Friday, 16 December 2016

USA Fam Trip Day 5: 18th November 2015

After a comfortable night in Maswick Lodge it was another early wake up call for sunrise. It was bitterly cold as we headed off in the van through some more fresh snow to Mather Point. Named after Stephen Mather who was the first director of the National Park Service, this is the first stop-off point for people entering the canyon at the south rim; and although it's not classed as having the best views, it certainly takes your breath away. From here, the north rim is 10 miles away and the floor of the canyon a mile below and it took the Colorado River around 6 million years to carve the canyon on it's 500 mile journey to the Pacific Ocean - mind boggling as we stood in the cold waiting for the new day to dawn...



Mather was a millionaire who enjoyed hiking and joined the campaign to create a federal agency overseeing the national parks and he was instrumental in the creation of the National Park Service in 1916 and was later named director. He believed in the preservation of this stunning landscape, scenery and beauty and encouraged tourism development; spending his own money to build infrastructure.
Back in 1903 President Roosevelt visited and said: "The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. it is beyond comparison - beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children and all who come after you."
 And I couldn't agree more...


As the light continued to spread you could clearly see the layers in the rock. Geological studies here started in 1858 and are still going on today and there have been almost 40 different rock layers identified, the most recent in the 1970's...


We headed back into the warmth at the Maswick food court and enjoyed a hearty breakfast before packing up the van and taking a walk along the rim to see some other viewpoints.
Our first stop was the Kolb Studio: this cosy art gallery / information centre is literally perched on the edge of the canyon at the start of the Bright Angel Trail.

Built in 1904 it was the home and studio of brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb - pioneering photographers who operated the successful studio for over 75 years. In the early days, their film development came from using a muddy cow pond eight miles away - the only water available; but despite hot summers and long cold winters, the brothers moved on and developed methods and techniques of photography to match their surroundings and produced some of the earliest images of the inner canyon.
I absolutely fell in love with this little place - although much bigger now and (thankfully) with amenities I could have stayed forever: looking out over the canyon is something I could never tire of...


A couple of minutes walk further along the rim we came to the Lookout Studio.
One of four buildings classed as the Mary Jane Colter Buildings National Historic Landmark, it was built in 1914 by the Santa Fe Railway as a rival photographic studio to the Kolb but is now an observation point and gift shop. Mary Colter was an architect who designed rustic structures to look like indigenous buildings which blended into the landscape and environment - I like her work.

Our final stop was Bright Angel Lodge (another Mary Colter building) which was built in the 1930's as a replacement for original accommodation dating back to 1896. She originally designed it in stone like her other buildings but it wasn't approved by the Park Service; so she re-designed in wood. We then made our way down to the Grand Canyon Railway - oh how I wish we'd been able to take a ride on the steam train!
With the snow, deer and amazing surroundings it felt like we were living in a Christmas card!


It was finally time to leave the Grand Canyon, but not before one final photo stop ...


We then headed a few miles south to find a bear ...


and a little further for THE ultimate adrenaline experience (for me anyway) a helicopter flight. We were delighted to have been treated to the 50 minute "Canyon Spirit" flight.
For someone who doesn't like flying I get very excited about helicopter flights - some sort of terrified/excitement I think lol and of course you get to look sooooo gorgeous in your harness and headset...


I don't think I've ever heard 5 travel agents stay so quiet for so long!
Words just can't describe it, especially as you go over the rim...

video

Our pilot Benton was highly amused at how quiet we all went, I don't think we could take it in and I still don't, even now a year later.


We flew right across the canyon and climbed the north wall and came over the north rim to see how different it is - at around 1000 feet higher, it's at least 10 degrees cooler and has a much more rugged landscape.  The season is a lot shorter than the south due to heavy snowfall and results in the north rim receiving about a 1/10 of the number of visitors than the south.


I'd do it again in a heartbeat - it's not a cheap excursion but certainly well worth it.
Once on "terra firma" we posed for the obligatory photo which was given to us as a gift...



Absolutely hyper from our flights, we made a small detour to Valle and stopped off at the Flintstones store - it used to be a mini theme park but is now a store / bric-a-brac shop and of course we had to have our picture taken!...


After our little diversion we carried on south another 30 miles or so and came to our next stop Bearizona...



Set within the Kaibab National Forest, Bearizona is more of a wildlife park than a zoo - the enclosures are big and in the main area of the park they roam the 160 acres very happily.  More than half of the bears are rescue and the others are from other parks who needed help.  As it was winter and chilly, the bears were understandably subdued as we passed through the park in the open bus (complete with fleece blankets to keep us warm!) but we also saw Arctic wolves, Rocky Mountain goats and elk, Alaskan Dall sheep and Tundra wolves as well as Mule deer and bison.  We also had time to walk through the Fort Bearizona area which (although still being developed at the time) was filling up with beavers, otters, javelinas and bear cubs - who were sleeping much to our disappointment!




We took in a birds of prey demonstration which was amazing (even though I don't like birds) full of information about the animals and conservation...


During our little trip to the gift shop we met Flower the skunk!  Thankfully she had been de-scented earlier and so was nice and happy and not smelly lol...


We left behind the wildlife and headed towards our final stop of the day, Sedona.
A lovely place surrounded by stunning red rocks and pine forests.  It had been a long and very busy day and when I saw my upgraded room I knew I wasn't going out for dinner!  Everyone had creekside cottage rooms down near the arrivals and I was whisked off in a golf buggy up to a vista cottage.  Without doubt one of THE most beautiful and comfortable rooms I have ever stayed in.  The view across the valley was just gorgeous, the amazing bathroom with outdoor shower and the bed was so high I felt like the princess and the pea!!


I told the others I was staying in and while my jacuzzi bath was filling up I sat on the balcony with a glass of wine and watched the sunset...


Then, wrapped in my plush robe I sat in front of the fire and ate my room service dinner while watching CSI.  The perfect end to one of the best days I've ever had in my life.

2 comments:

  1. I still can't believe we did all that in one day. And it was completely EPIC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me neither - one of the most amazing days I've ever had x

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