For our third day in Arizona in April, we spent the day up at the Grand Canyon. We were staying at a house on the north-south road up to the South Rim area of the canyon. This turned out to be a really good spot for getting up to the Canyon early in order to get a parking spot. We visited the Visitor Center first, taking in the informative and inspirational movie and getting maps and Jr. Ranger booklets for our day.
We didn’t spend time looking at any interpretive materials, but instead wanted to get to the real thing. Paths in the area of the Visitor Center are paved and flat and easy to navigate.
Our first views of the Canyon felt unreal. It is so huge, and the chasm so vast, it’s hard to get your mind wrapped around what you’re seeing.
Though the scenery is iconic and has been a part of my knowledge for ever, it is something completely different to be there in person.
The colors, the scale, the depth, the wind and sun, they all combine to make it a larger-than-life experience. We took our time soaking in the sights in the area of the South Rim, capturing numerous photos from different angles.
During one of these moments, we were pretty sure we saw a California Condor flying way down below us.
We decided to hop on one of the shuttle busses to go to the west end of the village, where we would transfer to another shuttle bus that would take us out on the road to Hermit’s Rest. While we were waiting for the shuttle, we saw a group of 4 California condors sailing above us.
This was a dream of mine, to see these birds, and what a thrill that was! We are used to seeing bald eagles and great blue herons in the skies above us at home, but these birds were noticeably larger and more impressive in the sky. I hadn’t realized they had white patches on their wings. Such a magical moment.
There are many stops as the bus makes its way to the west on the road to Hermit’s Rest. Regular vehicles are not allowed on this route, but people can hike along the trail, and can ride bikes along the road. I thought that would be a fun way to experience the Canyon on another trip. The bus driver gives good information about which stop is next on the route, and people can hop off the bus, take a look around, and then hop back on the next shuttle.
We got off at the Powell Point stop, and walked out on the promontory, where we had wonderful views of the canyon. There is information there about the Orphan Mine project and some other historical details if people are interested in history. We then walked along the trail to the next stop, enjoying traveling near the precipice.
It didn’t feel dangerous as long as we all stayed on the path and behind the fences. The only thing that felt scary to me was when other people were choosing to go beyond the fences for photos, and especially when they were holding terrified children while doing that.
One thing that astounded me about our time at the Grand Canyon was that every view is unique. You look out and take in the view of one section, and then walk to another spot and get a completely different view.
The light changes over time, the clouds roll over, and the colors shift.
We walked a bit, rode the bus again, and ended up at Hermit’s Rest, the end of the line.
There is a gift and snack shop there, with restrooms and water and places to rest. It was sunny and warm, and we were all feeling the effects of being at 7000 feet elevation as we ate our lunches. The building at Hermit’s Rest is unique – stone and wood, with a giant fireplace inside; interesting architecture.
Then we got back on the shuttle bus and rode all the way back to the Village. We walked over to see some of the museums and other sights in the main village area.
The Rim Trail follows east-west along the rim, taking visitors to many different attractions and trailheads.
Kolb Studios is a historic building perched on the edge of the canyon. Inside it has displays and interpretive materials about the Kolb Brothers, who were some of the early settlers in the canyon.
They created a photography business, taking photos of tourists, and creating dangerous ways of getting unique shots. We enjoyed learning about them. We were entranced by an old canoe used by other early explorers.
It had a life vest made of corks. I’m not sure I’d want to go down the Colorado River with that!
At this point everyone was getting hot and tired, and ready to be done with our day.
We looked inside the Hopi House, which had Native American type art inside for sale. We also peeked into the Verkamp Visitor Center. It looked like it was primarily historical in nature, but we didn’t stay to read the info. We had wanted to walk further along the Rim Trail to the Yavapai Point Geology Museum. There are interpretive displays along this section of trail, and the museum sounded interesting. But we were completely out of energy, so we’ll have to visit that next time. We also didn’t get a chance to drive out to the east to the Desert View Watchtower and the Tusayan Museum and Ruin. We figured next time we should schedule 2-3 days to visit everything we wanted to do on the South Rim. We’d need more time if we wanted to do any hikes down into the Canyon.
While taking the shuttle back to the parking area, we saw a few groups of huge elk. And we saw lots of groups of pronghorns on the way back down to our cabin. What a treat to see these beautiful creatures.