Arizona 2018:
Day 6 - Grand Canyon


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Arizona 2018: [Day 1 - Mesa] [Day 2 - Mesa] [Day 3 - Mesa] [Day 4 - Tucson] [Day 5 - Grand Canyon West] [Day 6 - Grand Canyon] [Day 7 - Prescott]

Friday, December 28, 2018: We awoke to a clear blue sky and evidence that we had received more snow overnight.
Snowplows were out in force clearing the town's streets, ...
... so clearly, they are used to handling snow.
Look how cute this little train is with a light dusting of snow!
We left Williams shortly before 8:00 AM, ...
... but not before grabbing breakfast at McDonald's.
Ice crystals in the air formed a sun dog around the sun.
It followed us down the road for a while.
We passed through beautiful Kaibab National Forest.
We saw snow falling in the distance and hoped we wouldn't get caught in it. Spoiler: we didn't!
We passed Planes of Fame Air Museum and somehow managed to not visit it. Our top scientists are still trying to determine how this happened.
There it is! We caught tantalizing glimpses of the Grand Canyon in the distance but we were still at least 20 minutes away.
Tusayan is the last town before entering the Grand Canyon area. We stayed here with the girls when we visited in 1998, not that any of us can remember it at all!
This photo was originally taken for the cool sculpture of horses, but now we admire it for the no-nonsense approach of the restaurant behind it. Their kitchen makes chicken. Respect.
Keep an eye out for horses crossing, mkay?
A partial government shutdown had started a week earlier, and many parks were closed or partially closed. However, the state of Arizona put up the funds to leave the Grand Canyon open. Entry was free and we drove right on through since there was no one at the entrance gates anyway.
We headed to the visitor center first. A sign there gave details on how the government shutdown affected the park. Third party vendors were keeping the stores, restaurants, and hotels open. The state of Arizona was paying for trash disposal, snow removal, and rest room cleaning. There were significantly reduced federal staff so with fewer rangers to assist, visitors were requested to use caution around the park.
We headed to the South Rim near Mather Point to get a look at the Grand Canyon. A dusting of snow covered much of the canyon to the east.
To the west, the only snow was on the South Rim. There's Mather Point over there. Let's see it.
This plaque commemorates Stephen Mather, for whom the point is named.
Mather Point was much less crowded than it was last year, but then again, it was much, much colder now too.
We went around to the side of the overlook ...
... to see the ledge where we took our daughters to see the canyon for the first time.
Here's the view that they enjoyed on their first trip.
Here's the view from Mather Point toward the northwest.
What's this? A completely empty overlook? Let's go check it out!
Psych! It's closed off. Perhaps for safety reasons, perhaps because there isn't enough personnel to maintain it during the shutdown, who knows?
We got back in the van and headed west. We encountered our first deer-based traffic jam, which is always fun to see.
We drove past El Tovar just for a photo, ...
... and passed Thunderbird Lodge and Kachina Lodge.
Mule crossing! This is where the pack mules cross from the rim trail to their stables.
The west drive is open in the winter, but normally it is closed off to private cars and is accessible only via shuttle bus. We took this opportunity to stop at pretty much every single lookout point we could find.
Here's Trailview Point.
See if you can figure out how it got its name. We hiked the top portion of the trail last year.
This photo is a continuation of the photo above, with more of the buildings in Grand Canyon Village visible, plus more of the trail as it descends.
Here is more of the trail as it drops even further into the canyon.
Trail of Time bronze markers in the walkway give a sense of the timeline of the Grand Canyon's creation.
We decided to save all of the major western overlooks for our drive back from Hermit's Rest, but we did stop at several unmarked lookout points along the road. This was the first major stop west of Mohave Point.
Hermit Rapid was visible on the river.
At the next view point, Debbie had her river guide out and was trying to identify which rapids we were seeing. This is still Hermit Rapid, not Granite Rapids as she suspected.
We passed some deer on one side of the road, ...
... and this bike crossing sign on the other.
After stopping at a couple more roadside overlooks, it was 11:00 AM when we arrived at Hermit's Rest. Parking was already extremely limited at this time.
It hadn't changed much since Debbie had been here with her family in 1994.
This map showed the route we had taken from Grand Canyon Village to get to Hermit's Rest, the westernmost point on the west route.
The view is beautiful here, but a little bit more limited due to the many trees along the rim.
The Hermit's Rest building was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
It has a pay telescope for looking at the canyon, ...
... and an outdoor snack bar that is closed in the winter.
Fortunately, it's still open inside, so we placed our order for hot chocolate and looked around. It's a cool old building built into the hillside.
We spotted the book "Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon," which Debbie bought last year. We bought it because it includes a river guide she met on her 1980 trip, but the entire book was fascinating.
Our hot chocolate arrived and it was the most delicious hot chocolate ever consumed in the history of hot chocolate. You might think that we are exaggerating because it was 20 degrees out, but it truly was that delicious. Creamy, perfect temperature, delicious. Get some the next time you are at Hermit's Rest and you'll thank us.
We bought a magnet version of this cool U.S. Geological Survey Bench Mark. It's always fun to encounter discs like these in the park and in the canyon.
We walked a small hill around the back of the building, ...
... which turned out to take us to the top of the building.
Debbie had to snap a few more pictures from the canyon edge before we left.
Where is her camera aimed?
The river. Duh. This is Hermit Rapid again.
Heading back east, we stopped at each of the main overlooks, starting with Pima Point.
Let's go there.
Debbie took a closeup of the river. Boucher Rapid is hidden just around the bend at Mile 97 at the top of this photo and Hermit Rapid is further upstream from here.
Tom got a nice panorama of the view.

Note the snow on the rim to the east, and the snow actively falling on the North Rim in the center.
We ran across another one of the brass markers from the Trail of Time series.
Mohave Point was up next.
Debbie photographed the view ...
... and Hermit Rapid again.
Granite Rapid was also partially visible from here.
These beautiful pink markings in the inner gorge are found above Salt Creek Rapid at Mile 93.
Snow continued to come down on the other side of the canyon. We were lucky to have had gorgeous weather all day on our side.
The walkway back to the main path at Mohave Point includes lots of jagged rocks that have been worn smooth by millions of visitors over the years.
We drove to Hopi Point next. This sign told about a California Condor nest in the Battleship formation ahead of us.
While taking yet another photo of the river, we got the Battleship nest in it too. That's Pipe Springs Rapid (89.5) down there, just downstream a mile from Phantom Ranch.
These distinctive rock formations lead down to Horn Creek Rapid (Mile 90.9) at its base.
But enough of the cool stuff down there. Here's the wider view.
We located this distinctive section of the Hopi Point fence. It has been featured in past photos of Debbie in 1994 and us in 1996.
It was here that we watched the sunset in 1996.
This is a monument to the Civilian Conservation Corps and was presented by alumni of the Arizona C.C.C. It contains a great quote: "It was the best thing that ever happened to me."
Next up: Powell Point.
If you've ever been on a river trip around here, you've heard stories about Major John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River.
Here's a point named after him and a monument built for him.
This plaque explains that he traversed the river in 1869 and 1872.
Here's the view to the east, with Maricopa Point in the foreground.
Finally, we went to Maricopa Point, the last major overlook before returning to Grand Canyon Village.
The snowfall across the canyon was covering more area.
There's another view to the east.
Desert Watchtower was just barely visible waaaaay off in the distance.
Debbie's favorite landmarks were easy to spot on the horizon from here: flat-topped Wotan's Throne in the center and pointy Vishnu Temple toward the right. The location of these two can help her identify where nearly any east-facing photo was taken.
Back in Grand Canyon Village, we passed the Grand Canyon Railway train, which had followed us from Williams (or maybe it was the other way around).
We drove to the Yavapai Geology Museum. Neither of us could remember being here before so it was time to finally visit.
But first, we went to the canyon's edge for another view. Let's take a moment to show off the capabilities of our little point-and-shoot camera. It's like any other point-and-shoot camera except that it has a 40x optical zoom feature. It allows us to take a photo like this, ...
... then zoom into the center of that picture to see the river below, ...
... then zoom further to see the Kaibab Suspension Bridge over the river, ...
... then crop that photo to see the river runners enjoying a break on the beach near Phantom Ranch. (Also take a moment to seethe with jealousy. This part is optional for you, but not for Debbie.)
Speaking of Phantom Ranch, let's do the same thing. We start with the original view, then zoom into that shady spot in the center ...
... to see Phantom Creek running through Phantom Canyon, ...
... then zoom further to see Phantom Ranch, ...
... then crop that photo to see windows and doors and picnic tables and a person sitting on a bench in the lower right. A person on a bench! Crazy! This camera is amazing for being small enough to fit in a pocket.
And yeah, here's another closeup of the river. That's Pipe Creek Beach next to the river, and the very top of Pipe Springs Rapid to the left. Those appear to be solar panels on the hill to the right. The Bright Angel Trail passes this area by the river.
Let's head into the museum, shall we?
The museum sits right on the edge of the canyon rim, and features huge windows the entire length of the canyon side for beautiful views. This is the view to the northwest, ...
... and this is the view to the northeast. The display shown here ...
... discusses the different effect the river has on its surrounding terrain depending on the dryness of the climate. That's Horseshoe Bend in the bottom right.
Here's a gorgeous 3D map of most of the canyon.
This is a geology museum so here's some geology knowledge.
We want this in our living room right now.
This display shows the different layers of rock at the North Rim.
Tom fought his way through the tiny, crowded bookstore to buy some lenticular postcards and a book while Debbie photographed the South Rim display.
The parking lot was packed so there was a bit of a backup to leave, which gave us time to photograph another rental campervan. This one is from Escape Campervans.
This sign said that the road was closed ahead in one mile due to weather. It turned out to be false, so it is a good thing that we decided to head that way anyway.
We passed an elk crossing sign, which is the first time we've noticed one of these.
Here's our old friend, the mountain lion crossing sign. We didn't succeed in getting a sharp photo of it last year, but this year we nailed it.
We're still driving. No road closing anywhere.
This way to Grandview Point.
There was absolutely no cell data available in the canyon due to weak signal strength and hundreds of tourists trying to use it. We wanted to recreate a photo of Debbie taken at this tree in 1994, but couldn't get to it because we didn't have a local copy. So, it's the same location but a completely different pose and angle.
It was nearly 3:00 PM by now so we decided not to go to any of the viewpoints further east. Instead, we turned around and drove back west. We stopped at a roadside viewpoint for a minute ...
... when Debbie suddenly spotted the rock formation in the background of a photo that had completely stumped her. She figured out that we needed to drive further west to match it.
We ended up at Duck on a Rock Viewpoint, where we had photographed Jill in 1998.
It look a little bit of walking to figure out the exact location of the photo, but we found it.
Debbie compared the view she was seeing with the photo she was matching. Unfortunately, you can only see the reflection of a tree in the camera viewfinder here, not the angle she was seeing.
In order to line up the rocks perfectly, she had to crouch quite a bit, which means that her father had to do the same thing when he took the photo on a family trip in 1978.
Nailed it!
We passed more deer on our way back to Grand Canyon Village.
Everyone stops when they decide to cross the road.
We had one more stop to make before leaving the park. No, it wasn't the post office or even the Chase Bank next to it.
We were here for the General Store to use the restrooms and to do a little shopping. We didn't end up buying anything but we sure were tempted. Originally, we planned to go to the Visitor Center again, but the parking lots were overflowing so we did this instead.
Debbie is easy to buy for. Does it say Grand Canyon on the label? Buy it for her. These candles, for example. Buy them for her. Easy.
This pricky pear vodka from Grand Canyon Distillery wanted to come home with us but we foolishly flew to Arizona and didn't have unlimited suitcase space or weight.
Ditto for this wine from Grand Canyon Winery.
Check out these beautiful labels. This one features a California Condor.
This gorgeous label shows the Colorado River.
This is where we showed the most restraint: an entire cooler filled with Arizona beer.
Grand Canyon Brewery was well represented. There was Sunset Amber Ale and Black Iron IPA on the right, ...
... and Horseshoe Bend Pale Ale. Technically a part of Glen Canyon instead of Grand Canyon, we'll allow it because it is such a pretty label.
Speaking of pretty, here are Grand Canyon Brewery's Conservation Kolsch cans.
It was nearly 4:00 when we decided to head out. We had one more deer-related traffic jam, ...
... but once again, we didn't mind.
Farewell, best National Park Ever. We'll be back again someday. Promise.
We passed the IMAX in Tusayan. Maybe someday we'll spend time here again.
We passed the Grand Canyon National Park Airport, where we had landed when we arrived by plane in 1996.
We have almost no memory of being here then, but we were.
The snowy San Francisco Peaks were visible in the distance near Flagstaff.
We were back in Williams once again.
These deer statues were waiting to greet us.
It was still light out when we arrived in downtown en route to our motel.
After relaxing for a bit in our room, we headed to KFC for dinner but neglected to take a single photo of this uninteresting event. Instead, here's another photo of the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel.
This blurry Christmas train photo is quite merry.
Here's that pretty collection of trees we photographed the night before.
We got back to our motel, put on our new pajamas, and spent the rest of the evening doing some well-deserved relaxing.
Debbie flipped through her brand-new Grand Canyon River Guide (ALL NEW EXPANDED EDITION). It's much larger than her three older copies (one for each river trip) and features lots of color.

We had been listening to the riveting Casefile True Crime podcast on Silk Road and finished it up before bedtime.

Day 7 >


Arizona 2018: [Day 1 - Mesa] [Day 2 - Mesa] [Day 3 - Mesa] [Day 4 - Tucson] [Day 5 - Grand Canyon West] [Day 6 - Grand Canyon] [Day 7 - Prescott]

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