This was actually my second visit to the Grand Canyon. I previously went on a family vacation, but I was 9, and we drove all the way from Memphis, and my brother and I had to share the backseat, so by the time we actually made it to the Grand Canyon, we were all a little worn out. I remember getting out to look, complaining about the heat and getting back in the van, then being incredibly upset that my candy bar had melted. Looking back, I figured I was too young to appreciate the natural beauty.
The Grand Canyon in my memory is a big, open area where my parents drove wherever they wanted, and we could get out and explore all the way to the very edge. In fact, my second most vivid memory (next to that poor, liquid Milky Way) is watching a squirrel inch closer and closer to the edge on his belly. I kept my Mickey Mouse camera trained on him, and used up half a roll of film.
In reality, the Grand Canyon is a park very similar to Yosemite. There are hiking paths, yes, but mostly you drive around, park at a popular lookout point, and take photos. Be amazed for a moment, push through some tourists, wave at someone to back up so they can take your parking space, and drive to the next point.
I wanted to walk the Rim Trail, but as soon as I got out of my car at the first lookout point, the rain began. I shielded my Nikon but didn't have very much to use - I was wearing shorts and a halter top. To give some perspective: families around me were wrapping massive blankets emblazoned with sports team logos around themselves. In my defense, it was maybe 70 degrees - a nice change from the blazing heat that drenched me in sweat on the previous day's hike around Lake Pleasant.
I braved the rain and "cold" to fire off some shots at that lookout point, but the rain picked up and I didn't want to risk my camera, so I went back to my car. I drove around and around a loop of road work and one-way streets leading to lodges, and then risked to go to where the signs were labeled "Park Exit."
There were tons of lookout points along the exit drive. I stopped at many and took pictures, and even think I found where I had seen the squirrel peek over the edge so many years ago, but it's hard to be sure.
I'm glad I saw the Grand Canyon again as an adult, but I'm also slightly pleased that I didn't totally misremember it from my childhood. In fact, I think it might be one of those things best seen young, when you don't have to worry about driving the right way on a one-way street, when all you have to do is tuck your candy bar out of the sun and scramble out of the car to stand beside your parents and take in the view.