David, Rob, Louise & I did the Grand Canyon today while the rest of the group went to see Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Rob entertained us on the drive up with stories of teaching on the Res. Our first stop was at Desert View ( East Entrance), which had a good view of The Canyon, which was - well - very grand. A bit hazy, and huge and layered red and fading off into the distance. But after everything we've seen on this trip, it was a bit of an anticlimax.
We climbed the tower there, which was interesting. The famous architect Mary Colter was commissioned to build it during the depression period. She did a good job of imitating one of the Pueblo Culture towers, and commissioned Indian artists to fill it with pictograph style art all over the walls
. Next we drove to the Navajo point lookout for another view and more pictures, then drove to the Tusayan Museum & ruin to checked those out. Once again, not much we hadn't already seen. Then drove to Grand Canyon village for lunch at the El Tovar hotel, which had been recommended by my Lonely Planet travel book. We had a lovely lunch - I had a delicious Mediterranean Chicken Salad and an exquisite Pecan Caramel Crème Brule,. Everyone else said they enjoyed their meals too, and the service perfect, and the atmosphere very grand - the Lonely Planet seldom steers us wrong.
After lunch we took a stroll along the Rim Trail to the Kolb Studio. Not much there - just a teeny art gallery that had a children's art display, and a huge old movie camera that used to be used to show a turn of the century film on boating down the Grand Canyon, during which, I hear, the Kolb brothers tumbled of the boat into the rapids and almost drowned numerous times. The trail was packed with tourists - the whole thing had a classic summer holiday atmosphere.
Just beyond the Kolb Studio is the Bright Angel trail, which descends into the canyon. We started down the canyon after reading a precautionary warning about a marathon runner who died trying to hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon and back up again (some 27 miles) with inadequate water, and died of dehydration and sunstroke
. My traveling companions took the warning seriously, and not having hats on or water with them, abandoned the trail after about 500 meters. I continued on down a couple of kilometres (about half an hour), and then, mindful of the steep ascent ahead of me, headed back. On the way I encountered a couple wearing backpacks who I'd passed going down a half an hour earlier. They were still in the same spot, the woman sitting on a rock with her pack still on her back, staring off into space and the man standing and hovering nervously, but neither saying anything. I wondered if she was having trouble making it up the steep switchbacks with a pack, and considered offering to carry her pack up for her, as I was still fairly fresh. But they didn't make eye contact, and seemed like they might have had an argument or something, so I continued on. My group was waiting for me when I eventually got back up. They told me that there had been a bit of a drama going on. The couple I'd passed were with a group that had just returned from a 3 day river rafting trip and then hiked all the way up from the canyon bottom with their packs. The husband had sent a message up with one of the group to their daughter and son for the son to come down, and the daughter to get help from the park rangers. The son left his pack with his sister ad went down to help, and Louise watched the packs while the daughter went to call a park ranger. When I got back, she was waiting for them. On the way to the parking lot, we did see a couple of Park Rangers looking like they were assembling for action. We never did get to hear the end of the story, but assumed it turned out OK, as they weren't really that far from the top...