Saturday, June 29, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Have a Perfect Tightwad Day at the Grandest Canyon of All

A Perfect Tightwad Day at the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and there are at least seven ways to explore it.  You can fly above it in a helicopter, catch the I-Max flick for an eagle's perspective, take the shuttle around the perimeter, hike the canyon paths, ride a mule to Phantom Ranch in the valley below, attend the ranger lectures, or simply sit on the edge and watch the light manipulate the ever-changing shadows on the canyon walls.  With enough time and money, you can use all these approaches, but, if your resources are limited, here's a day I think will please you.  While it is, in typical Tightwad fashion, short on expense, I think you'll find it long on enjoyment.

Start the day by having breakfast in one of the cafeterias or restaurants in the park.  Xanterra, the concessionaire controlling the Grand Canyon's day to day operations, offers reasonably priced breakfasts at all of its lodges.  
Maswik Cafeteria

Then take the free shuttle to the visitor center where you will see a movie detailing the Grand Canyon's birth, and study information explaining various aspects, both cultural and historical as well as geological, about this amazing place.

Catch the shuttle again for Yavapai Point where you will walk to the Yavapai Museum of Geology.  Run your fingers over the topographic relief model of the canyon so you can "feel" the grandeur of these canyon walls and look at the exhibits explaining how this geological miracle of pushing and shoving rock and earth formed such beauty.

Fill your bottle at the water station, one of many throughout the park, and find the beginning of the Trail of Time path, an easy 1.3 mile ramble along the canyon's edge.  Along with the stunning views every inch of the way, you'll trace the geology, with interactive exhibits, that led to the creation of the canyon. With just a tiny bit of luck, you'll probably also happen upon a ranger who will walk with you and explain, in an even more personal way, the magnificence you see before you.  
El Tovar Lobby

When you're beginning to feel the first hunger pangs, you ought to be getting close to the El Tovar Lodge, the most beautiful and expensive in the park.  But before you go in for lunch, stop at the Hopi House next door to see when the free Native American dance exhibition will begin.  You want to make sure you have time to do both.

Eating at El Tovar is a treat you won't want to miss since the restaurant is considered the premier dining experience at the park, but doing it the Tightwad way by having lunch, not dinner, will save you money and still be a memorable experience.  Ask for a table close to the rim so you can savor the view as well as the cuisine.  If you can still move after your hearty lunch, be sure to explore the hotel a bit.  It's a beauty.
Hopi House

After lunch and the Hopi dancing exhibition, walk a bit farther to the free shuttle stop near Bright Angel Lodge to get a ride exploring the western side of the canyon.  This hop on/hop off shuttle will take you to all the viewpoints on the canyon rim.  Getting off at every stop takes two to three hours, but if you can limit yourself to just a few of the stops, you should be finished in time for a ranger talk around 4:30.

After the shuttle deposits you back at the Bright Angel Lodge, walk to the Lookout Studio, built by Mary Colter, the most famous Southwestern architect, to hear a ranger discuss the magnificent condor.  Thanks to conservation measures, the endangered California condor is staging a comeback at the Grand Canyon.  After the lecture, fill your water bottle and sit on the canyon's edge to catch a glimpse of this soaring creature.
An elk cow at the Bright Angel shuttle stop

At this point, if you're anything like David and me, you will be content to limp back to your hotel room after sharing a sandwich somewhere (If you can eat more than that after lunch at El Tovar, I'd be amazed.), and try to stay awake long enough to see the sun set.  Fall into bed, exhausted but delighted by all you've done and seen on this splendid day at the grandest canyon in the world. 

Practicalities - 

When you pay your fee (or use your senior pass to enter the park for free), you will be given an eight-page newspaper detailing that week's events   at the canyon.  Read this carefully for information on the free shuttle system, special upcoming events, and the ranger talk schedule.

On the Trail of Time, we met a Swiss couple who were feeding a squirrel.  It was charming to see the squirrel sitting on the woman's leg as she ate an apple, but we later learned that squirrels often bite, spreading diseases that would ruin anyone's trip.  The best advice, we were told, is to take a photo but don't get too close to the wildlife.



No comments:

Post a Comment