Grander than Grand

Magnificent!  Spectacular!  Those adjectives are far more accurate descriptions of the natural wonder that we call The Grand Canyon.   It is very difficult to capture in a photograph the enormity of this “hole in the ground”.

An early explorer, with the catchy name of James Christmas Ives, was unimpressed.  He dubbed it a “profitless locality”  and predicted  “the Colorado River, along the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed.” Had cable news been around during his day, he might have had a brilliant career as a pundit. (I leave it to you to decide which station would hire him).

After meeting at the Scottsdale Cottonwoods Resort in Scottsdale, our group of 35 headed off to the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs via Sedona and Flagstaff.   Our hotel is on the reservation, right by the railroad tracks.  Somehow that image didn’t make it into the hotel’s decorative window.IMG_0253It occurred to me that the trains’ engineers might have been a little annoyed that they were working while others were sleeping.  That’s the only explanation I can come up with for blasting the horn multiple times as they approached the town.  And yes, there were many, many trains–about 1 every 15 minutes. Made me feel really sorry for the people who live in the Peach Springs.

The big attractions for the western Canyon were the helicopter rides down to the canyon’s bottom, river rafting to Lake Mead on the “snout rigs”, and the Sky Walk.

First the Sky Walk.  It wasn’t quite what I had envisioned.  We didn’t go out on it, but we saw it from the top of the canyon,

View of the Sky Walk from the rim
View of the Sky Walk from the rim

then later from our river raft.  It’s that silver oval, jutting out from the top of the photo. What do you think? Worth an additional $70?

View of the Sky Walk from the Colorado River
View of the Sky Walk from the Colorado River

We didn’t think so either.

Back to the western canyon–here’s the view from the rim–very subdued colors, with a sediment laden river (that very brown ribbon) winding along the bottom. The Colorado River is quite low because of 12 years worth of droughts and the additional water needs of the area’s growing population.
P1000247Mike and I were in the last group of chopper riders, so we had time to become “one” with the landscape and to take pictures of our new friends as they climbed aboard.

The flat Colorado Plateau gave no hint of what was close by
The flat Colorado Plateau gave no hint of what was close by

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I was lucky enough to get a front seat.IMG_0650

Prior to this trip, we had toyed with the idea of rafting and camping through the canyon. Our ride on the snout rig absolutely settled that issue!
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I’ll let you in on a little secret. Those rigs are not the most comfortable way to travel. And if you are seated in the front, you are guaranteed to get wet, even when there are no rapids. Guess what–the water is COLD.

Our land transportation, on the other hand, was luxurious. Good thing, because we traveled from one end of the canyon to the other:  from Lake Mead to Lake Powell, logging many hours on that bus.P1010290
Our next stop was the one most visited by tourists–the south rim. The advantage to going a little later in the season was that the park was not crowded. Fortunately, we didn’t go TOO late. Had we waited another week, we would have found the park closed, thanks to our fine congressmen. But that’s another story.

There are so many possible captions for this next photo. “Death Wish”, “Just one more step back, honey”,  “Did you send the check to the insurance company?”…

No, they were not with OUR group!
No, they were not with OUR group!

For the more adventurous, the South Rim offers the opportunity to hike (or ride) along Bright Angel Trail.
P1010058Dinner at El Tovar was not part of our tour package, but we decided to forgo the Maswick Cafeteria and enjoy that beautiful setting.

Mike and Augusta on the porch at El Tovar
Mike and Augusta on the porch at El Tovar

The next morning, while my two favorite traveling companions caught up on their beauty sleep, I returned to the edge of the rim to catch the sunrise.

P1010043I had the view pretty much to myself.

P1010023Our last leg of the journey was to Glen Canyon where we enjoyed another raft trip and a tour of the dam.

View of the dam from the river
View of the dam from the river

If you look closely at the next photo, you will see our rafts on the left hand side of the river. We get there via a two mile tunnel carved through the rock.

View of river from the dam
View of river from the dam

Drew, our fantastic river guide, kept us informed and entertained, as he guided us down the river. A former Marine and lawyer, he chooses to spend his days piloting rafts on the river, and we all benefited greatly from that decision.
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Drew explained the significance of the petroglyphs, including the “modern” one. Can you make out the word “Trent” carved into the rock? it seems Trent just had to leave his mark, and in doing so, he also contributed many dollars and hours of community service for defacing a historical site. Yep, he got caught.

Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs

Some people never learn. Once again, I sat in the front. Once again, I got SOAKED from head to toe.
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We spent our final night in Marble Canyon.

Here it is--the town of Marble Canyon
Here it is–the town of Marble Canyon

The best part about being in such a remote area is the skies are magnificently dark. We were lucky enough to have a professional astronomer with us–Mike gave us a wonderful impromptu lecture on the heavens.  It was a great finale to a fantastic trip!P1010353

Off to The Grand Canyon

Colin Fletcher called the Grand Canyon a “huge natural museum of the earth’s history”. Okay, so I didn’t know who Colin Fletcher was either, until I signed us up for this Road Scholar trip. Now that I am a retiree (excuse me, “lifestyle manager”), I have time to actually READ the suggested background materials.

Colin Fletcher wrote “The Man who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through The Grand Canyon”. Given that the canyon was inhabited by Native Americans for about 10,000 years before the first Europeans arrived, it isn’t hard to imagine that one or two of them might have sauntered from one end of the canyon to the other before he did, but then again, THEY never published their adventures and thoughts. I shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Fletcher, though. After all, his book was written in the early 1900’s; half a century later, when I was in school, we still were being taught that Columbus “discovered” America, as if it were completely devoid of human inhabitants when he arrived.

So, now that I’ve gotten beyond the title, what did I learn from his book? Other than that I would never, ever even CONSIDER hiking through the canyon, I learned that you can tell the age of the rocks from their colors. I created this little chart so I’d know what I was looking at when we get there, starting from the rim and moving on down to the bottom:

Rock Color Thickness Age
Limestone White 400 feet 225 million years
Sandstone Pale brown 350 feet 250 million years
Shale and Sandstone Red 1,000 feet 275 million years
“The Esplanade”, Limestone Blue gray, stained red 800 feet 450 million years
Bright Angel Shale Layered greenish gray and purple 600 feet 475 million years
“Tonto Platform”Tapeats Sandstone Brown 225 feet 500 million years
Schists Dark gray with granite Depth is unknown Almost 2 billion years

Okay, so I have no concept of what 400 feet (or any of the other number of feet, for that matter) looks like–but when I get there, and take photos, and post them, well, then we’ll ALL know. And we’ll also know how long those bloody rocks have been plopped there.

I do better with visuals. So here’s a picture of where we will be for the week, starting and ending in Phoenix.

grand canyon

This trip will have an added element of adventure. The original plan was that this trip would be my father’s day present to my dad. He and Mike were going to room together, and I would be rooming with my “childhood” friend, Augusta. My dad’s knee became uncooperative, causing him to have to cancel out. Well, I notified Road Scholar and told them to change my roommate to Mike. I then learned that doing so would mean that Augusta might be assigned a female roommate, which wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind. So, Mike being an all around wonderful guy, decided to ‘take one for the team’ and agreed he’d be the solo traveler. No, that doesn’t mean HE gets the female roommate. He will only be matched up if there is another solo male traveler. The adventure part? We won’t know how this will shake out till we arrive tomorrow night.

Just think of the possibilities… Mike’s assigned roommate is a Sean Connery look alike, who gazes upon the lovely Augusta and is immediately smitten, causing us to swap roommates faster than your average college freshman. Beautiful sunsets, the canyon as a backdrop..could this be a made for TV movie, or what? Lifetime channel, perhaps?

More likely, Mike will be roommate-less. Hmmm. Maybe we shouldn’t mention that we’ve been married for 37 years. That way, if I am spotted doing the “walk of shame” out of his room some morning, it might liven up breakfast discussions.

So, which part of the blog did YOU find more interesting– rock colors and ages or the possibility of “seniors gone wild”?