Friday, May 18 – The Grand Canyon

After an unexceptional breakfast, and a good session in the pool, we left our car in the parking lot and took the free shuttle seven miles to the visitors center.  From there our plan was to walk the 2.5 mile Rim Trail over to Grand Canyon Village and then take the Hermit Road Bus which is a get-on, get-off service for an adjacent part of the rim.

The biggest surprise I got this morning was that the part of the Canyon that is viewable is about 1% of the length of the Colorado River in the park.  It is HUGE.  Hopefully they have picked the best part of the park for us to see.  In the map below, the part of rim of the canyon we can walk and view from is about two letters wide in the words, “You are here” which you can see in the middle-right part of the map.

The Grand Canyon map at the Visitors Center.

There were a number of interesting geological exhibits and videos, that got us oriented.  The rocks of the canyon were laid down over hundreds of millions of years, combined with earth crust movements, erosion of layers, and so forth.  The canyon itself was formed over “only” six million years.  I have always wondered how water could do the carving it was supposed to have done, in other parts of the world as well.  What really happens is that the sand, stones, and boulders carried by the water does the work.

Our first view of the canyon from this vantage point, in bright sunlight, was breathtaking.  It goes down, and down, and down at we still couldn’t see the bottom.  And the view across the canyon is magnificent as well.  None of the pictures I was able to take conveys what you see and feel while you are there.

You can click on any picture to get a larger view.

I went back to check on the name of one of the observation points (It was Mather.) and told Teresa she could keep going.  I thought I got back pretty quickly but she was gone.  I looked up and down the trail for what I thought was way far enough.  After a while I sat down and started calling the Park Service.  As I was doing that, two guys came by and said, “Are you looking for your wife?  She’s hungry.”  (I had the snack bars.)  So I hurried on down the trail, and the first thing she said was, “We had a failure in communication.”  All’s well that ends well.

For a while along the trail, there were protective fences, but then they stopped, and you could get right to the edge of a thousand foot drop, and people were doing it.  There was a girl on crutches with sort of a cast, and she went up to the edge and stumbled.  Her girl

friend caught her.  There was a wedding photo session going on  with the couple standing with their back to a precipice and people fussing about hair, garment folds and lighting.  Off to the side we saw this man in a

black suit. On an impulse, I asked, “Are you the father of the bride?”, and he said, “Yes, and I’m afraid of heights!”


Part way along the walk, we arrived at Yavapai Point and the Geology Museum which was quite interesting.  It turns out that much of the forming of the canyon was not by direct erosion, but by the collapse of undercut stone.  Makes sense.  I asked a staff person about what features could be identified, and he helped me with that, and then he provided his favorite geologic initialism:  DUDE:  Deposit, Uplift, Deform, Erode.

We came to  the “Walk of Time” were intervals of one day were marked with medallions in

Interesting rock formations were everywhere.

the paving.  After about maybe 30 days, the intervals were one month for a year, then one year, ten years, 100 years… on to 10 million years per interval, up to two billion years.  Along the way there were information displays about what was going on at the time.  It was interesting.

We were having such a good time walking the Rim Trail, taking lots of time, and it soon became apparent that we were going to have to switch to Plan B: Finish walking the Rim Trail today, and take the Hermit Road bus ride tomorrow morning, and arrive late in Santa Fe.

After our trail walk, we headed for the El Tover  the premier lodge in at the Canyon RIm for dinner.  We had asked for a canyon view, and we got a wonderful table with a view towards the canyon.  At a table next to us, but at a lower level were a couple from St. Louis who were traveling in the West with no reservations at all.  Although the El Tovar had been booked for months in advance, they walked in and got a room for the night.  Frank had a manufacturer’s rep business selling office furniture, and she had been a director of a group of health care facilities, both jobs without retirement plans.  They suddenly realized the situation was not good, and so they got into real estate.  They  didn’t do so well with single family houses, but when they got into apartments, things wwent very well.  Teresa asked how much involved he is now, and said, “I just get a check every month now, and don’t think about it”

We told him were were headed for St. Louis, and he had three recommendations for us, The St. Louis Arch, Ted Drewes to get a “concrete” (ice cream), and Dago Hill.  I couldn’t get him to explain what was interesting about Dago Hill .  I guess we’ll just have to go there to find out.  When the waiter served my wine, the glass was about 1/5 full, and came with a little decanter for the rest.  I’m not sure what they were trying to demonstrate, but it was lost on me.  Poured together, it was just barely a glass of wine.

Before they seated us, we were introduced to a table full of desserts.  I noticed they had a

My apple struessel pie with two caramel sauces. Sweet tooth heaven.

delicious looking apple struessel pie with whipped cream.  When dessert ordering time came, I asked if he could hold the whipped cream and give me some rum caramel sauce (from another dessert) on the side.  He not only did that but also gave me a sample of the caramel sauce they use on the kids’ sundaes.  I was in sweet tooth heaven.

For the evening activity, the Park was presening a lecture on extinctions, and preserving species, to be presented in the “Shrine of the Ages” at 7:30 PM.  We finished dinner 15 minutes to get there.  As we approached the bus stop we saw the bus pull away, which was not good.  So Teresa and I stuck out our thumbs in the dark.  It was about the 5th car that stopped, driven by two young girls from, of all places, San Diego.  They were nice enough to drive us  around until we found the venue,  just as the lecture started.  The National Forest Service Ranger describe the five major extinctions that have occurred on the earth, including the last one, 65 MYA that wiped out the dinosaurs.  He suggested that perhaps we were in the beginning of the sixth major extinction, triggered by the dawn of agriculture, and the resultinf mass destruction of habitat.  He also mentioned Climate Change, and the people who know what causes it, “or think they know what causes it”.  I think that he, like me, may be a carbon dioxide skeptic.

Most of the lecture was a recitation of the status of perhaps 40 animals telling us whether they were Endangered, or merely Threatened.  He needed to tell us some stories!  We were glad we heard him speak, though.

We were the only passengers on the 7-mile bus ride to our hotel and we discussed a variety things about the park with the bus driver.  We mentioned a book we had noticed before, “Death in the Canyon”, and he said it was the most popular book purchased in the Canyon.  There have been over 800 deaths at the park, and I guess a lot of people do have a morbid curiosity about it.

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