Grand Canyon, AZ. Tuesday May 29
It was a glorious day for visiting the Grand Canyon. Our plan had been to leave Flagstaff, drive through the San Francisco Peaks and Coconino Forest to enter Grand Canyon through the South Entrance. Reviewing the park’s web site made us switch plans. Road construction inside the park and summer attendance were forecast to cause delays in reaching the park. Instead, we drove north to Cameron and then west to enter through the East Entrance at Desert View Watchtower. I had been reluctant to go this route because we will leave the park through this gate Wednesday. It is our preference to view as much different territory as possible on our trips. Later on Tuesday we encountered the road construction and it verified the wisdom of using the East Entrance.
The drive up from Flagstaff begins with numerous inactive/extinct volcanoes on either side of the road. As we progressed north, the trees and volcanoes disappeared to be replaced with scrub brush and rolling buttes and escarpments. The Little Colorado River joins the road just after our turnoff to the national park. We stopped at Cameron Trading Post about a mile past the turnoff for some lunch which we packed away for later. The road has been improved since we last drove here and a McAllisters Deli added at the junction of US 89 and AZ 64. It did not open until 10 AM though so we catch it for lunch Wednesday or Thursday.
Our first stop in Grand Canyon National Park was at Desert View Watchtower. This building, and several others, were designed by Mary Coulter, a famous female architect and designer who worked for the Fred Harvey Company and Santa Fe Railroad for 38 years. She incorporated Native American Indian styles into much of her work. The Watchtower is 70 feet high with a stunning view of the landscape. She designed the building with a modern steel structure but an exterior of weathered looking stone. It has Native American symbols on the interior walls.
As our first stop, we took our time here. The crowds were not too bad. The views from outside on the overlooks and from inside the tower gave us a great introduction to the canyon and the Colorado River. The temperature was in the high 70s and sunny all day; it made for great walking and picture-taking. The drive to the main south rim area is 22 miles. We saw some elk along the way and stopped at a few overlooks.
The main visitor center has an excellent introductory film which we viewed along with a few other displays. We ate our lunch outside and then walked the two some miles from the visitor center at Mather Point to the El Tovar/Hopi Point area.
Along the way we took pictures, took pictures of other people with the canyon in the background, and just enjoyed the day. By now it was after 3 PM. Chris, Deb, and Rebecca walked along the rim a bit more and then headed over to Maswik Lodge to check in.
If you are paying attention, you remember that the car is back at the visitor center. I tried to take the shuttle back to pick it up. As I waited at the shuttle bus stop, a construction worker (remember the road work?) told me that the shuttle no longer stops here due to the construction. No sign was posted to that effect. So I took the Greenway Trail, a pedestrian/biking path through the trees most of the way back to the visitor center before I was able to catch a shuttle. The construction has messed up the timing of shuttles too. The shuttle I took was jammed-I compared it to the shuttle buses we take to the MN State Fair. Everybody gets in to fill the bus and then 20 more people pack in.
The four of us separated for a while and then met up at dinner at the food court in Maswik Lodge. Sunset viewing is a big deal here, good spots are taken early. We chose to drive out to the Geology Museum at Yavapai Point, getting a good parking spot and a good viewing spot. Since we had over an hour to kill before sunset, individually we walked a bit, took some pictures, and talked to people. Deb spotted a young elk along the path, drinking from water pooled by a water fountain.
Chris and I spent fifteen minutes chatting with a ranger. She was feeling sore. Last night, she and her partner transported a prisoner to Flagstaff. On the return trip, a deer hit the patrol car. She was in the passenger seat where most of the impact was and the air bag deployment was a little rough.
The crowds increased as sunset neared and we took more than our share of photos. Last night was also a full moon. We hung around to watch the moon rise before heading back to our room.
All in all, a grand day at the Grand Canyon.
Ed and Chris. May 30