We had a thoroughly enjoyable time during our visit with Bill & Colleen. All of it. But the highlight of the visit has to be our multi-day camping trip to the southern rim of Grand Canyon. Bill & Colleen own a perfectly comfortable and commodious fifth wheel camper, but as luck would have it, Bill’s boss had graciously offered Bill the use of his ginormous ShowHauler camper as a reward for Bill having found and fixed a number of problems with the beast. Bill accepted, but delayed cashing in on the offer until we could arrive and share the bounty with him. Have I mentioned that the ShowHauler is HUGE? When we pulled into the parking lot of the IMAX theatre, we were immediately surrounded by at least 20 tourists who simply HAD to get a picture!
Bill is an active and accomplished hiker who has many many times walked all the way down one side of the canyon and up the other, spent the night, and then repeated the hike in reverse order the next day. But knowing the physical limitations of Barb and me (especially), he wisely suggested that we descend only about half way and then return to our starting point. Normally, Colleen would be perfectly capable of such a feat, but since she was suffering from a severe cold and/or allergy attack, she elected to remain in the camper while we indulged in an awesome “stroll”.
Bill suggested that we take the Bright Angel Trail down about 4 ½ miles to the Indian Garden site, some 3,040 feet below the rim, where a spring has created a surprising and remarkable oasis. The trail is sometimes steep and sometimes not so much, sometimes wide and sometimes not so much, but always navigable by the pack of mules that carry the tourists less ambitious and/or fit than ourselves. Barb wears a fitbit and runs a “Map my Track” app on her iPhone. Interestingly enough, they reported that we went almost 11 miles rather than the expected 9. We took only a minimum amount of water with us, knowing that we could replenish our supply at each of the rest station cabins that came every 1 ½ miles. (On our way back up, we rested a good bit more often than every rest station.)
It goes without saying that the Canyon is visually awe inspiring, but we were also impressed by the infrastructure provided by the National Park Service. Free shuttle buses, informative displays, interesting Park Ranger programs and well-equiped and maintained campgrounds. Everything first class.
On two days subsequent to the hike, we visited by car and by foot some of the other vistas along the southern rim, ending our visit at the Desert View Watchtower, a 70-foot-high stone building more than 20 miles to the east of the main developed area at Grand Canyon Village. The four-story structure, completed in 1932, was designed by American architect Mary Colter. The tower was designed to resemble an Ancient Pueblo Peoples watchtower. The base was intentionally designed to convey a partly ruinous appearance, perhaps of an older structure on which the watchtower was later built. The base is arranged within a large circle with the tower to the north. Tiny windows are irregularly arranged, some of which are themselves irregular in shape. The main space is the Kiva Room in the base structure. (Faithful readers will recognize the significance of “Kiva Room” from our earlier posting about Mesa Verde.)
One other thing deserves mention about our Canyon experience: the repeated presence of elk in the campground, grazing with perfect aplomb and indifference to the tourists frantically taking photographs from only a few yards away.
All in all, the camping trip to the Canyon was a fantastic experience for which we owe an enormous amount of gratitude to Bill and Colleen.