Something different today. As I write this, it is a little after 7:30 AM, Mountain Standard time, and we have been up a little over 2 hours. The alarm was set for 5:30 this AM, so that we could get up and out to the rim of the Grand Canyon in time to catch today’s sunrise at 6:11 AM. It was a good show!! It was quiet, almost reverent, and everyone who was out for the sunrise was speaking in a whisper. Slowly, as the sun rose in the eastern sky, the color and light patterns on the canyon changed. Even though sunrise was 6:11, it was after 6:30 before we saw the actual sun come over El Tovar (the hotel next door), and had to put on our sun glasses. Slowly but surely, the rays of the sun started to play on the canyon until it was in full sunshine. I read that you needed to be out there about a half hour before till about a half hour after sunrise to appreciate the changing colors. Now we have officially seen sunset and sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Can I sleep till 7 tomorrow?
A little after 6:30 AM, we decided to head into the Bright Angel Lodge and have some breakfast. For some reason, Susie and I both felt like pancakes and bacon, and that’s what we ordered. When our breakfast came, the pancakes were beautiful, and looked like something prepared for a photo shoot, rather than a real breakfast! They were beautiful, but they were HUGE!! Had we known they were going to be this “substantial”, we could have split an order! Susie only made it through a third of the stack, and while I did a little bit better, neither of us belong to the clean plate club!
Full beyond belief, we headed back to our cabin, to relax for an hour or so, before the tour we booked for this morning that leaves at 9 AM. Of course, we inserted the digital key into the lock and instead of getting the green LED and an open lock, we got the red and yellow LEDs, and no opening! After trying it for 5 or 6 times, we had to head back to the registration desk in the Bright Angel Lodge, which we had just passed on our way out of breakfast! Oh well, a little more exercise I guess!
Welcome to afternoon in the Grand Canyon National Park! It’s a little after noon, and we are back from our morning tour. We took the 2 hour guided Hermits Rest tour, in part because from March 1st to November 30, private vehicles are not allowed in this section of the canyon. Also, every time we have taken one of these tours in the parks, it has been a good experience and we have learned more than we knew before we took the tour. Today’s was not the exception to that rule!
We met our driver/tour guide JD just after 9 AM, right outside the Bright Angel Lodge. There was Susie and I and another couple, and we figured the bus would make a stop at another hotel, before starting the tour. Nope…we were it! Did we luck out!
Rather than just drop us off at the various view points, and tell us we had 15 minutes, JD came with us and gave us a private tour. He described what we were seeing, pointed out things we would have never seen without his guidance, and gave us history, geology, meteorology, and gossip about the Grand Canyon. At every one of the three stops we made, he had something new to share with us, and boy did we see and learn a lot in the 2 plus hours we were in his care. Questions were asked and answered, discussions were held, and it was a great experience, and well worth the $30 each we paid. You could tell that JD was passionate about his subject. Just like Leslie, our driver/tour guide on the Yellow Bus Tour we took in Yellowstone, JD had studied the Grand Canyon. He knew the history, knew the ecology, knew the science, and knew the new, and sometimes yet to be proved theories about how this natural wonder came to be.
After getting dropped off at the lodge, we went into the Bright Angel History Room, and looked at the many displays. The Grand Canyon, like many other National Parks, was originally developed as a tourist destination by the Santa Fe Railroad. Included in the displays, was a lot of information about someone who worked with the Santa Fe, and who was very involved in the early development of the Grand Canyon, Fred Harvey. Fred Harvey, who’s dining business was closely tied to the railroad, was the original concessionaire at the Grand Canyon, and was responsible for the construction and running of the hotels and restaurants servicing the park. You may have heard the term Harvey Girls, or seen the 1940s era Judy Garland movie of the same name (a favorite of Susie’s). Well Harvey Girls was what the women who worked in Fred Harvey’s restaurants were called, including those at the Grand Canyon. In fact, we found out from our tour guide JD, that the present concessionaire Xanterra took over the businesses in the Grand Canyon from the Fred Harvey Company.
Since we’d had that huge stack of pancakes for breakfast, lunch was out of the question, but we stopped at the Bright Angel Soda fountain for a soda and a snack (Susie had an ice cream cone and I a pretzel), before heading back to our cabin. As I’m writing this, Susie is reading one of the books she has bought in the last two days. This one is called, Death in the Canyon, and includes a lot of historical information about some of the really stupid things humans have done in this beautiful place, over the years. I’m also going to go get a couple of maps out of the car and plan our exit from the park tomorrow and plot our trip to Monument Valley.
This afternoon we are going to do some more exploring around the area, and perhaps try a little of the Bright Angel Trail, and follow the advice of JD to see a couple of very interesting Grand Canyon sights!
And another advisory, seems we’ve lucked out here, with some usable, if slow, internet service, but no guarantees for our night at the View Hotel on the Navaho Indian Reservation. If you don’t see a Day 27 blog tomorrow, never fear, I will get it published when I can!