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Our Valentine's Day Adventure Visiting One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Grand Canyon Arizona

We Saw a Unicorn on Our Way to The Grand Canyon

The view from Mather Point

You may have heard of them. Unicorns are fanciful horses portrayed in white, elegant candor, and some can even talk. They live in lavish forests, elusive to the eyes. If you think you have seen one, you may have. But you question yourself, and ultimately you reason that it was an illusion. Who would believe you anyway? It takes courage to say that you have seen a unicorn. We do not think; we are sure we saw a unicorn on our way to the Grand Canyon. As Viktoria and I left Page, little did we know what was next to come on our Arizona road trip.

Visiting Page, Arizona

Our stop to Page had not disappointed us. The Horseshoe Bend is a masterpiece of nature, carved by the Colorado River with an artist's chisel. February is an optimal month to see this natural spectacle as the sunlight is not too strong and plays with the river's water, reflecting the most vivid colors. From Page, we went to Flagstaff, where we stopped for lunch. The curbside of downtown was covered with two inches of snow. As we headed to the Thai restaurant a few blocks away, the snow began beating on our jackets. The soothing curry soup we had for lunch warmed us. From inside the restaurant's foggy windows, I could see a storm forming in the sky, and prayed to all the saints to spare our journey with more clement weather. The saints must have been distracted, and I began to worry. Did I have to buy snow chains? We did not know that disaster was on its way.

Driving to the Grand Canyon in Snow

Instead of guiding us to the safer route, highway 40, the GPS led us to highway 180, a narrow road that unfolds into the forest of Fort Valley. The grey and foggy sky became a pallid blur, and we could barely see the edge of the road dissolving into the horizon. As the blizzard intensified, we could not see inches in front of the car. The spoiled tires of our sedan, used to the warm San Diego asphalt, were experiencing the icy and cold winter roads of Arizona for the first time. No cars were behind us, and few were coming down in the opposite direction. They all told us to reverse our trend and abandon our desperate enterprise. Too late. Reversing direction downhill seemed even more dangerous. Our only hope was that the storm would end. We were alone in the silence of the forest and scared.

Fort Valley Rd

The GPS indicated that we were not making any progress toward our destination. Our speed was 15 mph. I was gasping, rigid on the car seat, looking ahead into the emptiness that sucked the car in. The wind was blowing through the fir forest as the quiet, petrified Viktoria and I sat inside the car. We questioned how the beginning of our promising vacation could turn into a bad dream.

Amid the fight to stay alive and in control of the vehicle, Viktoria screamed: "Look! Can you see it? A unicorn. I saw it, I saw it. A unicorn, a unicorn. It is running across the field on your right. Can you see it? Do you see the other two brown horses running next to it?" I did not have to turn around as the white unicorn crossed the road ahead of us, wrapped in the blowing storm.

The unicorn moved across the field as if it was following the magnetic call of a goddess's voice. All four limbs were detached from the ground, which made it look suspended in the air. It was a timeless moment, a moment of silence and endless possibilities. Could it be that it had come to rescue us? It disappeared into the woods, and the storm suddenly stopped. We were safe.

El Tovar Hotel lodge - Grand Canyon

An hour later, we arrived at El Tovar Hotel lodge. The rim was concealed under a mantel of fog, and since this was my first time in the Grand Canyon, I was pretty disappointed with my first view. Viktoria reassured me, "Don't worry, this is nothing. Once the weather gets clear, you'll understand the magic of this wonder of the world." Tired, cold, and confused, we went straight to our lodge to gather our thoughts. But our thoughts gathered us under the warm cover of the bed, and we fell asleep like Medicare-age people at 7 o'clock.

Valentine's Day in Grand Canyon

The next morning was Valentine's Day. We woke up very early, excited to see the sunrise as the clouds cleared up, and it was supposed to be a beautiful day. Bundled up, we stepped outside of our lodge for a walk around the edge of the rim. It was just us. Everyone else was sleeping. Now, the Grand Canyon appeared in all its vastness, timelessness, and stillness. In a meditative state, Viktoria and I stared at the playfulness of the morning lights that uncovered the warm color of the rocks, melting the snow around the vegetation clinging to the cliffs. What a view. Now it made sense why people float here from all over the world. Immenseness is all around you.

As we took careful steps on an icy, narrow rim trail, we saw a movement in the forest. It was a white horse - actually, not a horse, but a unicorn - that resembled the one we had seen during the storm. From a distance, it peeked toward us; it winked and disappeared swiftly amongst the trees and white snow cover. Viktoria and I looked at each other. It was all coming together. One must visit the rims to understand why the Indians called the Grand Canyon the Land of Big Enough and Time Enough.

As we walked around, we saw other animals. They all came to say hi and welcome us into their world. We saw moose, deer, rabbits, and a few more white horses (or was one of them the unicorn?). Regardless, this early morning walk was an unforgettable experience.

Later in the afternoon, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch in a hotel restaurant. This was one of the most magical Valentine's Days we could have ever wished for. We spent two nights in the lodge, visiting all viewpoints possible during these snowy days. Before the trip, we wondered if going to the Grand Canyon in winter was not pointless, and we had our answer. It was the best time, since the crowd that this amazing nature park wonder normally experiences during other seasons.

Our journey continues. From here, we go on new adventures to find new forms of inspiration because we do not want to miss anything, both in terms of what is real and what is a pure reflection of our imagination. The next stop on our road trip was Sedona.

~ Written by:

Viktoria Rusnakova & Samuele Bagnai, authors of Enthusiastic All the Way & Tuscan Who Sold His Fiat to the Pope, respectively.

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