Today started out better for me than I anticipated. Last night was the overnight software goLive I had to support for my client in Indiana. My tasks started at 11pm Eastern and lasted until 4am (if all went well). The great thing is, being out west and in Arizona, which doesn’t do daylight savings time- it was only 8pm to 1am my time! Things ran a bit long, but I was asleep by 2am and the software changeover went smoothly, at least from my perspective of handling a lot of the old system shut down. I’m sure they’ll have a fun few days coming up as they work out some small kinks, but they did a good job.
So, we were up and at ’em on time and headed to the Grand Canyon! This was one of Norah’s USA bucket list items for travel, so she was pumped. We got to the shuttle parking and the lot wasn’t very full…so I started to get worried.
I read this sign and was like WELL CRAP! …I had planned out an entire day of shuttle stops and sites! What now?? But… it ended up being better! Because all of the shuttles weren’t running to the village or any of the major points, you could take your car… so we drove right into the Village and parked right away and walked around. And while it wasnt empty, it was nothing like the crowds I was expecting. I heard a lady in the store say “the calm before the storm in the mornings” so I guess because people daytrip out from Phoenix or Vegas or Salt Lake City, that the early mornings are quiet until like 11am and the afternoons are a zoo. May be good info for anyone else headed this way in the future!
Our first view of the Grand Canyon.
Norah had seen a canyon of some sort along the way and said “that looks like the Grand Canyon” and we said “no….thats nothing like the Grand Canyon, just wait” That was like 3 days prior and as soon as her eyes caught a glimpse she just said amazed “you’re right. That’s nothing like the Grand Canyon” and we laughed both because of her amazement and because we had completely forgotten about even saying that. ha
The pictures really cant even do justice to the massiveness of this canyon. Its so big it makes your head swim trying to focus and get your bearings looking at it and its so far to the other side, its hazy and it just looks like a really well done backdrop painting. Doesn’t even seem real.
Norah made a friend at the first stop- she quickly named him Fat Gus. This led to discussion of a pet squirrel, then to maybe a guinea pig would be a better choice.. to maybe turning her desk area into a giant hamster park. Dream big, girl. haha
The above photos were from Mather Point by the visitor center. After these, we drove down to the village and parked near the Thunderbird Lodge to walk around the historical town area starting at Bright Angel Lodge.
There was another building at this site from 1896, but this hotel was built in the 1930’s by Mary Coulter (same architect from Petrified Forest and the hotel in Winslow.)
There is a history room there with a 10 foot fireplace designed by Coulter. It has all the same layers of rock as the canyon does.
They had a lot of Fred Harvey Memorabilia there, including old photos of some of the Harvey Girl wait staff from the lodges and restaurants.
Giant binoculars that used to be located at Lookout Studio, where we headed next.
We passed Buckey’s Cabin on the way. Buckey O’Neill was an interesting character. Irish immigrant, moved around and explored the West after completing Law school. Worked as a publisher, printmaker, judge, mayor, speculated on mines and eventually joined Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and was killed in battle in Cuba. (in the TNT movie Rough Riders, Sam Elliott plays O’Neill) This is the only remaining building from the pioneer era of the Canyon settlement.
We visited Lookout studio- another Mary Coulter building, built with great vantage points to see the canyon.
We walked back along the rim to the El Tovar Hotel. This hotel was built by the Fred Harvey Company in partnership with the Santa Fe railroad to draw more rail travel to the canyon.
Across the street from El Tovar is Hopi House. Another Mary Coulter building.
She built this to look like an old Indian Pueblo, complete with low ceilings, even lower doors and the ceilings with the natural branches still have leaves on them. She purposely built the floors uneven to give it an even better realistic and old feel. Pretty cool.
Our last stop in town was the Train Depot. This was built in 1901, designed to complement the El Tovar Hotel for the guests that would be arriving to the Grand Canyon along the Santa Fe railway.
You can still take a train trip from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim on a train that comes to this station!
For someone that was so excited at the beginning, she sure was over it by the time we started driving towards Desert View Watchtower. ha We’re driving past miles of canyon scenery and she has her head buried in her phone.
First time we had even seen a mountain lion crossing sign.
We arrived at the Desert View Watchtower, another Mary Coulter design, but going inside the tower was closed. But that’s OK- the view was still fantastic from outside.
Leaving the Grand Canyon, we headed towards Tuba City to see the Navajo Code Talkers display at the Trading Post.
They have a traditional Navajo Hogan built outside. This would have been the homes of most Navajo up to the 1900s when the government would only pay for housing that met HUD standards…which obviously didn’t cover mud covered log buildings… but there is a revival happening trying to bring back the Hogan. We saw a lot of houses on Indian land with these 8 sides structures out in their front yards. They are rarely lived in anymore, but some are used for ceremonial purposes.
The code talker museum was smaller than I expected, more like a display of a few items supplemented with some photos- but still nice to see.
The code talkers were such an important piece of our victory in World War II – a Major said “if it weren’t for the Navajo, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima”. The code was so effective because Navajo is a mostly unwritten language. They used traditional words that could translate to English for the phonetic alphabet to spell words. Like, “wo-la-chee” was the Navajo word for Ant, so it was used for the English Letter A. They also used Navajo words for items where there wasn’t a native word- like “Submarine”- they used “besh-lo” or iron fish.
After the code talker museum, we stopped at a travel station because all of the restrooms were closed everywhere we had been. This truck stop type big station was open, but they still required masks and they had a girl doing temperature checks at the door and only letting 4 families inside at a time. They are still VERY serious about Covid restrictions out here. I was very surprised.
Norah found a bag of fruit jellies that she just couldn’t live without. haha its some TikTok thing that is making these super popular right now.
Our next stop was at Moenave for dinosaur tracks! I had read that you could give a “donation” to the Native American vendors set up on the side of the road and they will give you a tour of the track. So we did… and it was amazing! She had such good information. I would have missed half the tracks and things she pointed out. She used a disposable water bottle with a tiny hole poked in the lid to squirt water into the tracks to make them more visible to us. It was so dang hot and dry that before I could even take half the pictures, the water was evaporated! She did seem surprised us fair skinned folks didn’t have hats to take with us out onto the tracks area…and of course, I’m like ‘we’re fine! we’ve got on sunscreen”. Ten minutes later we were all cooking and bright red. hahaha Listen to the Native Americans. They are wise. ha
We continued on across Arizona over towards the Utah border. Lots of gorgeous cliff faces and very desert like scenery.
Our last stop was Horseshoe Bend. Page, Arizona has a new $10 parking and bathroom structure at the site. With a paved .75 mile walk back to the view. It.was.hot. Omg. I’m a weakling.
We gave Norah a hat and loaded her up with sunscreen again for the trek. Going down was absolutely fine. You can see below the steady stream of people heading down to this. It was our busiest site of the trip but still wasn’t crazy packed…
The view was worth it.
To keep the blog real, I had Kegan take a photo of me after the .75 miles back uphill in the 90 something degree heat. It cant all be smiles and rainbows. haha I was a mess. I was so dehydrated from not drinking enough water earlier in the day, I was starting to get cold chills as we approached the SUV. I figure thats not good.
I had a splitting headache after that, I assume from dehydration. So I chugged a couple liters of water, blasted the AC in the car to the hotel, took a cold shower…and life was much better! ha Lesson learned. Water, water, water.
We got Big John’s Texas BBQ for dinner. Good ribs. Norah had a hot dog. I forgot to get photos in my headache heat exhaustion stupor 🙂 haha Tomorrow we’ll head to Utah and end at Zion!