This was a great stop for two reasons. First, because it’s the Grand Canyon which is an amazing place, and second because my mom came to visit! Our first visitor!
We got to our campsite at the KOA in Williams, AZ about 50 miles from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, a few days before my mom joined us. Brian wanted to hike into the canyon. I did a 3-day Grand Canyon hike with my friend Myriam four years ago, and he hasn’t gotten over being left at home!
Since it’s on a plateau, and the South Rim is heavily forested, the canyon isn’t actually visible until you are right at it. Brian didn’t see it until we got to the trailhead and started our hike.
We decided to hike the South Kaibab trail down to Skeleton Point and back up. It’s a 6 mile round trip hike, descending 2,000 feet and then back up again. That’s about 40% of the Grand Canyon depth. Though I know people crazy enough to hike down to the bottom and out again in the same day (ahem, Ann and Jesse), it’s really not recommended, and we didn’t want to try it.
It was a beautiful hike, and the views of the canyon changed as we descended. First we passed the appropriately named Ooh Aah Point and then Cedar Ridge before getting to Skeleton Point. A couple groups of mules passed us carrying people and supplies out of the canyon.
I really prefer hikes that go up first, and then down. In the Grand Canyon, once you hike down there’s no choice but to go back up again! The hike up was pretty hard. I keep hoping I’ll improve on steep hikes but it hasn’t happened yet! The elevation was also pretty high, at about 7,200 feet above sea level at the rim, and I had some trouble catching my breath at times. Still, an amazing hike and I’m so glad we did it!
When my mom arrived we spent three days exploring the South Rim. There is a lot to do there! Grand Canyon National Park South Rim is really developed, with a bunch of overlooks and gift shops and historic buildings. There is a shuttle bus system that goes between the attractions. There are about 6 million visitors to the Grand Canyon in a year, so we expected it to be crowded, and it was, but the park manages the crowds pretty well.
We started with a view of the canyon at Mather Point, and then the visitors center to see the intro to the canyon movie. Then we hopped on the shuttle bus and went to Grand Canyon Village, which is an area of historic buildings from before the Grand Canyon became a National Park in 1919.
Before it was protected land, the area was developed by the Fred Harvey Company, which built restaurants and hotels near railway lines. There is an old hotel called El Tovar where we ate lunch, and a building selling Native American art called Hopi House. We walked on the Rim Trail and saw the old photography studios. The biggest crowds we came across were at Bright Angel Lodge either in the gift shop or buying ice cream. There was a gift shop in nearly every building, and we visited them all.
Mom was really not a fan of taking pictures at the edge of the canyon. We were teasing her about it, but the gift shops all sell a book called “Over the Edge: Death at Grand Canyon” and after awhile it started getting to me, too. It is a bit unnerving to be close to cliffs, where there isn’t any rail. People have died trying to get the perfect photo!
We went to a lot of scenic overlooks on the shuttle bus. I thought they would’nt be that different and we wouldn’t want to go to many, but the view changed enough to keep it interesting. The scenic overlooks to the west of the visitors center ended at a historic building called Hermits Rest which was built in 1914 as a rest stop for early tourists. We visited the Yavapai Geology Museum and heard a spirited talk on the geology of the Grand Canyon from Ranger Ron.
About 25 miles east of the visitor center is the Desert View Watchtower. It’s a beautiful building and the views of the canyon are amazing. This building and several others including Hopi House and Hermits Rest, were designed by Mary Colter, one of the few female American architects at the time. They were designed in a style that makes them look like they are part of the canyon, right on the edge. We climbed the stairs to view the canyon from different perspectives and to see the artwork painted on the walls.
Afterward we went to Lipan Point to watch the sunset and stuck around to see the stars. It was windy and got pretty cold when the sun went down. Even Brian (who is never cold) wished he was wearing more than a short-sleeved shirt. Mom and I planned ahead and bundled up. The stars were amazing! It was hard to even pick out constellations, since there were so many stars! There were also a ton of planes flying overhead too.
We saw elk walking through the populated areas of the park every day. They didn’t seem the least bit bothered by people, and people were walking right up to them to take pictures! I kept waiting for someone to get kicked by an elk. That’s what zoom lenses are for.
Even though it wasn’t too hot, the sun was strong and it was windy. Dressing in layers was important. Each day that we explored the canyon we came home pretty tired!
We spent a day exploring Williams, which is a nice town. There were lots of cute shops and restaurants. We got pastries for breakfast at Cowgirl Coffee Cake. The town is on Historic Route 66, and has a retro feel. We stopped into a bunch of shops and mom bought some souvenirs. Then we went to Grand Canyon Brewing Company and Brian and I got a flight of all 16 of the beers they had on tap. They were good, and there was a lot of variety.
Brian took advantage of the fact that there was another person to cook for, and the campground had a fire pit and built-in grill, and he grilled a chicken one night, and a prime rib roast another night. We also had campfires, and used the pie makers that my sister got us for Christmas to make pies. We made pizza pies with ham and mushrooms, and hot dog and cheese pies.
There were so many rental RVs in the campground and at the park. There were also a lot of international tourists. We heard several other languages spoken, and talked to a man from the U.K., a family from Switzerland, and a group from British Columbia in our campground. We’ve noticed international travelers at other parks too, but the Grand Canyon is definitely an international tourist attraction!
It is great to have my mom visiting. It’s a little crowded in the trailer with three people, but it works. She adapted well to trailer life, and quickly noticed that everything has a trick to it. There’s a latch on the fridge, the door handle needs to be pulled up not down, the door has to be slammed to close, and the light switches aren’t always where they are expected. The door is probably the trickiest. Hopefully by the end of her visit she will know how to enter and leave the trailer!
Day 206| Mile 20,978