Grand Canyon National Park: Grandview Point

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Two hours before sunset on our first evening in the Grand Canyon, we met up with Grand Canyon Jeep Tours & Safaris in Tusayan for the Grand Sunset Tour. Unlike the other tour company we used this trip, this was a well-run operation and we enjoyed this introduction to the park immensely.

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Our guide was a local with ties to the Navajo and very knowledgeable about the native flora and fauna. He took us through Kaibab National Forest via the unpaved historic stagecoach roads, pausing whenever someone glimpsed an elk or deer through the trees so we could all see.

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Our first stop was the steel Grandview Lookout Tower. This was built in 1936 as a fire watchtower by the Civilian Conservation Corps. We climbed the 80 foot tower to see the view from the top.

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We got back into the jeep and continued along the gravel road until it met up with the park road.  We got out at Moran Point where we could see the river and Grandview Point and then got back in the jeep to travel to Grandview for the sunset.

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The Grandview is the southernmost point on the South Rim and the farthest from the Colorado River. Because of its position, the drop-offs here are less steep with more intervening buttes and ravines than in spots closer to the river. This makes it an ideal place to watch the sunset as it washes over all the nooks and crannies in a colorful display.

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There was a hotel built here in 1895 for Grand Canyon tourists, before the construction of El Tovar and other Grand Canyon Village facilities. It only lasted a few years and we saw no remains of it when we were there.

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To see my other posts on the Grand Canyon, please click the following links:

Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/19/2014

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Grand Canyon National Park: Desert View

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Desert View is 25 miles east of Grand Canyon village. The park’s shuttle system does not extend this far, so you will need a car to visit this section. We were on the lackluster van tour I mentioned in my Yavapai post, so having a ride to Desert View was one of the few highlights of that tour.

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The main attraction, aside from the Grand Canyon views, is the stone Desert View Watchtower designed by Mary Colter in 1932. This building, like the other Colter buildings in Grand Canyon National Park, is a National Historic Landmark and was designed to blend into its surroundings.

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It is a replica of an ancient Puebloan Watchtower, with 85 steps leading to an observation platform at the top. The walls are adorned with murals painted by a Hopi artist.

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To see my other posts on the Grand Canyon, please click the following links:

Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/20/2014

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View of Cedar Mountain Mesa from the Watchtower

Grand Canyon National Park: Yavapai Point

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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On one of our days in the Grand Canyon, we took a tour that was not the wisest investment we’ve ever made. The van was late picking us up, the guide was nice but lacked common sense, and the tour ended abruptly when an elderly participant cut a gash in his forehead necessitating a trip to the medical center.

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Though I had a moment’s vindication when out of all twelve people on the minibus, I alone was able to dial 911 on my Samsung (leaving eleven iPhone users in the dust), we would have been better off using the park shuttles to get to the points we did see on the tour. Live and learn…but we did still spend the day in the wondrous Grand Canyon.

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One of the interesting stops on the tour was Yavapai Point. Since we were on a tour we didn’t have to worry about parking…there wasn’t much. Yavapai is the Northernmost point in this part of the South Rim, is closest to the Colorado River and has excellent panoramic views.

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Three large canyons converge on the Colorado River here. Directly opposite Yavapai Point is Bright Angel Canyon.

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We looked around the visitor center before moving on to the next stop. There is a geological museum inside which includes a topographic relief model of the canyon.

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To see my other posts on the Grand Canyon, please click the following links:

Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/20/2014

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At a stop on the way back, the tour guide encouraged us to stage this photo where we seem to be rescuing hubby from plunging to his death. At this angle, you can see the wide ledge behind him. He was fine. But when an elderly man hopped over the wall to try the same thing, he lost his balance and hit his head on a rock. Best not to fool around on the rim…better safe than sorry.

Grand Canyon National Park: South Kaibab Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

On our third day in the park, we had to rearrange our itinerary a bit. Originally we’d planned to take the Canyon Vistas Mule Ride out of Bright Angel in the morning and then hike a bit in the afternoon. But the previous day, our misguided tour guide had attempted to enthrall our group with spooky tales of mule mishaps in the canyon while driving us from point A to B. Never mind that in the entire history of the mule train, there has been only one related fatality, the 12-year-old was freaked out and hysterical at the thought of us plunging to our untimely deaths on the back of a mule. The concessionary gladly refunded us as there was a long list of people eager to take our places.

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And so we went off to the South Kaibab trailhead first thing in the morning. Private vehicles are not allowed on the road to South Kaibab, so we took the shuttle bus from the visitor center to Yaki point.

When planning our Grand Canyon vacation, we’d agreed that we really wanted to hike into the canyon, at least part of the way. Out of 5 million visitors per year, only 10% venture below the rim. My husband really wanted to hike all the way to the river and back, but I was concerned that my 12-year-old and I might not make it out. Every official website and sign in the park warns against attempting to hike to the river and back in one day. ESPECIALLY in the summer, which is when we visited. The danger of dehydration or heat stroke is real.

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After some research, we’d selected the South Kaibab trail. It is steeper than Bright Angel but has more dramatic vistas. The hike down to Ooh Aah Point (yes, it’s really named that) was an easy one mile descent…we considered going to the next stop, Cedar Ridge. But then I saw how far below Ooh Aah it was and I looked back the way we’d come and saw what looked like an almost vertical cliff that we’d have to climb to get back to the trailhead and decided against continuing on.

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A mule train making its way up the steep switchbacks

The hike back up from Ooh Aah Point was challenging. While it had been cool and comfortable at the top (7k ft elevation), it was considerably hotter inside the canyon. The ascent was so steep, it made our calves burn. We had to rest and drink water frequently, and of course, take pictures. The scenery was fantastic!

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Halfway back up the trail, we had to yield to a mule train. There are signs along the trail reminding you of the proper mule etiquette.

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A little further up, we spotted a large black bird circling and coming in for a landing. I got out the telephoto and saw that it was a rare California Condor with a tag number. Condors had been nearly extinct in the wild in the 80s and the US Fish and Wildlife Service started breeding them and reintroducing them into the wild in the 90s. At the time of our visit, there were approximately 70 living in the Grand Canyon. We showed the photo to a ranger in the visitor center on our return and he identified her as an 8-year-old female who had spent time recovering from lead poisoning.

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A rare California Condor circles overhead
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California Condor #9

Back up at the trailhead, we visited the mule corral. They were beautiful, friendly and not scary at all. Maybe we didn’t get to ride them this trip, but we did make friends with them. And the change in plans turned out for the best as it would have been too hot to hike into the canyon in the afternoon. And we got to explore the Western edge of the park later that day. My post on that Hermit’s Rest trip can be found here. And my post on Bright Angel is here.

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Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/21/2014

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Grand Canyon National Park: Hermit’s Rest

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

On our last day in Grand Canyon National Park, we decided to take the Hermit Road shuttle to the Western edge of the park and Hermit’s Rest.

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Hermit Road follows the rim trail for 7 miles, with several stops along the way at scenic overlooks. We rode the bus to the end of the road to Hermit’s Rest, part of the Mary Jane Colter Buildings National Historic Landmark. Hermits Rest was constructed in 1914 as a rest stop on a stage-coach line. Mary Colter was one of very few female architects in her day and perhaps the only successful one. Her buildings throughout the park are designed to blend in with the natural surroundings. Hermit’s Rest was designed to look like something a hermit would build with boulders from the canyon.

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Inside is a visitors center with some artifacts displayed, a snack bar and a gift shop. The views of the canyon from here are largely obstructed by brush and trees. Ravens, which are common in Grand Canyon National Park, love Hermit’s Rest. There were a lot of them here and they were friendly enough to pose for photos with us (though once they figured out we weren’t going to feed them, they moved on to the next tourist.)

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We decided to walk the rim trail part of the way back to Grand Canyon Village. Along the way we found stunning views of the canyon from Yuma and Pima Points. We were the only people on the trail and at the lookouts…this was the peaceful and awesome Grand Canyon experience we’d been longing for! At Pima Point, about a mile and a half East of Hermit’s Rest, the sun was getting low and we were able to hop on the last shuttle back to the village.

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Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date NPS designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/21/2014

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Grand Canyon National Park: Bright Angel

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Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s natural wonders and is on pretty much everyone’s bucket list. Because it is just so GRAND, I’ll need more than one post to cover all that we saw while there. This post covers the Bright Angel section of the park. Bright Angel trail is perhaps the most popular trail from the Southern Rim to the canyon floor. You can find lodging in this section of the park at either Bright Angel Lodge or El Tovar. Both are historic lodges.

We had our first glimpse of the canyon as we turned west toward the park. It began to rain as we passed through the entrance, but by the time we got to our lodge, it had stopped.IMG_6494

We checked into our cabin at The Bright Angel Lodge, just steps away from the rim of the canyon and the Bright Angel Trailhead. Since it had just rained, everything was shrouded in fog and we couldn’t actually SEE the canyon, but when the fog started lifting out of the canyon, it was incredible.

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View of one of the cabin’s bedrooms through the connecting door

We loved our cabin at Bright Angel Lodge. We rented two rooms which comprised the entire cabin. We lucked out and had a connecting door (which they couldn’t guarantee at time of booking.) Amenities included a mini fridge, tv, and dispensers with a heavenly lemongrass scented body wash, shampoo and conditioner. we were a few steps away from the the Grand Canyon and the Bright Angel Trail. Both rooms had a ceiling fan which was plenty…no need for AC while we were there. It got down into the 50s at night.
We had thunderstorms each afternoon that forced us inside for an hour or two so we were grateful for our homey cabin.
I reserved our rooms a year in advance…there are 5 million visitors a year and not many rooms in the park. I see on the website that the lodge will close for renovation this year from September -December 2018.

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The lobby of the main building at Bright Angel Lodge

The rim trail runs behind the Bright Angel Lodge and El Tovar (THE historic lodge in the park) and is level with guardrails so you can’t just fall over the side in the dark. I got up before dawn and walked the path behind our cabin to El Tovar where I watched the sun come up over the ridge with about a dozen other people.IMG_6730b

There are some historic buildings in this area. Lookout Studio was constructed by the Santa Fe Railway in 1914 and used as a photography studio. It is now a gift shop with stone terraces from which to view the canyon.

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Lookout Studio was built to compete with the nearby Kolb Photography studio in the early 1900s

Hopi House, along with Lookout Studio, Bright Angel Lodge and several other buildings in the park, was designed by female architect Mary Colter in 1904. It was built to be a living museum where Native American craftsmen worked and sold souvenirs.

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Hopi House Living Museum

In the afternoon of our second day in the park, we had some time to kill before our reservations at El Tovar so we took a hike on the Rim Trail. It started to rain again and then stopped almost as soon as we’d donned our rain ponchos. As it cleared, rainbows began to appear in the canyon. Amazing!IMG_6967

El Tovar was worth the splurge! It’s the priciest place to eat in the canyon and is a fine dining experience so you can’t walk in with your dirty hikers and shorts (though it’s not THAT dressy…no one was wearing ties or jackets except the waiters…polo and khaki pants are ok)IMG_0604
We were seated by the window for a great view of the setting sun. The lodge and dining room are lovely and full of history. The staff was great…our waiter opened a bottle of wine for us and noticed the cork was bad so he immediately got us another bottle.
Our food was delicious …basic continental fare with some inventive touches. Like my husband’s ny strip steak that had a crumbled feta and some sort of delicious sauce. Everything was very well prepared. Oh and they let my daughter order a half portion from the regular menu instead of making her choose from the standard chicken finger kids menu.

Location: Arizona

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1/11/1908

Date of my visit: 8/19/2014

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