Nerd Alert: A Bucket List Confession

Everyone has a bucket list. Some people’s lists are long while others are short and sweet.They’re also personal and unique to each one of us. What might seem like an awesome and incredible thing to accomplish to one person might be a complete snooze-fest for someone else.

Nerd Alert

Cue the nerd alert sirens now, because the following bucket list confession screams of a lot of reading and watching more PBS documentaries than I can shake a stick at. As a self-professed (or admitted?) history and travel nerd, my bucket list item #8 looks like this for me:

8. Visit as many American national parks and their lodges as possible, including (but not limited to):

Grand Canyon Lodge (situated on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon)

The Ahwahnee Hotel (nestled in Yosemite National Park)

Old Faithful Inn (next to Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone)

Many Glacier Hotel (on Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park)

El Tovar (located on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon)

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Wait, our national parks have lodges?

Yes, they do. And they are magnificent. Our national park lodges are gorgeous reflections of the stunning landscapes in which they rest. Their unique architecture and the materials of which they were built respect their surroundings while blending in to offer incredible stepping off (and resting) points for park visitors.

Although each has it’s own unique history, many of them were constructed around the turn of the 19th century. They were built to accommodate increased numbers of visitors in response to the construction of railroad lines throughout the American west and more national park designations (thank you, Teddy Roosevelt).

Why the national parks and their lodges?

My reasons are not complicated or rooted in some deep philosophical need to find my identity by visiting them. It’s simple: the lodges are beautiful, the parks are some of the most stunning landscapes God created and of course – they’re both steeped in history, y’all.

 Blog Post Inspiration

Another confession: this post was precipitated by some disappointing news I heard earlier this month about one of the lodges.

The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park will soon be re-named because the former concessionaire, Delaware North (who ran the hotel for the National Park Service since 1993) trademarked the hotel’s name. Since Delaware North lost the bid to renew it’s contract last year, they are asking for $50 million dollars for the usage rights of the name (and a few other hotel names). Needless to say, neither the National Park Service nor the new concessionaire, Aaramark, has the money for this. Hence, the re-naming so Aaramark can continue operations (read all about it here).

Though this may seem like a petty concern to some people, I find Delaware North’s actions to be unjust, greedy and abusive to the historical and cultural significance of the hotel. It is not only an American icon, but a local institution for the people in the area.

Delaware North’s demands are an affront to the history of the American west and generations of Americans past and present. Although it is just a name, it is just a name. If they want to remain in the American people’s good graces and respect the history of the hotel, they should let it go. At this point, they’re merely grasping at straws to maintain whatever dignity they have left.

But…I digress.

The Grand Canyon and El Tovar: Check

The news about the Ahwahnee reminded me of how I accomplished one part of bucket list item #8 a few years ago when I visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and El Tovar Hotel. I was traveling for work and could barely contain my excitement about visiting the place that I had read (and dreamt) so much about.

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I was there in March and though there were quite a few visitors, the weather was perfect. The temps were comfortably nestled in the 60s with bright sunshine and a slight breeze. There was still snow on the ground, however, as a massive snow storm a couple of days before had closed down all roads into the park.

The Grand Canyon

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are absolutely no words to adequately describe the Grand Canyon. It’s simply impossible for the human mind to conceive of the scale, breadth, width and depth of this massive crack in the earth.

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While standing (literally) on the edge of the canyon, it became impossible for me to speak as my mind attempted to drink in what I was seeing, feeling and hearing. The colors of the landscape are stunning as they change from red, brown, black and taupe with each striation in the rock.

The subtle breeze blowing up, around and over the edge softly caresses the Ponderosa pines and other vegetation creating an intoxicating earthy smell not found anywhere else. The feel of this breeze as it brushed against my face and ruffled my hair was the closest thing to heaven on earth I’ll ever experience.

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The absence of noise allows your hearing to sharpen as your senses converge to focus on this massive space. My concept of time disappeared as I marveled from the edge – before I knew it, I’d stood (and sat) silently in the same position for 30 minutes.

It was simple: my soul found rest on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

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El Tovar

As I said before, all the national park lodges were constructed to reflect the landscapes in which they rest. El Tovar is no exception.

Looking back, the few photos I took are poor examples of how stunning this place is. A perfect combination of America hunting lodge architecture and refined European flair, the hotel is a delightful find situated just feet from the rim of the canyon.

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Constructed of local limestone and Oregon pine, the hotel’s exterior beckons guests into it’s cozy yet impressive lobby where the pine logs flank the ceilings, walls, and floor throughout. Hunting trophies and animal busts adorn the walls. The impressive dining room offers white tablecloth service and fine dining while the guest rooms provide comfortable accommodations with great views of the area. The expansive porch offers large rocking chairs for visitors to sit and take in the view.

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Visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and El Tovar was an immense pleasure I hope to repeat someday. Though it was on my bucket list, it was more than just an item to check off: it was a soul-reviving experience that will never fade from my memory.

The world is out there for us to explore and our bucket lists are just the vehicles for us to get there! Happy bucket-list-making and exploring!

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