Our move to the Grand Canyon was surprisingly trouble free. Yes, the usual early dog walk. When we’re new to an area, the first morning dog walk is always a great exploring event. The morning of departure, the customary dog walk is always a bit of a reminisce of the last few days and a good-by to the area. Breaking down and hitching up was quick, routine and without the usual mistakes. There were some long, steep climbs getting out of the valley, but although we’re not as quick as the auto traffic, we’re able to keep a better pace than the tractor trailer traffic. We are able to maintain a nice, safe pace.
The last 60 miles into the Grand Canyon National Park are rolling hills on a two lane road with a poor surface. Getting back to the Grand Canyon held a lot of special emotions for me as the last time I was there was 47 years ago with my mother and sister. I don’t know why, but my memories of the canyon were more vivid than any of the other memories of the trip to California.
Most national park camp grounds seem to be geared towards tent campers and much smaller trailers. Mather Campground was certainly no different from the usual. The access roads are very narrow and winding. Most of the sites are only suitable for a single auto or truck with it’s tent toting occupants. Of the 350 or so sites in the park, only five are able to accommodate a fifth wheel of our size. The attendant at the gate was surprised they were going to allow us into Mather Campground in our rig. But, we made it in just fine and ended up in a very nice site. I can’t say how thrilled I was to be there. I just had to call my mother and my sister to let them know I’d finally made it back and was thinking of them.
When we checked in at the campground office, the attendant was surprised we were scheduled to stay for four days as most people only stay a day or two. After hanging around for our four nights, I have to agree with her. Most campers were auto bound tent campers who set up for one night and were gone the next. The park was never more than about 1/3 occupied.
Although there were 350 campsites in the park, the place certainly didn’t seem crowded. There were large sections of woods separating each loop of campsites allowing one to walk to various areas in the park while seeming to be “out in the woods”. Small packs of elk and deer roamed the campground and it wasn’t at all unusual to run into them while cutting through the park. On several occasions small packs of elk where within 5 or 6 feet of our RV grazing in our site. They seemed oblivious to vehicles moving close by with people hanging out the windows taking pictures, but when I tried to open a window in the RV to get a better look the metallic click of the window latch really spooked them. I’m guessing they know what a safety being released on a rifle sounds like and what usually happens next.
After setting up I had to change the other electric dump valve on the holding tank before we could use the plumbing. After that nasty job I treated myself to one of the camp grounds famous $2, seven minute, hot showers. After my shower we took a drive down to see what the big deal was with this big hole in the ground. Wow, driving up to the edge of the canyon will really take your breath away. Grand Canyon is certainly an appropriate name.
We were based out of the south rim of the canyon. The area along the north rim was not open yet and wouldn’t open until we were well north of the area. The south rim has a mostly paved trail running 13 miles right along the rim. Fortunately for me, dogs are allowed on any trail above the rim of the canyon, but not on any trail below the rim.. In my opinion, that’s a fair compromise. We made good use of the rim trail, hitting different sections each day. All along the rim trail are geologic displays that were quite interesting.
Sunrise and sunset viewing from the rim trail is a big deal at the park. We caught three sunrises, and one sunset. Temperatures for the sunrise viewing were in the high 20s and people would be in the pajamas wrapped in blankets and quilts. As the sun came up, this group of people would flow out of the viewing areas and be steadily replaced by a steady stream of post sunrise walkers/joggers/viewers. Sunset viewings were very different. The crowds were probably three or four times as large. Every possible view point anywhere near parking areas were taken. Within minutes of the sun setting, the place was completely deserted.
Besides the rim trail, and the cluster of lodges, there is a 30 mile long drive along the rim with an assortment of view points to pull off, each with a different perspective to offer. One of the points had the most spectacular view of any in the park, a couple of others that were lower had great views of the Colorado River. One pull off a couple of hundred yards off the rim contained ruins of a Tusayan Indian village. The last pull off had an observation tower designed by Mary Coulter, who designed many buildings in the Grand Canyon and Southwest, and built of natural local stone.
I really wanted to stay a few more days as it was cheap, and peaceful, and beautiful, but I was outvoted. The decision was made to move north to a commercial park between Zion National Park and Brice Canyon National Park. We found a reasonably sounding park, made reservations for a week, and our Grand Canyon adventure was about to end.Photos: Campsite, South Rim Grand Canyon, Tusayan ruins, Colorado River, Coulter building