The Great Southwest Trip 2017


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Friday, September 15

We talked about Friday over dinner on Thursday night. Candy and I wanted to get up early (6:30!!!) to take pictures of the mule riders going down the Bright Angel trail from the Trail View stop on the shuttle; the riders leave between 7:45 and 8 am, so we had to be in place by 7:30. Doug thought we were nuts. They wanted to go to breakfast at the Harvey House, which I didn't care about, but I wanted to do the Fossil Walk at 9. Candy wanted to see some of the musuems, which I didn't, but I was interested in the cemetery near the Shrine of the Ages. We also had to pack up our stuff, check out of the motel, and get to the train by 3.

So we decided to do it like this: Candy and I would get up early for pics. Then I'd do the fossil walk while Candy and Doug got breakfast. Doug promised to take everything he wanted for the day to breakfast, because after the fossil walk I was going to go back, pack us up and check out, and then do my stuff, meeting them at the train station at 3 pm.

So yes, we got up at 6:30 and it was DAMN COLD. A guy at the bus station at 6:45 said it was 45 degrees...! But the deer we saw on the way to the bus stop were adorable.
So here are two shots of the beginning of the Bright Angel Trail, and the switchbacks farther down. Then you can see the mule riders on their way down, and the hikers getting out of their way. The front guide would let hikers know we were coming and to move to the inside of the trail, against the rock. You can also see, in the second picture, the Upper Tunnel, where they had to cut through the rock for the trail.
Here's a map of the top half of the Bright Angel Trail.

Did I mention how cold it was? And yes, I'm in a sundress and Hawaiian shirt, because that was ALL THE CLOTHING I HAD LEFT. Most of my stuff was in the truck, for the camping trip; I had just packed what I would need for three days in a small suitcase, and had underestimated the clothing and overestimated the temperature.

In the third picture I am pathetically hiding under a rock trying to get out of the EXTREMELY COLD wind.

After we finished there, Candy went to meet Doug for breakfast, and I went back to our room and put on my hiking boots, so that at least my feet would be warm. Plus we were meeting at the Bright Angel Trailhead for the Fossil Walk, and I didn't know where it might lead us; I wanted real shoes rather than Birkies.

Turns out we walked a total of about a quarter mile along the road and into the trees; there are bands of rock there full of fossils!

The ranger was quite interesting. The thing he said that really stood out for me is, they know everything that happened with the rocks, historically. What they don't know is the whole history of what happened with the river-when it flowed one way or the other or was a lake then a river again; there is no record of this, of course, and all they can do is try to figure it out from clues in the rocks and fossils. Interesting.

The ranger handed these around so we could figure out what we were looking at, all of it ancient lakebed life. Most of these fossils were anywhere from 1/3 inch crinoids to the horn coral, which was an inch and a half long.

Ranger feet, and the kind of rock we were looking at.

Scallops.

Scallops.

Bryozoan.

Bryozoan.

Horn coral.

Horn coral.

Horn coral.

Crinoids. Very small and hard to see.

Horn coral.

As we finished and I went to the walkway to go back to the road, I saw that there are actually markers along the rocks to let you know how old they are; this one is not near where we were, though.

On my way back to the room I saw an aster, probably a hoary aster, and a VERY sassy squirrel.
I packed all our bags, and managed to get everything in without having to carry a backpack all day, thank goodness. First I took the bus to the Visitor's Center and walked out to Mather Point. It was a gorgeous day but still kind of cold, as you can see from the fact that I'm still wearing a shirt over my sundress...!

In the middle picture of the bottom row is Phantom Ranch, looking down from 4000 feet or so above it.

And another Apache Plume, because they're pretty.

I had heard mention, last time I was on the South Rim, of the 'Pioneer Cemetery'...but since it was January and there was snow everywhere, I didn't go looking. This time, I asked at the Maswik Information Desk after I checked out, and was told it was right by the Shrine of the Ancients. I seriously expected to see ten or a dozen graves...I had no idea how big this place would be.

This is a lovely cemetery, and the local American Legion post maintains it, which is why there are so many flags near the markers; anyone who served in the military gets one.

This is also the CHATTIEST cemetery I have ever visited! Almost every marker has text, pictures or both. I spent an hour and a half here reading headstones and taking pictures, and I may have missed some...but it was seriously one of the more interesting cemeteries I've ever visited!

Wow, that was amazing. After the cemetery, it was time to get back to the train, so I took the bus to El Tovar, got a snack, and got to the train station right after 3, where I sat down to wait for Doug and Candy...only to find them already waiting for me.
The Harvey Girls Museum

The El Tovar outside...

...and inside.

A bird, and the Kolb photography studio.
And at some point Candy visited the mule barn to see Blackburn one more time...
The train station, and our train. The noms are excellent, as is the free champagne. Which they actually couldn't serve til we left the National Park boundaries...!
So I went into the next car, which had an actual bar (I was avoiding some entertainment or other) and fell into conversation with the attendant (I don't think he was the conductor, not sure.) And as we talked, I found out that his name was Doug. And he was from Riverside...so of course he came up to our seat so we could get the pics of the Dougs from Riverside. Because what are the damn odds??? At least they didn't go to the same high school...
We got back, moved back into our rooms, chilled, had dinner and went into Williams looking for brewpubs and mischief. We found the brewpubs, but the mischief store was closed...ah well. Here we are at the end of an excellent week, tired and happy.