On Thursday 2nd evening after we had rested from our hike, we drove out of the Grand Canyon National Park into the forest where camping is allowed as long as you are parked ¼ mile off the tarmac road or “the pavement” as they call it. One of the rangers had highlighted a few roads on a map which she said had some nice camping spots so we took the first one. After a ¼ mile we came across a sign saying Saddle Mountain Wilderness and Arizona Trail 3 m, the road wasn’t as bad as the “Hole in the Wall” one so we decided to take it and found a really great place to park for the night and a short walk to the rim of`the canyon with a very different view over to the flat lands in the west where the canyon was not so dominant.
Friday 3rd June
We woke early and started on our drive round to the South Rim spotting a wild Turkey in the woods as we went. Quite a dramatic change of scenery from the forest to the desert with large red “Butes” looking just like we have seen them in the Cowboy films. There were very many stalls along the way where the native Americans (Indians) sell their crafts but unfortunately we were a bit early for them and very few were occupied, presumably the coaches are later than us. We crossed the bridge over the Colorado river at Cameron then did the last bit of the drive into the east gate of the Grand Canyon National Park again. The Ranger on the gate was extremely unhelpful (unlike every other one we had met so far), saying that all the camp grounds were full even the first come first served one which seemed very strange. We missed the turning for that one which wasn’t marked and drove about 5 miles before returning to find it was nearly empty! We bought our ticket from the machine to claim our spot then drove the 25 miles to the Grand Canyon Village. First we checked at the campground near the village and found that they did have a couple of places free so we could have been more central however they had none for Saturday but one on Sunday so we booked that and decided we would have to drive out to the forest on Saturday evening.
This park had shuttle buses like Bryce & Zion so we took the shorter scenic route to see the views where vehicles were not allowed to go then returned to the visitor center to watch the excellent film about the park. To finish the day we worked our way back the 25 miles to our campsite calling at all of the viewpoints on the way, this side of the canyon was very different, it is 1000ft lower than the North Rim and the canyon goes down in large steps. It was too dark by the last two view points so we decided to see these in the morning and returned to our campsite via the petrol station because the alarm had come on (I am sure there is a hole in the tank!!). Because of it’s remoteness the fuel was rather expensive so we only half filled this time. Interestingly though our credit card worked in the pump, luckily as the kiosk was closed and we wanted to leave early in the morning.
Saturday 4th June
A fairly early start to visit Desert View which is at the eastern edge of the park, The view here was good being able to see the transition in the landscape to the desert beyond, it also had a tower built to resemble a “Hopi Indian” tower, this gave a great view over the Colorado river far below including the rapids and a few ox- bow bends. Onward to the village where we parked and jumped on to the village shuttle to visit the central area. We got off at the train station where the long excursion train was in. This has been built to resemble the original trains built for this line with observation areas in the roof. A bit like the pictures we have seen of the “Rocky Mountain Express”.
The “Village” was great with many original or carefully reproduced buildings keeping the whole thing “in context” except the Hotel had somehow been allowed to extend with awful concrete accommodation blocks looking just like a typical university student block. What a shame. Perhaps the influence of money!!
By chance we came across a dance demonstration by some Native American’s which was very interesting and entertaining then after lunch we came across a Ranger talk on the Condors, which was very interesting especially as at the end of her talk a Condor decided to circle in the canyon just behind her.
We finished the day on the “Red Route” of the shuttles which was the picturesque route, nine miles again where vehicles were not allowed. We stayed on the bus as we had little time before dusk but saw that it was a must for perhaps Monday because tomorrow, Sunday we were going to decend the canyon.
Not having anywhere to camp we headed out of the park to the forest and found that the park finished after just a mile then a mile after that we found a really nice spot the correct distance from the road and had a very peaceful night.
Sunday 5th June
A fairly early start to park and don our boots and rucksacks with “Camel-Backs” for water and food etc then catch the shuttle to “The Bright Angel Trail” the most popular trail down into the canyon from the South side. Again we decided to just walk an hour down, so set off at 9am and arrived at the three mile mark which had a primitive “Restroom” and rest area at 10:20 just over our time. After 30 minutes rest and food as recommended by the Rangers we set off back up. The ascent was fine except that logs had been put across the track to hold back the earth and produce a series of steps which were no problem on the way down but going up they broke the rhythm and were a bit steep for Judy’s little legs.
The views and changing geology going down and up were fantastic and we must say that in the last three parks, the adjective “AWSUM” used constantly by the Americans for everything, started to become appropriate.
We arrived at the top at 12:20 making a return trip of just 1½ hours which to us was impressive, but apart from the logs it didn’t seem as steep as the North Rim trail. So second decent done we were very pleased with ourselves because we had improved albeit the altitude was 1,000ft less but we were still feeling fresh. We now wish we had done the extra 1½ miles to the Indian garden but never mind. We had a restfull afternoon to type this and get some more washing done while the facilities were available.
Tomorrow we will walk the 9 miles of the Red route seeing all the viewpoints and return on the bus.
Monday 6th June
We started our walk at about 10am thinking it would be a level 9 miles but some of the climbs seemed steeper than the canyon decent yesterday!
We were really pleased we decided to do this hike today because the canyon scenery changed considerably, getting much more rugged and dramatic and because there were quite tight bends in the rim and canyon we were able to see right to the bottom and the Colorado river at many points.
At one point we saw the tiny dots of a couple of blue inflatable rafts. Looking through the small binoculars we had with us Steve saw that one was going through some rapids while the other waited it’s turn then it started but got the angle wrong when it entered and was spun completely round and went through the rapids backwards. At the next observation area there was a board explaining that although the river looks quite gentle from our position of over a mile away, it was actually a roring torrent classed as an 8 on the rafting 10 point scale. Both rafts disapeared from our view as they were going through so we kept looking each time we glimpsed the river to see if they were ok, but we didn’t see them again.
It was a good but strenuous day to finish our time at the Grand Canyon so after sending this email and emptying and refilling before we leave the park we will spend another night in the forest tonight, then head for Sedona in the morning which many people have said is absolutely beautiful. Well we have seen some amazing sights so far let’s hope it comes close.
Both of us agree that so far Bryce Canyon has to be the most amazing of all, Grand Canyon comes close because of its enormous scale.
Till next time …………………
Steve & Judy