Highlights: The views - duh! Waking up to Rocky Mountain Elk in the campground.
Campground: Site 42 W/E/S/CATV (Direct TV), poor to no Verizon cell coverage; Elevation around 7,400' meaning 30 degree temperature swings. Low 60's during the day – low 30's at night.
While at the campground it wasn't unusual to see Rocky Mountain Elk as well as Ravens drinking from dripping water connections.
Grand Canyon (GC): We entered the GC from the east and stopped at several of the viewpoints with the trailer in tow. Parking for the trailer was a mixed bag. The Desert View Watchtower is a must-see and has a huge parking lot for buses and RV in addition to the car lot. The Watchtower as well as almost all the other historical buildings here were designed by Mary Colter early in the 20th century. As with her other designs, the tower blends into its' environment. From the top, you are at the highest point along the south rim at 7,522 feet above sea level. If you don't want to walk to the top, there is a second floor outside balcony that is well worth it.
Desert View Watchtower
Murals adorn the Tower
View from Tower - looking northeast at the Colorado River
Mary Colter was born in 1869 and graduated from the California School of Design as an architect in 1902! Working for the Fred Harvey Company she designed the Hopi House in 1932 using hand picked local stone and murals done by a local Hopi artist (see The Hopi House below). She also designed Bright Angel Lodge in 1935, Lookout Studio in 1914, and my favorite of hers – Hermits Rest (1914) which she purposely designed to look like a crudely constructed miner's cabin made of native stone and timber. The fireplace is one of the most remarkable I've ever seen. The scale of it is jaw dropping as you enter the building - especially in relation to the small room. The hearth literally takes up the entire wall and rises above ceiling height. Colter incorporated a broken bell from a Spanish Mission into the entry arch adding to the charm.
A interesting design feature of Bright Angel Lodge is that Colter used rocks from each of the geological strata of the Grand Canyon into the the fireplace. Every stone was carried up from the canyon by mule.
Navajo Point was our second stop entering the park and had 4 trailer suitable spots and we were able to get one of them. We made the mistake of going to Lipan Point (the next overlook), which was extremely narrow and a more extreme turn at the end. Don't do it with a trailer. Moran Point was similar to Navajo – slightly bigger, but after Lipan Pt we were gun shy and went straight to Grandview Point, which had a separate row for longer vehicles – which is fine as long as people park within the lines. We had a guy parked one spot upstream of us who pulled too far forward, not giving us room. I had Sandy stop cars from coming behind me and backed the trailer up into the road to exit. Worked out OK.
The North Rim is in the background
On our second day we utilized the park bus/shuttle system (which picked us up at the Trailer Village entry station), and did a walk/shuttle combination to reach all the viewpoints on the west end of park.
Highlights included Trailview Overlook where you can watch hikers navigating Bright Angel Trail; Powell Point with great views and memorial to the two Powell Expeditions, Hopi, Mohave, and Pima Points have exceptional views. The Abyss was the only one less than special. Advertised as a 3000' sheer drop it didn't look any different than other overlooks and the view is narrow because it is on the inner bend of a canyon.
Bright Angel Trail from Trailview Overlook
View from Powell Point.
View of Powell Point
The Colorado River is hidden here - but is deep within the purplish rock in the bottom of the photo running from right to left
As above, the purple rocks in the foreground look combined but they're not. The river is running in the middle of it.
Moving along the rim a view of the Colorado almost a mile below us opens up. This is a zoomed in crop of a 600mm lens!
We had to wait for the bus to leave and the visitors to thin out, but as advertised, we could indeed hear the Colorado River at Pima Point. Pima Point has two good views of the river and I could see a band of white on one so took out the binoculars. It turned out to be a large sand bar with river trippers camping on it. I wonder if our son Erik and wife Anna camped here on their rafting trip a few years ago?
The white spot in the river is a sand bar with river running campers
The river scene above zoomed out. The River bend can be seen in the middle left.
We had a slightly better late lunch at Bright Angel Lodge than expected, though we had low expectations. We were lucky enough to have a window seat and while we couldn't actually see the canyon, we saw people walking by with highly mounded ice cream cones. Even as we ate the ice cream looked great until we went outside and were hit with the latte-afternoon wind that was beginning to increase, rising up out the canyon. As it was just after 4PM and sun setting at 5:10, we decided to walk the rim to the Hopi House and head home.
Bird perched above us by Hermits Rest
The Hopi House has a cute gift shop with some nice native made ceramics and sand art that I liked at prices about $10 and more than we saw at Tuba City. It is now apparent that 90% of the native looking quilts and blankets are made from the Pendleton company out of Oregon. Their offerings look of good quality but also command a high price. I'd rather buy native. It was only in Colorado Springs and Santa Fe that we have seen actual Mexican blankets (though there are roadside vendors if you look for them).
At the close of day
Our second full day at the GC was going to end with temperatures in the teens, so we booked another day in front of our upcoming stay in Sedona, but kept our booking for the GC so that it allowed us to have mostly a full day at the GC. This double booking allowed us to stay past the 11 AM departure time to visit the remaining viewpoints and buildings.
Oddly one of the last things we did was go to the Visitor Center and Mather Point. Although I feel like we are really informed before going to any park, we still go to the visitor centers and are often rewarded with fun and useful information. There was a 20 minute movie we didn't have time to see, but did watch an interesting animation of the formation of the canyon – complete with the movements of the earth's land masses over millions of years on a twirling globe. I also liked the giant relief map hanging on the wall. The center has other buildings including a cafe and fantastic book store where I picked up a history of native americans.
Mather Point and the ubiquitous busload of foreign tourists
Near Mather Point
I took many photos of this colorful scene!
With my biggest zoom I could capture some of the canyon bottom
A walk along the rim trail from there to the Yavapi Lodge and Geology Museum brought us to a trail past the Amphitheater and Market Plaza (with Post Office) where we caught the bus back to the campground. We didn't leave until 2:00PM and had a 2 ½ hour ride to Sodona. We made it there just in time to hook up before dark.
A final piece of trivia that I found interesting is that the Kolb studio – built and run by brother photographers in 1902. The brothers business involved photographing visitors taking mule rides into the canyon on the nearby Bright Angel Trail. Because there was no water to develop photos at the rim and studio at the time, the brothers took the photos as the tourists were leaving, ran 4.6 miles down into the canyon to their darkroom to develop photos, then ran back up to meet their customers as they came up from the canyon! I would have done that once.
On to Sedona!...