It seems ages ago that we were in New Zealand putting down our provisional itinerary for JWalking2 US style. It was now time to head off from Flagstaff for the hour and a half drive to THE Canyon to surpass all Canyons. In good old Ringwood style, I spent an hour or so looking at possible routes so that we could get the most scenic approach. Silly really because any arrival point just knocks your socks off anyway.
There were two entrance points to The Grand Canyon National Park that we could use. One at the East Rim and one at the South Rim. What of the North and West Rim I hear you ask? Well the North Rim is closed until May and the West Rim was a couple of hundred miles away (the nearest to Las Vegas and has the impressive skywalk). I had figured out a loop whereby we could drive north past Sunset Volcano and the town of Cameron before arriving at the East Rim entrance. We would drive the 26 miles or so along the Rim before arriving at the South Rim and the main visitor centre. Our return route would be via Tusayan and the San Francisco Peaks.
Little Colorado River Gorge
We were within about 20 miles of the entrance to the Park when we saw a “Scenic View” sign. If time allows we always like to pull off a see what is on offer. We left the road and approached a little kiosk which was staffed by a lady in a very smart uniform. She explained that we were currently in the Navejo Reservation National Park and that this small gorge was managed by them. For a small donation we could park, take pictures and visit some of the little stalls set up. It was really impressive and a great introduction to Canyon country.
We managed to escape the wildlife unscathed and pushed onto the Canyon proper.
The Grand Canyon National Park
The National Park Service is celebrating it’s centenary this year so there are certain free days to access the parks across the country. We knew this wasn’t one of them but guessed on those dates the parks would be overrun so we paid our $30 for a week’s access and headed to the first view point, Desert View. We were speechless at the first sighting of the Canyon in all it’s glory and we didn’t have a paper bag over our heads (more on that later). The photos, although impressive, do not give any concept of the vastness and light cast over each ridge. Here a few of the many many photos we took:
We didn’t want to leave for fear that the next location would not be as good. How wrong could we be? As we wound our way along the Rim towards the Visitor centre we stopped off at most viewing locations. The most memorable for Jon would be Moran Point. Despite my protests he decided to head off the viewing platform to join some other tourists taking photos from the rocks. It was there that he met a would-be Park Ranger who he talked to for ages about the Canyon, the Colorado and the hiking tracks. He was gone so long I was sure he had tumbled off a cliff taking a selfie. Now where did I put those insurance documents? He returned eventually with a whole lot of inside information on life in the Canyon.
The Grand Canyon Visitor Centre
Truth be told we were a bit disappointed in the visitor centre. Only two billion years of history to retell and not many plaques at all! So I will have to give you the condensed facts “Jo Style”:
- The Canyon is 277 miles long
- Up to 18 miles wide
- Has a depth of over a mile
- Is maintained and administered by about 6 bodies (The Grand Canyon National Park being only one of these)
When we continued our walk along the Rim we saw a large number of people taking stupid risks to get photographs of themselves with the Canyon and the drop to the Canyon floor behind them. After a bit of research it turns out, that fatalities are not as high as you would think for a high risk location in the desert. Sadly the 1956 air crash claimed the most. Two passenger aircraft collided over the canyon, both potentially off course. It claimed 128 lives. Where the pilots doing a mini sight seeing fly by over the canyon?
The Mystery of Glen Hyde and Bessie Haley
I love a mystery so had to include this gem I picked up. These two adventurers set off in a twenty foot wooden boat in October 1928 on a honeymoon trip. The plan was to set a new speed record to travel down the Colorado through the Canyon and Bessie would be the first woman to do so.
Glen had river experience but they were last seen on 18 November 1928 when the couple hiked out of the canyon to get supplies. They returned to their boat but were never seen again, although their boat was found with all supplies on it fully in tact. A male body was found a few years later with a gun shot wound the the head but it was proved not to be Glen Hyde. A real twist in the tale was that in 1971 a woman on a commercial river tour claimed to be Bessie and that she had murdered her husband during their record attempt. She retracted this confession a few months later. A case for Miss Marple me thinks.
The Paper Baggers
One tour company have come up with a really novel idea of giving their clients the wow factor on arrival at the canyon.
The tour party are led by their guides to the edge of a viewing platform and on the count of three can remove their bags – the screams where electric. A simple idea. Love it. Too late to bag Jon?
The San Francisco Peaks
Named about 150 years ago, long before the city. These peaks make a stunning approach on our return to Flagstaff. In the winter this area is a busy ski resort. Once again, the roads were packed (not!).
We think, for us, we did this the perfect way. Two fantastic scenic drives, fantastic views of the canyon from each location and perfect cool clear weather. Will anything else in the US measure up to this? We shall see.