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The View from Shoshone Point. Photo by Jess Haberman.
It was my third morning at the Grand Canyon and I still had a nagging cough and a scratchy, dry throat. No doubt my mother and cousin, who shared a double-queen–size room with me at the Maswik Lodge, were cursing me for keeping them awake with my constant hacking. But I woke with renewed vigor and the prospect of a short hike to Shoshone Point, manageable even while fighting a cold. My trusty copy of FalconGuides’ Hiking Grand Canyon promised “quiet solitude” and “truly dramatic vistas” of the eastern Grand Canyon. Though the park had not been crowded during the November weekdays, I anticipated much more traffic on this Saturday morning—which was confirmed by sounds of car doors slamming and luggage rolling on concrete sidewalks outside the lodge.
My cousin and I took the short drive up Desert View Road to an unsigned trailhead where ours was the only car in the lot. As soon as we exited the car and walked past the trailhead gate, brand new scents and sights assailed me. Ponderosa pines towered over us and a blanket of soft pine needles littered the ground. I glanced at my cousin. “I’m going to go smell a tree.”
I’m not commonly a tree-smeller. But on our nature walk the previous morning, Ranger Kristi told us that if we locate the deepest knot in a “pondo” pine and breathe in deeply, we will likely smell vanilla or butterscotch. And it’s true. We also learned that artificial vanilla is made from the bark of ponderosa pine. And once I got a whiff, it was often the scent of pondos that reached me before they came into view.
The only sounds along the trail were the scampering of Abert’s squirrels and chipmunks and the wind in the trees. The low morning sun filtered through the ponderosa forest, which soon transitioned to piñon pines and Utah junipers, another one of my favorite trees because of their smooth gray bark and gnarled branches. After about a mile, the trees thinned out and we reached a picnic area overlooking the canyon. A path, hidden at first, opened up and allowed us to walk all the way to the end of the point. There we stood on pale stone, where a large boulder stood as a prominent landmark on Shoshone Point. The views were breathtaking. It took me a full 10 minutes to realize we weren’t alone.
“Good morning,” I called to the man sitting with his back against a granite ledge, his dusty hat beside him, facing the rising sun.
“Morning,” he called back without turning. He didn’t seem all too pleased to be disturbed. From this spot it likely felt as if he had the entire canyon to himself, until we showed up.
My cousin and I took photos and marveled at the size and rich colors of the canyon below. I felt overwhelmingly lucky to enjoy such a spectacular view, to know that such a small portion of Grand Canyon visitors knew enough to take a short hike to this unparalleled vista.
“Best spot in the park,” said the man as he donned his hat, tugging the brim down over his brow. “You could spend an entire day here in March and never see another soul.”
“It’s hard to believe. Folks must not know what they’re missing,” I replied.
“More like they don’t care for the walk. Enjoy yourselves, now.” He got up and slowly walked back to the trail.
So very lucky, I thought. I was lucky I had my Grand Canyon guidebook, or I could have missed it too.
Don't forget to pick up your own copy of Hiking Grand Canyon to learn about the best trails for views before you visit the park. For more photos of Jess's Shoshone Point hike, check out her image gallery.