Here is Tom on the porch of our KOA office, as we wait for our pickup from All-Star Grand Canyon Tours.
The two pictures below were taken on the way to the Grand Canyon, so we wanted to include them. The one on the left is called Red Butte Mountain, and the one on the right isn’t called anything in particular, that I know of, but I liked it. To see full size, click these and any other pictures you like.
The difference between a butte and a mesa? The mesa is usually bigger, and as it is eroded away over time, the butte is what’s left. The usual practical difference is that if you can find water and graze cattle on it, then it is a mesa.
Here is our fabulous guide, Cory Lander, posing by the archway leading to Hermit’s Rest, built by architect Mary Colter. (The Hermit himself was not really a hermit but a popular trail guide in his day.) Cory is knowledgeable not only about all the sites and views and history, but also the flora and fauna of the area.
We started our journey with a quick stop at the Double Eagle Trading Post, where Cory showed us how to tell the difference between turquoise from various mines, and I saw my first “jackalope” (a stuffed rabbit with antlers). I am told there really is a virus disease that causes rabbits to grow horn-like tumors, which may be the origin of the idea, but these antlers were clearly added postmortem. Rather gruesome, in my opinion.
Here Cory sets up his telescope at a viewing area while I snap pictures on my phone before we pose (right and below) for our “record shots.”
The Canyon is vast: 10 to 18 miles wide, 277 miles long and more than a mile deep. Carved by the Colorado River, it has exposed almost 2 billion years of geologic history. Imagine a gigantic many-layered cake, and then scoop out large pieces randomly revealing some or all the layers.
Below are a couple of “teasers” – more pictures later. These were taken from Mather Point; views from there can be recognized by the skyline: see the flat-topped mountain at the horizon with a breast-shaped mountain (a butte?) to the right of it. From every view, the Canyon is an incredible sight, and the slight haze of the day as well as the enormous distance, softens mountains and valleys into blues and pinks out to the horizon.
The shiny little ribbons of water visible below and in several other pictures are not small streams. This is the Colorado River — 300 feet across and up to 85 feet deep in the Canyon — on which boats and rafts bring more adventurous (and more limber) tourists than us to float the river, view the many waterfalls and ride the rapids of the Colorado and its tributaries.
Something interesting we noticed is that people spend more time looking at the Canyon (and everything else) through something — cameras, phones, binoculars — than looking through their own eyes. I wonder if there is some deep meaning there for civilization?
In any case, Cory showed me how to take a photo with my phone through his telescope, and this is it. For lack of a better way to explain it, the thing that looks like a belly button in the middle of the pink circle is an ancient cave in which was found equipment for grinding grain. People have actually been living in the Canyon for nearly 12,000 years. This cave appears to be in a wall without any easy access. I guess they didn’t much want to be bothered by intruders.
Wildlife of the Canyon
The Grand Canyon is home to many wild animals and we saw them everywhere. They were shy, but below are those we were able to photograph.
In fact, they have their own street-crossing signs.
The Human wildlife could be frequently seen running through thick forested areas and standing out on rocks way beyond the safety walls and “do not pass” signs. They appeared to have little regard for their own safety and never ran away when approached, as the other wildlife did.
Cory explained a lot about the various plants and trees in the area; unfortunately, I don’t remember most of it but will share what I can. Click on the pics to see detail.
These are edible pine nuts we saw growing on a tree. (A pine tree of course)
These are low-growing spiky cactus plants growing in the wooded area along the path where they can snag unwary tourists.
The fluffy little flowers at right are the seed heads of the Apache Plume – it is in the rose family and the Hopi use it in their bread called Piki bread. I am not sure how it is used – whether eaten or burned for the ash used in the recipe – but an interesting YouTube about making Piki bread can be seen here.
There is something unusual about many of the trees growing in the Grand Canyon park. Their branches and roots have an almost-flowing quality and great beauty. They are not at all like the trees you might see along a busy street.
On the rock below is a moss (I think?) that appears black and dead. However, as Cory demonstrated by pouring water over it, wetting puffs it up a bit and it begins to turn green (if you look long enough) … “coming alive” again.
It is hard to see, but the yellow posts in these pictures are agave. They become purple when flowering. This is the stalk, or flower spike, of the plant which grows out of a circle of spiky leaves on the ground. Many people think it is a cactus (I did, too) but it is not related either to cacti or aloe. Cory says when it is ripe, you can put sections in the coals of a fire overnight, and in the morning you have delicious roasted agave. Most people have heard of agave syrup and tequila, made from agave. There are four major edible parts – the flowers, leaves, stalks, and sap. Each plant actually produces several pounds of edible flowers in its final season, and the stalks of each plant weigh several pounds. Threads, paste, cords, pins, needles, and even paper can be made from the various other parts.
Well, the mules are not wild – they work here. One can tour the Canyons by mule. Several teams of mules are kept for this purpose and they are used rather than horses because mules are more sure-footed and fewer people have been killed by falls.
Cory took me right up to the barns where the off-duty mules stay and we tried to offer them an apple, but they were more interested in their dinner and just totally turned their backs on us and our apples.
Thus, we only got pictures of their butts.
Now, what you’ve been waiting for – below are our favorite pictures of the day. There are a lot of them, so most will be in smaller format. Please click on each of them to see them full size and with more drama.
This is the Desert View Watchtower, also known as the Indian Watchtower at Desert View. It was built by Mary Colter in 1932, but designed to be like an ancient Pueblo watchtower. It is built on a base of rubble, to appear as if it were built upon an older ruined building. It is 70 feet tall, built as an open shaft lined by circular balconies, accessed by small stairways. The original furnishings and decorations are protected as part of the historic building, but we did not see the interior.
This one is the Hopi House, built in 1905. It was designed by Mary Colter to resemble a typical adobe pueblo used by the Hopi Indians of Old Oraibi. It is a National Historic Landmark, and sells authentic Native American arts and crafts on the first floor, with museum-quality items on the second floor.
These are some of the original homes of the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) set up in 1933 by President Franklin Roosevelt to house the men he put to work here during the Great Depression. They planted trees, constructed trails and roads, fought forest fires and set up erosion control measures for the Canyon.
More Canyon views:
And as the light changed toward sunset …
Getting ready for SUNSET …..!!