Grand Canyon

1 Dec

Why not kick off my blog off with the mother of all natural wonders? The sweeping vista of sweeping vistas. There are three major viewing points for the Grand Canyon. You will want to research the rims to find the one that is best for you. Here is a brief B.C. Girl overview: The South Rim is considered by many to offer the best views and more of them. It is much more travelled than the other rims and open year round. The West Rim doesn’t offer the best views from the rim, but it is famous for the controversial glass walkway. It also boasts a long hike into Havasu Canyon where you can see three world famous water falls. The North Rim gives you a greater impression of the width of the Grand Canyon rather than the depth. This region receives heavy snowfall in the late fall and remains inaccessible until mid spring. Be sure to check availability before you make a trip with the wife and kids. You don’t want to play out the scene where Clark Griswold finally reaches Wally World only to discover that it’s closed for seasonal maintenance.

After much debate with my partner, I chose to visit the South Rim. The South Rim is home to the Grand Canyon Village. Basic amenities can be found here. Due to the short notice I had to plan this trip, we did not stay within the village itself. There are few accommodations that are reasonably priced and these are booked months in advance. And remember that I’m cheap. I mean . . . thrifty. Plan to stay outside of the park if you want to save money.  I stayed in Williams and saved myself a substantial amount.

As a seasoned traveler, I always advise people to avoid the masses by arriving, well, before the masses. And this is no exception. At sunrise, you can have that awestruck moment that you have been dreaming of (by the way, I apologize to the many people who were filming the sunrise and now have my partner’s voice on their video camera’s exclaiming, “What a hole!”).  The canyon seems to be there for you and you alone. Okay, maybe you and a handful of other people. Later on in the day, there will be hundreds of people taking in the view. What is a handful of people, really? Research the current sunrise time and wait for the sun to seep in and highlight the canyon as it was meant to be seen. Oh, and bring a warm jacket as the Grand Canyon is rather brisk in the morning.

Next, head over to one of the two cafeterias for breakfast. You’ll probably forget the tricky names given to the cafeterias, but I’ll give them to you anyway: Maswik and Yavapai cafeterias. You’ll find one of the two in a matter of minutes due to the small size of the village. The prices aren’t as pricey as you would expect and the food is edible. Not extraordinarily healthy, but edible. And, hey, you’ve just seen the Grand Canyon.  You’re not in a picky mood.

If you are planning a descent into the canyon, you may want to go at this time if the day will be hot. The amount of trails out there will be overwhelming. If you are an experienced hiker, hiking the Grand Canyon will seem a little strange. I found it odd to be hiking down and having to remember that I needed to conserve energy for the hike back up the steep hill. The trail that I chose was called the Bright Angel Trail. A person can take this trail all the way down to the bottom and camp out overnight. As luck would have it, my partner and I were feeling under the weather and so we opted out of camping to the bottom. I enjoyed it immensely and recommend that you walk at least a little ways down for this unusual experience. It is a little icy in the late fall until early spring. Once you descend a half kilometre or so, the temperature dramatically rises. Keep this in mind. There is NO water at certain points during the year. Ask for information on this before you go, but pack plenty of water in any case. I descended for approximately two hours, knowing that the hike up would take longer.  If you are an occasional hiker, I suggest hiking to the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse.

Where's B.C. Girl?

There is a campground at the bottom. If you would prefer to sleep indoors, the Phantom Ranch offers dormitories and cabins. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can hike down and pick a room on the spot. The Phantom Ranch is the only accommodation below the rim. Read about Phantom Ranch at www.grandcanyonlodges.com. You need a back country permit to stay overnight in the park. Warning: There are literally dozens of signs warning travelers not to attempt to hike down to the bottom and back. These postings show pictures of an attractive man that appears to be in peak physical condition. Apparently, well over 200 people are rescued from the canyon each year.  Just don’t do it.

  

In addition to hiking, I took one of the busses that travel along the rim. Only busses are allowed to traverse the winding rim to minimize traffic. It is worth mentioning that there is a rest area near the end of the bus ride. It was designed by architect Mary Colter in 1914. A female architect from this time period would have to be quite exceptional. My partner was especially impressed by her unusual design. You can also view her Watchtower at the end of Desert View Drive.

If you hate the idea of taking a bus along this natural wonder (or you despise taking a bus), have heart. You can drive a section of the Grand Canyon if you drive along the road known as Desert View Rd.  It is somewhat less spectacular than the section traveled by bus; however, this road is surprisingly quiet. Most travelers are on day trips from California or Las Vegas and are not going to be travelling east on Desert View Drive.  The road allows you to see the canyon as it slowly but surely narrows until it is a plane. I can only imagine how astounding the discovery of the Grand Canyon would have been for the first people to wander accross the desert. Who knows if aboriginals and early explorers were daunted or as awestruck as I was in my first glimpse of the abyss before me?

B.C. Girl Bite:

Hoover Dam is approximately a half hour outside of Las Vegas and four hours from the Grand Canyon. The Hoover Dam was impressive for one half of my travelling party. My partner was like a kid in a candy shop.  He explained to me how the dam works. I promptly forgot and will, therefore, not be telling you about that. It does have a notorious history that is interesting for anyone and is truly worth marvelling at. Built during the depression era, over a hundred people were killed during the construction for various reasons. The temperature soared as high as 119 degrees. Let’s just say, being from the cool climate of B.C. and having sensitive vampire eyes, I would not have done well as a labourer. The history is worth knowing about; however, the dam itself is only going to be a wonder for those interested in machines and industrial architecture. B.C. Guy was in his glory. I could see his excitement growing with the mere thought that we were standing on so much power. After a couple of minutes, I was checking my watch. Stop and take a picture with the hordes of other people and then drive on, unless you have a machine junkie in your midst. You might just have to grab an ice tea and sit in the shade. At least you will get your $7.00 parking fee’s worth. Or, like us, you could park and then realize that if you drove across the dam about a quarter mile, there is free parking. Better to learn from others’ mistakes than your own I always say.

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