We breezed through Flagstaff and headed west to Grand Canyon National Park. It was late in the afternoon and we wanted to get there and set up our tent and campsite before dark. Our first neighbors at the campground were these:Moose!We hurriedly unloaded our gear in the high altitude chill and got to the edge of the canyon at dusk. So did everyone else in the world, it seemed. There were no parking places in any of the lots anywhere. We drove in circles through the village around the hotels and eateries trying to get to the cleft of the canyon before dark. Finally Tech Guy dropped me off at a viewpoint and went on alone to park the car.
I walked up to the edge which was fringed by a low stone wall. I almost didn’t want to look until Tech Guy got there—it seemed like we should have that “Aahhh” moment together. But even though it felt like being on my honeymoon alone, it felt even stupider to be standing at the wall of the Grand Canyon not looking. So I looked. And this is what I saw:
It was actually kind of disappointing: through my lifetime I have seen so many Technicolor pictures and calendar pages of the Grand Canyon that this was kind of a let-down. It was basically a brownish hole in the ground and I couldn’t see the river at all. Yes, it was big, though. A big brownish hole.
I walked back to my drop off point and met Tech Guy, still circling. We went to the village market to pick up a few supplies and something to eat.
When we set up our tent we discovered that the rain fly had not been packed with it the last time it was put away. AARRGH. We had loaned the tent out and it had come back in two parts which had separated in our basement over the winter. The whole top half of the tent is mesh and the rain fly is the only privacy as well as the weather shield. I didn’t mind maneuvering into bed in the pitch dark night but I was a little afraid of waking up to see a moose’s face up against the screen. This was my view waking up in the morning:The breath of fresh air, yes? The only problem was the air was well below freezing, 19 degrees one night. We froze.
We had learned on our first night at Klamath Falls Wal-Mart to forgo the niceties and to sleep in our clothes with sweatshirts and socks and knit hats. So we layered up and huddled. Daybreak was a relief.
I had planned all my outfits for the 2 aspects of our trip, hot weather in Havasu and cold at the Canyon. Certain tops were designed to go with certain slacks to make coordinated & (hopefully) cute outfits. Forget all that! In the morning I couldn’t bear to take off the shirt I’d slept in for one that was 19 degrees cold, so I just layered on more and more. An early stop at the store for coffee caught me looking like this:
Purple and brown and green and black&white. Oh my! The only consolation was that other campers weren’t much better. The hotel gang were noticeably improved but then they weren’t washing their faces with an ice cube.
Thus fortified we set out to see the Canyon. Our approach was to use the free tour buses to get to the farthest point, Hermit’s Rest, with stops at viewpoints along the way where people got on and off. The buses come every few minutes so we could disembark, take some photos, read the signs and board the next bus.
One driver was so funny! He said, concerning which viewpoints to go to, “Pick you out a couple of ‘em. This is a big hole in the ground. There’s not a lot of difference between one overlook and another. If you came here to see pine trees then stay on the bus. If you want to see the Grand Canyon, then pick you out a couple of overlooks.”
The wind was blowing at 50 miles an hour all day. People who work at the park said they had never seen such sustained high winds lasting all day. Hats were useless and wigs were problematic. Here is a picture of me trying to keep my hood up to hold my hair on while trying to take a picture:
Here are some pictures from various viewpoints: At the westernmost end of the bus route is Hermit’s Rest, a hut for weary travelers back in the burro pack trip days, long before cars or even national park status.
We headed back towards the village stopping at Bright Angel Trailhead where undaunted souls begin their descent to the valley floor and back up again. Some people do it all in one day. In the center of the photo below you can see a group of hikers. The foreground shows just how little protection there is against a fall--no walls or railings. But we saw quite a few people starting out on the trail.
Just beyond the trailhead is the home of the Kolb brothers, intrepid pioneers and daring adventurers on the Colorado River. Much of what we know of the early days in the Grand Canyon is because of their photography. Their personal histories are fascinating but outside the scope of this blog. I bought several books on the human history of the Canyon—that’s what the park ranger called it. I told him I didn’t really care how old the rocks are, or what millennium or geologic age they come from, but I do love learning about the people who made the Grand Canyon what it is today: the Kolb brothers, and Fred Harvey who brought the Harvey Girls through the west and got the train coming to it, and Mary Coulter who was a rare pioneering woman architect in early 1900 and created many distinctive structures in the canyon following patterns of the first Southwestern natives. As interest grew in the Grand Canyon different entrepreneurs fought to get a piece of the action with their burros or stagecoaches and eateries. I bought a book about Mary Coulter and the Harvey Girls and have a couple more I want to get on the human history. It is wonderful that in 1919 the land was designated a National Park preserving it for us all.