28 June Kms travelled – 24,590
I split the last entry into two parts to allow sufficient space to post more shots of the Grand Canyon, as it was to this iconic location that I was travelling this day. An eager start had me trundling through Flagstaff and quickly into tree lined open roads. The trees seemed to stand taller knowing that I was shortly to tick off yet another of my short list of ´must dos´ - my first in North America.
I had thought to ride west along the interstate (what was Route 66, but now I40) to take in the town of Williams... the place which inspired some of the animation in the movie Cars. But I couldn´t bring myself to deviate from the route north and spending more time at the Canyon. I was getting all excited inside... which was nice.
The lovely ride up the 180 and through the Kaibab National Forest (which I christened the kebab forest for no other reason than I was alone and thinking silly thoughts) delivered against the promise of a scenic ride – as it had one of those green borders against it on the map suggesting it was worth a look.
Running quickly through Valle (64) we were now in heavier traffic forewarning us of the likely level of tourism ahead. And indeed as the National Park grew closer, so the level of shops, eateries and places to stay rose accordingly... particularly around Tusayan. A quick hand over of 6$ to the lovely lady at the park entrance and I was in! Now where is that darn hole in the ground? I was heading for the main centre on the South Rim, and that took me directly to the car park at Mather Point. A two minute walk later and I was staring down in wonder.
I understand that this is not the biggest Canyon in the world, nor is it the deepest, but you can see immediately why it has been tagged with the title ´Grand´. The ride up to and across the plateau which surrounds this Olympian scale groove in the earth only serves to enhance its impact on first viewing (well, and on many other viewings too). But I quickly realised that to take in the true splendour of the place I needed to get away from the madding crowds. I needed a place where I could just sit and be. I certainly didn´t need to have my moment invaded by Shirley shouting at Chad (I kid you not) to move further to the left for the photo. So I left.
Well, in all honesty I didn´t leave straight away. I took some shots from the viewpoint and then treated myself to some time in the air conditioned visitors centre. It was pretty interesting too, with lots of Rangers available to answer with a smile what I thought must be the same questions every day. Perhaps just to be different, when it was my turn at the counter to ask my questions I came out with an enquiry about what flavour fruit makes the best American Pie! It seems it is black and blue (blackberry and blueberry), which also accords with my own investigations on the matter. Having broken the ice and gained a laugh from my appointed Ranger, I was advised that unless Mrs Pat had come into some serious money in the last day or so, I was unlikely to be able to secure accommodation in the area that night.
The camp site was booked up and many of the more reasonably priced (read, very expensive) lodgings were likewise catering for the summer masses. I might be lucky with the top end lodges (read, ridiculous prices) with Canyon views – but I sensibly didn´t even bother to enquire. She checked, and advised that Desert View campsite some 30 miles east along the rim had pitches available, and so I headed along the 64 stopping every few miles to take in the shifting sights of the Canyon at each available viewpoint.
I didn´t take a note of the Ranger´s name, but I am very grateful for her time in checking out and recommending the Desert View area as it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. 12$ paid at an automated pay point had me booked into a quiet managed pitch (there is no wild camping on this side of the hole) big enough for 12. It was also a couple of minutes walk from the rim, shop and cafe but far enough away from the day traffic.
So it was there that I spent the bulk of the day and into the night. Pitching early enabled me to take in the views from the impressive viewing tower, have a bite to eat, then retreat along the rim to a patch of ground where no people or traffic could be heard. I spent a wonderful few hours simply watching the bird life enjoy the Canyon winds, before strolling back to the visitors centre to take in the free evening talk by the local Ranger. This was about the preservation of the National Park´s soundscape, a concept I struggled with until the impact of excessive man-made sound on the local wildlife was explained. It seems, for example, that the noise of high flying jets interferes with the breeding habits of the local frogs (I suppose it is a bit like the phone ringing at home and spoiling the moment?), so they are trying to regulate the number of planes flying overhead. In any event it was well delivered and interesting, with the most spectacular sunset as the finale. The pictures of this sunset speak louder than any words I can pen.
Thought for the day
WOW! was pretty much the main theme running through my mind this day. But thanks to the stimulation of the local Rangers I did also spend some time pondering the impact we have on our local environs. It would seem the local Indians did a much better job of living in harmony with up to 6 different tribes considering the Canyon a sacred place. Was it just a matter of the density of people visiting and living in particular places, or more a lack of interest in ensuring that we live more sustainable lives? It seems to me that it is a bit of both. While we are unlikely to be able to consciously reduce our population levels – and I would not advocate such a thing even if we could as I believe in certain fundamental freedoms in this regard – we certainly can do much to limit the scars we leave in our wake. I for one won´t be piloting any more airplanes over frog pools!