to Mather Point the next morning.
I can see why he hadn’t been that bothered, because it is virtually impossible to get any kind of depth perception from photos. Even now, photos don’t really blow me away like other nature photos – but I still know it’s incredible!
I think what really gets me about the Grand Canyon isn’t just how vast it seems as you look out at it, but the sheer size of the entire thing that you can’t see. If you look at a map of what you can see from the miles of road that you can explore in the park, it’s a dot in comparison to how much canyon there actually is.
This time, I wanted to go down into it, if just a short way. I had chosen the South Kaibab trail from the “easy” hiking options – and that was before I learned of the wonderfully named Ooh Aah Point, which would obviously have been the deciding factor.
The point marked as far as we went, although you can venture further into the canyon (all the way to the bottom if I’m not mistaken?). It does suddenly get a LOT steeper from there, and Ash wasn’t keen. To be honest, I wanted to explore more of the viewpoints anyway, so I was happy to turn back and make our way towards more areas of the canyon.
It didn’t take long to reach the point (I think the whole hike took around an hour), and while we were in the shade it was actually pretty cold, but as soon as we were in the sun, hoodies came straight off! It was nice to do a hike like this at such a mild time of year. The point afforded some pretty astounding views. As comical as Ooh Aah Point is, it has a… err, point!
There are warnings at the start of the trail to give way to mules, I excitedly said to Ash that it would be awesome if we see one.
On our way back, these two were being ridden along the trail for exercise and to familiarise them with the route! I was sneakily taking photos, because it seemed ruder to stop them to ask, when this guy turned his mule to look dramatically towards the view!
“I’m waiting for you to take your photo!” he laughed after a few seconds of me holding my camera uncertainly. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be like Monument Valley, where they charge you a ridiculous $5 for taking a photo of the guy on his horse at John Ford point. But either way, it was a bloody awesome photo opportunity.
“Thank you so much!” I called out, as he smiled and turned away, not asking for a cent.
Mules weren’t the only animals we saw here. We also found a very fat squirrel, which are native to the canyon.
#hashtag wildlife problems.
Spot the squirrel! I had to look it up afterwards too, because it doesn’t look very squirrel-like. It looks a bit like a marmot!
After hanging out with the squirrel for a while, it was time to catch the shuttle back to the visitor centre to get our learning caps on.
Geologically, the Grand Canyon is obviously a labyrinth of interest. I don’t understand much about rocks, but it’s fascinating to see the ages of the layers and how it’s changed over the years, when we know it will never change at all in our lifetimes.
It was busier now at Mather Point than when we had arrived in the morning, and we quickly moved on, walking along the rim trail towards Grand Canyon village.
This is a really lovely walk, and although the views remain fairly unchanged, it’s a great way to see the canyon, as well as being the most accessible and well maintained.
At one point, a guy had dropped his phone INTO THE CANYON. I am being slightly overdramatic as it was only a few metres down a steep slope beyond a barrier, but it was definitely unreachable, so I am not being overdramatic when I say we watched with absolute transfixed trepidation as HE CLIMBED OVER THE BARRIER TO TRY TO RETRIEVE IT.
Sorry mate, I know it was probably an astronomically priced iPhone, but a phone is not worth your life.
I also re-enacted a photo from 10 years ago:
We were timing the day well so far – by the time we got to the village, we were more than ready for lunch, which was slightly annoying because I had forgotten to pack sandwiches in our day bag and it meant we had to buy lunch.
I was quite surprised that Grand Canyon Village, given the name, doesn’t actually have all that many facilities. We found ourselves twiddling our thumbs a bit, and I used it as an excuse to call Mum and catch up with a couple of things. It seemed ridiculous, but it did make us realise that unless you’re doing a massive hike, a day is probably enough time for the Grand Canyon.
We didn’t make it out to Hermit’s Rest, but we did jump on the shuttle towards it and got off at Mohave Point for the pinnacle of any Grand Canyon visit: sunset.
In our downtime, I had been meticulously researching which viewpoint would be best for sunset, and came up with Pima Point. There are countless recommendations online, yet when we hopped on the shuttle, every recommendation was pointing towards Mohave and Hopi instead. If I remember right, I think the driver said not every shuttle picks up from Pima on the way back, and being that it’s the furthest stop apart from Hermit’s Rest, we settled for Mohave instead.
I don’t think you can go far wrong for a Grand Canyon sunset anyway, and Mohave Point was definitely a winner.
There were a couple of things we didn’t do, but it was mostly things that I had done last time (like a helicopter ride!). We got the most out of our day, and where I went over the canyon last time, this time I saw a lot more on “ground” level. If I ever make it back, it would be nice to make it to the bottom. The only thing I’d still love to perhaps do one day is rafting through the canyon.
But for now, I am done with the Grand Canyon. After two visits, I’ve seen a lot of it, although really not much at all in the grand (ha!) scheme of things.
You could say that the SUN has SET on my time there… okay, okay, I’ll stop.
A final note: sadly, on doing some research for this post, I discovered that Flintstone’s Bedrock City finally closed down earlier this week. It’s not entirely unsurprising given the neglect it’s received over the years, but after our frivolous night, it’s a shame to hear it’s gone.
HOWEVER – all is not lost. The property has been bought by someone who has a dream. A dream to build a NEW park – of DINOSAURS! So it’ll be keeping its pre-historic theme, and because of the (more recent) history attached to the Flintstones park, he’s planning to keep some of the stuff as a nostalgic tribute. Hopefully it’ll get the updates it desperately needs and become a totally awesome place to visit. I’m not sure if he’s keeping the campsite, but if he does, then you’ll be able to camp with dinosaurs at the Grand Canyon.
And if we’re being completely honest, what more could anyone want in life?!
Like this post? Pin it to read later!