Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon

Trip Start Jun 05, 2010
Trip End Jul 25, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Sunday, June 27, 2010

It was a painful start to the day with the alarm going off at 4:50am. We had slept about three or four hours so peeled ourselves painfully out of bed. We trekked down to the reception, only to find out that the tour bus pickup is the other end of the hotel. After about twenty minutes of walking, carrying all our bags for the two nights we would be away from Las Vegas we finally found the tour bus pickup.

After a short wait our tour bus turned up and we met Geoff our guide. Also on the tour with us were Mary and Murray and married couple with an apple orchard from New Zealand. This was our full contingent for the next 3 days.

Today we would head south east out of Nevada into Arizona, passing the Hoover Dam and on towards the Grand Canyon before the final drive north again to our hotel in Page, Arizona.

Leaving Las Vegas by road you see you see stark contrast between the pinnacle of artificial man made entertainment to the raw natural wonder of the country around it. In Las Vegas your every need and whim is catered for, whereas the natural environment only twenty minutes away is hungry to take away even the fundamental things required to stay alive.

After driving for 45 minutes we pass through some hills where there is a growing concentration of electricity pylons that seem to be converging on some place ahead of us. As we approach the Hoover Dam you can see the large infrastructure for the hydro electric power that is being generated here and distributed out to Nevada and California. The Dam itself slices through the river and driving over it we cross the border from Nevada into Arizona. The Dam itself has a clock on each side however this time of year there is no difference as Arizona does not observe daylight savings. We stop for a few photos before pushing onwards to the Grand Canyon.

Over four hours later we take a stop at Williams where the old Grand Canyon railroad is undergoing a revival since its decline caused by building of the highways. The same decline has fallen on many towns in the area since the building of the interstate freeways which caused old highway towns to lose passing trade. We passed by Seligman on the freeway, an old route 66 highway town that we were told was the inspiration for Radiator Springs in the Pixar movie Cars.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park about an hour after leaving Williams. Our driver paid the entry and dropped us off near the main viewing area on the south rim. The first time you see the Grand Canyon is an awesome experience that you cannot recreate in words. The scale and depth of what you are seeing almost prevents you from perceiving any perspective. The eighteen mile view across the canyon to the north rim is almost like looking at a flat backdrop. Your eyes are strained with a wealth of detail they are unaccustomed seeing and it takes some time to adjust to the richness of the scene in front of you. The canyon is actually a series of canyons leading into one canyon in the middle through which the Colorado River flows. The vast depth and width of the canyon means you cannot even see the river from this viewpoint. Looking down into the canyons below the distance becomes imperceptible until you spot a campground or people on the hiking trails into the canyon. The first time you spot them they are far smaller than you would have expected and you are able to truly perceive the scale of what you are seeing.

When the first Spanish expedition found the canyon and greatly underestimated its size and their report of an insurmountable barrier prevented any further visitors for the next two hundred years. A subsequent expedition by Lt. Joseph Ives dismissed the area as "altogether valueless" and remarked that his expedition would be "the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality"! Only after the Powell expeditions popularised the canyon and the Grandview Hotel was built in 1895 did visitors begin to travel to the canyon, first by stagecoach and then by railroad. They Grandview Hotel has since burnt down and was not rebuilt.

After several minutes of silence Geoff took us to another lookout point called Mather's Point whilst he took Murray and Mary for their helicopter tour of the canyon. After walking a few minutes we set up for our picnic on the edge of the south rim where we ate whilst staring out at the immensity of the canyon and the tourists who competed to stand the most daringly close to the edge for a spectacular photo.

After lunch we joined in the daring photo competition and even Van climbed out to a spectacular spot for a once in a lifetime photo opportunity. We had to quickly head back the meet the others as we had a few more lookouts to see as we headed eastwards along the south canyon rim. The heat was becoming oppressive now with the temperature easily in the high thirties or low forties centigrade and the quick walk back to the bus drained our energy.

We stopped at Grand View Point where the hotel had originally stood then continued on to Desert View. At Desert View we saw the Watchtower and climbed to the top looking at the Native American art that decorated the walls inside. From this lookout the Colorado River could be seen winding itself out of the eastern end of the canyon and northwards towards Utah.

We left the Grand Canyon and began the long drive northwards to Page just south of the Utah border where we would stay for the next two nights. We stopped briefly at a town called Cameron where there is a large store full of handmade Native American souvenirs and I picked up a decorative bow and arrow. We were a little behind schedule on arrival to Page so our planned visit to Horseshoe Bend had to be postponed until tomorrow. Given that no one would be taking the Colorado River cruise in the morning due to it being booked out, we had additional time.

We took some food at the hotel restaurant where they served some Navajo Indian food. Well it was a bit of an Indian-Mexican mix in the form of the Navajo Taco (The also did a Navajo Burger). It was a bit like a Pizza and the Navajo element was primarily the soft bread base that was very tasty. It was a big portion and very cheap. During our dinner we were treated to a spectacular orange sunset over the Arizona Desert before turning in.
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