Under beautiful sunny skies and in record temps for this time of year, Larry and I continued our journey on I-40 east toward the South Rim of Grand Canyon.
After 4 1/2 hours of driving from Vegas, we arrived in Williams, Arizona, around 2 p.m. and drove around the small old west style town reminiscing about previous visits. Here, at the junction of Route 64, we would turn north for the final drive up to the South Rim of Grand Canyon, but not before visiting one of my favorite Native American jewelry stores, Thunder Eagle.
We continued exploring the town for a bit, then made the turn north for the hour drive to the South Rim. It’s always exciting for us, no matter how many times we’ve seen it, to catch that first glimpse of the canyon. There truly is something mystical and healing to the soul about this place. Checking in at Bright Angel Lodge around 4 p.m. for our cabin assignment, we were happy to have been assigned one of the rim cabins that offered a view out our front window right over the edge of the canyon.
We were pleased to find that the cabins had undergone an update since our last visit including new furniture and flat screen TVs. There is no air conditioning in these cabins, which normally is not a problem since each is equipped with a ceiling fan and large windows to enhance circulation. However, the entire southwest portion of the country was under a stubborn heat wave during our visit, and we put that ceiling fan to use for sure. Temps every day hovered around 100 degrees with nighttime temps dropping only into the 60s, unusual for the 7,000 feet elevation of the South Rim.
Hungry from our drive, we made the short walk from our cabin to Bright Angel Lodge where there are a variety of eating choices including the Harvey House Café where we dined beside the windows overlooking the canyon enjoying their family style dishes. Bright Angel Lodge also has a takeout deli/ice cream parlor, a saloon style lounge, and a large gift shop. Next door to Bright Angel is The Arizona Steakhouse where hand cut steaks and ribs are featured along with beer and wines from local artisans. There are many other good restaurants available as well. No one should ever be hungry while visiting the South Rim. If you are out exploring, the park even has two food trucks roaming around offering a fast bite for those on the go.
After a good night’s sleep we were up early to catch the morning colors of the canyon outside our door. In the quiet of early day we walked up to Bright Angel Trailhead perhaps 50 yards from our cabin to watch the mule riders gathering at the Stone Corral just as we did several years ago. What awesome memories flooded us as we listened to the trail boss giving safety instructions to the riders. Around 8 a.m., they mounted up, held on tight and started down Bright Angel Trail to their destination, Phantom Ranch. Another small group of riders also were led down the trail, but this group’s endgame was the river where they would join up with a company who would take them on a rafting adventure for a few days.
Around 9 a.m., after a bite to eat in our cabin from the food we brought with us, we walked the short distance from our cabin to catch the red line shuttle buses that transport visitors along the Hermit’s Rest drive. Buses arrive about every 10-15 minutes at each of the nine incredible overlooks along this 7-mile route where you can spend as much time as you like before hopping on the next bus to move on. We made our way up to Hermit’s Rest, the last stop on the red line, where there are restrooms, a snack bar, and a gift shop inside the stone cabin built in 1914. On the return to the Bright Angel Lodge area, we rode without getting off the bus which took about 45 minutes. Within the park there are several bus lines, each running on the same 10-15 minute schedule at multiple bus stops throughout the park.
All of these buses are a free service and a great way to get around the South Rim to see the sights. They connect with each other at certain points and all make stops at the South Rim Visitor Center where there is a huge parking lot, convenient since traffic is often a problem and parking very hard to find in some areas. Over the next day or so we spent much of our time riding these shuttle bus routes throughout the park, letting others do the driving while we drank in the beauty of the scenery. In fact, once we arrived at the parking area around our cabin, we never moved our SUV the entire three days we were there due to the convenience of the shuttle buses.
Later that evening as we sat on the stone wall looking down into the canyon just outside of Bright Angel Lodge, we spotted several condors sailing on the wind. One landed just below our viewpoint on a large rock as if posing for us and I was able to catch a quick picture of it. Each condor is tagged so the park service can track and study them, and this particular bird happened to carry the tag number 23, a special number for us as we were married on Aug. 23 and it has always been our “lucky number.”
Our time at the South Rim had come to an end and we reluctantly said farewell for now to the place we love so much. Headed east, we drove out of the park on Desert View Drive, stopping at viewpoints along the way, and began our journey to Page and the Glen Canyon Dam. For more information about Grand Canyon South Rim go to www.nps.gov/grca
Deb and Larry Sidener took this trip Aug. 22 to Sept. 4, 2019.