Saturday, May 27, 2017

Desert View, Looking out over the Canyon

Watchtower View, Grand Canyon

One habit we seem to have is to wait and see the sights closest to us last.  Desert View is at the extreme eastern end of the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park.  At Desert view are bathrooms, a gift shop, a store/snack bar, the caretaker house, and, of course, the Desert View Watchtower.  Today Marcia was wanting to just take it easy around the motorhome.  After I cleaned the air vent fan in the main living area, and a few other chores, I decided to go over to see Desert View which is within walking distance…but a bit easier to drive.  After all, I intended to climb the four floors to the top of the tower because, after all, “it is there”.

Watchtower, Grand CanyonThe Watchtower area is a fairly popular place, but not as popular and busy as the Mather Point, Bright Angel Point and the area in between these two.  But many people take the 20 mile drive to the east to see Desert View…and the large parking lot gets full, but we did not see it fill all the way up.  Still, lots of people…the only down fall for the place.

Watchtower View, Grand Canyon

On the outside of the watchtower, you can walk around and get views of the canyon.  They also honor those lost in the worst aviation crash National Historic Landmark, Airplanes Crash, 1956of its day, back in 1956, when a United Airlines DC-7 collided with a TWA Super Constellation as they were both maneuvering around towering cumulus clouds at 21,000 feet.  All 128 passengers and crew perished.  The wrecks were located just in the upper left of my picture above, just on the other side of the river—the picture taken just to the northeast of the watchtower.  Due to this wreck, the FAA was born.  It is nice of them to remember this crash so many years later when just three years ago they unveiled this plaque designating the site as a historic landmark.  The initial picture of this posting was taken just to the east of the watchtower along this outer area, looking back to the main entrance of the Grand Canyon to the west.

Watchtower, first floor, Grand Canyon
The watchtower is four floors high, 70-feet, and a narrow stairway goes up the four floors.  There is this wooden ladder which goes up one floor, but is no longer in use.  Look at the wood in the ceiling.  (I took a panoramic shot of each floor, so this is a circular room, as are the others in the pictures below.)

Watchtower, second floor, Grand Canyon

This is the second floor.  Watchtower, Colter Sign,  Grand CanyonNote the sign leaning up against the circular center, which is the same sign to the right of this writing.  The sign was hand painted by Mary Jane Colter, who designed the Watchtower and about six other buildings in the Grand Canyon.  Back in 2008, two men decided that they did not like the grammar/punctuation on the sign and with whiteout and sharpie pens they changed a few things on the sign.  They got caught and were fined and ordered by the judge to not visit any National Park for a year.   That, of course, made national headlines, and the sign was restored.

Watchtower, third floor, Grand Canyon
Watchtower, looking up to fourth floor,  Grand Canyon     Watchtower, looking down to third floor,  Grand Canyon

Above is the third floor, with a view above to the fourth, and below to the second.  The stairway is to the right in the top picture, with the young man coming up from the second floor in the extreme right of the picture, and then the stairs go up right above that.

Watchtower, fourth floor, Grand Canyon
Watchtower, ceiling fourth floor,  Grand Canyon     Watchtower, looking down two floors,  Grand Canyon

And here is the fourth floor, with a look at the ceiling above, and down to the third and second floors below.  But if you look at the top picture of these three, you can see a stairway with people going up.  Now I showed the entry level, and the second, third and now fourth floors.  It is said to be “a four story tower”, yet I have to climb another set of stairs to get to the top “lookout” floor.  I think they just like to fool old men like me into thinking you are only going up four sets of stairs, which makes it a four story structure…when in reality it is five stories tall when you count the bottom story.  After all, who does not count the bottom floor???

Watchtower, top observation area floor, Grand Canyon

Of course, the top floor is where everyone was headed.  On each floor I stopped and sat and enjoyed the view (ok, so I was resting).  Most people went up, looked, went back down.  A few were in front of my as I headed up to the second floor, and by the time I got to the third floor, they were coming down!  (Ok, so I rested for a long time…)  But wait, what is this in the middle????  Are those more stairs????

Watchtower, stairs to roof, Grand Canyon

Yes, it must be the stairway to Heaven, because it is leading upward…but had I climbed it, I would have been cursing it as if it was the stairway to hell….  (Ok mom, I will wash my mouth out with soap, again…)  This stairway evidentially leads to the roof of the tower….I agree that the roof is not another floor.  I am just thankful I did not need to climb those wooden stairs too.  

Watchtower, looking down from observation floor, Grand Canyon

Now that’s a long ways down there…that circular area is a part of the second floor, and I think that is where the initial wooden ladder would have gone had they not changed this area (see picture of first floor).  Below this circular area is the area around the outside of the tower where my first shots where taken.

Watchtower, narrow stairway, Grand Canyon

Walking down those narrow stairs seems harder than walking up.  I was thankful for the white stripe at the edge of each stair, at least I could see that through my trifocals.  Except the last flight of stairs where, for some reason, they did not have the white stripe…YIKES!

Watchtower, second floor outside, Grand Canyon

When I got to the second floor, I stepped out onto that circular area I showed earlier looking down when I was at the top.  Low and behold as I looked out to the left, I see this sign with a verse from Psalms on it:  “All the earth worships thee; they sing praises to thee, sing praises to thy name. Psalms 66:4 (Revised Standard Version of the Bible)

Watchtower,  Grand Canyon

As I exit the watchtower, I am thankful for the park bench which I can sit on and contemplate on all that I saw, and watch the various nationalities of people walk by…German, French, Spanish, Pakistani, Chinese, and others with about 40% speaking English, walking by.  Has nothing to do with my sore legs, of course (cough cough)  I also enjoyed the picnic table outside the old snack bar, and after I got my diet pepsi, I enjoyed the last park bench before you get to the parking lot.  Just lots of people from all over the world walking by…what a country!!!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Grand Canyon – Condors, Camping and ADA

California Condor, Grand Canyon

It had been nearly a lifetime since I saw a California Condor out in the wild.  This breed of Condors was nearly extinct, and proclaimed extinct in the wild back in 1987 when the last wild Condor was captured, bringing the living number of Condors to 27 birds.  In 1991, Condors started to be released again, and eventually they have been reintroduced in Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, along the Central California coast and lower Sierra Nevada Mountains, and northern Baja California.  The captive breeding took place at the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos.  The California Condor is the largest North American land bird.  Our first stop today was Maricopa Point, and a couple with a large Toy Hauler, who are camping at Trailer Village, showed me where it had landed shortly before I walked up to them.  Wish I could have seen it fly, but it looked like it was going to stay there for awhile.  There are 76 Condors in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, according to the Peregrine Fund, which has monitored them for the past 30 years.  17 condors have hatched in the wild in this area, of which 16 have fledged…and they still are releasing Condors from the Captive Breeding program.

Today we took on the Hermits Rest Route.  At this time of year one must ride one the of free park shuttle buses to Hermits Rest.  However, while at the Visitor’s Center yesterday, I talked to that nice Ranger Lady and I happed to ask if they allowed people with disabilities to drive their own car instead of taking the bus, like Yosemite does.  “Well, we have the same thing here”, she says, and provides us a bright Yellow Placard that we put on the dashboard, and a code to the gate so that we can get onto the roadway.  Well, this was a wonderful treat for Marcia, because riding that bus just was not going to cut it…especially since they said that most motorized scooters would not fit in the bus.  The good thing…all of the pullouts had few to no cars in them, and we even had a few people wonder how we were able to ride along the route…a few who might have had ADA Placards in their own vehicles.  I think this is one of the best kept secrets at the Grand Canyon.  But we have learned to ask…and it has paid off now at a number of parks.

Grand Canyon    Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

Today was a bit cloudy, a lot windy, and a good day to view the canyon.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

It is a great place to take panoramic shots…which I am thankful that my camera takes for me and I no longer have to cut and paste them together as I did a few years ago.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

We got the scooter out two or three times today, other times Marcia was able to enjoy the view right from the car, like these two pictures above.  Yesterday and the day before she got out right at the car…so a person with limited mobility can enjoy Grand Canyon despite the limitations.  Having a scooter is definitely helpful, but not necessary.  However, there are some view points which just are not accessible to those in a wheelchair, scooter, or with a walking problem. 

Hermits Rest, Grand Canyon    Hermits Rest, Grand Canyon

At the end of the drive is Hermits Rest…or is that ‘Restrooms’?  Well, the restrooms are large, clean, fresh pit toilets…no need to flush.  The “rest” is a snack bar, where I did buy a Diet Coke because this high altitude and dry air really does a number on me.  Only a handful of Diet Cokes since I started my diet…and about triple that number of Diet Pepsi, which is better in the diet because it has no aspartame.   Anyway, we were away from the dogs for right around 3 1/2 hours, and they handled it just fine.

Desert View Campground    Desert View Campground

I wanted to provide some information about Desert View Campground.  They warn you that you don’t bring in anything larger than a 30’ motorhome or trailer.  We did not unhook the car until we got to our spot, and we would not have any problems maneuvering through the rest of the park.  I have seen some 32’ motorhomes drive through, and the turns are a bit tight on them.  Our site is a pull through, but the tree at the front of the pull through has low branches, so I backed in from the other side of the pull through.  As you can see, the car fits without a problem.  Each site has a post.  You go to the registration machine, and it only takes credit cards, and you get a long slip of paper once you pay…it does give you option for senior discount, etc.  Two thirds of the paper you fill out information and attach to this post in the upper right picture…they come along and put a white or yellow occupied sign on it.  White means tent, yellow means RV.  During the day many sites look empty because people come with RVs and no tow car, hence they know if there is a white sign and no tent, someone has packed up and left.

Desert View Campground   Desert View Campground

Most of the sites will fit a 30’ RV, with room for a tow car at many of them.  The park website says the campground fills by 1 pm each day…you should make that “by 10 am” each day.  We saw people pulling out and 5 seconds later people pulling into that now vacant site.  If you get here early enough, and drive around, you can look for the posts which have no white or yellow card on them…those are the sites that most likely will vacate that day…unless they decide to pay for more days, as we have done.  Today we paid another $12 for two more days, and on Saturday we will pay $18 to get us through Monday…which is our 7 day limit…and gets us through Memorial Day.  So we expect to be here until Tuesday morning…a good site will open then.   As for the other campgrounds over at the main part of the south rim, well they require reservations.  You ‘might’ luck out and find a cancelation which might give you a night or two…but chances are not good during the late spring, summer and early fall time periods.  There are many National Forest roads where one can “disperse camp” for free, and the rangers will help show you on a map where those are.  We saw a few camping on our way in…I expect many will be there over the weekend.

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