Thur. Nov. 4 Update – A Grand (Canyon) Day

IMG_1483Your Intrepid Travelers, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Today we made no progress on Route 66. But we had the perfect day going to the Grand Canyon! I’m going to tell you the story about the day. Read on if you’re interested about that. (And it was a lot of hassle-free fun!)

However, the real story is the photos of this awesome sight. I posted several on the assumption you can’t get enough of those.  But you should try to read this post on a computer or tablet, not a phone. The photos just don’t do justice to what we saw unless you’re seeing them on a larger screen.

Some quick info. The Canyon averages 10 miles across; it varies from 2 to 18 miles. It is about 1 mile deep.

The Background

Some times when you travel you pick and choose among providers to build your own experience. Sometimes you buy the package. If you’re going to the Grand Canyon, buy the package. We did, and we had one of the best days on the trip.

The Scene

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Lobby, Grand Canyon Railroad Hotel, Williams AZ.

 

Last night we had driven in through the snow and checked into the Grand Canyon Railroad Hotel in Williams. Nice place. Not cheap but with the way it fit into the package experience, it was fully worth it.  The next morning, we awakened to a clear, cold, and bright day. However, instead of driving with snow all over the roads and the slush mostly frozen, we walked about 30 yards on a clean, snow-free sidewalk and into the railway station. We had a cup of coffee and a little shopping and waited for the train.

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Our commute from the hotel to the train station.

Very good selection and prices. Recall that I packed for a more temperate trip than we’ve had so far. I’ve been worried about being cold on the Canyon Rim, and yesterday’s snow didn’t help my worries. But at the train station I found a great jacket for $45 and my worries were solved. Additionally, the shop was full of items related to a new train experience the GCRR is beginning, starting tonight. The Polar Express Christmas train will run nightly, serving hot cocoa and coffee, catering to children and their parents. Everyone wears pajamas and they go out to see Santa. It looks like a great idea.

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Turns out my heretofore unknown twin brother is the conductor of the Grand Canyon Railroad.

The Trip Up

We weren’t on the Polar Express. We were taking the train to the Grand Canyon. Fifteen minutes before we left, the conductor yelled “all aboard” and we boarded and found our seats in an bubble-top observation car. Turns out we had the front row for the trip to the Rim! After leaving the station they served coffee, pastries, juice, and harder drinks for those so disposed.

As musician strolled into our car and entertained us with a guitar and song. And our server/guide, Becky, kept the trip interesting by describing various items about the history of the area, of the railroad, and of the Grand Canyon. Nicely done.

 

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Life is good!

We were also on the lookout for animal sightings while on the train. We didn’t see a condor. (Large numbers of them live around the Canyon), but we did see a red-tail hawk, a mule deer, and a number of cattle. One of the adults behind us excitedly told his child “There’s a deer.” A few seconds later, he said quietly, “No that’s a cow.”)

The Canyon Itself

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We rolled into the Rim on time, boarded a bus and went over to Maswick Lodge for lunch. After eating and shopping, it was back into the bus for two scheduled (and one unscheduled) additional stops. Our guide there, Benjamin, had worked there for several years and actually lives on the Rim.

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Benjamin advised us that we were in for a treat. With snow on the Grand Canyon, we would be able to differentiate some of the items that blend together under normal circumstances. And the storm cleared the air of dust and pollution, making the viewing especially good.

 

We stopped at the Hopi Point and the Mohave Point for time to look around and take photos. Because we were ahead of schedule we stopped at the Powell Point on the way back in to the Station. While there we saw a Forest Service helicopter traverse the Canyon, transporting water to a station on the Northern Rim. (Water main broke.) We were told the Forest Service is the only entity that can fly over the Canyon. (The tourist helicopter and plane services can go around, but not over.)

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The Lovely Marian in a lovely spot.

We had about 45 minutes to spend before boarding the train back to Williams, so we looked through the El Tovar Hotel, the oldest and largest hotel on the Rim. Marian also walked over to the Hopi House, a building designed by Mary Colter, the architect who designed the La Posada in Winslow and a number of buildings in the southwest.

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Railway Station, Grand Canyon, AZ.

The Return Trip

Boarding the train, we headed down from the Rim. Again, the buffet was open for fruit, cheese and crackers, and drinks. Near the end of the trip we had a champagne toast.  The return trip again offered entertainment. In addition to more information from Becky (we got the same car going back), we had a banjo player that the kids loved.

Also, we had been cautioned about the presence of bandits in the area. Sure enough, they stopped and boarded the train and proceeded to relieve passengers of “folding money, jewelry, or gold teeth.” They took some cash from us, but I assured them that Marian brushed her teeth regularly and there was nothing for them there. They were unconvinced, but Marian seemed quite unworried. As it turned out, she was right and they left us unharmed.

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I suspect Marian of being in cahoots with the dastardly, aviation-framed-glasses-wearing, surprising-friendly train robbers.

Pulling into Williams, we watched the inaugural Polar Express pull out for its run. We then walked over to the hotel, claimed our bags from the bellman, popped them into the car and headed out.

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Sunset, Grand Canyon Railroad, near Williams AZ.

Other Observations

We went back into Flagstaff for the night. Tomorrow we go down to Phoenix for 2-3 days to see good friends and family. I will probably not post again until Sunday night.

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