We started on our way to the Grand Canyon South Rim on Wednesday Morning. Hoping to avoid the steep climb up and over the mesa, Tom found a secondary road, recommended by Arizona DOT for towing vehicles. It was perfect. No steep grades to traverse. We were soon at the junction of US 89 and AZ 64 for the final 50 miles to the park. 64 proved to be a well-maintained road, but it was a steady slog uphill to the park entrance at Desert View. The final 20 miles were along the edged of the canyon with beautiful views. We were soon in Trailer Village, the full hookup campground at the Grand Canyon. The south rim experienced the same storm as the north rim on Tuesday, so things were a bit of mess in the campground. Mud and other debris scattered throughout the area. Our site was fine, long enough for the RV and the truck. Significant problems: no WIFI, no cell coverage.
Our first stop was Bright Angel Lodge to check-in for our Mule ride the next day, we had to be weighed, sign a bunch of papers saying we know the dangers of riding a mule and receive instructions for what to wear. Then we walked out the back of the lodge for our first close up look at the canyon. WOW! The late afternoon colors were beautiful. Then a walk down the road to El Tova Lodge to make dinner reservations for Thursday evening.
Thursday dawned bright and sunny, perfect to a drive out to Desert View and the Watch Tower, followed by stops at each of the overlooks returning to the visitors center. Desert View was spectacular! Every way you looked was another fantastic view. The Watch Tower overlooking the point appeared to be an ancient ruin but was actually designed by Mary Colter in 1932 based on her observations of ancient Native American ruins. It really is difficult to describe. The interior murals were created and painted by FRED KABOTIE, a HOPI ARTIST. For more information go to https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/photosmultimedia/mary-colter---indian-watchtower.htm
On June 30, 1956, TWA flight 2 from Los Angles and United flight 718 also from LA collided over the Grand Canyon near Desert View. A monument is located there. You can read more about this tragedy at http://doney.net/aroundaz/grandcanyoncrash.htm
We stopped at each overlook until the rain began then just a quick stop at the Tusulyan ruins. Until we notice a large number of cars parked along the verge…that could only mean one thing, Elk! Of course, we stopped too. A massive bull elk was rubbing his antlers on a tree and cow elk in the background. Tom got some beautiful pictures of them. While I’m talking about elk, there was a cow with two calves in the campground one day, and we saw a few more just wandering along the road.
Thursday evening we had reservations for El Tova the premier lodge. It was exquisite, although some of the people were not. I had the roast duck with cherry chipotle sauce, rice and broccoli on the side and Tom had Wienerschnitzel. We both had the lemon cake with cherry filling and whipped cream. It was all delicious.
Each day was something new. Friday was the Mule Ride on the edge of the canyon. I was not sure I would like it, but I did. My mule was Seymour, he was black, and Tom had Corkey, he was brown. We received all the warnings about what could go wrong, but the mules are smart, they aren’t going to walk off the edge. The group of riders was friendly and our guides, Steve and Ray, had a lot of interesting, funny stories to tell. I was a little sore the next day but not too much.
The rim trail is 15 miles from Yeki to Hermits Rest. We walk parts of it each day but not the entire path. One of the highlights is Mather Point to Yavapai Point and Geology Museum. We took Gracie with us and walked both ways (dogs are not allowed on the buses). I should mention here that Grand Canyon NP has an excellent bus system to move people around and it is free. Then we had to stop at the Verkamp’s Visitor Center and Hopi House to get our National Parks Passport books stamped. Hopi House, also designed by Mary Colter is where the really good souvenirs are. Beautiful Navajo blankets, rugs, jewelry, and pottery. Zuni and Hopi pieces. I bought a lovely silver and turquoise necklace and a little Zuni rabbit fetish made of Pipestone & turquoise. We planned to take the bus up to the Hermits Rest in the evening to catch the sunset, but a massive storm came in washing our plans away.
Our last chance for Hermits Rest was Sunday morning. We took the blue line bus to the red line bus (they only way except walking or biking). Each stop revealed another fantastic view of the canyon. The weather seemed perfect, cool but not cold with beautiful clouds overhead. Soon the clouds turned dark, and rain began, so we jumped on a bus straight up to the top. We had a little lunch, shop a bit (another turquoise necklace and a cute little turquoise bunny Zuni fetish) and walk around enjoying the views. The clouds continued to darken, rain began to fall, thunder and lighting followed. Again we got on a bus that quickly filled with people until it could hold no more. It was interesting that the first 8 seats were reserved for Seniors and handicapped, I had one driver ordering everyone to the back, point to me and say “you sit there" indicating a front seat. However, many people disregarded these instructions and took those seats anyway. At the bottom, we ran for our blue line bus back to the RV.
Other souvenirs of our stay: we each bought a tee shirt, and for our RV home we purchased a beautiful Pendleton Blanket in a Navajo design. Part of the proceeds goes to the Indian College Fund.
We may never return to the Grand Canyon but if we are ever in the neighborhood, I will.