“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.” Theodore Roosevelt
When I was planning my route out to Wyoming this spring, Grand Canyon National Park was pretty much the point I plotted our route around. We had been here once before many years ago, but only to the west end. We had been in Las Vegas for a long weekend, and had taken a day tour that took us to Hoover Dam and the west end of the Grand Canyon. Since that glimpse, we have always wanted to return, and that time was now :-).
Knowing there was an RV park at the south rim, I had secured a reservation for four nights back in January. I specifically wanted to be there for the convenience factor: we would be close to the activities, enabling us to take breaks at lunch time to have lunch at the campsite and walk the dogs in between activities. Once there, I saw that Canyon Village RV Park in Tusayan really wasn't too far from the action, but Trailer Village right in the National Park was nicer, and was $20.00/night less expensive :-). Sites are pretty close together, but both the sites and the roads look like they've been recently paved and are in great condition.
Very happy with our site at Trailer Village in Grand Canyon National Park.
Not so pleasing was the weather :-(. As we drove west from Gallup New Mexico it was spitting rain, a little hail and sleet on and off. It was overcast upon our arrival, but luckily no precipitation while we were getting set up. We took a quick ride to Grandview Point along the rim for our first glimpse into this big hole in the ground.
Our first full day there, Saturday, was overcast in the morning, and turned to a pretty steady rain in the afternoon. Knowing this, we took the dogs on a pretty nice walk first thing in the morning. While the dogs are not allowed on any of the hiking trails that go below the rim, they are allowed along the rim trail and another trail called the Greenway, which is mostly paved and runs for several miles throughout the developed areas. After an invigorating (!) walk in the cold, we went to the main Visitor Center at Mather Point. We watched the movie there, Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder, a twenty minute movie that gives an overview of the history of the Park. After wandering through the exhibit area, we visited the bookstore to get our National Park stamp in our Passport book, and then walked out to Mather Point.
Now, there is blue sky in the photograph, but as we left Mather Point heading back to the Visitor Center, the skies opened up with hail! It kind of hurts as you are dashing through it :-). We headed back to the trailer for lunch, and then drove down to Tusayan Village at the southern entrance to the park. We had seen a National Geographic Visitor Center in town that was advertising a Grand Canyon movie in their IMAX theatre, and we thought that would be a suitable diversion for a rainy afternoon. It was ok; I thought the price of $13.59/ticket was a bit high for a 32 minute movie. It was entertaining and had some beautiful shots, but I don't think I would do it again. I should have read TripAdvisor before going; someone said there was discount coupons across the street at McDonald's for 50% off a second ticket!
Sunday morning we woke up to temperatures in the upper 20's, and a fine, light coat of snow on the ground! We bundled up though, and headed out to have breakfast at the famous El Tovar hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon.
There is a long history of tourism at the Grand Canyon, but things really opened up when the Santa Fe railroad first reached the Canyon. A first class hotel to accommodate travelers was planned, and constructed of native boulders and Oregon pine. The 100 room hotel opened January 14, 1905, and was named after the Spanish explorer Pedro de Tobar who had led the first expedition to Hopi Indian country in 1540. A history of the company that ran the hotel until 1968, the Fred Harvey Company, can be read here.
Our breakfast view. Breakfast was delicious! I had a raspberry jam and brie stuffed french toast, while Al had a made-to-order omelet. Loved it!
After breakfast we took a stroll along a portion of the rim trail, headed towards the Kolb Studio.
The Kolb brothers arrived in the Canyon in 1901/1902, seventeen years before the creation of Grand Canyon National Park. They founded a photograph studio on the rim at the Bright Angel Trailhead. The bulk of their photographs consisted of pictures of people riding the famous Grand Canyon Mules. Pictures of the exhibits inside can be viewed here.
After spending time along the rim here in Canyon Village, checking out the various other areas such as Lookout Studio, Bright Angel Lodge, and Hopi House...
Hopi House is home to a gift shop featuring Native American crafted goods such as Navajo rugs, blankets, jewelry and pottery. Beautiful to look at. I suppose its a good thing we have limited space as I really couldn't afford much of anything :-).
Mary Jane Elizabeth Colter designed the structure for the Fred Harvey Company, starting an association with the company and the National Park Service that lasted over 40 years. She helped revolutionize the field of architecture, not only as one of the first women to become prominent in the field, but also for her designs that blended into the natural landscape. Hopi House is one of many buildings that we saw created by Ms. Colter.
By this time it had started to get cloudy and cold again, so we made our way back to the campsite and took the dogs out on the Greenway for a good three mile walk. Then it was time for laundry and dinner, and rest up for what would be a longer day in the park the next day, with the forecast showing a very nice day. Our plan was to use the shuttle bus to tour the Hermit's Rest Trail to the west, then after lunch drive to the Tusayan Ruins site and Desert View Watchtower at the east end of the park.
Hermit's Rest road is a 7 mile stretch along the rim of the Grand Canyon starting at Canyon Village and going west. There are 9 different overlooks that the shuttle stops at, and there is a waking path along the entire distance. We did a combination of riding and walking.
They say the Grand Canyon is "all about the layers" and I think this picture demonstrates this.
As we were walking from Powell Point to Hopi Point, this elk caught our eye on a ledge below Hopi Point...living on the edge??
We searched in vain at every overlook for a sighting of the California Condor, a bird that was on the brink of extinction and has been the focus of an intensive program to bring them back. A sad fact is that every condor, dead or alive, since 1976 has been named. Condors are one of the few species on earth that we can account for every single one by name.
Every overlook has a different amazing view.
This is Hermit's Rest. Designed by Ms. Colter, to resemble an old miner's cabin, with a giant fireplace and outside porch, it houses a gift shop and small snack bar. The best part of reaching this point was the fresh baked cookies and lemonade :-).
Our view while snacking on the cookies :-).
It was time to return to the campsite for lunch and dog walking. It really was so nice to have a campsite right in the middle of the action, so to speak, especially here in a park that is not completely pet friendly. One reason we loved our summer outside of Acadia National Park was that the dogs were allowed on any of the hiking trails with us. Our summers at the ranch are great as well, even though they aren't allowed to hike with us in the Teton National Park there is plenty of room for them to run and play on the ranch. That way we don't have TOO much guilt not taking them hiking with us.
Tusayan Ruins and Desert View Watchtower are about 25 miles east of Canyon Village Visitor's Center, a beautiful drive along the rim. This museum offers a glimpse into the daily lives of the Ancestral Puebloan Indians who inhabited the Grand Canyon about 800 years ago. The museum has many interesting artifacts found in the region, and there is a short walking tour of the ruins that have been excavated.
These are the remaining walls of the buildings that have been excavated.
Inside the museum was a representative drawing of what the village looked like while inhabited.
On to our final stop, the Desert View Watchtower
Desert View Watchtower is one of the most prominent architectural features on the Grand Canyon's South Rim.
The tower, another of Ms. Colter's designs, was built in 1932. The design is such that it looks as if it has been there since the beginning of time :-). The tower is 70 feet tall, with at least four floors of observation windows. This is the easternmost end of the Grand Canyon, where the Colorado River turns to the north and one can see expansive 100 mile views to the east of the Painted Desert, home to the Navajo and Hopi reservation lands.
the Painted Desert to the east.
We entered into the watchtower..
I was amazed at the detail on the wall paintings. Everything was meticulously researched and reproduced to give an authentic interpretation of the artwork during the time the Native Americans lived in the region.
Looking down from the top floor was a bit vertigo-inducing!
One last view of the Grand Canyon on our way back home for the evening. The next morning we packed up and had a short, 140 mile drive to our next destination, Page Arizona. We enjoyed our short stay here at Grand Canyon National Park, and completely agree with Theodore Roosevelt's assessment that it needs to be kept as a treasure for all Americans to see.
"We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune." Theodore Roosevelt