We arrived at Mather Campground on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in the late afternoon, set up camp, fed the troops and managed to put our feet up before dark (sunset’s not until around 8pm in these parts in midsummer).
The fire ban due to high heat, dry vegetation and the resulting threat of forest fires meant no campfire, but we made do without marshmallows. Instead, the kids tossed grapes to each other in the tent. Good times.
The South Rim is the most touristy area of the Grand Canyon National Park. Busloads and car loads of day trippers enter each day, so it’s best to start early and avoid the crowds.
We hired bikes from Bright Angel Bicycles, located at the Visitor’s Center, which got us around the rim trails nice and quick in the morning on our first day, before the midday heat set in. Our first view of the canyon was from Pipe Creek Vista.
And this little guy was just too cute sitting in his tree, watching us ride by.
We rode to Yaki Point and back, which was a good morning’s exercise – about a 10km round trip.
At lunch back at camp we clung to the shade (temps were in the mid-30s) and spotted elk wandering through the campground, munching on the undergrowth.
After lunch, our ride took us through the Grand Canyon Village and up the Hermit Road, west along the rim, for a different view, with a little more colour and less haze.
At day’s end, there’s nothing like a game of ‘celebrity head’ to keep our minds off the lack of campfire and marshmallows. Though, since Phoebs and Blake have no idea about celebrities, we play ‘character head’ with characters from their favourite books and movies.
Blake and I left Phoebe and Steve sleeping and began our day with an early morning ride along the rim.
We dropped our bikes off after breakfast and took the car out to Desert View Drive. First stop was Grandview Point, the location of the Grand Canyon’s original tourist destination, the Grandview Hotel, though nothing remains of the old hotel now. From here we gained our first glimpse of the Colorado River, deep in the east of the canyon.
From Navajo Point further along the road we had an even better view of the river, and a sighting of the Desert View Watchtower in the distance, designed in 1932 by architect Mary Colter using traditional Puebloan designs.
The Desert View Watchtower is an impressive sight, rising from the canyon’s rim.
Despite its white American designer and tourist kitsch gift shop, traditional wall murals by Hopi Artist Fred Kabotie provide an indigenous authenticity to the building.
Did I mention there are more awe-inspiring views? This is west from the watchtower.
And us enjoying the heat with a pretty perfect mesa in the background.
At dusk, I left the tired campers behind and caught the shuttle up Hermit Road (this road is closed to private cars in the summer – only shuttle buses and bikes are allowed along this stretch). I went all the way to Hermit’s Rest at the end, about a half-hour ride, and hiked back along the walking path to Pima Point – only a couple of kilometres – to catch the sunset.
Next stop: Grand Canyon North Rim