Michael rose early, perhaps too early, to photo sunrise over the canyon. He walked to the edge in pitch dark and set up his tripod by starlight and headlamp. I am told it was very spooky – especially the idea of walking up the canyon edge in a blanket of darkness.
We headed into the local ‘shopping village’ for a McD’s breakfast – pretty lame. Back at the hotel room we prepped to head out for the day. We hit the entire east bound Desert View Drive alternating waking and taking the shuttle bus (note on the map is post Covid!). Our several stops started with the South Kaibab trail. There is a hike down into the bottom of the canyon but we decided to skip all such trails. The conditions on the trails were still snow and ice covered and given our short time here we preferred to do the top rim. We bussed over to Yaki Point which had just reopened following a ‘jumper’ incident. They were still finishing up the investigation but we were able to access most of the lookout point from the eastern, steepest section.
Next off to Grandview Point where the first tourist hotel was built – a log house. Due to lack of train access in the day, it eventually failed. When another hotel with easier access was built and eliminated the many hour bumpy wagon ride, the first hotel could not survive. There was also a copper mine partway down into the canyon at the ‘horseshoe mesa’. Again, a snow and ice covered trail discouraged us. Hopefully it eventually dissuaded the 2 ill-prepared young guys in their smooth soled runners also.
Moran Point was next for more scenic views and then on to the Tusayan Museum and ruins. We had a personal guided tour of the ruins due to the low volume of tourists who strayed away from the canyon edge. These ruins again dated to the 1200’s and were only used for about 30 years before the inhabitants moved on. Their ancestors believed that they came from the dark canyon depths and that Gods lived in the distant mountain tops (in Flagstaff) which their site had been selected for its view of.
The site had about 30 people, an extended family with their leader. The main building was a circular room accessed thru a ladder which was over the fire. The purpose being to allow the smoke to cleanse the person entering the room. The main building was not the one used for habitation – it was used for significant events such as births, marriages and deaths. But all the buildings had central roof access which also ensured a secure, insect/ vermin free environment and was symbolic of the rising sun every morning. The group moved on after a lengthy drought and also since their beliefs required that they travel N, S, E and then W routinely.
Finally to Desert View watch tower which as built in the 30’s by ‘the lady in pants’ architect. It is very sympathetic to native style and culture. Inside the walls were beautifully decorated with native art. It really is a spectacular tower building on the canyon edge.
On the drive back we encountered a female elk with the entire herd off in the bush roadside. After a short rest at our hotel, we headed to the nearby village for Mexican for dinner where we shared an appetizer and a main. Neither of us have been overly impressed with the food quality nor value – pretty mediocre quality for pretty high prices. The Yavapai Lodge however is great. Much better than the ‘basic’ description it was given. I am guessing the low rating is due to the lack of wifi and TV channels and breakfast – all benefits perhaps!
Tomorrow a last blast around the canyon and then on to our destination – Joshua Tree!!!