The Grand Canyon

Discussion in 'West, Alaska and Hawaii' started by Palmland, Nov 27, 2019.

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  1. Nov 27, 2019 #1

    Palmland

    Palmland

    Palmland

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    In late October my wife and I spent a couple days in Williams, AZ and the Grand Canyon. Since we were taking the GC RR train in the morning we stayed in the oldest building in town, the Grand Canyon Hotel. We like older buildings with some history; it was centrally located downtown; and it was less expensive then the popular Grand Canyon Railway Hotel that is part of the GC RR operation - both operated by Xanterra. It was perfect for a quick overnight and there was a very good restaurant, the Red Raven, next door.

    Downtown Williams and our hotel
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    As were getting settled in our room I heard a steam whistle. That launched me down the street to the station. It seems this was the weekend that Trains magazine had a photo charter on the GC RR. I got to the station as it backed in. It was followed by the Pumpkin Patch special that goes a few miles out of town for the kiddies to 'pick' pumpkins. It was being pulled by one of their famous Alco FPA units, now used only for specials.
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    I had contacted forum member, greatcats, who was able to meet us for dinner. We had a great conversation and, as a former NP Tour guide, he gave us great insight in how to spend our time wisely at the GC. The next morning our hotel host recommended Annie's, a local hangout, for breakfast. It was fabulous. We then dropped our bags at the GC Railway Hotel. Xanterra took care of it from there as we were taking their train. Once we arrived at our room at the Bright Angel Lodge, our bag was already there.

    The train had GC RR newer power, two F-40 engines along with modified ex RDC as coaches and 4 dome cars plus the open platform observation on the rear. Heading up that frosty morning we were in the economy coaches. While very utilitarian, they were fine for the 2.5 hr trip, especially since the cafe car was near so we could get more coffee. We arrived the Grand Canyon a little before noon and headed for the hotel, a very short walk (but up a few stairs). To be continued....

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    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
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  2. Nov 29, 2019 #2

    Palmland

    Palmland

    Palmland

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    Since we were visiting the Grand Canyon, I decided these images needed to be larger! After our train arrived at the South Rim, we made the easy walk to the Bright Angel Lodge and were told it would be an hour or so before our room was ready. We had scheduled a Sunset Tour but, on the advice of 'greatcats', we added the Desert Tour the next morning. This would allow us to see much more of the canyon than if we just tried to walk. So then it seemed like a good time for lunch (our train arrived at 11:45). We knew we wanted to see the most famous lodge in the park, the El Tovar, and its very nice dining room with a view. Since it was getting dark early (our Sunset Tour started at 4pm) there wouldn't be much to see at night.

    The hotel is in the great tradition of National Park lodges. Warm, inviting, yet almost awe inspiring with its woodsy yet dramatic architecture.
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    As many of you know, Mary Coulter was famous for her design work in the 1930's of iconic southwest structures. Aside from the El Tovar she also designed the nearby Hopi House, the Desert View Watchtower, the Bright Angel Lodge, LaPosada in Winslow, and the recently restored Harvey House restaurant in Los Angeles Union Station that we visited on this trip.

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    Last edited: Nov 30, 2019
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  3. Nov 29, 2019 #3

    Palmland

    Palmland

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    We were seated in a nice table for two with a view out the window. Lunch was wonderful, no doubt helped by our beer flight. Amtrak 'flex dining' food it was not.

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    After lunch we walked a short way along the rim to the Hopi House designed, as the name implies, to feature many of the Hopi architectural features. It was the place to go for very authentic Hopi and Navajo crafts. I did not escape unscathed with my wife sporting a new Navajo bracelet. The Studio Lookout is the first photo, an art studio Colter designed, and then the Hopi House.

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    After this it was time to check in to hotel our and get ready for the tour. The Bright Angel Lodge has been beautifully restored and looks like it belongs in its surroundings. We had a corner room that was bright, comfortable, on oh so convenient. Next, I'll finally show some pictures of what we really came to see.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2019
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  4. Nov 30, 2019 #4

    Palmland

    Palmland

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    Our sunset tour was well worth the two hours on a beautiful fall day. It had been windy all day so the photos are a bit hazy because of the dust in the air. This trip went west from the lodge. If you keep going in that direction you'll get to Lake Meade and the Hoover Dam.
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    We were back at our hotel by about 6:30. Time for a glass of wine and dinner in the lodge's restaurant. You won't find much inexpensive food, but it certainly tasted good after a big day. There is also a steakhouse restaurant as part of the lodge. We'll save that for next time. The next day we would have our tour in the morning and then train time at 3:30.
     

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  5. Nov 30, 2019 #5

    Palmland

    Palmland

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    During the night we had a dusting of snow and a low of 14 degrees. But it warmed up quickly and we were comfortable with just a jacket as we boarded our bus at 9:00 for the Desert Tour. This was a four hour tour that took us about 25 miles east to the Colter designed Watchtower, with a couple stops on the way.

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    This is at the farthest point east of our trip. Keep going and you'll get to Lake Powell and eventually to the source of the Colorado in Rocky Mountain NP area of Colorado.

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    Some of the sights on the way.

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    And the Watchtower - what a view! The interior depicts Native American drawings and paintings.

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    This last photo shows the mighty Colorado. That little stretch of white you see, is really huge waves, 5-6 feet high, according to our guide. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and is over a mile deep in places.

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    We returned the lodge about 1pm and had a quick lunch. Then a final stroll along the rim and, just to say we did it, a very short hike on the Bright Angel trail.
     

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  6. Nov 30, 2019 #6

    Palmland

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    the Bright Angel Trail begins at our lodge at an elevation of 6800' and reaches the Colorado at about 2500' - not quite a mile descent but it takes 8 miles of hiking to do it. And you get to climb back up. My wife did it when she was a teenager. At our age, never again - except maybe on a mule. Phantom Ranch at the bottom offers overnight accommodations.

    Our trek this time was just a fraction of a mile to the tunnel.

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    Then it was train time. Again, Xanterra had taken care of our bag so we only had our small backpack and headed to the station.

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    This is what train time was like in the early 20th century.

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    Now it was time for us to board.

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  7. Nov 30, 2019 #7

    Palmland

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    I couldn't resist splurging for a ride in the 'parlor car', which I learned from a phone call to their agent, was in fact this wonderful open platform observation.

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    Since this is an Amtrak forum, in the car there was a photo of its prior life. I learned that it had originally been built for the ACL. You can see the rear platform has been added.

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    They had warned us their might be robbers, but fortunately the sheriff rode on our car.

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    This was the back half of our car. Talk about luck. We were assigned the rear 'railfan seat'. Absolutely no restrictions on how often or how long you could be out on the rear platform. I am standing at the rear door and you can see my jacket on the seat at the left.

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    By the time we left the car was almost full but never felt crowded. This is the forward section with the bar at my right. Our server provided many treats and of course her cocktails were very popular.

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    I did walk up to the dome for a photo. I certainly preferred our car as the scenery is interesting but not spectacular.

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    It was great to stand on the rear platform with drink in hand and hear the sound of the jointed rail, which appeared (and felt) to be very well maintained.

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    As we neared Williams our server provided everyone with complimentary champagne. What a great way to end our trip. It was an outstanding two days.

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  8. Dec 1, 2019 #8

    FunNut

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    I enjoyed your report and pics. Note the spelling of Mary Jane Colter, not Coulter. Sorry, former teacher here... Your description of where you dined in Williams is helpful. Pics of the parlor car are wonderful, looks like the place to be on the GCR. Thanks again.
     
  9. Dec 1, 2019 #9

    jiml

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    Great report, and it looks like the GCR has come a long way. Time for a re-visit.
     
  10. Dec 1, 2019 #10

    Palmland

    Palmland

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    Thanks, Fun Nut. You'd think I could get it right since her name is spelled out on the image below! But did manage correct spelling in a couple other references. Part of this is learning curve as this is my first attempt at a post with many images and part of it is just fuzzy thinking.

    I think we were very lucky as to the time of year we were there. The Grand Canyon is the 2nd favorite NP, after Great Smoky Mtn, with over 6 million visitors. This was obviously a slow time and we had good weather and some fall color. There were no lines (maybe 5min for a dinner seating), the tour buses weren't full, and the lookouts weren't overwhelmed with swarms of photo takers. And of course the 'Trains' steam photo charter was a bonus. I was also pleased that there were only a few 'normal' people on the rear platform, and they didn't linger. No railfans, falling over themselves - other than me! Be sure and make a reservation if you go to the Red Raven, otherwise you will wait. Fortunately 'greatcats' had forewarned us.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019

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