The Grand Circle Tour – Day Ten – Sunrise Over the Grand Canyon

I awoke at 4:30 a.m. to the sound of an alarm beeping.  Unfortunately, it was not my alarm.  It was an alarm belonging to one of my neighbors coming through the thin walls of the Mesquite Building at the Maswik Lodge.  It was still dark outside, so I decided to make the best of it and head to the edge of the canyon to catch the sunrise.  After a quick cup of coffee and a short wait for signs of first light, I headed toward the South Rim Trail.

I realized quickly that I was late to the party.  The trail was already dotted with visitors armed with cameras and smartphones – all were poised to capture the prize-winning photo.  Some were aiming their cameras in the direction of the sun, while others pointed in the opposite direction, waiting patiently for the sunlight to illuminate the east-facing canyon walls.

From one vantage point in front of the Hopi House, I noticed the sun’s rays peaking through a large tree, creating a beautiful silhouette.

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Look closely and you can see that I was not the only person up early to capture the sunrise.

To watch the sunrise at the Grand Canyon is truly something special.  I was humbled at the beauty before me that was on such a grand scale.  After all, this was the Grand Canyon.  As the sun rose, it crested rock formations to the east and began to bathe the canyon walls back to the west with warm rays of sunlight.  (This was the “Golden Hour” that photographers often reference.)

The light worked its way down gradually from top to bottom, eventually illuminating the canyon floor below.  The chatter from the visitors subsided as they stood in a trance-like state, watching the magnificent panorama before them.

 

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Mule deer enjoying the sunrise.

After a long while taking in the views before me, I grabbed a warm raspberry pastry and a coffee from the snack bar adjoining the Bright Angel Lodge.  I then found the perfect spot to enjoy my morning meal.  I sat on the edge of the canyon on a makeshift rock chair, with my feet dangling over the vast canyon below.  As I ate, I was joined by curious (and hungry) squirrels and chipmunks who were anxious to join me for breakfast.  What a glorious start to the day!

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Breakfast with a view!

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As I headed back to the lodge, I passed a pen where the mules were being readied for the trip down to the bottom of the canyon.  I spoke to one of the mule handlers and he said that it would be a ten hour trip – five hours down and a five hours up.  Stefan had inquired about doing the trip, but it was fully booked during our stay.

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I stopped to talk to this guy, who was a visitor about to embark on the mule ride to the bottom of the canyon.  He was decked out with a cool, patriotic cowboy hat, complete with a GoPro, ready for action.

 

Sunrise Day Two

Dawne and I did a repeat of the sunrise routine on the next day.  The sunrise was very beautiful, but it was also very different.  On the second day, there were many more clouds in the sky, that resulted in beautiful colors as the sun rose and its rays were refracted by the clouds.

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Silhouette of the El Tovar Hotel.

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Breakfast with a view on the second day.

 

The Grand Circle Tour – Day Nine – The Grand Canyon

After a nice buffet breakfast at the Best Western in Page, AZ, we headed out toward the Grand Canyon.  We stopped at a roadside stand to check out some Native American crafts (pottery, jewelry, tomahawks, etc.) along the way.

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We reached the Grand Canyon via the Desert View Entrance Station, which is at the eastern end of the south rim.  We stopped at the Desert View Watchtower and were treated to our first glimpse of the massive canyon.

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Before us was panorama that was on a scale like nothing we had experienced on our trip to date.  A sign titled “Edge of Vastness” indicated that the canyon was one mile deep, 18 miles wide and 277 river miles long.  It was hard to comprehend the enormity of the landscape in front of us.

 

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The Crew with the Colorado River and the massive canyon in the distance.

 

 

 

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Close-up of a section of rapids.

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Look closely and you can see a bridge that spans the river.

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After checking out the views from several other vantage points along the way, we headed to the Maswik Lodge to check in.  The Lodge is actually a collection of two-story buildings with guest rooms that are grouped around a central building.  The main building houses the reception area, a gift shop, and a cafeteria-style restaurant. We were assigned to the Mesquite Building.  The rooms were a bit rustic and basic, but were clean and well-equipped.  The location was excellent, with access to the South Rim Trail only a short walk away.

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The Mesquite Building within the Maswik Lodge complex.

 

We settled into our rooms and then headed along the path to check out more amazing views of the canyon.  We passed several shops, galleries, and lodges as we walked along the South Rim Trail.  Of all the national parks we had visited, the Grand Canyon was definitely more well-equipped, with facilities and amenities to accommodate visitors at every turn.

 

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A park ranger explained that this heart-shaped rock, known as Matrimony Rock, was probably placed in the wall around 1934.  Legend has it that a young man, working for the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), placed it in the wall to honor his beloved, who was probably a young lady working a concession job at the park.  The rock is between Kachina Lodge and El Tovar Hotel.

 

Below are some photos of some of the wildlife along the south rim.

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Friendly raven looking for a handout.
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A buzzard soaring overhead.

 

 

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Mule deer were grazing all along the South Rim Trail.  They appeared to be extremely tame, but we were warned to keep our distance.

 

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We ended up in front the El Tovar Hotel, which is the premier lodging facility within the park.  Built in 1905, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has hosted U.S. presidents and other dignitaries over the years.  We decided to have an early dinner at the restaurant and the staff did not seem to mind that I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts.  This was definitely the best meal of our trip.  Jan opted for the sea bass entrée, while the rest of us decided to mix it up with various salads and appetizers.  The seared sea scallops were perfectly cooked and delicious.  At the end of the meal, we were all tempted by their wonderful selection of desserts.

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The front entrance to the El Tovar Hotel
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Rear view of the El Tovar Hotel

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The El Tovar Hotel occupies some prime real estate on the south rim and affords visitors amazing views.

Feeling content after a wonderful meal, we headed back to our rooms and called it a night.