Friday, May 31, 2013

Our Grand Canyon Adventures

"It seems a gigantic statement for even Nature to make~"
John Muir

We began our trip in Las Vegas -- 3 days of rest and relaxation, catching up on sleep, catching rays by the pool, and of course, catching glimpses of the neon lights in the city that never sleeps.  Our plan was to leave Vegas and drive directly to our hotel in Flagstaff- from there we would visit the South rim of the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and hike around the Flagstaff area as well. We left Vegas around 10 am and planned to arrive in Flagstaff about 3 hours later~~~ until we got sidetracked!

  On our way to Flagstaff, the Gardener saw a sign for the "Grand Canyon Skywalk".  Hmmmm -- discussion time.  "Yes or no -- its says it's 50 miles." (in the OTHER direction). Well, lets just say that we are always up for an adventure AND we weren't on any set schedule, SO --

The drive towards the Skywalk was scenic and the desert flowers were beautiful.  Meanwhile, I'm checking Google (on my phone) so that I could read about the Skywalk to see just exactly what we had signed up for.  All was going well -- until we took that left hand turn as directed~

From my journal~
"we have been driving now for what seems like almost 40 miles on an unpaved road-- all I can see is dust.  Lots of dust.  I can't even see the oncoming cars for the dust all around us. We have surely done something wrong! We are in a rental car bouncing along this humpity bumpity road -- I'm thinking-- what do we have here for survival gear? All I can find is a half eaten candy bar in my purse and a can of pomegranate Red Bull that someone gave us as a free sample back at the Hoover Dam a few hours ago.  I think we are surely screwed ~" 

 The Grand Canyon Skywalk (also know as Grand Canyon West) is privately owned by the Hualapai Indian nation.  The only way into the West entrance is along the unpaved road(!!)  When we finally arrived -- the dust cleared and the amazing canyon was directly before us. Gasp --- it was gorgeous!!  To be totally honest -- there was NO way I was going to walk out on that Skywalk.  NONE!! I'm happy to hold your purse, your bag, take your picture -- wave at you across the way -- but I AM NOT walking out on that clear piece of plexiglas that is precariously hanging over top of the canyon!!!  That would be the Gardener in this photo above waving his hands -- and I would be the one taking his picture from THIS side of the canyon! 

Honestly-- I thought this Skywalk thing was kind of hokey.  And I thought that maybe I should have said NO when we had our little "on the road" discussion about fifty miles ago -- and way before we turned our rental car into a dust bomb.  As we were entering the shop area to pay our admission fee -- I asked several people who were just leaving -- "was it worth the money? Should we take the whole bus tour?" Every single one of them said YES -- absolutely, it was wonderful. So~~ we bought the tour and boarded the bus--   

 Our first stop was Eagle Point where there were more breathtaking views of the canyon. 
(there were hiking trails available but we did not have time to do those)

a short trail meandered through a reconstructed 
Native American village~
(we found this to be very interesting and loved the opportunities for photos)
there was also a lovely gift shop and cafe where we had our lunch

This part of the tour would be fascinating for young children.
There were also Native American dancers who performed a variety of dances along with their music.
(we did not stay for any of the shows,but opted to hop on the bus for the next stop on the tour-- we still had a long drive ahead to get to Flagstaff tonight!) 

Stepping off the bus at Guano Point was like nothing I could have imagined. Our bus driver had just told us that we were about to witness one of the most beautiful places in the entire Grand Canyon --- he was right.  I could only stand and stare --- not really being able to take it all in --- this was beyond incredible~

Jutting out into the Grand Canyon, Guano point is of the most stunning viewpoints in the whole of the Grand Canyon. One can walk out to the tip of the point and experience a nearly 360 degree canyon view~
(I was dying to climb Highpoint Hill -- but not realizing the hiking opportunities that were available on this tour I did not wear my hiking boots - instead I was wearing flip flop sandals with bling!! Are you kidding me?? I am such a monkey -- and love to climb anything.  I was so disappointed that I could not make the climb :(

There is some interesting history associated with Guano Point~
 In 1958 the rights to a nearby bat cave were purchased by U.S. Guano Corp. The company constructed a $3.5 million dollar tramway system to extract the expected 100,000 tons of guano (a valuable ingredient in fertilizer) from the cave below the rim. Unfortunately the original site survey was incorrect and the last of the mere 1,000 tons of guano was extracted by the end of 1959. Shortly after the mining project was closed, a US Air Force fighter jet collided with the overhead cable system, permanently disabling it. The remaining towers were left intact as a monument to man's attempt to mine the canyon.  You can read more about the history of Guano Point here.  

We were totally mesmerized by the amazing scenery here-- the ruins of the mining operation and the canyon below. Everywhere  - every view -- every place we looked, it was beautiful. We walked around for a couple of hours taking picture after picture~

the Gardener capturing THE perfect photo~
(you can see it just below here)

the Gardener was fascinated by the vintage gears housed inside the mining ruins.
To sum up our experience at Grand Canyon West--
1.Would we drive all the way out there just to visit the skywalk?
Hmmmm - no. While my husband said that he loved the experience of walking on the skywalk -- once was enough. Been there, done that.  And of course, you KNOW I'm not going there!
2. Would we drive out there for a repeat of the bus tour?
Absolutely - 100% yes!!  We would go back to Guano Point in a heartbeat.  (And-- I would take my hiking boots so that I could climb High Point Hill!!)  There was so much to do that we did not have time for -- hiking trails into the canyon from Eagle Point, a Native American ranch and village reputed to have a wonderful restaurant, and a beautiful flea market (at Guano Point) featuring Native American handcrafts and jewelry.  We visited the flea market briefly -- but it was huge and we did not have much time to see all that was there. 

And so we traveled on to Flagstaff, (arriving late and tired -) 
but feeling like we had just experienced the most wonderful
unexpected day~~

Our next visit to the Grand Canyon was a couple of days later when we visited the South Rim of the canyon. The first thing we saw was this historic Watch Tower sitting on the edge of the canyon.  I could not get out of the car fast enough , I was SO excited to go see this incredible structure~ 

Designed at the turn of the century by a female architect,
Mary Colter-- the Desert View Watch Tower is one of the most famous historic buildings on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Mary Colter was a designer who became what might be called the official architect of the Grand Canyon.  She was a female architect at a time when women were unknown to the profession.  Using local stones, and Native American themes and builders, Colter created buildings that stand today
some of the finest examples of turn of the century Native American influenced architecture. 

She designed the Bright Angel Lodge, Hermit's Rest, Hopi House, the Lookout Studio and the Desert View Watchtower. She also designed Phantom Ranch, the guest ranch at the bottom of the canyon along the Colorado River. Many of these structures do not look like they were built by an architect; they hardly even look like modern buildings at all, but more like old Native American dwellings, even ruins. This appearance of age was entirely intentional; it was all part of Colter's art, her signature. 

The Watch Tower is located right on the edge of the Desert View section of the Grand Canyon. The views of the canyon below were breathtaking. The Colorado River -- the lifeline of this great canyon-- lies almost a vertical mile beneath the South Rim.  This is one of the few sections of the canyon where the river is clearly visible.

The distance between the North and South rims of the canyon is nearly 10 miles as the crow flies -- or a distance of more than 20 miles on foot by way of interconnected canyon trails. The South rim is more than 1000 feet lower than the North rim of the canyon. 

Gazing out on this massive canyon, it is hard to imagine that it is a true piece of geological history -- shaped by wind and water, freeze and thaw-- over 5 million years ago~

As hard as we tried to capture the true beauty of the canyon -- it simply can not be done. Between the 2 of us -- we took over 1500 photos. What you see here, is nothing compared to the awesome wonder of the canyon when you are standing on the edge looking down~

  The first time I visited the Grand Canyon (years ago), it was an astonishing experience.  This trip, my fourth visit to the canyon, is no less astonishing.  Staring into the abyss from our viewpoint on the rim -- we are both awed and speechless.

~this unending space filled with air and light 
against a stark contrast of 

At the deepest part of the gorge is a distant small ribbon of water. The Colorado river is responsible for carving out
 this monumental space. 

If you were to paint this Grand Canyon-
what colors would you use?

quietly contemplating~
all this amazing beautiful scenery 
and we have hardly stepped out of sight 
of the
Watch Tower

of course we're going in
and of course, we are climbing
to the top!

a view from one of the windows
 on the middle level 
of the tower

climbing a little higher~

Mary Colter visited Indian ruins all over the southwest to draw her inspirations in designing the Desert View Watch Tower. Native American artists were responsible for the murals and drawings inside the tower.  These are THE original murals and drawings -- I am amazed that they have withstood the test of time~

Completed in 1932-- these murals are almost 100 years old.  


~love these stairs 

walking around the tower~
I'm loving the stones here.

I have this little obsession with doors~

a few more photos from the rim next to the Watch Tower~

~also have a little obsession with trees-
old dead trees~

My new favorite thing~
Collecting stamps in my National Parks Passbook.
the first floor of the Watch Tower houses 
a beautiful gift shop.  
My first stamp for my Passbook came from the gift shop there.
By the end of our trip -- I had collected almost 
20 stamps for my book. 
 I'm on a mission now! 
(if you love visiting National Parks -- you might want to consider getting your own passport book!)
You can purchase them at any National Park Visitor Center.

We spent most of our day in the Desert View section of the Canyon, visiting the historic buildings and the numerous scenic viewpoints along Desert View Drive. We ate our dinner in the beautiful Bright Angel Lodge -- another of the buildings designed by Mary Colter. Just before sunset -- we decided to take a little hike down part of the Bright Angel Trail. 

This photo is of the famous Kolb studio precariously perched right on the edge of the canyon. The Bright Angel Trail  (which leads directly to the bottom of the canyon)originates just on the other side of this studio. 

Walking down is easy~

We walked down for about an hour--
it took us almost twice that to make the trip back up!
It's a steep climb!

the setting sun cast some beautiful glows
 on the canyon

a scenic arch near the top of the trail~
we finished the trail just before dark-
almost too tired to even talk!
What an incredible first day
at the South Rim!

In the next post I'll take you all along as we hike the South Rim trail -- one of the most scenic trails in the entire canyon.  Get your hiking boots ready --- it's just a mere 13 mile hike!
 (pack lots of chocolate!!)

ps -- I'm sorry this post was so long :)