We continued to explore more areas of the park. It is a huge park with so much to see. We rode the shuttle bus to the western most point of the park which is only accessible by shuttle bus. Our first stop was Hermit’s Rest. In the early 1900’s a French Canadian took up residence in the canyon for twenty years and became known as “the hermit of the Grand Canyon “. He ended up being a valuable source of information and one of the area’s primary guides. Hermit’s Rest is named in his honor. The building is one of seven in the park designed by southwestern architect Mary Jane Colter. She is known for her Native American architecture and use of materials from the area.
We hiked part of the way along the Rim Trail and found a few geocaches before hopping back on the shuttle bus. We were very impressed with the park shuttle bus service during our time in the park. The bus drivers were friendly and helpful and the buses punctually arrived at convenient stops every 10 to 15 minutes. Considering it was sometimes standing room only on the buses, they were well utilized by tourists visiting the park.
We stopped at Powell’s Point which is named after Major John Wesley Powell, the first explorer to journey down the entire length of the canyon on the Colorado River in 1869. This feat is even more amazing considering he lost an arm during the Civil War. He began the journey with nine men and four wooden boats. Several months later he completed the trip with five men and one boat. Several men had deserted the group along the way and were never heard from again and four of the boats had broken up. Powell made a second trip in 1872. There is a large monument to Powell and his men at Powell Point.
I think the western viewpoints are among the prettiest in the park and we had great views of the Colorado River from the rim. The Colorado River is one of the only rivers in the world that classifies its rapids on a scale of 1 to 10 instead of 1 to 6 like other rivers. There are many rapids in this part of the Colorado River with the Lava Rapid being the highest rated commercially run rapid in North America. The majority of the rapids in the Grand Canyon are caused by debris that is funneled into the river from side canyons.
Another day we drove to the eastern end of the Grand Canyon. Shuttle bus service does not extend this far. Along the way we saw a large male elk feeding alongside the road and several other elk close by. At the eastern end we visited the Desert View Watchtower, another Mary Colter design and one of the most prominent architectural features in the park. Built in 1932, it is modeled after ancient Pueblo watchtowers found in the Four Corners region. The tower is 70 feet tall and since it is the highest point in the South Rim, it provides stunning 360 degree views. The inside of the tower was amazing with a staircase climbing to the top and walls displaying petroglyphs and murals by a Hopi artist and crafts by local Hopi artisans.
On the way back from the Desert Tower we stopped at several rim viewpoints. Here are some pictures from the Grandview Point including a video.
use this if you don’t see the above video “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoXj2VUueks&feature=youtu.be”
On our last day in the park we hiked three miles with an elevation drop of 500 feet into the canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. We had really hoped to do more hiking and biking while at the Grand Canyon, but we both had colds/allergies that lingered for over two weeks, and with the 7,000 foot altitude, we were just not up to it. But by the last day we were feeling better and were determined to hike a little of the famous trail. The day was a little cool and windy but had bright blue skies. The trail is great and the same one is used to take visitors down by mule. The hike down was fairly easy but the hike back up took twice as long. We passed two really cool tunnels. I loved the camaraderie of the people hiking the trail of all ages and fitness levels. People greeted each other in passing and often asked how far they were hiking or if they had returned from hiking to the river. We recognized those planning to hike to the river and back since they had large backpacks with supplies. There were signs warning hikers not to attempt to hike down and back in one day due to the strenuous nature of the hike. It usually takes half a day to hike to the bottom and a full day to hike back up.
Our ten days went by much too quickly and the park is on our list of places to return to someday.