Monday, March 25, 2024

The Grand Canyon, Finally!

As you can see, the weather was perfect for our visit - finally. We are so glad we were able to rearrange our trip and get new reservations at the campground. This was taken our first afternoon from Mather Point. 

We had a full half day at the Park after 
settling Baby in the first site at Mather campground.

We took advantage of the many benches along
the Rim trail to enjoy the view and rest.


We made reservations for 3 nights at the Grand Canyon months ago but as the time drew closer the weather report looked ominous: freezing temperatures and possible snow. Mather Campground inside the park had no electricity or WIFI and possibly no cell service. So we rearranged our schedule. We were supposed to go from our RV park south of Phoenix to Sedona, then the Grand Canyon and finally to our friends Rick & Marsha in Prescott Valley. They were fine with our going to them first and  we were able to get three nights at Mather in the Grand Canyon following our visit to them - unfortunately 3 different sites. And the weather by then looked great. Finally the nice people at Page Springs Campground near Sedona allowed us to move our reservation to 2  nights following our stay at the Grand Canyon. 

The view our first morning near the El Tovar
hotel looking east about 6:15 AM

A close up of the point east of our spot just before
the sun rose. This scene is in the upper right of the
photo to the left!

We brought thermoses with hot coffee and 
dressed warmly as you can see!

Then afterwards we sat at a window table at the
elegant El Tovar dining room for a fantastic

It all worked out wonderfully. We had three days of sunshine with highs of 68 and moving the RV each day wasn't too hard. The sites themselves were all very nice, in different loops within the Mather Campground. There is a shuttle stop right outside the campground entrance so you don't need to drive everywhere. The shuttle service is very convenient. They come around every 10 minutes and weren't crowded. I imagine later in the season there could be long lines at some of the stops.

I love looking at the trails and imagining our heading down them. But it's too late for us to experience the trails down to the bottom of the canyon. Ten years ago we trekked in the Andes of Peru at much higher altitudes so we could have done it then. But our daughter Zoe and husband George hiked down with 1 year old Nick and all their camping gear 20 years ago - pretty amazing. And then just a few years ago George did the grueling Rim to Rim hike! Down the from the north rim, up the south, down again and back up! Hard to believe!!! You can just see the Bright Angel trail going down in the upper right and then the next section below the pink cliff.

The next section is a series of switchbacks seen here in the lower left quarter. It's possible to ride a donkey down this trail and stay the night in the canyon. The ride doesn't scare me but sitting on a donkey's back for 5 hours does!

We left Marsha & Rick's early and were all settled in our first site by Noon. That afternoon was spent walking the Rim Trail from Mather Point west. It was a crystal clear day and the visibility was excellent. We did find ourselves more winded then usual, not used to the 7,000 foot altitude. We were happy to return to Baby later for a good nap and dinner. I was worried about the cold at night, not having electricity but the propane heater worked out well and we broke out our down comforter for our stay. Our actual difficulty was not having WIFI or cell service. We really missed that!

Our first full day we took the shuttle down to Hermit's Rest, stopping at the viewpoints and hiking along the Rim trail between some of them. 

Scott loves the driftwood and dried trees for the 
shapes they make.

You can see the Rim trail stretching out from one
of the viewpoints.

Our first morning we got up at 5:30 AM and were at the rim at 6 AM to watch the sunrise. Our location at El Tovar Hotel wasn't picked for the best view but so that we could get a seat in their restaurant right afterwards by the window! We did that three years ago on our first trip west in Baby and enjoyed it so much we looked forward to doing it again. Then we took the shuttle down to Hermit's Rest. At the driver's suggestion we got off at the first stop and hiked west to Hopi Point. Someone had asked me earlier what would we do for 4 days there - "Once you're seen the canyon, what else is there to do." For us, each stop looking out at the canyon was different and all beautiful. The view changes every 100 feet or so, and the light illuminates and brings out the colors. We also enjoyed the vegetation and wildlife along the canyon - we saw herds of elk, many wandering around the campground! After reboarding the shuttle, we got off at most of the stops to see the view. Hermit's Rest has a cafe (and of course, a gift shop - that's everywhere) where we splurged on mocha coffees and sandwiches. 

In the middle of the day in the bright sunshine the canyon's colors turn pastel. This was taken down near Hermit's Rest in the western most area of the National Park land.

In the early days of the Park, visitor's took a long
buggy ride down to this spot and could rest and 
have a simple meal. Then they either returned the
same way or took mules down to a hostel for the

Looking out from the cafe

We also love the Mary Colter designed buildings throughout the park. We first learned about her and her contribution to the west at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, AZ and the Painted Desert Inn at the Petrified Forest. She was the Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey Company architect and interior designer from 1902 to 1948. She was known for her innovative Southwestern concepts and use of native materials and design. Besides Hermit's Rest, she designed the El Tovar Hotel, the Hopi House, Lookout Studio and the Desert View Watchtower. 

It's 26 miles from the Village to Desert View at the eastern end of the park. There is a campground here but it is closed during the winter. The cafe however was open and many of the visitor's including us enjoyed hot drinks. It was windy so felt much colder than the actual temperature.

This view from Desert View looks down on the terrible airplane disaster location that happened back in 1956 when United Airlines and TWA planes collided mid air. All 128 on board died. There is a memorial to them at this site. 

The Mary Colter designed tower at Desert View.
There was a line to climb the tower and a charge
so we passed that up. I'm sorry now after reading
that there are some beautiful art works on the 
second floor.

Native American craftspeople had tables inside
with beautiful works on display and for sale.

Our second full day we headed east to Desert View, stopping at every view point. The shuttle only goes a short way in that direction so we drove. It's 23 miles but with all the stops took most of the day. The most interesting for me was Grandview Point which details the history of the copper mine on Horseshoe Mesa far below. This "incredibly steep" trail was completed in 1893 and the Grandview Hotel in 1997. This was the original center for tourism before the construction of the train in 1901 which resulted in the development at the Village.  I went down the trail aways until some ice appeared. Scott declined. 

The trail at Grandview near the beginning.

It got narrow and rough - also it was MUCH
steeper than it looks in the photo

I took this photo looking back up to the 
viewpoint - it's easier to see how steep it was.

The road in the park ends at Desert View where we enjoyed another mocha drink with a cookie. The campground was closed but the cafe and of course, the gift shop were open. The trip down and back with all the stops ended up taking a long time. and we got back late. Luckily I had plenty of leftover food for dinner! The next morning we were off to our next stop, the Page Springs RV Park near Sedona. More on my next post.

We saw a lot of elk around the park, These were
right near our last campsite.

The morning sun shone right on my face the
last morning and Scott took this photo and 
posted it on facebook (I didn't know). Kind of
sweet although I look my full 78 years!

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