The Grand Canyon – what the Colorado River carved out of Arizona. (June/July 2105)


On the road from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon we detoured to Flagstaff and the Red Rock Ranger District, of the Coconino National Forest.

These high escarpments truly are red, especially in contrast to the bright blue sky.

On arrival at the Grand Canyon entrance we were greeted by uniformed staff, complete with ‘Smokey the Bear’ hats.

The Grand Canyon certainly is grand, measuring 446 km long, 29 km wide and 1,857 meters deep. Two billion years of geological history have been revealed as the mighty Colorado carved its way through this part of Arizona.

President Theodore Roosevelt championed the conservation of the canyon but it wasn’t until 1919 that President Woodrow Wilson had it made a National Park.

At 6:30am on our first morning, there was a large brown, very bare looking tree moving outside our cabin window.

It turned out to be an Elk that was grazing on a fir tree.

When you enter the Grand Canyon National Park each vehicle pays $30. This allows you to come and go for one week.

We were staying in the park and only going to be there for one full day but it was still great value.

There is a shuttle bus service, on three routes, that runs around the south rim.

The red route goes as far west as Hermits Rest, while the orange goes east to Yaki Point. The blue route links the Visitors Centre with the Village and the train depot.

We travelled east and west on the south rim, using a combination of shuttle buses and walking.

The Grand View Lookout is where most of the tour groups go. It’s close to the road and easily accessible to most tourists. It has some good views but is also one of the most crowded places on the southern rim.

We moved on quickly.

The Californian Condor, extinct in the wild in 1987, was reintroduced into the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, parts of California and Baja California in Mexico.

This is one of the world’s rarest birds and at last count, in 2014, there were only 425 living wild or in captivity.

Adults have a wingspan of 3m and they can live up to 60 years.

We were lucky enough to see two sitting on a ledge.

On our first night we ate at the El Tovar Hotel and got chatting to our waiter.

I was interested as to how waiters earn a crust in the US.

We had been told that ‘wait staff’ or ‘servers’, as they are known barely earn enough to survive on, so tips make a huge difference.

What we didn’t know was that the lead waiter shares his/her tips with other wait staff and people in the kitchen.

No wonder they are so pleasant and little wonder that the minimum tip starts at 18%.

On our last morning we dropped into some viewing spots to the east of where we were staying. The Desert View Watch Tower was one of the most interesting.

Built in 1939, it was designed by Mary Coulter (1869-1958). Ms Coulter was a rare breed, being one of the few female architects of her time.

She did much of her work in the Grand Canyon National Park for the Fred Harvey Company, with its origins dating back to 1875, Fred Harvey built hotels and restaurants along the the rail routes in the western United States.

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