Our Big Trip Across the Western US - September 2015
Prior to taking this trip we had read about the Grand Canyon and several photographers suggested that the best approach to the park was from the east entrance. This allows better opportunities for photographs as the morning sun would be behind us for most pictures. We took US Highway 89 south again and turned at Cameron and headed toward the part entrance. We were pleasantly surprised when the park ranger offered to sell us a lifetime pass to national parks for $10 instead of us paying the $30 one-time fee for this park. How could we refuse? Our first stop was at the Desert View turnout. This photograph shows the Desert View Watchtower that stands 70 feet tall above the rim of the canyon. It was built in 1932.
The rain clouds hung heavy over the canyon and we could feel an occasional sprinkle, but nothing that made us open our umbrella. There were many visitors scurrying to their cars to avoid getting wet as we headed towards the overlook. The view from the overlook was stunning and we have no words to describe the magnificent views.
The rain and heavy air did add some haze to the distant portions of the canyon. But we felt the colors were much more vivid and the beautiful cloud structure added a great deal of interest to the sky.
The next picture was taken at this first overlook and bears significance to the Breyfogle family. In 1956 there was a deadly collision between a TWA and United Airlines aircraft killing all passengers. There were 66 lost on the TWA and 29 on the United Airline flight. Aboard the TWA aircraft was Forrest Dean Breyfogle who was the flight engineer. The planes collided in midair and crashed near Temple and Chuar Buttes (red arrow). Some of the crash wreckage still remains in the canyon as it is too difficult to remove. The victims were buried in a mass grave in Flagstaff. As a note, Forrest Dean Breyfogle is the 4th cousin, once removed, of Danís. So yes he was related but we never knew him nor was he part of our direct family line.
Our next turnout took us directly west of the first and you can see the watchtower on the cliff to the right of the tree. Notice the heavy dark clouds. It was here that we started to hear thunder rumbling up and down the canyon. We thought rain would catch us at any moment but barely had a sprinkle as we made our way from one turnout to another.
We stopped at the Tusayan Ruin and Museum next. The museum featured Native American artifacts and history of those living in this area over 800 years ago. They constructed stone pueblos with the only access from the roof. The picture below shows the remnants of the rooms that formed living quarters. This site was originally excavated in 1930 and has undergone restoration in 1948 and 1965. The brochure records the fact that there are over 4000 such sites in the Grand Canyon National Park.
This next picture is our last view of the canyon itself. It was taken from the Mather Point Amphitheater where the view of the canyon was particularly colorful and spectacular.
On our way to the South Entrance visitor center we stopped to take a picture of this Prickly Pear Cactus with its fruit guarded by the many spines on this low growing plant.
And now for a rant. A very hard climb up and down to see Horseshoe Bend did not dampen our spirits nor did the threat of a downpour. But when we parked at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center parking we did not have a clue where to go. There was not a single sign pointing to the visitorís center and it was not visible from the parking lot that was filled to capacity. We found our way by asking another visitor to the park and even though he was not completely fluent in English he was able to help us out.
Once at the center we found that you could NOT buy a bottle of water! In all their wisdom, the National Parks System determined that water bottles are a threat to the environment and they refuse to sell them in the park. Yet they will sell a disposable bottle or canned beverage at their store. We ended our visit thirsty and not a single drinking fountain was in sight. If you go, take plenty of bottled water but please dispose of them properly!
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