Recently I spent a spectacular fall weekend with the Lone Star Skiers and Adventure Club at two of the most beautiful areas in our country – Grand Canyon National Park and Sedona, Arizona!
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
I flew into Phoenix early Friday, October 24th and joined my buddies at the airport. We then carpooled on a scenic 4-hour ride to the Grand Canyon National Park. The plan was to stay two nights at the Yavapai Lodge, just outside the Grand Canyon Village with easy shuttle access to the various lookout points along the South Rim. The lodge was perfect, with a spacious dining hall, gift shop, and lots of parking. Each of the hospitality units were set back among the trees and we saw deer, sometimes in groups, foraging close by.
The night we got there we had just enough time to get to Yavapai Point to catch a glimpse of the canyon before the sunset. It got dark quickly and I unfortunately didn’t get to explore the point but briefly. What little I saw was breathtaking.
Early Saturday morning many of us had signed up for a float trip down the Colorado River. We packed into cars and drove two hours to get to Page, Arizona, where the trip would begin. On the way we stopped at a small outpost near the turnoff to Page. The area was populated with Indians from the reservation. I have to say for the first time I understood why a native American Indian could be called a ‘redskin’. The Indian natives I saw did indeed have a red tone to their skin.
In Page we boarded a bus and were driven a couple of miles through a dark tunnel. Once on the other side, the damn and a long loading ramp lay before us. We filed out of the bus and boarded our raft. The rafts were large, equipped with a guide, and could hold about 20 people. They were very stable as well. The plan was to float down to Horseshoe Bend, one of the most famous landmarks along the Colorado River, and then to motor back up to our starting point – at the Glen Canyon Damn.
I loved being on the water in the raft. The water was fairly clear and I saw fish at times. The banks of the river are clean. People can come and fish or even swim in the river since it is a national park, but there are serious restrictions on what you can bring in or leave behind.
One of the most memorable moments on the raft excursion was the point at which one of our members noticed a large black bird flying up around the top of the cliffs. The cliffs we were told were as high as 1100 feet. Given it’s size from our point of view, the bird we watched must have been huge. Our guide mentioned that it would probably be a condor and was nesting up at the top of the cliffs. I still see that image in my mind. It was beautiful and eerie and graceful in the wind. It was speculated the condor’s wing span would be something like 10 feet.
Other noteworthy experiences on the raft trip would be our stop on a beach and a short hike to see the petroglyphs carved into the side of the cliffs. Our guide was very good at pointing out the various rock formations and what the discolorations in the rock represented, what minerals were associated with them. We did get all the way down to Horseshoe Bend. Going back took half as long since we motored most of the way. For some reason the raft was kicking up a lot of water and some of our members got really wet.
That night after returning to the Grand Canyon Village, Rusty, Leticia and I went to dinner at El Tovar. El Tovar is a 100 year old lodge that has been part of the Grand Canyon National Park since it was built in the early 1900s. It was dark, so we couldn’t see the outside very well but the inside is wonderful. I suspect it looks like a large log cabin. The food is fabulous and probably the most expensive dining experience you can have up there. I must do this again and stay in El Tovar as well. They are the only lodge/hotel that sits on the rim and you can look out over the canyon as you dine. However it was dark and we saw nothing.
Early the next morning I got up and drove with a couple of other trip members to Mather Point. We wanted to see more of the South Rim before we took off for Sedona. It was well worth it. Mather Point in many ways seemed more accessible and more dramatic than what we had seen at Yavapai Point.