The Very Grand Canyon
These travels occurred in late September/early October 2021. The posts are gathered under the ‘Travel’ category (top right of page) and numbered to indicate the order in which they should be read.
Having returned to Union Station in LA, we took advantage of Amtrak’s lounge offering complimentary coffee, soft drinks, water and snacks while waiting for our train. I suspect the jewel of our trip is just ahead of us: The Grand Canyon.
THE. GRAND. CANYON.
We traveled overnight from LA to Flagstaff, Arizona, arriving at 4:20 AM Thursday. We were greeted by 37 degrees at an elevation of 6822 feet. Then hopped a short bus for to Williams Arizona, arriving around 5:15 AM. The entire trip was in the dark, so no pictures.
We had to see the desk clerk at The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel to trade our vouchers for 2 different hotel stays, 2 trips on the GC Railway and breakfast at the Fred Harvey restaurant. Since we arrived at 5:15 and the desk clerk didn’t open until 6:00 and breakfast didn’t happen til 6:30, we chilled on a chilly morning in Williams Arizona. The GC Railway operates a 2 hour rail experience from Williams AZ to the Grand Canyon itself as well as the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams and several lodges at the south rim of the Canyon. In Williams, the hotel exhibits a cowboy theme in the expansive lobby. There are several huge original paintings and some sculptures by Frederick Remington (1861-1909) an American artist best known for his art depicting cowboys, soldiers and Native Americans of the old west. Outside the hotel there are a lot of train-themed pieces of equipment on display and not one, but two gift shops and the Fred Harvey Restaurant.
Fred Harvey (1835-1901) was an entrepreneur who developed the Harvey House lunch rooms, gift shops, and hotels serving rail passengers on many rail lines. He was a rail passenger himself and saw the need for meeting the basic needs of travelers and worked with railway companies to do so.
We had breakfast, saw a corny cowboy show in a mock Old West town and hopped aboard to see The Grand Canyon. I suspected we hadn’t seen the last of those cowboys. On the way up to the Canyon our train attendant entertained us with many facts. For instance the area is home to 6 types of rattlesnakes, 1 of which, the Grand Canyon Rattlesnake, is only found at the Canyon area. Grand Canyon National Park is the only National Park that is a city with its own K-12 school, zip code and post office. He tells us that the two very large birds at the Canyon are Turkey Buzzards with an 8 foot wingspan and the California Condor with its 12 foot wingspan. In 1988 there were only 22 condors surviving, while there are over 500 now. The most dangerous animal in the park? Man? Nope, he’s number two. Elk? Rattlesnakes? Sasquatch? Nope, nope and nope. It is the squirrel. Yep a cute little gray-ish squirrel. One out of ten emergency calls in the park are for squirrel bites. They are not afraid of people and will crawl on you to get to the food.
We saw one guy sitting outside a sandwich shop preparing to partake of his vittles when a fairly large squirrel approached, patiently waited for his meager share of the meal and when none was offered the squirrel climbed up into the poor guy’s lap and stood up to help himself to the food the unfortunate guy was holding above his head. His wife was standing by while remarking “oh, he’s so cute” and similar endearments. The look of utter wonder he gave his wife was priceless while this hungry rodent with sharp claws and comparatively large teeth stood atop the family jewels reaching for the sandwich.
Our train attendant had told us the squirrels were hosts to all kinds of diseases such as rabies and the plague. I’m not sure about the plague and I haven’t had a chance to consult The Google due to spotty cell coverage in the wide open spaces of the West. The Grand Canyon was carved out by the Colorado River and enhanced by erosion, not glaciation. Also the South Rim of the Canyon is at about 7000 feet elevation and there are fossils of marine life in plain sight on the rim path. That indicates the entire area was under water at one time, further telling us the area was seriously uplifted by tectonic forces a very long time ago.
The train reached the area of the south rim and delivered us to buses for a 1-1/2 tour of the park. Our driver/tour guide gave us a few more facts such as the Colorado River is 10 to 100 feet deep, averages 300 yards wide and is often deep blue, but since they just had heavy rains at the end of their monsoon season and the accompanying runoff, the river is a murky orange/brown today. We are told that while there are larger canyons than the Grand Canyon in the world, no other canyon shows more layers of sediment.
The Grand Canyon is just stunning in its beauty. My meager photographic efforts with a camera phone just don’t do it justice. While it is remote from travel hubs and might require a day’s travel to get there and another day to return to the hub, it is well worth the time. Visiting both the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks has been on my bucket list for a long time. I think they will remain on the list for return visits when I can spend more time at each park. In both parks I highly recommend paying for a guided tour because you learn so much from the guides that you would not discover while wandering around on your own.