Stepping Away from the 1970’s and into The Grand Canyon

Me with the Sheriff.

I’m going to take a quick break from the past blast and catch you up on what we’ve been up to at the Nolen household. This past week we took the daughter and the grand-girl to the Grand Canyon. Left the house on a Sunday morning about 5:15, which is stinking early. Took the car to the ecoparking lot to leave it and catch the tram to the airport. The plane left on time at 8:15 and arrive in Phoenix at 11:45, which seems way too long but this was 11:45 their time which is about an hour behind our time. However, Arizona doesn’t recognize Daylight Savings Time (and this is WAY cool in my book) so they are two hours behind us at this time of year. In other words the trip lasted about an hour and a half.

We had about thirty minutes to make it across the airport to board the United Express plane to Flagstaff, a plane that seats twenty-five people and on this trip included one screaming baby on the lap of my daughter. She (the baby not my daughter) actually fell asleep about five minutes after take off but before take-off we were sitting for forty minutes on the plane with no air conditioning or fresh air and it was hot, hence the screaming part. I felt just like her but refrained from thrashing and crying.

We landed in Flagstaff in about twenty minutes after take-off. Flagstaff airport is about as big as my house and has one tiny cafe for entertainment for and hour and a half while we waited for the van that would shuttle us to Williams.

Once in Williams we found excellent food, lodging, and the people were more than helpful about everything. Williams, AZ is famous for the train which has ferried people back and forth to the Grand Canyon for sixty years and for the fact that Route 66 goes through the town. Cute. Very touristy. Loved it.

We stayed at the Depot Hotel and ate at the Depot Cafe (excellent all you-can-eat buffet for supper and breakfast), and shopped at the two souvenir shops full of train/Grand Canyon/Arizona/Native American  STUFF.

Great fun. The baby enjoyed it, her mom enjoyed it, us old people enjoyed it. And that was the first day.

The horse can laugh. Cora thinks it’s a big dog.

The next day after a huge breakfast, we went to see the western shoot-em-up show nearby before loading up on the train. The actors engaged the audience well and we had a good laugh. The grand-girl did not like the gunshots so her mother had to take her to the train to wait for us.

The ride to the Grand Canyon on the train was relaxing. We took first class seats as they were wide, comfy, and there was an extra seat for the baby. A nice buffet was available. This was time we could spend with our feet up enjoying the views from the large windows.

At the canyon the first event was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Man, these people believe in shoveling the food out. However, this one wasn’t very good. We had eaten all day anyway so no great loss. Next, we boarded a bus for a tour of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

There were two major stops. The views were spectacular. Every view was spectacular. There are no two views alike. Even on the same stop. I guess because the weather is constantly changing and the light changes so any view of the canyon is ever the same. The canyon’s rim is well over 2700 miles long, ten miles wide in some places and a mile deep. Most trails down into the canyon are over seven miles long because the mile deep part is literally straight down, a route that most people never want to take. So walking or taking a mule down will usually take all day and needs a lot of preparation.

I picked up a book at the train depot called “Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon” written by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers. It is the store’s best seller. And I know why. It is an account of all known fatal mishaps in and around the Grand Canyon. Reading it is like eating popcorn, you just don’t want to stop. I’m about halfway through the book now and I can’t help but keep turning pages. Perhaps it’s because I’m astounded at all the stupid things people do – and die as a result. And this means lately by the way, as in last year. In fact the rangers report that people seem to believe that the canyon isn’t really dangerous.

I suppose because we all live in such an insular society. I guess we get used to the structural engineers and lawyers fixing all the faults … If something happens just sue, right?

I am not being serious.

Who are you going to sue if you back off the edge while getting a nice shot of the Hopi House?(about 3 people have done that) Or because you decide to drape your legs off the side to watch the sun set and then when you stand you lose your balance and fall in?(at least 6 people have done that)

Oh the ways you can die!!

Seriously, read the book before you hike the canyon. It might save your life.

So we are on this lovely tour and stop and look around, take pictures, see people stupidly standing on the edge. Obvious they didn’t read the book. And on our second stop we see not one but two condors.


Now this is incredibly cool because the California Condor was only recently re-introduced to the canyon. And we were not only seeing one from a great distance but they were swooping over our heads. I was too shocked to get THAT picture but I did get a few from a bit of a distance. They – and several other types of vultures – caught a thermal and cycled up miles above us and away. Really, really awesome.

Then we started back to the tourist camp and the Mastic Lodge where we were spending the night. And the rain came down. Not a little rain but a pouring, gushing, dropping buckets rain. And we didn’t know that was going to happen. They thankfully sold plastic ponchos at the souvenir shop at the lodge. We settled our sloppy wet selves into the rooms and dried off. The rooms were toasty and backed up to a gorgeous lush woods. After supper we were able to watch a female mule deer outside our window for a very long time. While we were watching her, my daughter saw a movement in the woods and we saw an elk. They are so big. And so quiet. The big male left as silently as he appeared.

The Grand-Girl

The next day it was still pouring but we decided to spend the day catching the free tram and seeing all that we could see in the rain. The grand-girls stroller has a nice rain shield that we’ve never used so much and am unlikely to ever use as much again. We visited the geology museum. It has a panoramic view of – clouds. Okay, we stayed there long enough so that some of the clouds parted at one point and we were able to spot the bridge over the Colorado river way down in the canyon. It’s the bridge that the mules cross.

My daughter and I are going back and taking the mules down. Determined we are on that.

Then, more rain and now it was cold, too. We went to the visitors center and saw the film. The National Geographic Society made the film so it was actually quite good. I appreciated how they blended the past with the present.

I have lots of pictures of the canyon and I am not including them all here. Just a few. Please forgive my feeble attempts. First, I had good views but I had left my camera in the rain about ten weeks ago and the camera’s viewer has not recovered. Second, I’m now reading that because of all the precipitation, and condensation, and stuff otherwise known as cloud droplets floating around in all that expanse above the vast crevice, a true photographer would use a warming lens on the camera to capture the colors our eyes see – instead of what the camera sees which is the blue haze.

With most of my photos you can see that blue haze.

Below this picture I redid it with a warm hue. It is a bit better. There is a difference. But when it comes right down to it. I need a new camera.

Traveling with the baby was a joy. She is funny, and cute, and always provokes a smile from everyone. True, she is only a year old and does have her moments of unbridled fury, frustration, and despair as only a one year old can have. But on the whole her good nature wins out. The hard part in traveling with a little one is all the preparation (it’s kind of like a endoscopy – the hard part is before the actual test) and of course the other hard part of traveling with baby is carrying all the extra stuff – diaper bags (we each had one), a car seat, and a stroller.

The next day train robbers tried to hold us up. We made one of them feel honestly terrible because he made the grand-girl cry. Ha. Ha. Ha. He went away yelling “I didn’t do it!” Yes, you did. A big guy with a mask over your face. And I bet you’ve made other girls cry before. Yep.

That was worth the picture.

Then the sheriff came through and rounded the bad guys up to take them them to “the pokey”. That was cute.

Again, a lovely train ride back to Williams. This time we had an even fancier buffet, with cheese cubes and a vegetable platter. The ranch dressing was the real thing.

We got back in time for the all-you-can-eat dinner buffet. We then ‘rolled’ our over-stuffed selves back to the depot hotel for a night’s rest.

Up the next day, an all-you-can-eat breakfast and then into town for some more shopping and seeing the sights. The taxi came and took us to the Flagstaff Airport where once again we couldn’t believe the airport staff told us we would just have to wait for them to open up for us. Wow? Then on the little plane for twenty minutes, then in Phoenix to board the big plane. We arrived back home at 12 AM our time.

Pooped but happy to have been there and done that!

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