The Grand Canyon

We left the hotel for another day of magnificent views this time at the Grand Canyon.

Someone remarked that this would be the last of the ‘big’ natural scenery that we would see.

We went from Williams, which was about 45 minutes from Flagstaff, on a Grand Canyon Railway train. Our driver/guide mentioned that for a short part of our journey to Williams we would be on Route 66, although it wouldn’t be signed that way.

Before the trip there was a bit of entertainment in the form of a shoot out. The Sheriff up against three outlaws.

One didn’t last very long!You might be able to see that he is heading for a pile of horse manure, I don’t know if it was part of the show for him to do that but he quickly realised his mistake when he landed!

The shoot-out.

With the show over we made our way to the train.As the train left the station, some of the staff were on hand to wave us off.The Sheriff was on the train to make sure we were all safe.The trip took a little over 2 hours but whereas we had been a bit bored on the Silverton-Durango trip of near equal length, this trip had entertainment. For this leg there was a guitar player, on the return trip there was a fiddle player.This guy was great, he sang proper old cowboy songs, songs from cowboy films and when he realised our group were all (okay nearly all) from the UK he dropped in a couple of Beatles Songs. He also does a pretty good Johnny Cash.

The terrain was pretty much flat and the view is probably the same as when the railway took its first passengers on 17th September 1901. We rode the train on the 18th September 2012, very nearly 111 years to the day! When we arrived we were left to our own devices; some walked around the rim and saw some great views and some wildlife, others pottered about (like me) and some had paid to take a flight over the canyon.

This was the first place that I found incredibly hot. There had been other hot places; New York was very humid, Washington D.C. had been hot the day we arrived but this seemed hotter. So I didn’t fancy walking too far and I stayed pretty much in the area of Grand Canyon Village.

It’s hard to describe the Grand Canyon because it’s so vast. The pictures below really don’t do it justice, it’s another of those things you just have to see to believe.

The last picture is of a California Condor. They were flying around along with some Turkey Vultures. I’ve put it here though because as you can see it has been tagged on its wings. This one is L4 and if you go to the National Park Service website you can open the Condor Tag Chart and read all about L4 and the other Californian Condors in the area. These are big birds, an adult will have a wingspan of 3 metres or nearly 10 feet.

What surprised me most about the Canyon in these days of Health & Safety is that you can get right up to the edge. In the initial area that you go to, there is a low wall but if you walk for a few minutes left or right, then that wall disappears and you can stand on the edge with the drop right there. A Park Ranger told me that there are on average 6 deaths each year; a combination of trips/falls and deliberate acts. She said they don’t normally know anything is amiss until the vultures start circling.

Where I was it wasn’t always a straight drop down, but if you fell you’d probably keep rolling down into the canyon. I did see one woman sat right on the edge where the drop was hundreds of feet down, all so her boyfriend could get a picture!

There is a book written by Michael P. Ghiglieri & Thomas Myers called Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, which has accounts of hundreds of deaths in the Canyon. Ghiglieri was interviewed in the LA Times in March of this year. (via)

6. Is it true that somebody once fell to his death in the canyon because he slipped while pretending to fall to his death?

Sad to say this is true. In 1992, 38-year-old Greg Austin Gingrich leaped atop the guard wall and wind-milled his arms, playing-acting losing his balance to scare his teenaged daughter, then he comically “fell” off the wall on the canyon side onto a short slope where he assumed he could land safely. As his daughter walked on, trying not to fuel her father’s dangerous antics by paying attention to them, Gingrich missed his footing and fell silently about 400 feet into the void. It took rangers quite a while to locate his body — and to determine that his daughter was an orphan only due to his foolishness.

A short panarama

The Grand Canyon is an amazing place and I would like to go back one day, it’s so vast that there is so much to see.

On the way back we were entertained by a crazy eyed fiddle player. Who stomped up and down the carriage with his spurs jangling.We were also robbed, yes that’s right we got robbed. We started to slow down and our carriage guide Joe (seen below) wondered out loud “oh no I wonder what’s happening” before relating the tale of the bandits who travel in this area.

The women were instructed to scream, which they did, and the men were asked to pony up any valuables in the form of $1 dollar bills. Everyone handed over something as did I, however I thought it would be funny to drop mine instead of handing it over. The big feller (last picture) wasn’t impressed and put his gun in my face. Awesome!

When we arrived back in Williams, our driver/guide wanted to show us Route 66 signs. We stopped by this sign.Lot’s of photographs later and appetite for Route 66 signs sated we continued through the town, as we did we spotted more signs, including the iconic sign. Graciously the driver turned off the road to somewhere he could park and a few of us got out.In the photo of me, I have my phone in my hand. Before the trip I had made a USA playlist which included Chuck Berry’s version of Route 66. Although it wasn’t very loud, it was fun to have the song playing as I got my photo near a sign.

It’s not possible to drive the complete Route 66 anymore but maybe one day I’ll go back and drive as much of it as possible.

Once back in Flagstaff we had just enough time to get a meal before heading off on the overnight train to Los Angeles.