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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Road Trip ! - Southwestern US (Part 5) - Grand Canyon

After a day of driving between Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, we arrived at Bright Angel Lodge a little after dark. We enjoyed a nice dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge restaurant and settled into our little cabin for the night.  Outside, Grand Canyon was experiencing record low temperatures, but the cabin was warm and dry.  In the morning, we woke up to this.

I've only been to Grand Canyon once before, in about late May of 1994.  I don't remember much except for crowds.  Now that I've been there off-season, I'm sure that this is the time to go there.  The views there are always impressive, but the snow really makes it.  Temps were in the mid-20's during the day, and single digits at night, but there was plenty of sun on Monday to make it a great day for a long walk along the rim of the Canyon.  We kept hearing that the low temps were record setting, so maybe it's not normally quite that cold in early December.  We are thinking that either Grand Canyon or Zion might be a fun place to go for Christmas one of these years.

In between our walks along the rim trail we stopped to check out the various historic buildings, including the El Tovar Hotel, the Bright Angel Lodge, the Hopi House and the old Santa Fe Train Station.  Here's a shot of the Hopi House.  Designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter, it was built by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1905, and managed by their concessionaire, the Fred Harvey Company.  The building was intended to be a marketplace for Native American crafts, and it's still used for that today.   Colter also designed the Bright Angel Lodge in 1935, and several other historic buildings in the area. 

The El Tovar Hotel, also built by the railroad, opened in 1905.  It was, and still is, marketed as a destination hotel.  The dining room is reservations-only for dinner, all year round.  We had dinner there on Monday night.  

Tourists have been arriving at the El Tovar by train from Willams, Arizona since the early 1900's.  Today the line, and the lodges, are run by Xanterra Resorts, which does a very nice job of providing accommodations and food service.  Every meal we had in Zion (they run that one as well) and Grand Canyon was excellent, and good value for the money as well.  Same for the lodging.

There is a 3/4 mile long section of the rim trail that is now a geology tour of sorts. All along the paved path there are plaques, signs and rock samples that take you through the geological history of the Canyon, describing the various layers of rock going from oldest to newest.  The National Park Service did a great job with this.

We really enjoyed our stay at the Grand Canyon.  Was it better than Zion?  Hard to say, they are both special, and in a way the opposite of each other.  At Zion we were down in the bottom of the deep narrow canyon (except for our hike up to Scout Landing) looking up - at Grand Canyon we were on the rim of the canyon looking down.

As we walked back to our cabin to get ready for dinner we could see the Moon rising over the El Tovar Hotel in the distance.  A little later that evening we walked back over to the El Tovar and had a great meal in their dining room.

On Tuesday morning we would leave Grand Canyon and head south towards Scottsdale for our last two nights on the road, with a few stops along the way of course.

To be continued . . . 

Click here to see more images from our stay in Grand Canyon National Park.

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San Diego, California, United States
About me . . . When I'm not working I like to be out exploring and photographing. I do this blog just for fun, and to be able to share these images with friends. I hope you enjoy viewing these images as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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Header image: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Cibola, Arizona. End image: Downtown San Diego, California skyline from Coronado Island. Profile picture: Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, by Heather Baiamonte.