2019 Fall Trip to Grand Canyon

swalker

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I am finally getting around to starting a thread about our trip to Grand Canyon National Park last fall.

As always, it was a wonderful trip in a magnificent park. It was a bit more exciting because of our new-to-us motorhome and the weather.

The Grand Canyon is a very popular place and it is necessary to book well in advance. Some of the more popular places require entering a lottery.

Early last year my wife entered the lottery for a space a Phantom Ranch, a rustic camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. She "won" the lottery and was able to secure accomodations for three people. She invited two good friends to accompany her. Unfortunately, that meant we would also need to coordinate a place for me and the motorhome while I stayed on the canyon rim. The trip to Phantom Ranch requires hiking down to the bottom of the canyon on one of several trails. You can also take a mule ride down for a fee. Obviously, I was not going to hike or ride a mule to Phantom Ranch. This was a trip for Lori and her friends.

In the past, we had camped at the Mather campground on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I first stayed at that campground in 1978 and have been there many times since. Unfortunately, our motorhome is too large to fit into any site in that campground, so we had to make other arrangements.

Not far from Mather Campground is Trailer Village. Trailer Village is setup up to handle motorhomes like ours. By scheduling the trip well in advance we were able to reserve a week in Trailer Village that covered the 3 days that Lori would be hiking with her friends in the canyon.

So, with that preliminary, you will see that our timeframe was pretty well fixed. We could not change it without giving up the reservation at Phantom Ranch and probably at Trailer Village as well.

The only reservations we could get would force us to have the Grand Canyon trip one week after we concluded our trip to Yellowstone. We rationalized that one week was enough. One week is not enough, but I am willing to talk myself into just about anything for a good cause!

If you have read about our Yellowstone trip, you already know that returning home from that trip was delayed by issues with the weather and motorhome. But we did make it home finally. Unfortunately, we had to leave for the Grand Canyon 5 days after returning home from Yellowstone. I really need a week or more to recover from that kind of trip.

I thought very seriously about staying home and just having Lori go without me (she would have stayed in a hotel, probably 75 miles away from the Grand Canyon in Flagstaff, Arizona). In the end, I decided that I would try it and see what happend.

So, "we" got home from Yellowstone, unloaded the motorhome, got it prepped for the trip to Arizona, and headed out.

We usually take 2 days to do the 10 hour drive to the Grand Canyon. We decided to spend the night at an RV park in Moab, Utah. Moab is a spectacular place worth a week long trip itself. We are very new to staying in RV parks, having only done so once before. We managed to get there and get set up. I went to bed early!

The next day, we both slept in late. We packed up (which was more exciting than it sounds because we are new to packing a motorhome) and drove to the Grand Canyon. We had an hour delay for road construction, but the trip was otherwise uneventful. We drove through Monument Valley on a narrow road, but the views were worth the hassles of driving the motorhome over a narrow road.

We arrived at Trailer Village in the Grand Canyon and were assigned our spot. When we pulled into it, we found that it was too steep to level the motorhome! So, Lori went back to the office and asked (pleaded) for a more level spot. It was late in the day and there was only one other suitable spot that had not yet been occupied (the folks had not yet arrived). They gave it to us and fortunately we were able to level the motorhome there OK.

I slept very well that night -- and for a very long time!

I was so excited about being there I did not think to take any pictures of our campsite. So you will just have to trust me that it was a lot like being in a mobile home park. There was a herringbone pattern of parking spots with 100% occupancy.

I will close off this post with a picture of the canyon from Pima Point. It is one of my favorite places to spend watching the sunset. I will post more a bit later.

Steve
 

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swalker

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This trip to the Grand Canyon was a bit different from our past trips. We had the motorhome, which contributed a lot of complexity, but sure was comfortable. We also had very cold weather.

I think this was the coldest weather I have ever experienced at the Grand Canyon (though, I have experienced MUCH colder weather in northern Arizona when we lived in Flagstaff).

We also had plans for two of Lori's friends to meet us at the RV park, spend the night there, and then leave for a three-day trip hiking from the south rim of the canyon to the north rim. That is a 21 mile hike, with a lot of down and then up!

After arriving at Trailer Village and after getting the motorhome set up, we went to bed early and slept late! The next day was mostly spent getting stuff ready for Lori's backpacking trip. Her friends arrived that evening and stayed up late packing. I went to bed quite early.

They got up very early the next morning and took a shuttle bus to the trail head. I slept in pretty late. When I got up, I spent the afternoon riding the rim trail, which is a 13 mile long, mostly-asphalt trail along the south rim of the canyon. I could peer down over the edge and occasionally catch a glimpse of Lori and her two friends as they made their way down. I spent a lot of time reflecting on all the hikes I had done in the canyon years ago.

They spent the first night at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. I had no chance to see them again until the arrived back at the motorhome 3 days later, after taking a shuttle from the north rim to the south rim (a very long ride).

I enjoyed my time alone and was able to ride at maximum wheelchair speed (as crowds allowed) since Lori was not walking with me. I spent the evening at Maricopa point, which is a wonderful place to watch the sunset. I took a few pictures and will attach a couple to give you an idea of what it was like.

I ran the battery completely down on the wheelchair and headed back to the motorhome to recharge the wheelchair.

An advantage of staying at Trailer Village is that we had full hookups. That means that we had 50 amp power service, so there was no issue charging the wheelchair. We also had water and sewer service available, but could not hook up to them because the temperatures were substantially below freezing. Fortunately, the motorhome has a temperature-controlled, 100-gallon fresh water tank, so we had plenty of water for the week we were there and no issues of pipes freezing.

Our last morning of the trip we woke up to a neighboring rental RV that did connect to water. They had burst the pipes in the RV and water was spewing everywhere. That was quite a mess. I sure hope they opted for the insurance package.

The next day, I spent more time riding the the rim trail. I enjoyed myself and took a few excursions on side trails that lead back away from the rim through the stands of towering Ponderosa pines (my favorite tree). It was a very pleasant day, though certainly a bit chilly.

I was able to make my way to Pima point, which is probably my favorite point to watch a sunset at the Grand Canyon. It is pretty accessible and the views are amazing. After sunset, I returned to the motorhome for some much-needed rest.

The weather turned much colder that night (as predicted) and there was much excitement over the next few days. I will save those stories for future installments.

For now, here are some sunset pictures. The first two images were taken at Maricopa Point. The third image was taken at Pima Point. The fourth image, which you will likely need to click on to see was also taken at Pima point.

Steve
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blitzc

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Thank you so much for sharing these adventures! You are able to do what so many of us cannot or will not experience.
 

Clearwater AL

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Steve, I believe I once read the canyon was cut out by water from when the ice age retreated, melted.

Is that true? If so, that is amazing.... 10X.

Thanks for the beautiful pictures.
 

swalker

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Al, there are many theories about how the canyon was formed. Some of those theories have a significant religious foundation. I won't get into those.

Among the scientifically-backed theories, the most generally accepted explanation is that the vast Colorado Plateau underwent a period of uplift as the Colorado river carved the canyon. The layers were deposited in seas and uplift raised the Colorado Plateau to its current height of 7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level.

A relatively recent theory is that the excavation of the canyon was greatly accelerated by the collapse of one or more ice dams holding back vast quantities (perhaps as large as the Great Lakes) of melt water from ice ages. The sudden surge of water is conjectured to have scoured the canyon much more rapidly than the relatively steady flow of the Colorado River alone.

There are quite a few variations on the theme of periodic surges of high water flow. There is evidence of a variety of smaller natural dams caused by volcanic activity as well as mud slides. These natural dams are conjectured to have eventually eroded away, allowing the lake's worth of water behind each to be suddenly released into the canyon.

There are numerous faults at play and there has been some volcanic activity as well (more than just what caused the dams described above).

The geology of northern Arizona is absolutely amazing. I feel very fortunate to have done my undergraduate degree there (at NAU in Flagstaff) and to have been compelled to take a geology course there. What a place to study geology.

There is a cinder cone called Sunset Crater (about 50 miles from the south rim of the Grand Canyon as the crow flies) that was formed less than 1,000 years ago. Not very long ago at all in geologic time. The whole northern Arizona landscape is dotted with cinder cones and volcanic peaks.

There are flows of both basalt and rhyolite in northern Arizona that are absolutely fascinating. I always enjoy going to the indian ruins at Wupatki National Monument and visiting the adjacent Sunset Crater National Monument.

It is truly an amazing place.

Steve
 
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