We finally made it to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Even though it is only eleven miles across the canyon, it is a 24 mile hike through the canyon or a 200 mile drive around the canyon. We arrived at the south rim late in the day and only had time to drive in to Desert View, the first view of the canyon from the east. The Watchtower, one of the many structures designed by Mary Colter for the Fred Harvey Company, is located at Desert View. Fred Harvey, who has a less than stellar reputation, was an early concessionaire who operated the canyon for the Park Service. The Watchtower overlooks the canyon and art work inside reflects the Native American heritage of the area. We boondocked in a scenic meadow in the Kaibab National Forest outside the park because our rig was too long for the park campground.
The next morning drove into the Grand Canyon Village. We stayed in Trailer Village with full hookups but it was operated by another much less than stellar concessionaire. We stayed there one night then moved to the Mather Campground which is fortunately operated by the National Park Service, no hook-ups but we got a large, beautiful site. We hiked out to Mather Point and along the Rim Trail. Mather Point is named for Steven Mather who was the first director of the National Park Service and was instrumental in having the Grand Canyon designated as a Park. Many of our photos appear to be hazy because the forest fires burning in California were affecting the visibility at the Grand Canyon. We also attended a ranger led tour of the Kolb House. The Kolb brothers' home hangs over the edge of the canyon. They were the first photographers in the canyon who made a living taking pictures of the mule riders in the 1920's. They also made a boat trip down the Colorado River and made the first ever motion film of boating in the canyon. They then gave very popular lectures on their trip and movie to promote tourism at the Canyon.
Our friends from 7 Branches in Durango, Karen and Dale Potter joined up at Mather Campground. Dale had read an article about the Bass Camp and Trail which was a long way thru the woods and down the canyon from the tourist areas, so we decided to 4 wheel it out there. It was 36 miles one way on a very dusty rocky road, that also included traveling through a section of the restricted Havasupai (Navajo) Tribal lands. There was a gate at the entrance where we should have paid a $25 entrance fee but there was no one at the gate so we "decided" to enter anyway. When it appeared we were lost, we "decided" to ignore the "No Trespassing on Tribal Lands" signs but further down the rail we were "confronted", literally, by a heavily armed Navajo [elk] hunting party. They were on ATVs in lieu of horses and they made it "very" clear that white men were not welcome in their hunting grounds! Luckily they apparently decided Jim's & Dale's bald scalps were not good trophies! The views and solitude from Bass Trail were well worth risking our scalps even though it took us 3 days to repair tires and clean the dust out of the truck. Dale and Jim hiked down the Bass Trail to the point which required a 60 foot rappel to go any further.
The next day, Jim and Dale left at 6:00 a.m., Thursday (September 24) and hiked down the Bright Angel Trail. Their first water stop was at Indian Gardens, 4.6 miles and 3800 feet below the rim. They then hiked out to Plateau Point, another 1.5 miles, for incredible views from inside the canyon and 1000 feet directly above the river. Jim then went all the way down to the Colorado River and back the same day for a total of 19 miles and 8,720 feet vertical in one day. He made it back to the rim and "dragged" into the campsite 13 hours later in the dark! Unbelievable!
While the guys did all the physical stuff, Karen and I shopped, explored the road out to Hermit's Rest, attended a ranger presentation on early women in the park, and found all the places in the park to get National Park stamps for Karen's new collector's book. We also had a very nice lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge. Next morning we had breakfast with the Potter's. They were headed home to Missouri via Durango and we were off to Flagstaff. We'll see them again in January when the "Five Branches Ski Club" meets in Breckenridge for skiing.
Regarding our "encounter" with the Navajo hunting party, we learned three weeks later that we had in fact committed a serious "indiscretiontion" by entering without permission. While in Mariposa, California, our campground host was Cherokee Indian whose tribe was originally from Georgia. He explained that the reason no one was at the gate to take our money is because it was during the "Ghost Dance" which is when the Navajo hunt and eat nothing but elk meat for three weeks before performing their ceremonial dances. The all meat diet contributes to halucinogenic states during the ceremonies. We do have great respect for new Navajo "acquaintances" and do not intend any disrespect by discussing their very private rituals. Next time we will get permission to enter!