We took it easy this morning and found ourselves just making breakfast at our hotel. Our hotel is just outside the national park boundary, about 10 kms south of the visitors centre in the little town of Tusayan where the Grand Canyon Airport is located.
We planned to spend today visiting the viewpoints to the west of Canyon Village. We saw the ones to the east yesterday after entering the national park at the east gate. We expected the car parks at the visitors centre to be busy but we were a little surprised that at 10.30 am there were only a few spots left. Three big car parks, together, hold over 1000 cars. The western road around the rim to Hermits Rest simply doesn’t have anywhere near enough car parking facilities to allow for cars, so the National Parks Service has an elaborate system of modern shuttle buses. These run from the central bus station near the Visitors Centre every 7 – 10 minutes. We first caught a bus on the ‘blue loop’ to the village interchange and then caught a ‘red bus’ to Hermits Rest. There has never been a hermit, it’s just a name of a location dreamed up by someone.
It was a cool day today and quite windy. I had to take my cap off at a number of lookouts in case it blew away. Jill decided that she would catch the shuttle to Hermits Rest at the end of the road while i took a series of shuttles to take photos at different view points. I have to say that for someone who is uncomfortable with heights, it was not easy to stand on some of these with the wind blowing and only a railing protecting me from a long drop. I think that many of these viewpoints were much higher than the 12 second drop on the Milford Track in New Zealand. Apparently. there are two or three people who die each year from falling into the canyon but a greater number die from heat exhaustion while hiking. It also seems to take a long time to find those who fell. Sometimes it is only the circling buzzards far below the rim that indicate the site of a body.
The shuttle system worked very well for me. I could get off one shuttle, walk to the overlook, take some photos and find the next shuttle at the bus stop by the time I returned. At a couple of stops, I could just hop out of the bus, take a photo and jump back on the same bus.
The views were incredible. Everyone was different. From some, I could see the Colorado River with its rapids and others gave a broad view across the entire canyon.
On the way back to the car park, we stopped off at the Bright Angel Lodge (right on the rim of the canyon) for lunch in their restaurant, Our meals were served on paper plates with plastic cutlery. I was, at first, astonished. However, it turns out that Arizona has suffered its driest ever winter and there are severe water restrictions. Water has been cut off to most places in the National Park. There is nowhere to wash your hands in the toilets, for example. Instead they provide alcohol hand wash. If it wasn’t for paper plates and disposable cutlery, the restaurant couldn’t wash its dishes and would have closed.
We could have stayed at some of the lodges by the rim but most were built in the 1930s and we were a bit gun-shy of the quality of food after a previous experience at Yosemite National Park, There, the food at the cafe was far worse than any meal I was ever served in the army (including field ration packs). Our hotel, in town, may not have all the old world charm of those within the national park but it is quite comfortable and has a reasonable restaurant.