Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Grandest Canyon of Them All

Grand Canyon is the most visited of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
Your first glance of the Grand Canyon will take your breath away.  The vast expanse of jaw-dropping scenery beckons you to come to the edge and look over.  A mere 18 miles separates the south and north rims but the vastness of the canyon with its 277-mile length and one mile depth provide one of the most recognized vistas in the world.  Grand Canyon National Park was definitely on our “must see” list.

From the canyon rim it is hard to see the Colorado River – the mighty force that continues to carve the canyon and provide life in a hostile environment.  What appears to be a semi-arid wasteland is astoundingly rich in biological diversity.  The park contains seven ecological zones that support a remarkable ensemble of flora and fauna including over 1,500 plants, 355 birds, 89 mammals, 56 reptiles and amphibian, and 17 fish species. 

Looking at the canyon appears to be a monotypic expanse of rocks but to geologists this environment is a remarkably fascinating story of time and one of the most studied geologic landscapes.  Nearly 40 identified rock layers form the Grand Canyon’s walls which have been studied since the 1850’s.

The Grand Canyon has been attracting visitors for over a hundred years and boasts over 5 million visitors last year.  While the summer is hot and crowded, this time of the year is perfect.  The weather is ideal with average highs during the day around the mid 60’s and nights in the low 30’s and the summer crowds are gone.  

We decided to camp at Trailer Village (don’t laugh that really is the name) in the park to maximize our visit time.  The park’s shuttle system and many paved walking and bike paths make getting around a cinch.  And finally, a western National Park that allows dogs on many of the trails.  While we admired the canyon floor and many layers from the rim, we did not feel compelled to hike down to the bottom.  There is only so much stress and strain I want to put my body through.  So for those of you like us that prefer a flat trail as opposed to enduring over 4,500-foot elevation gains, stick to the Rim Trail and enjoy the scenery.  We spent our days traversing nearly 18 miles of the trail and never got tired of gasping at the scenery that is now etched in our minds.  

While the natural wonders of Grand Canyon NP are phenomenal, so are the man-made ones that give this park personality and reflect a by-gone era.  Numerous Historic Structures dot the park - some of which are perched precariously on the canyons rim.  Many of the historic buildings were designed by architect and interior designer Mary Colter, a pioneer in her field that is celebrated for the ability to marry building with their natural surroundings and attractive details.  Her sense of style and ability to incorporate Native American motifs into her buildings have become known today as "National Park Service Rustic."  Colter's buildings still stand proudly today.

The Hopi House was designed as living quarters for Hopi Artisans and a place for them to sell their crafts.  Constructed in 1905, Colter patterned the building after part of the Hopi Village. 
The Bright Angel Lodge was designed by Colter in 1935.
The Lookout Studio (constructed in 1914) blends beautifully into the natural landscape and does not detract from the natural surroundings.
It seems the last month has been a wonderful tour of National Parks in Utah and Arizona.  Before we started our RV adventure we wanted to see our nations natural treasures, be it National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests or any of the many more spectacular and unique features that make up this country's landscape and give it soul.  Grand Canyon NP did not disappoint. 

Spirit meets the hard working mules
El Tovar Lodge.  While it was not designed by Colter, she was responsible for the interior decorations.  In 1914 this luxury hotel offered rooms with baths for $4 a night.  
Kolb Studio perched on the side of the canyon.  Established in 1904 as a photographic studio and was run by the Kolb  brothers until 1976.  Today it is operated as a bookstore.
Bright Angel Lodge.
Originally started as a curio shop, Verkamps still sell gifts and books.

1 comment:

  1. The Grand Canyon is one awesome place--I've hiked to the bottom twice and my Mom went with us both times--once when she was 62 and again when she was 66 years old. It was a challenge to say the least especially the second time when we went too late in the year--way too warm. I found it harder on my knees going down than I did going back up. The accommodations at Phantom Ranch in the bottom leave a little to be desired too although the food was great! Glad to hear Spirit was able to enjoy the Grand Canyon, too.


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