"" Writer's Wanderings: The National Park Road Trip - Zion to Grand Canyon

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The National Park Road Trip - Zion to Grand Canyon

Zion Canyon from Overlook
From Zion we were to visit the Grand Canyon. As I awoke that morning, I wondered if the Grand Canyon would live up to its name. So far, we had seen so many wonderful scenes and interesting formations and flowers and animals and. . .the list went on. Would the Grand Canyon be a disappointment?

The morning drive took us back through Route 9 that we had traversed in the pouring rain just two days ago. Gone were many of the waterfalls we’d seen along the way. In their place were long streaks of black where they’d been. There was one more hike we wanted to take before leaving Zion that was said to be moderate with long drop offs mostly fenced. You never know what you’re getting into exactly but we geared up and took off.
The Canyon Overlook Trail was just past the long tunnel with the parking lot being on the right so catching this on the way out seemed to be the way to go. Yes, On the trail there were long drop offs. Some had handrails but there were a few spots where there was just enough space for one person at a time. Thrilling. The view at the end was worth the trip though. It was a great opportunity to view the canyon from the top.

As we were leaving, we passed a couple with two young children who were about six and three. I just shook my head. Did they not read the literature? Or maybe they just stopped and didn’t check. This was no place for little ones to hike.

As we were about to get in our car we realized that people were photographing something on a ledge just above the street. Sure enough, two bighorn rams sat there watching the morning traffic pass below them.

Arizona Scenic Route 89
There were two ways to get to the Grand Canyon from Zion. Both were Route 89 but on the map, one was marked as the scenic route. We chose that one and were happy with our choice. Several vistas were worth a stop for a picture as we headed into Arizona and through the flat desert between red tinged mesas.

Before long we arrived at the first viewpoint for the Grand Canyon. It’s called Desert View at the east entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. There is a huge visitor center there but we scurried past it to get our first view of the canyon. Again, “Wow!” was all I could say. The next thought was so that’s why it’s called “grand.” It was already living up to its name.

Absolutely Grand!
The afternoon was waning and we still had twenty-five miles to drive to the El Tovar Lodge in the park where we were booked for three nights. This was one time we were truly glad to have a GPS. Once you enter Grand Canyon Village, finding your way around “the loop” is a bit overwhelming. With our lady’s helpful directions, we made our way to El Tovar but found our next challenge in trying to park. The lot closest to the lodge was full and we could find nothing that indicated a place for hotel guests. We would learn that it was pretty much a free-for-all and once we found a spot, we didn’t plan to move until time to leave.

Our room was on the terrace level which sounded lovely but actually was just a label for that level of the lodge. There was no terrace and our window looked out into a small hillside topped by the lodge’s driveway. The El Tovar was built in 1905 and was a premier spot to stay back then. It was designed in a European fashion said to appeal to the upper crust of the times who thought that anything European was the best. It was designed as a cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian Villa. Built from local limestone and Oregon pine at a cost of $250,000, it was considered the most elegant hotel west of the Mississippi. Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Zane Grey, Bill Clinton, and Paul McCartney are among the list of celebrities who have stayed there. In 1987, it was placed on the registry of historic places.

El Tovar Lodge
Our room had obviously been upgraded since 1905 and probably more than once but it maintained the look of the period with a black and white hexagonal tiled floor in the bathroom and a free standing sink adorned with Kohler fixtures resembling the period or a close facsimile. We showered and dressed in our casuals for dinner in the restaurant which had to be at 4:45 since everything else was booked until nine p.m. That worked just fine since we’d gained an hour from Zion and it was dinnertime anyway.

Our view of the canyon from the second row of tables by the window was great. I’d like to say my chicken piccata was too but it wasn’t what I had envisioned. Bob enjoyed his pasta dish and we both ate too many warm tasty rolls.

The advantage of eating early was that we were ready for the sunset which came at around 6:15 local time. By now we had learned that it’s not really the sun setting that you want to see but rather the rays of the sun reflecting off the multi-colored cliffs of a canyon. The Grand didn’t disappoint. It was a lovely evening display.

Grand sunset
This park, like Zion, has shuttles and is really the best way to get around although it can be a little slow. But remember that parking? You don’t want to give up a spot. Needing to get some orange juice and milk for our breakfast in the morning (we try to cut corners where we can) we boarded a shuttle for the market plaza that was near the campgrounds. In about 25 minutes we were there. The trip would have been short in a car—provided we didn’t get lost in all the confusing one ways and loops and found a parking place again.

By the time we got back to the El Tovar, it was very dark. There were more lights around the area than had been at Bryce Canyon but we walked to the rim anyway to look at the stars. They were still spectacular. Only now, days later, the light of the moon was beginning to wash out the Milky Way. I was determined now though. This would probably be my last chance to get a picture of the night sky. I vowed to try again the next night. Would I be successful?

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