The Grand Canyon, which lies in the state of Arizona in the USA, is considered to be one of the natural wonders of the world. Cheryl and Tom Sunter, Canadian ‘snowbirds’, visit it almost yearly on their trips south.
For us, the Grand Canyon certainly lives up to expectations. It gets nearly 5 million visitors a year so it is obviously popular. The canyon is about 1.6 km (1 mile) deep and some of the rocks are almost two billion years old. The Colorado River that runs through it has been carving away rock for several million years.
The first time we went we saw the North Rim of the Canyon first. We took Highway 67 until it ended and that’s where we parked our car and took a shuttle bus up a winding road to the rim. The north side has far fewer visitors than the south side and is less touristy. It’s open only part of the year though.
Road trip south along US Route 66
There are no railings on the north side and it seems a bit dangerous. But the setting is very attractive, and the colours of the rock layers are dazzling. There is a shuttle bus that can take you to the South Rim, which has dramatic views of the Colorado River gorge. It takes about 4.5 hours and the bus goes once each day in each direction.
Eagle Point is a popular spot on the west side of the Canyon. There is a huge rock there that overlooks the canyon. It’s also where the Grand Canyon Skywalk is. This is a semi-circular platform of tempered glass that you pay to walk out on. It is suspended out 21m (70 feet) from the rim. When you’re standing on it you look way down 1,200m (4,000 feet) to the canyon floor.
The skywalk is owned by Hualapai Indians; they have shops there where they sell some stunning crafts.
Every year, people slip over the Grand Canyon’s edge and die. There is a book about the deaths. Then there is the story about the 82-year-old woman who stepped out and lived!
You can take a mule ride down one of the paths although they are booked up months in advance. You can go on your own or as part of a group. You must be in good physical condition and not be afraid of heights.
Some people hike down to the floor but it is supposed to be very demanding and a different hiking experience because the climb up is at the end when you are probably the most weary. There are also various river trip opportunities.
When we are in that area we always visit Sedona. The South Vale Creek Canyon road that twists down to the town is spectacular. As you enter the town (called the prettiest city in the US) you come upon these huge red rock formations with unusual names like Snoopy and The Cathedral. The town is known as a spiritual mecca. It’s also a great place to shop in their rather exclusive shops.
South of there, near the Mexican border, is Tombstone, another western town. In its heyday there were more undertakers in Tombstone than in any place in the US. People walk around in western dress and they stage gunfights on the street. It’s where the famous shootout took place between the Earp brothers and the outlaws at the OK corral; only Wyatt Earp came through the fight unharmed. The town itself has had a hard time surviving but it has and today its nickname is “The Town Too Tough To Die”.
The Hoover Dam is also an interesting stop in Arizona. It was built during the Great Depression in the 1930s and is considered to be one of the greatest construction accomplishments of the century. Security is now a significant concern and cars are stopped and checked.
It can be a little cool in Arizona in January but by late February and early March the weather is very nice. It’s an informal culture with lots of interesting things to see and do.
By Cheryl and Tom Sunter
Photo credits Cheryl and Tom Sunter
© Riding the buses 2012