In planning our trip to the Grand Canyon area, we wanted to expand our choices and experience a little more of Northern Arizona. Travel was also a consideration. After using I-10 as the primary path moving westward, we planned to make the final turn to I-40 for the trek east and home. We left Las Vegas to make the final swing east to I-40 and Williams, Az.
Our target was the Grand Canyon Railway and RV Park. Williams is a small town about an hour south of the Grand Canyon and is part of the historic Route 66.
Grand Canyon Railway RV Park is a block north of Route 66. The RV park is well-kept park offering sizeable sites with concrete pads. Sites offer wi-fi and cable. The park is designed for easy access and exit. The property also boasts a large hotel, as well as a train depot with access to the Grand Canyon Railway which offers daily travel packages to the Grand Canyon.
The site also has a Fred Harvey restaurant located at the train depot. Fred Harvey is famous for establishing fine dining restaurants along the route of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Harvey helped increase western travel by recognizing that travelers wanted to experience comfort and the finer things while traveling to the rough exterior of the emerging West. Harvey restaurants became famous for fine food and décor as well as the servers who were called “Harvey Girls”. There was actually a popular movie starring Judy Garland called, The Harvey Girls, featuring an Academy Award winning song, “The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe”.
The train depot has a gift store with a café and a small museum. Another feature of the depot is the daily Western show for people waiting for the first trip of the day to the Grand Canyon Railway. There is a small replica of a Western town where several cowboy actors put on a show each morning with gun fights and real horses. The stands usually fill with families and kids who enjoy the loud shooting and bad comedy. Families also enjoy taking pictures with the cowboys and their horses afterwards.
The number of families were a bit surprising, but we learned that it was school vacation week in the area so we braced ourselves for the obvious onslaught of families and their children with whom we would be sharing this adventure during the week. In actuality, it just so happened that school vacations would seem to follow us for the next couple of weeks through Utah as well.
We decided to depart early for the hour-long ride to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We were surprised as we approached the area south of the park. The area had several hotels, campgrounds, and restaurants as well as park-related businesses such as tour companies and helicopter opportunities. Most of the national parks that we had previously visited were in more remote areas lacking all of this hustle and bustle. We would later realize the more popular the destination the more commerce surrounding it.
As we got closer to the park, we began to realize that it would be a busy day with many people visiting. We decided to head for the visitor center with a goal of hitting Mather Point as a starting point. When we reached the massive parking area at the visitor center, we were happy that we had gotten an early start. The parking areas, which are extensive, were filling up very quickly. After a walk to the center were encountered a sea of people, many of whom were waiting to utilize the shuttle system to visit other parts of the park.
We decided to make our way to Mather Point which is one of the iconic views of the south rim. It was a fairly short hike from the center. There were lots of people at Mather Point, but not an overwhelming crowd, so we were able to stop at several vantage points to experience the majestic views. It is somewhat staggering to think about what had to happen over millions of years to create this magnificent place. Pictures cannot come close to doing justice to its vastness and beauty. We walked along the rim for some time checking out various vantage points.
The Grand Canyon was the first site where we experienced the phenomena of the daredevils who we would encounter through several others parks. There are railings along many of the areas where people can gather and take pictures. There are also open areas with enticing cliffs and rock structures jutting out over the canyon where more adventurous souls can venture out for that needed selfie or photo that no one else has gotten. This was the first but not last time we would see people of all ages risking their lives for that perfect picture.
After spending some time walking along the rim, we decided to leave the area and make the drive up to Desert View. After the thirty-minute drive to the area we were fortunate to find parking. Although there were plenty of people in the area, the swell of people continuing to enter the park had not yet caught up to us. Desert View was a bit of a different experience.
I was able to climb the Watchtower to the observation deck on top, which was not exactly level and tended to slope downward toward the outer walls, leaving me feeling like we would be able to topple off the edge and over the cliff. After enjoying the view for a few minutes and taking some photos, I made my way down the narrow and uneven stairs to the ground level.
The views from this part of the rim were a bit different than Mather Point and offered more of a variety of levels and some vegetation as well.
As we were leaving Devil’s Tower and exiting the park, we could see that the park was much fuller and the traffic was heavier. We were happy that we had decided to make an early start of the day.
The next day we decided to make the walk down to Route 66 and walk the half-mile or so to a stretch of stores and museums. This strip of road was certainly interesting and offered a great deal to look at, but I am not sure exactly how much of what we experienced replicated the Route 66 experience of the 50’s and 60’s.
We had been looking for some western-inspired art since Texas to add some color and decoration to the RV. We had found a couple of pictures in Tucson and Grand Canyon, but we were looking for something unique for an area under the kitchen cabinets and next to the sink. We found just what we were looking for in an art and gift store on 66. It is a colorful metal wall sculpture that incorporates many of the southwestern images that we had experienced along the way. There is a howling wolf, a rattle snake, a cactus, a moon and a kokopelli, which is a dancing, flute playing fertility character of Mexican and Native American culture.
It had been a bit colder than normal since we had arrived in Williams. Daytime temperatures had hovered between the high fifties and mid-sixties depending on the amount of sun. There had been a day with some light rain and snow flurries early in our stay. On the day before we were scheduled to leave the area, we woke to a great surprise. We had gotten five inches of fresh snow deposited on the area overnight. Although I knew that there would be a good deal of melting during the day, I wanted to make sure the truck and the site were free of most of the snow before trying to break down and leave the next morning. Without a real shovel, and armed with only a truck brush and a broom, I attempted to clean off the truck and remove as much of the snow as possible. The entire time I mumbled under my breadth complaining that this is what we had left Connecticut to avoid. The sun and temperature of the day removed most of the remaining snow and left no doubt that we could leave without problems the next day.
We enjoyed the Williams area and all that it offered. The trip to the Grand Canyon was something that both of us had always wanted to experience and we were glad we were healthy enough and had the opportunity to do so.