My first trip to the Southwest was a few years ago – we went to Bryce Canyon for a long weekend, and got to explore some of the surrounding area while we were there. That visit was all it took: I was hooked on the naked, raw beauty that is the Southwest. Last week was my second visit to the Southwest. In the previous post I talked about Tucson, the first part of our trip. This post is about the glory that is the Grand Canyon, which we visited for a few days at the end of our trip. Stay tuned for the next post, which will be about some soups inspired by our recent trip to the Southwest.
True confession: I don’t have much desire to travel outside of the US. Are you shocked? Don’t be! Here’s my thinking: the US is a mighty big country with some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and I’d like to hike through some of that scenery before I croak. Have you any idea how many flipping glorious trails there are in just the western states? If you factor in the other states and territories, there are more beautiful places in the US than there is time in which to visit ’em. As soon as I’d seen the Grand Canyon, I wanted to hike from the South Rim (where we were staying) down to the river and over to the North Rim (I don’t think you could get across the river, but just the thought of the hike made me happy). I wanted to walk from one end of the South Rim rim trail until I reached the other, taking time to visit each and every overlook. I gazed down into the canyon and wanted to hike to Plateau Point. In short, I wanted to come back and do some serious hiking.
This was not the visit for serious hiking, however. So what did we do at the Grand Canyon on this visit? We hiked and drove and strolled and sat and took pictures. We drank local beer, ate one fabulous dinner and one dreadful one. We people-watched and played the “guess the nationality” game. We read brochures and maps and plaques, and talked to rangers and fellow travelers. We spotted new-to-us birds (as well as relatives of some of our favorites here at home). We scoffed at the idiots who had created an “elk jam” (but we slowed waaaaay down to look at the buck ourselves – he was HUGE!). We listened to coyote songs at night, and looked up at bright stars shining in a beautifully dark sky. Here are some high points from our trip:
- Exploring Hopi House. I love the look of buildings made from natural materials, and this place just slayed me. The doorways were low enough to come close to slaying the Mister, mind you, but they were perfect for your little munakins (no need for me to duck when I walked through ’em). The setting of the building is just perfect – right across from the El Tovar Hotel (the grande dame hotel for the park) and overlooking the canyon itself. The Mister and I took a lot of photos of this building – almost as many as we had of the saguaros in Tucson, but not as many as the wonderful photos he took of the ravens here at the Hopi House and elsewhere in the park …
- Hiking the rim trail before dawn to see the sun rise. It was so cold that morning, but ooooh was the sunrise worth it. The next point over had a crowd of 10 or so people waiting for the sun, but I shared this point with one other person for the first 20 minutes. As I watched, the stars faded away, the sky lightened from deep navy to bright turquoise, and the sun found the canyon walls. On my way back to the hotel the birds were awake and fussing about, and other people began to appear on the trail … By the time I got back to our room I was one very happy human Popsicle.
- Hiking the rim trail in the late afternoon (thanks to a ranger’s scope, we saw a baby condor in its cliff-side nest at one of the outlooks). For most of the hike we had the trail to ourselves. We’d come around a bend and find ourselves at an overlook and back amongst hordes of tourists (who were riding the shuttles, for the most part). Back on the trail we’d go, and the trail would be ours once again. Magical. We hiked out for a few miles and then took the shuttle back to the village where we stood at the rim near the Lookout Studio and watched the sun set and the stars come back out.
- Exploring Desert View where we watched ravens frolic around and over and under the watchtower. We marveled at the images painted by Hopi artist Fred Kabotie and murals (copies of prehistoric pictographs and petroglyphs) by Fred Greer in the watchtower. (Follow that link and click on “DESERT VIEW WATCHTOWER INT” to see for yourself how marvelous the interior is.)
There’s a lot to like about the Grand Canyon. Like so many of our national parks, the Grand Canyon has a “grand dame” hotel that hosts a very good restaurant: the El Tovar Hotel. We didn’t stay at that hotel – we stayed at the Maswik Lodge – but we had dinner there our first night, and it was fabulous. Thanks to the park’s free shuttle service, there’s a lot that you can explore without having to drive. In a fiendishly clever bit of marketing savvy, the park has sweetened the blow of banning the sale of bottled water in Grand Canyon (too much litter, as well as the too-high environmental cost of shipping bottled water to the park) by establishing water stations scattered across the more popular areas of the park. The water stations offer free water, and all of the gift shops sell souvenir reusable water bottles (you can also fill up your own water bottles, of course). The water is from springs that are far below the rim of the canyon, and the water tastes so good! And while the park is a very popular one, the trails empty out the further you get away from the parking lots (or the more popular shuttle stops). The Mister and I both had a lovely time on our visit to the GC – me slightly more than the Mister, who prefers the Four Corners region to this area. Ah, but I miss the Canyon and its trouble-making ravens already …
That’s it for this post. Next up will be a post about soups inspired by our visit to the Southwest. Keep warm until then! – Yr little munakins.