Travels through the Grand Canyon


Craig’s goal is to run a half-marathon in each of the 50 states. 

Althea, Craig and Bob Marley.  (Only Craig ran on Sunday.)  We felt that while Craig was in Arizona, we should visit the Grand Canyon as none of us had seen it before.  Unfortunately, Althea had   to attend class the week Craig was to be in town, so Craig and Kevin set out as the intrepid explorers.

Figure 1 - That is the LAST time I try to fly coach on Eagle Airlines

Althea and Kevin went to watch Craig in the run on Sunday.  Unfortunately, he breezed by Althea and Kevin at the finish line and they were not able to photograph his triumphant finish.  After Craig completed the run on Sunday, He and Kevin dropped Althea off and drove north to the Grand Canyon.

What was amazing was although at one point we were over 60 miles from the Grand Canyon, we could see the North Rim in the distance (12 miles further than the south rim we were going to visit!)

We drove as far as Williams (about 50 miles south of the entrance to the Grand Canyon), where we spent the night.  (See the map of below). As we drove north, the elevation rose from about 1050 ft above sea level (in Phoenix) to 7,000 feet above sea level.  Unfortunately, as the elevation rose, the temperature dropped.  By the time we stopped for the night in Williams, there was snow.  We passed some elk standing on and by a frozen pond.  Because of Althea’s warning about the “Ground-Floor, Axe Murderer” we got a room on the second floor.  This was fortunate, because although we had not heard tales of man-eating elk, we were not taking any chances.  Kevin was being especially careful after Craig mentioned the trees outside were carnivorous.  Later he clarified and said Kevin MUST have mis-heard him as he said the trees were coniferous.  This must be a mistake as well, because while I did not see the trees eating meat, I did not see the trees eating ice-cream cones either.  (If carnivorous means ‘eats meat’, doesn’t coniferous mean ‘eats cones’?)

Monday morning, we left the hotel and drove up to the Grand Canyon. We figured we would view the canyon from the entrance West on Monday, then Tuesday work our way to the east entrance then return to Phoenix.  We were visiting the South rim of the canyon.

Figure 2 - before lunch - day 1

Upon entering the Grand Canyon National Park, we went to Mather Point first.  This was our first ‘real’ glimpse of Grand Canyon (and some of our concerns.)

Words cannot describe, nor can photos do justice to the view.  This is definitely something you have to see for yourself!  Of course, Craig and I went during the winter.  As some of the later photos will show, the railings were low, (where they existed at all.)  There was ice and snow on the ground so it was slippery, and it was WINDY!  I kept imagining slipping, falling down, and sliding under the railing, arms flailing as I pitch over the edge of the canyon.  Somehow, the thought that we never hear about tourists falling to their deaths each year did little to dispel my fears.

During the morning, we visited Mather Point, Yavapai Point, Verkamps and the Hopi  House.  We also visited the visitor center at the head quarters.

Figure 3 - Lunch and afternoon - day 1

We ate lunch in the Canyon Village.  We were surprise to find a bank and post office along with the normal ‘tourist’ food stand and souvenir shop.  Apparently there is even a school there.   After lunch, we drove out to the furthest point (Hermit’s Rest) and worked our way back. 

Figure 4 - Day 2 - East Rim

On day two we went to Desert View (where the watchtower is), Lipan Point, the Tusayan Ruins, Moran Point, Grandview Point and Yaki Point.  After leaving the eastern point of the National Park (but while on the Indian reservation) we passed another point where there was a scenic view of the canyon and the Colorado River.

Our ‘wild’ friends

Enroute, we saw some Elk.  We also saw some elk and other wildlife while there.  We did not approach the wildlife.  For the Elk and the Coyote, we photographed the animals from the car.  Speaking with one of the park workers, we learned that some people seemed to think the canyon was a petting zoo.  We were told about people trying to get the elk into their hotel rooms.  We also learned one couple tried to capture a badger so their 4-year old could pet it.  The badger (none for its antisocial behavior)was rescued by park rangers before anyone was hurt.  We (ok “I”) think the elk was Mormon although he did not say.  There was only one male, but there were 4-5 females in the woods on both sides of the road.

Figure 5 - Elk 'bull'

The animals were crossing or near the road.  The Ravens were at each point along the canyon.  Someone is either feeding them, or dropping enough food at the locations to keep the birds interested.

Figure 6 - Ravens at the canyon

These Ravens were huge and apparently not very afraid of humans.  They would hop away as we approached the view points.  We could also see them perching on some of the ledges.  People thought they were there for information because they would ask the birds, “How far is the North Rim from Here?”  The birds would glare back haughtily thinking, “That’s as the CROW flys, idiot, we are clearly ravens!”

Figure 7 - Day 2 friend - Coyote or Wolf?

The coyote we saw on day two just stood near the road watching us.  He let us take our time to get a photo.  When we drove by again later, he was sitting near the road still observing the humans going by.

About the canyon:

Figure 8 - 3d model of the canyon

The North Rim is about 8,200 feet above sea level.  The South Rim is about 7,000 feet above sea level.  The temperatures are lower on the north rim, and there is more moisture.  While there was a noticeable difference in the temperatures at the bottom of the Canyon and the two rims, during the summer it can be in the 80s on the rim, but over 120 degrees at the floor of the canyon.

Figure 9 - Differences between the north and south rims

Because the precipitation and melting snow on the north rim drain into the canyon, the erosion on that side has resulted in more gradual slopes.  The precipitation on the south rim drains away from the canyon.  Thus the south Rim erosion is mostly due to the action of the Colorado River, and tends to be steeper.

Figure 10 - the Grand Canyon from overhead

A model of the layers exposed by the Colorado River

What those layers are

The lowest layers of the canyon expose rock that is 1.2 to 1.7 BILLION years old!  The youngest layers are mere infants at only 250 MILLION years old.  The Colorado River has been ‘cutting’ its way back through time for only 6.5 million years.

Now some actual photos of the canyon from days one and two:

Kevin at Hermit’s rest

Colorado River

Craig checks out the edge.  Note the lack of railings

Driving along the rim.  Note the reassuring guard rails.  I did not see them!  In cars going the other way, the passenger could look straight down. (Preferably via the side window rather than the front windshield!)

Hopi Point

That faint line is a hiking trail WAAYYY down there.

At least here there is a high ‘guard rail’ for safety??

Yes, visitors are encouraged to go down this icy path (with no rail…)

Yes, this is a trail.  That is a viewing point, and yes you could fall to your death to the right OR the left. And it was VERY windy that day.

Yep – still on the trail at a point open to tourists.  Someone got even closer to the edge than I was willing to.

Mather Point – Day 1.  That is the north rim. Kevin wanted to challenge the North Rim to a snowball fight.  Craig nixed the idea. (Maybe he felt the 1,200 foot difference gave them an advantage?

Neither of us wanted to try to jump out to this rock to take photographs. (We did not see any others do that either!)

Note the show and ice underfoot. (and the VERY handsome gentleman.  Can you believe he is not a male model?)

That is a LOONNGG way down!

Several people thought…Gee it is windy, the edge is icy, what a great time to walk right up to the edge.

My, what a substantial railing.  I just KNOW if I slip and fall THAT will stop my plummet over the edge…


Day 2 East Rim

From inside the watch tower

Think I am going to try to go out there for a photo?  Think again, cause I am staying right HERE!

Just a jump onto that rock…and either you get a great photo, or a quick trip to the bottom of the canyon.  So…anyone up for some Badger Petting instead?

You forget and leave the water running, come back in 6 million years and look what happens!

That is the Colorado river down there. Can you imagine some Native American child centuries ago waking up in the middle of the night?  “Mommy, I’m thirsty” and the parents deciding WHO gets to go down to the river for a cup of water???

Craig plays photographer

The Watchtower in the distance

Let me see, we are thousands of feet above the canyon floor.  Let’s build a tower so people can climb even HIGHER above the canyon floor to look down!

Ah – just what I was hoping for, another windswept, icy view point over a fall to certain death, surrounded by low guard rails.

The Tusayan Museum which discussed the lifestyle of the canyon dwellers (or those living near the canyon)


Day 2 Gorge

This was located outside the park.  We noticed a ‘scenic point’.  Here the walls were much steeper.  We shared the view with a couple from Canada.  They had pictured the entire Grand Canyon looking like this, rather than the broader vistas seen earlier.

Can you imagine some settler pushing west.  The terrain seems flat as far as you can see.  You are heading for the distant mountains, when suddenly, you ‘find’ this gorge, over thousands of feet deep and hundreds of miles long.

Yep – that is the river down there.

Now I can do my ‘Rose’ imitation from the movie Titanic!

The land is just flat…with a few gaps here and there…


OK.  We found someplace that makes Sherrill look big!  Cameron Arizona.  They DO have a post office and a hotel.

We stopped here for a late lunch after exiting the park.

At least they have a suspension bridge.


Now you have seen Cameron.  (that is pretty much the entire town.)



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