Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 3-4

Williams, AZ to Holbrook, AZ by way of the Grand Canyon— 291 miles over 2 days



[Click to go to an interactive map]

Day 3 and 4 were all about the Grand Canyon. Neither of us have any recollection of seeing it before; twas one of the first destinations we listed when planning the trip.

Williams staged us for a quick 1-hour drive to get to the park. Sadly, breakfast was a bust in Williams and that was the final nail in in the coffin for Williams — never stopping there again!

Unfortunately, it was an equally slim selection along AZ 64, but, we did manage to find a hotel with diner attached.

Our first glimpse

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/640sec, 24mm focal L., ~71mi from prev photo, map

Arriving at the park entrance, we jumped at the chance to get the National Park pass — a year of covered entrance fees to all National Parks, Monuments, etc. This trip alone would cover the cost, never mind the ease of use by not having to deal with receipts taped to the windshield, or unattended payment boxes.

For most of the year, the park logistics require using the (free) bus system to get around. We ended up parking in the back 40 the first day. The second day, we found an easy gravel lot by the mule barn that’s a short walk to the Hermit Road bus route. Sure there may be closer lots, but, the mule barn is a straight shot from Center Road when coming in from the south entrance. Thus, it avoids all the looky-loos meandering through the village.


Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/8.0, 1/60sec, 24mm focal L., ~1.1mi from prev photo, map

The first real glimpse of the canyon is breathtaking. “Grand” does not really do it justice. The sheer cliffs and the depth and width all conspire to give you the feeling of being on a mountain peak, instead of the relatively flat plateau that it is.

Happily, for me, the Park Service has not (yet) completely sterilized the experience with railings and Plexiglas walls. Away form most of the popular points, you can walk to the edge of a sheer drop off, giving an unobstructed view and nobbut your good judgement to keep you from going over the edge. Valerie wasn’t particularly keen on this fact, as she doesn’t much care for heights. Oddly, the kiddos had a harder time listening and staying away from the edge when there WAS a railing then without — monkey see railing; monkey swing on railing…

Everyone hold onto the railing

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/250sec, 24mm focal L., map

It’s not dead yet — OK, maybe it is.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/1000sec, 28mm focal L., map

Walking west along the rim trail, we came across a short barbed wire fence across the trail and with signage that said something about the area was closed for rehabilitation. Only that morning at breakfast, while reading about the history of the park, did I learn that there used to be a copper and uranium, named Orphan Mine in the park. It was the only private property inside the borders of the national park and it was built right on the rim of the canyon. Seeing the closed off area, I had my hopes that this must be it! With my Geiger counter at the ready, I decided to take a closer look.

Following the trail past the small fence, I arrived at this tall, chain-link fence.

Remnants of the Orphan Mine — Looking through the chain link fence

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/800sec, 24mm focal L., ~565ft from prev photo, map

There’s nobbut foundations left now. The Geiger tube was getting fairly happy upon arriving at the fence line. The general background average around the rim of the canyon was ~16 counts per minute (CPM) for my particular setup (LND712 tube). Along the fence edge, it ranged from 100-350 CPM.

I found a particularly hot spot amongst some small rocks. I couldn’t find any point source, but, I sure would have tried harder if I’d have had more time. As it was, being inside the perimeter fence, with the family waiting for me to catch up, I decided not to press my luck and abandoned the search.

A Hot Pocket — 1-minute average near here topped out at 358 CPM. 21x background.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/800sec, 24mm focal L., ~282ft from prev photo, map

Below, you can see how the east edge of the chain link fence line is quite a bit more active than elsewhere. I suspect this had to do with the prevailing winds blowing dust. I checked the water drainage areas, but couldn’t find any similar hot spots there.

Radiation plot of scouting the east side of the fence line

[Click to go to an interactive map -- then click any data point to see the exact CPM]

After walking out to the next view point, here’s the reverse angle of where I was scouting.

Cliff side of the Orphan Mine

Nikon D600, ISO 640, ƒ/14.0, 1/50sec, 70mm focal L., ~700ft from prev photo, map

The mine remnant was my first ever finding of NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material). The DIY Geiger kit was working great, and I was quite happy to have had it.

Wood bores

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/640sec, 50mm focal L., map

Stella isn’t so sure what the big deal is

Nikon D600, ISO 160, ƒ/11.0, 1/50sec, 32mm focal L., ~800ft from prev photo, map

It’s a common request amongst the sisters. If one gets to do something, the others chime in and ask if they can have that too. So, naturally, Elise wanted to sit on the rock and get her picture taken. Maia? She got scared and went back to the trail.

Elise wants what Stella just had

Nikon D600, ISO 110, ƒ/11.0, 1/60sec, 24mm focal L., map

Depth

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/11.0, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., map

Squirrels make zombie hands — mmmmkaay?

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/8.0, 1/200sec, 50mm focal L., ~3.4mi from prev photo, map

As if it were not totally obvious, this little squirrel (below) captured the girls’ attentions, especially Stella. It was eating a nut, and she said, “Look, it’s taking a break and having a snack!”

Even the squirrels stop and take in the view

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/8.0, 1/80sec, 52mm focal L., ~0.9mi from prev photo, map

Up till now, we were never able to get a glimpse of the river that moved all that mud. It really is down there!

We finally see water

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/8.0, 1/125sec, 28mm focal L., map

Around about 2:30, we caught the bus back to Grand Canyon Village. We’d snacked our way through the day without a real lunch. The little ones took it all stride.

1000 yard stare

Nikon D600, ISO 160, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., ~1.9mi from prev photo, map

After a leisurely lunch with very large beers, we hiked a mile off road to catch the late afternoon light. It was probably too much to do in one day, but, somehow, we managed to make it there and back without dieing of exposure.

Death march — all in the name of a sunset view

Nikon D600, ISO 800, ƒ/9.0, 1/50sec, 60mm focal L., ~5.8mi from prev photo, map

Weather Top

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/250sec, 24mm focal L., ~0.9mi from prev photo, map

Upon arriving to the end of the trail, this is what greeted us.

Sunset View

Nikon D600, ISO 200, ƒ/2.8, 1/320sec, 24mm focal L., map

After the hike, we checked into the Red Feather Lodge just outside of the park and had a snacky dinner and put our exhausted bodies to bed.

Super Maia

Nikon D600, ISO 5600, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., ~6.3mi from prev photo, map

The next morning, we got an early start in order to attend the Ranger led fossil walk. It was a popular event, but, our friendly ranger did a fine job broadcasting to the group.

Ranger Walk-n-Talk — to learn about fossils!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/100sec, 70mm focal L., ~6.0mi from prev photo, map

Lots of fossils

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/640sec, 34mm focal L., ~223ft from prev photo, map

The day before, we hopped the bus past this section of the trail. Me thinks that even if we had actually walked the trail, we would have walked right on past this fossil rich area without seeing a one of them. Once you you start looking, it’s hard NOT to see them everywhere around here!

Appreciation — they had little for the Grand Canyon till now.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/200sec, 24mm focal L., map

The ranger handed out cards that identified the various types of fossils. Maia dutifully helped her sisters with their identifications.

What’s this one?

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/125sec, 24mm focal L., map

The Fossil Expedition Crew

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/200sec, 24mm focal L., map

Look Break!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/250sec, 24mm focal L., ~936ft from prev photo, map

After the fossil walk, we decided to take a stroll down the Bright Angel trail. Long before arriving, I had visions of taking a little hike to the bottom of the canyon. Come to find out, the signage at the trail head seems to indicate that attempting to do the rim-river-rim hike in a day is a similar exertion to running a marathon. Indeed, you’d have to be well prepared to make the full journey. Just looking at the trail zig-zag down the canyon off into the distance where you can no longer make out the trail … well, my delusions of a fun hike were severely smashed.

Needless to say, we only moseyed down the trail just to get a feeling for it. Valerie made up a system to keep the girls focussed on the task of hiking safely. The biggest problem was they would want to stop and take a look, which meant them walking to the edge of the trail without really paying attention to their feet. So, we came up with the “Look break!” request and we’d hold hands before taking in the view.

Anyone up for a marathon? — Bright Angel trail to the river

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/200sec, 24mm focal L., ~562ft from prev photo, map

Finally, we bid our farewells to the canyon and pointed our noses in the direction of Flagstaff. From there, we nabbed little bits of Rt 66 when we could.

Twin Arrows gas station

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/1600sec, 70mm focal L., ~79mi from prev photo, map

When planning the trip, we had intended to stop at the meteor crater between Flagstaff and Winslow. But, after reading the description in the guide book (and factoring the cost), we decided to skip it. The guide book implied that you could sneak a peak at it from the old road, but, it turns out it’s actually miles from the gate where we were forced to turn around.

No peaking.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/640sec, 70mm focal L., ~15mi from prev photo, map

You don’t say?

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/8.0, 1/50sec, 55mm focal L., ~35mi from prev photo, map

The famous Jack Rabbit Trading Post

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/160sec, 44mm focal L., ~729ft from prev photo, map

The Rt 66 guide book talked about the, seemingly, legendary Jack Rabbit trading post. The old sign is fantastic, for sure. The other side of the sign (above) is a very well maintained, very much like a modern billboard. The west side, however, was fantastically original looking. Apparently, for miles and miles along the road were teaser signs that made it irresistible to drive by upon arrival.


Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/640sec, 34mm focal L., map

Hang on Elise!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/160sec, 29mm focal L., map

Squares — art on the Jack Rabbit Trading Post building

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/100sec, 24mm focal L., map

Valerie was so very excited to sleep in the concrete Wigwam. Indeed, it was fun for all.

Home for the night!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200sec, 28mm focal L., ~16 mi from prev photo, map

Family owned since 1943

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/100sec, 27mm focal L., ~0.5 mi from prev photo, map

Joe & Aggies was a fun place to stop for dinner. Part history museum; part curio shop; part restaurant. The food was pretty good, right up until we ordered the desert burrito. It amounted pie-filling rolled into a burrito wrap and then deep fried. The outside was crispy, but the inside was still room temperature. Ohh well.

Never one to leave her milk unfinished

Nikon D600, ISO 450, ƒ/4.0, 1/50sec, 45mm focal L., map

Least scariest monster face

Nikon D600, ISO 640, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 50mm focal L., map

Monster Maia will gnaw on her victim

Nikon D600, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/50sec, 62mm focal L., map

The wigwam proved quite comfortable, even if it was rather cozy. We put Maia on the air mattress, but the kids were very worked up and not so interested in settling into the wigwam. Good thing those thick, concrete walls keep the sounds of screaming and giggles from the nearby neighbors.

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