We got up bright and early for the drive from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. After filling the ice chest with ice and the car with gas, we were off through the scenic San Francisco Peaks. As we drove through the beautiful forest, I said, “Dad, let’s get a picture of you in these woods.” We stopped, and I reached for the camera. OOPS! No camera! Immediately we turn around and head back to Flagstaff, hoping the camera bag would still be in the hotel room. By 8:30 we are back to the Motel 6. It is well before checkout time, so the keycard still works. I find the camera bag behind the entrance door. Hooray! But now we have to retrace our route through the San Francisco Peaks without stopping to sightsee. We have reservations in Cameron tonight, and all the Grand Canyon to see today.
The plan for today is to park at the Visitor Center, and take the bus up the West Rim Drive, stopping at various overlooks along the way. This is a good plan in theory, but in practice it breaks down. I would not recommend the bus approach, at least during the busy tourist season. There are just too many people for the buses to service. Buses are scheduled every 15 minutes, but I found that it takes two or three buses before you can board. It does not take too many waits at a bus stop before much of the day is gone. We had intended to go all the way to the end at Hermit’s Rest and work our way down, but Dad needed a restroom and that is where the plan broke down.
There was no restroom at Maricopa Point as promised, so we walked up to Hopi Point. By then all the buses coming up were full and there was no hope to get on. So we did some sightseeing while walking along the South Rim Trail to the next bus stop to catch a bus back down to the Grand Canyon Village. But the buses coming down were also full. Buses have seats reserved for Senior Citizens, but the bus driver said they were all taken. Furthermore, all the buses would be full just like his. When I asked what an 87-year-old man should do, he recommended walking all the way down to the bus stop for the Village Loop. Fortunately, other than needing frequent restroom stops, Dad is capable of walking a mile downhill, but it took us most of the afternoon. Then we waited 45 minutes to get a seat on a bus to take us to the Visitor Center.
If you are fit, plan to walk or bicycle the route, and not spending the day in a bus stop. Otherwise, just drive. Though cars are discouraged, I believe they are still allowed on the East Rim Drive, for at least part of the way.
The good news is that the views are spectacular. The Grand Canyon is indeed grand. It is just too big for a camera to do justice, but I tried.
While at Mather Point, I noticed some California Condors soaring overhead. I zoomed to maximum and snapped off several shots. Later I saw a man operating some direction finding equipment. He explained that he was recording direction of California Condors. Each condor is fitted with a couple of transmitters that are used to track their movements. Each condor also has an identification number on the underside of its wing. He asked if I had noticed the ID number of the bird I had photographed. I had not, and it was not visible in the picture on the camera, but back home I was able to further enhance the image and see the identification number. #80 is a 9-year-old female.
At the far eastern end of Grand Canyon National Park is Navajo Point, famous for the Desert View Watchtower. We stopped there, and at several viewpoints along the way, as we finished off a spectacular day.