THE GRAND CIRCLE PART VI – The Grand Canyon and More
By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers
Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is the most visited national park in the West* and for good reason. The scope of the canyon is awesome, and the 270 miles of dramatic geology shaped by natural forces, including the eons of etching by the Colorado River, must be seen to be truly appreciated.
As the sun rose over the north rim, the only sound that could be heard at the Mather Point was clickclickclickclickclickclick. It was the chirping of a hundred cameras capturing the spectacle that can’t really be recorded in a picture … or a dozen … or even a video. But since most of us were there to enjoy the animated feature of early morning light streaming across mammoth rock formations, the photos and videos are the preferred way to remember the thrill at dawn a year from now, 10 years from now, and maybe 50 years hence.
For our travel companions, Philippe and Solveig from France, this was one of the many highlights of our five-week trip on the Grand Circle that began in Las Vegas and took us through southern Utah and Colorado and northern Arizona. It didn’t end there: there were more memories to record on digital media so they could reminisce for years to come and show off to family and friends on their America nights back in Europe.
Because a week earlier we decided to bypass the high winds predicted for Canyonlands National Park, our travel schedule had a hole in it that needed to be filled. We arrived at the Grand Canyon two days before our reservation at the Trailer Village, which was booked solid, so we drove southward a few miles out of the park and into Ten-X Campground in the Kaibab National Forest
Ten-X was a good dry camping stop. Peaceful, spacious, only $10 for two nights with the Golden Age Passport (plus $5 for firewood), and convenient access to the IMax theater and the canyon. In Europe, according to Solveig, campgrounds are small. Campers are practically next to each other, so they appreciated this chance to be surrounded by forest.
After two days, we moved to Xanterra’s Trailer Village within shuttle distance of all the park features, services and overlooks of the South Rim of Grand Canyon … and full hook-ups. Having spent four days and nights taking in the vastness of the park, we departed early for a destination unknown. I remembered that Sunset Volcano National Monument was somewhere in the vicinity of our road southward to Sedona, so Monique routed us there – and it belonged on our itinerary!
This is actually Siamese-twin parks – Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments – accessed by a 34-mile loop road. The first, Sunset, features dormant volcanoes surrounded by acres of evidence of lava flows from centuries ago. The latter takes visitors to the ruins of natives long departed. The Bonito Campground built on volcanic rock, our home for two nights, offered another opportunity for dry camping in another of nature’s unusual settings.
At the Interpretive Talk Saturday night, Ranger John Westerlund advised his audience that we shouldn’t miss Walnut Canyon National Monument, and since we had reservations in Sedona, we didn’t need to be in a rush to reach Monday night’s destination. Another very interesting hike on the loop trail
puts you between 300 cliff dwellings on one side and rocky wilderness across the steep gorge.
For the BIG FINISH of our Grand Circle Tour, we gave Philippe and Solveig a taste of Sedona, Arizona, a special town that thrives on being among vortexes of energy. This has been a magnet for metaphysical people for at least 50 years, drawing the hippies of the ‘60s through ‘80s, when it caught on as a tourism mecca. Despite the overflow of visitors there to gawk at the beautiful sunsets and panoramas, it is still a place where you can stare in fascination and appreciation at the vibrant red rock formations in every direction. Bumpy roads along faces of precipitous buttes and mesas are alive with rented Jeeps and tour-company shuttles.
After three days in Sedona hiking and putting our 4-wheel drive truck on some rough terrain, we drove to Phoenix to meet the jet taking our guests back to France. Our Discovery 2011 adventure had ended. We hope you enjoyed it over the past five weeks.
A quick note about $$$. The entire trip costs us about $3,500, or about $1,750 per couple. That’s four people for 35 days or about $25 per day per person:
Campgrounds (dry camping & fh-u): $910
Restaurants: $156 (including senior coffees)
Total Miles: 2,656 (about $0.265 per mile fuel cost)
According to Philippe’s figures, he couldn’t have stayed a week in a good American hotel with quality food for $1,750. He and Solveig are very appreciative of the adventures they had, or, in Philippe’s words, “UNFORGETTABLE & OUTSTANDING.”
As for Monique and me, we’re headed back to our recently purchased cabin on a mountain in southern California, at least long enough to participate in a few modifications. We will take our Bigfoot travel trailer out a few times in the coming months, but our next planned big trip will begin this fall when we return to the Death Valley ‘49ers Encampment that starts November 9.
Doesn’t seem like we’ll get bored anytime in the near future.
From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.
* I try to avoid statistics, but the obvious question is, “What’s #1 in the nation.” It’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. In 2009, 6.4 million people visited that park. Grand Canyon was second in the nation with 3.2 million.
© All photos by Barry Zander and Philippe. All rights reserved