Saturday, March 15, 2014

Grand Canyon / Las Vegas - Grand Canyon South Rim

After getting a good nights sleep we hit the road and took the shortcut through Bullhead City to Kingman, Arizona where we picked up Interstate 40 and headed east to Williams, Arizona.  From Williams we drove the 60 miles north to Grand Canyon Village and by mid afternoon we had checked into the El Tovar.

The El Tovar is one of the Grand Lodges of the National Parks and we were looking forward to staying there.  Unlike the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, which stands out in it's natural setting, the El Tovar was built more to blend in with the Canyon.  What it lacks in grandeur and size it makes up for in comfort and homeyness.  As with most of the Grand Lodges, it came into being because the railroads wanted to open up the tourist business in the West.  It was designed by Charles Whittlesey, an architect for the Atchinson, Topeka and Sante Fe Railroad and opened in 1905.  The hotel has added modern utilities and has had new furnishings installed several times over the years, but otherwise it remains much the same as it was when built.  The public areas are much smaller than the Ahwahnee, but have their own charm and comfort. The building is actually a very large log cabin and the interior is painted a very dark brown (the same color it was originally painted), which make it very dark on the inside. The dining room was excellent with windows looking out over the Canyon.  The food and service were excellent and we ate there for both of our dinners and one breakfast during our stay.  The El Tovar is also very near the train station where trains arrive from and depart to Williams every day, much as they did during the early days of the Hotel.  We heard that most of the rooms were quite small so we reserved a suite called the Bellboy Suite which was quite nice and was actually a two room suite.  It was downstairs and the views were of the trains station, but it was a very nice room and we were happy to have it.  Here are some pictures of the Hotel and surrounding area.

The front of the El Tovar.
The steps to the front entrance. 
As you can see, it is right on the edge of the Canyon in the background
The dining room.
In the evening a roaring fire was kept in the fireplace, a great place to relax before or after dinner.

The lobby area.

The lobby area looking towards the front door.

The railroad station. You can see the El Tovar in the upper left corner.
After checking in and getting settled we decided to drive the road that goes to the eastern side of the park along the Canyon rim. It's called Desert View Drive and goes toward the eastern Park entrance.  Most of the roads and viewpoints in the Grand Canyon are now only accessible by shuttle buses, but Desert View Drive still allows private cars.  Pictures are better than words trying to describe the awe inspiring views of the Grand Canyon and even pictures don't do it justice, but here are some from our drive.

Val and I.
The Watchtower at Desert View.  It looks ancient, but it was actually built in 1936.


Dave on the Canyon's edge.

We spent the next morning walking around the hotel grounds and along the rim of the Canyon near the hotel.  That afternoon we decided to drive west along the rim on Hermit Road.  The Hermit Road area is shuttle bus only, but because of Val's knee surgery she was concerned she would have trouble getting on and off the high steps of the shuttle bus so we got a special permit the park issues to allow you to drive the road in your car.  It was a beautiful drive with lots of scenic viewpoints along the way.  Although we were driving we could see how well the shuttle worked as they stopped at every viewpoint and seemed to arrive every ten or fifteen minutes. At one of the stops we were able to see a group of five or six elk grazing along the Canyon edge.  They must have been very used to people because they ignored us and several other people there and allowed us to get pretty close, but not too close.  Elk are very large and imposing animals and we have some friends who were actually charged by an elk so we used caution around them.  Here are some pictures from our drive along Hermit Road.

A telephoto view of Granite Rapids at the bottom of the of the Canyon. 
We went through them on our rafting trip.

The elk were still a bit shaggy from their winter coats.

After our Hermit Road drive we spent our time before dinner watching and taking pictures of the sunset.


We really enjoyed our stay in the Grand Canyon, neither of us had ever spent more than a few hours here so we were able to see and do a lot more than before.  Due to Val's knee we didn't do any hiking, but the many and easy accessible viewpoints gave us really good views of the canyon.  It was also very interesting for us to look down into the Canyon from the top after rafting on the Colorado River through the bottom of the Canyon in August of 2011. I must admit that seeing the Canyon from the river at the bottom kind of spoils your viewpoint when you see it from the top, but we were very grateful to have seen the Canyon from both the top and the bottom. After all, it is the Grand Canyon and the view from either the top or the bottom is spectacular.

Tomorrow we start the finale to our short trip and drive to Las Vegas before returning home.

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