Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grand Canyon

1496 -1692 (11891 - 12087)

Today I visited the only one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World in North America, the Grand Canyon.

I took the advice of a travel guide and headed north out of Flagstaff along Route 89 and then entered Grand Canyon National Park from the far-less-visited east side. The drive was more scenic; this photo shows Mt Humphreys, Arizona's highest peak, in the side mirror. No, I was not moving.

By approaching the park from the east, I travelled through the Navajo Indian Reservation. Here are some of the Navajo Churro sheep that free range there. There is always a dog around, partly for herding but mostly to keep coyotes away. I imagined my border collie Nikko's head exploding at having such responsibility.

I came upon an overlook just outside the National Park, still on the "rez." The crafty tradespeople had it set up so you had to pass by their tables of jewelry and crafts to get to the site. It certainly worked for me. Inspired by my success with Warren in Albuquerque, I bought some silver earrings at one stand. But my real find was farther up, where I met Sophie (she was camera shy, so I surreptitiously got this shot; she is in the red).

Sophie was making dreamcatchers. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, the dreamcatcher had become my personal talisman for this trip, so to obtain one from the actual artist was a treat. She loved adding extra flair; bits of turquoise in the web and fabulous feathers and colored beads. She explained that making dreamcatchers started with the Chippewa tribe, but became popular in other Native American tribes. So, dreamcatchers aren’t traditional in most Indian cultures, per se, but they're sort of neo-traditional, like fry bread. All I know is I like them and the symbolism they hold.

I asked about the couple of friendly dogs in the parking area; she told me many dogs here look after sheep, but these belonged to the craftsmen and they enjoyed greeting tourists. The brown and black one was hers; his name was Dreamcatcher. How perfect.

I entered the Grand Canyon National Park at the east entrance, Desert View. I am glad I did. Desert View Drive (Highway 64) follows the South Rim for 26 miles to Grand Canyon Village, the more oft-used entrance.

Here I am at Desert View. I found while I was at the Grand Canyon that I had to constantly refocus my eyes, and my thoughts, to absorb the view and its meaning. I echo this quote about the Grand Canyon by another adventurous Ted: President Theodore Roosevelt. "The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison--beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world... You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see."

At Desert View is the Watchtower, which at a distance looks like an ancient Anasazi watchtower it was meant to mimic. In actual size the tower is considerably larger (70 feet high), and certainly not as old; it was built in 1932 as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project. Unfortunately it is under renovation so I could not enjoy the 360 degree view.

I like this particular picture of the Watchtower because you can actually see the Colorado River. As the Grand Canyon is a mile deep, you never get a full scope of its depth from the rim because you cannot see to the bottom.

By checking out the overlooks on the 26 mile drive between the east and west entrances, I got to see a lot of things others missed by sticking to the traditional spots around the Visitor's Center. I definately got a taste of nature; here is a huge raven up close and personal.

I loved seeing the multitude of tracks in the snow. We are not alone in this park!

I had never seen some of the animal warning signs that I saw along Desert View Road. Here is one warning of elk.

Here is another, warning of cougars. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!), I did not see any of these magnificent creatures.

Once I arrived at the Visitor's Center in Grand Canyon Village at the west entry, I was glad I had had some time in the solitude of the earlier overlooks. The Visitor Center was crowded with people of every size, color, and variety; it felt very much like a space port. I certainly heard a wide variety of languages: the lilt of French, the gutteralness of German, the emotionalism of Spanish, the rapid fire of Japanese and other Asian tongues, as well as the twang of NASCAR and the whine of adolscents. I was ready to bolt.

I did check out the magnificent El Tovar Hotel. Built in 1905, it has that old fashioned ambiance of rustic elegance with massive beams and mounted deer, elk and moose, feeling like a hunting lodge belonging to the rich and famous. I got the same feeling at the Glacier Park Lodge. Consequently I felt no remorse by saving money and not staying here or in one of the other lodges in the park. This picture is just yards from the El Tovar's back porch.

One thing I found rather amazing and perhaps alarming is how close you get to the rim. In fact, there were multiple spots with no fencing at all. Perhaps Darwinism at work?

I drove the hour south and rejoined Route 66 at Williams, Arizona. Instead of my standard selection of a Hilton or Hampton Inn (none in Williams anyway), I had decided to be really adventurous and stay at the Mountain Side Inn. I had gotten an "internet rate" of $39; I figured I would either get a bargain or exactly what I paid for! In the end the room was old but clean, the heat worked, and it had Internet access. Worked for me!

I was greeted in the lobby by the clerk, who was decked out in full cowboy regalia: hat with spread feathers in front, boots, western shirt with pearl buttons, giant belt buckle, even chaps and a jacket with fringe. The part that did not fit was that the gentleman was Korean. I do wish I had gotten a photo of him.

In broken English he said he was pleased to have me arrive (probably so he could go home). I pointed out that there seemed to be lots of unplowed snow in the parking lot. Not to worry, he said. I was one of two guests.

The Mountain Side Inn's Miss Kitty's Steak House was obviously not going to be opened for its two guests. I ended up at the famous Rod's Steak House (Fine Dining Since 1946), with its mascot, "Domino," displayed everywhere. They even had their own beer, a red (it was OK).

Tomorrow I try to get a few more kicks on Route 66, and ultimately end up in Sin City. Viva Las Vegas!

1 comment:

  1. We got to stay at El Tovar, during our summer tour of the canyons,'09, Grand, Brice, Zion. It was great being so close to the edge, and seeing the canyon in moonlight. First morning there, elk in the front yard. I thought they trucked them in, but they were back later. As Ben said,"There sure are alot of canyons out here!" You said it, buster.