Monday, August 24, 2009

Grand Tetons to Grand Canyon – Day Seven

This report is posted by William Ernest Waites and Susanne Waites, collectors and dealers of Tribal Art, and owners of web sites at,, and

After rising today at the Bumbleberry Inn,
we checked out and stopped for breakfast at Wildcat Willies.
The food was good. The service was slow, somewhat of problem in a morning when we were trying to get a head start on the trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Finishing breakfast, we started the drive from Springdale to our destination. Of
course, we had to enter and pass through Zion National Park again. It was another time when the Annual Senior Pass paid off.

It was an interesting to drive back through the area we had passed through before. There is a major switchback area. It was not so noticeable going to the west because we were excited about coming to Zion, and the switchback was downhill. On the way back it was uphill and much more apparent.One of the interesting point along the road was a place called Checkerboard Mesa, so named for the checkerboard look of the erosion pattern. Then we started up the switch back, which ends at the first of two tunnels that had been carved through the mountain side.The story of the building of these extended tunnels, which were completed in 1930, is fascinating. Two holes were blown into the mountain along the route the tunnel would follow. These openings, with sheer drops below, then were used to dispose of rock that was excavated from the paths of the tunnels.

Since the tunnels were built in 1920, they were built to accommodate cars of that era's width and height. As a result, many of today's vehicles must pass through the tunnel in one direction while traffic is held back in the other direction. The lanes are not wide enough for cars to pass in opposing directions. This leads to delays on either end while the wider vehicles clear the tunnel.Over-sized vehicles are requested to contact the park before starting along the highway toward the tunnels, in order to be certain there is enough space to pass through.

When driving through the tunnels you pass the openings, sudden baths of light in tubes of darkness.

Upon leaving Zion we turned south on Rte 89 toward the North Rim. It is pleasant but uneventful drive, passing through forested areas until we entered Grand Canyon National Park. Along the way we saw a single elk near the trees off the road.

Entering the Park, we showed our Senior Annual Pass again and continued to the
North Rim area.

When we arrived at the Lodge, we noted that the vehicle access to the entrance area was restricted. So we pulled into the parking lot and parked. We walked to the Lodge entrance and up to the reception desk.

We were early and the cabin was not yet ready. So we wandered around the lodge, looking at the beautiful building's interior lounge area and large dining room. We gazed out through the windows to the rim of the Canyon.

We decided to reserve a table for the first dinner serving. We mentioned at reception that we had parked nearby and asked how we could get our luggage to the cabin. We were told to feel lucky to be so close and not to move the car. The reception desk clerk advised that a porter with an electric cart would pick up the luggage and take it to our cabin, #25. It was a sweet cabin with a queen and a twin bed, a desk and a bathroom of acceptable size. Windows opened to either side for a nice cross-breeze.

After checking in, we decided to eat earlier, canceled the dinner reservation and got to the dining room for lunch just before the service ended.

We sat near the window so we could enjoy both our lunch/dinner and the spectacular views.
After eating, we spent some time walking the high trail along the rim and getting even more involved in the extraordinary geology of the Grand Canyon. I remembered seeing the Grand Canyon from the South Rim when I was 12 years old and thinking I wanted to become a geologist. I still have a geology booklet my parents bought for me in a South Rim store.

After a short hike, we returned to the terrace where we waited for an advertised Park Ranger presentation on condors at the canyon. It was a fascinating education about the size, wingspan habits of these huge and elegant birds. The condors soar over the updrafts from the canyon walls and cliffs, using very little wing movement. In fact, this is how you can distinguish condors from ravens and vultures, when seen from a distance.

We learned that the condor is an endangered animal. Flocks have been nurtured and brought to the Grand Canyon. They are fed through a glove that looks like a condor's head and beak so they will not associate food with humans.

Following the condor presentation, we moved over to the western terrace to
watch sunset at the rim of the canyon while sipping on glasses of wine. It was here that we met a couple form Ohio who told us that the day before a driver had committed suicide by driving his vehicle over the edge of the South Rim and into the canyon. We were skeptical. But others then verified the story. We were told the car was still where in landed, although rescue workers had removed the driver's body.

As the sun set, we returned to our cabin for the night and packed it in for the prospect of another exciting day, this time on the South Rim of the Canyon.

Good night for now.

PS: Some readers have commented on our inability to find tribal Native American art, even though there were museums with American Indian Art in both the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks. The reason was because this trip was an introduction to nature and the National Parks for our granddaughter. Those experiences came first in our limited touring time.

But, stay tuned.

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