Grand Canyon National Park, ARIZONA

Blood sugar epiphanies at the edge of the Grand Canyon

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Clearly, there isn’t anything I can say to describe Grand Canyon National Park that hasn’t been said better many times before. Being there reminded me of a past trip to Niagara Falls: the legend of its majesty had not been overstated. Whatever pictures or video you’ve seen of the Grand Canyon, and whatever descriptions you’ve heard and expectations you’ve accumulated, you won’t really get it until you go peer over its expanse yourself.

Masayo and I spent two nights in Grand Canyon National Park: one in a lodge on the south rim, and the next night in a lodge on the north. This was very unusual for us – way pricier than any of our other accommodation on this trip – but we had talked about trying one of the lodges that exist in some of the National Parks, and all the campgrounds on both nights were already full. This was our chance.

A rare California condor inside the Grand Canyon.

And it was the right thing to do, I think. Ninety percent of Grand Canyon National Park’s visitors only visit the south rim, and many of them don’t get to see the sunset or sunrise. I did both, and we got to see the mysterious north rim as well. The only thing we didn’t do was take a mule ride into the canyon, but hey – we did a lot here.

The south rim

Grand Canyon is famous not only for its crazy views but for its crowds. There were quite a few people there at the south rim, but it wasn’t too unmanageable. I think our timing happened to be good; this was just a couple of days after Memorial Day and most families had presumably just returned from their (snicker) three-day weekends.

Our room at Maswik Lodge was all right. There was no refrigerator or microwave, ruining our in-room soup dinner plans, and it wasn’t any nicer than (or very different from) any cheap motel. But it was near the rim of the canyon, if not in view of it, and I guess access was the reason for the $120 price tag.

Grand Canyon: not like other Parks.

After a fish and rice meal at the attached cafeteria (dry, but not exorbitantly priced) we drove to a place called Yavapai to watch the sunset. Several others were there, including a large group who had brought several pizzas with them and weren’t shy about chattering and laughing. I guess this is what they mean by crowds spoiling the quiet solitude. Maybe you can get that somewhere in Grand Canyon at sunset, but not at one of the easy-to-reach viewpoints.

The sunset was pretty great, of course. But the main story of the evening was a bad one: Masayo dropped her brand new iPhone on a rock and the screen went black. Nothing would revive it. She just bought this phone a few weeks ago, on this road trip, after spilling water on her old phone. Now she’s lost two. She was forlorn, to say the least. We will have to find an Apple store and see if they can fix it.

The next morning I got up at 5:00 am to drive back to the same point and watch the sunrise. Far fewer people were here for this, and they were all quiet. The sun shone bright oranges on the tops of the tallest formations in the canyon, and we all snapped photos and spun this way and that to get new perspectives.

Sunrise from the south rim.

Back in the room I had a major argument with the gods of diabetes: I was over 300 and could see no reason for it. All morning, as Masayo and I walked along the south rim and took in the views, I was livid. Eventually I realized that stressing about high blood sugars is harming me more than the blood sugars themselves.

I resolved, from this point forward, to take bad blood sugars in stride. If they’re high, they’re high. I’ll correct them but not accept any bad feelings about them. The anger is killing me, perhaps literally.

To the north rim

Then it was time for the seldom-seen north rim of the Grand Canyon. The reason it’s seldom-seen is because it’s a four-hour drive from the south rim (no, there are no bridges across the canyon). The drive is nice and goes through some stunning areas, especially as you near the National Park.

But as we approached the Park boundary we got a big surprise: the landscape was cool and forested; the north rim is higher than the south rim. By large rolling green fields flanked with aspen trees we drove on a small two-lane highway, passing by small patches of snow (!) and a group of grazing deer.

Watch those diabetes necklaces! Sometimes they just fall off.

The north rim visitor area was busy, but that’s because all activity here was concentrated on this one area. There is only one lodge; a room had become available at the last minute a few days ago and I’d snagged it. $200 for one night – again, no microwave for our soup or refrigerator for my insulin. The local “saloon” let us use their microwave, and it was cool enough that I knew my insulin would be ok in the cooler in the room.

We saw the sunset near the lodge with several others and talked about which mule ride to take in the morning. But as the night wore on, we talked ourselves out of the three-hour tour and into the one-hour one, and then our energy for it seemed to dissipate altogether: we had hours to drive tomorrow and didn’t feel like getting up early yet again. Sorry, mules.

So the next day we ended up driving around the north rim instead. There is one main road that goes to a place called Cape Royale, from which you can see just how big the Grand Canyon really is. The view seemed different here: the air is cooler, there are forests right on the rim, and the lack of large crowds make it a lot easier to concentrate on the canyon itself rather than its human visitors.

One Drop on the north rim.

On the way out of Grand Canyon National Park a little bit later, two notable things happened to cap our time here: we saw a field full of wild bison, and the car hit 10,000 miles on the trip so far. First, we got out of the car and took photos of the large beasts in a green field, who either sat and rested or wandered around eating grass and posing like an old nickel. And about a mile later, we waited for the trip odometer to go beyond 9999.9.

And it did: back to 0.0. We laughed and pulled over to take photos of the dashboard. 0.0 miles so far on this trip – yay!

Have you seen the Grand Canyon?
Share your travel stories, give advice, or ask a question in the comments section.

Next page: Day 60: The lower and upper reaches of Zion National Park

“I decided to skip Zion on this road trip because it's so packed with tourists. But I changed my mind and I'm glad I did: hiking in Zion was fantastic and as usual got my blood sugar down to where I wanted.”

About the author

Jeremy has traveled to over 40 countries, taken several road trips across the United States (and Canada), and lived on and off in Japan for several years. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982 but doesn't let a little thing like that stop him from exploring the world.

Jeremy writes about his travels with diabetes on 70-130.com as a way of logging his excursions and of inspiring others who might be feeling hesitant to take their own big bite out of life.

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