Apologies for taking so long to deliver this post to you. It’s been a combination of photographer’s block (putting off trying to distill over 1,000 Grand Canyon images down into what you’ll see here — note to self: procrastinating doesn’t help), five weeks having a wonderful time with family and friends back in Washington State, and time spent dealing with both expected and unexpected coach maintenance and repairs (more on the latter two elements in a future post). Nonetheless, I’m glad to be back posting here and I plan to get caught up to our current journeying fairly quickly. Now, back to our regular programming!
When we decided to start traveling full time we each made lists of our bucket list destinations. Not surprisingly, we both included Grand Canyon. Neither of us had ever been there but had always wanted to, and our desire to experience the Canyon (and many other national parks) had been further honed after viewing Ken Burns’ twelve hour documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” (highly recommended!) last year. We’d heard that staying in Trailer Village RV park inside the park was the best way to go when visiting the South Rim, but that reservations could be difficult to obtain during the spring high season. And, in fact, the park was essentially sold out when we first started looking into going there. However, I’d also heard they have frequent cancellations and so I started searching for a May reservation nearly every morning. After weeks of searching, we were thrilled when a five night slot opened up, starting May 3rd, and I quickly called the reservation desk and grabbed it. We really wanted a full week stay, though — I know, we ask for a lot 🙂 — so I kept looking for additional days to add on to our existing slot. After another couple of weeks two more nights in a different site suddenly became available immediately after our original five night slot, and so we had our full week reservation set, although we would have to move sites after the fifth night. As it turned out the Trailer Village management team was fantastic and when I mentioned, upon arrival, that we had two contiguous reservations and understood we would be moving sites after the first one, they quickly worked their magic and within an hour or two called us and said they’d arranged to keep us in the same site for the entire week! Not only that, but they gave us a week’s worth of free breakfasts at the nearby Yavapai Lodge, saying we’d somehow qualified for a limited promotion. Then, toward the end of our week we decided that we’d like to extend our stay for another couple of nights and they were able to work it out to accommodate that request also (although we did move sites in that case). So, we ended up staying in the park for nine nights and we’re grateful to the Trailer Village team for their assistance in making that happen. And, we thanked God for blessing us with more than we could have expected during our Grand Canyon stay.
Besides the awesome views along the South Rim, one of the great things about visiting there is that it has the best bus system we’ve yet experienced in any park. For no additional charge, visitors can hop on buses to easily reach every viewpoint (of which there are dozens, including about 20 easily accessible by vehicle), lodge, trailhead, village facility, visitor centers, etc. between the Hermits Rest area and Yaki Point. A bus runs by every one of the numerous stops every 10-15 minutes during the day (approximately every 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset) and the drivers were unfailingly polite and helpful. It was a fantastic way to explore the approximately 13 miles of the Rim served by the bus line.
Our visit coincided with Grand Canyon’s 100th anniversary as a National Park and it was fun to see the Park Service’s ongoing celebration of that milestone. Another fun aspect of our visit was the sheer number of international visitors that were there. We would not be surprised if it turned out that 50% or more of the visitors during our stay in May were from other countries. We heard non-English languages all around us every day and we spoke with many Europeans (particularly Germans) that had rented RVs (Cruise America and El Monte rental RVs were everywhere in and around the park) and were taking one to two months to tour western US sites. We also enjoyed speaking with folks from India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Mexico, Canada, the UK, and the Scandinavian countries. It all made for an interesting and fun time to be visiting Grand Canyon.
One unexpected pleasure was seeing the work of Mary Colter, a fascinating architect and designer who created remarkable and incredibly artistic structures on the South Rim over the course of 30 years, beginning in the early 1900s when female architects and designers were quite rare. Colter created fantastic buildings using modern superstructures that looked old and evoked ancient Native American designs. Her Hopi House and Lookout Studio are shown above (preceding gallery) and her Desert View Watchtower is featured below.
One evening we rode the bus out to Pima Point for late afternoon and sunset photos. Although the light didn’t cooperate as much as I had hoped, we enjoyed the beautiful views and conversations with fellow tourists and photographers that were there for the same reason. We were two of the last visitors to leave the Point that evening, as we lingered, enraptured with the views until almost complete darkness had fallen around us and the planets and stars were appearing overhead.
Another day we rose from bed around 4 am (which is an incredibly early time for this night-owl!) and made a 30 minute drive to Moran Point, arriving at 5 am, so we could view and photograph the sunrise. The Point is named after the famous painter Thomas Moran, who frequently painted landscapes from that particular location. His Grand Canyon paintings became popular nationwide and were one of the instrumental factors that led Congress to set aside the Canyon as a National Park in 1919. Two of the many photos I took at that spot are shown above (select each one to see a larger image). Just as with our sunset outing, the light wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped — there were too many clouds in the east — but we had a fun and glorious time getting up early and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
We drove the 45 minutes out to Desert View Watchtower twice during our stay, the second time fairly early in the morning after viewing the sunrise at Moran Point. There was a fairly heavy fog there during that second visit, which made for the above “moody” image. In addition to the “old” appearance created on the outside by Mary Colter’s team, the inside was decorated with fascinating Native American art and pictographs. During our first visit, Hopi potters Dorothy and Emerson Ami were demonstrating their work in the Watchtower’s ground floor great room. They generously talked about what they were making and how they would fire it and answered many questions I had about where and how they live (short answer: they live on the Hopi Reservation, which is completely surrounded by the Navajo Nation and is nearly 290 miles from Grand Canyon).
One day we hiked down the Bright Angel trail to Indian Garden, 3040 feet from the Rim down into the Canyon over the course of 4.5 miles. The temperature at Indian Garden is about 15-20 degrees warmer than up on the Rim. The bright afternoon sun and over 3,000 foot climb made for a challenging hike back up to the Rim, for a total hike of 9 miles. On each way we stopped at the 3-Mile and 1 1/2-Mile Resthouses to use the restrooms and have a snack break. Unfortunately, the Canyon had been having a cool spring and the water faucets were not yet turned on at the Resthouses. We were tired when we got back to the rim, but we had a fun time descending part way into the crater (making it all of the way down to the river would be a total of 5,000 feet elevation change and that round trip is something the park service strongly suggests one not try to do in one day) and seeing all of the geological strata and flora changes.
We had a delightful time exploring, in depth, Grand Canyon’s South Rim. We had weather ranging from bright, sunny days (although never hot except for our time down in Indian Garden) to rain squalls and a day of snow (fortunately, it didn’t stick around the next day). We had fun, never felt rushed, and got to enjoy some interesting people. And, now our appetite is definitely whetted for visiting the North Rim as soon as possible.
Next: On the shores of Lake Powell and then on to Mesa Verde and more of western Colorado.