One Last Look Over the Rim

Just how long can one stretch out a story about the Grand Canyon, one might ask?  Well, longer than the average visitor spends on the edge of the rim…

I decide to stay one more day on the snowy South Rim, after all, no one seems to notice that the Winnie is taking up space in the empty Backcountry Office parking lot.   I’m already winterized and have plenty of propane, and my parking space is within a 10 minute walk of the rim.   Why not stick around one more day, put all my gear away from the trip, and do some of the “touristy” things along the rim?

One of the largest Visitor Centers I've seen in a National Park.

One of the largest Visitor Centers I’ve seen in a National Park.

A sign of what life is like in the summertime...

A sign of what life is like in the summertime…

Mather Point, from the Visitor Center.

Mather Point, from the Visitor Center.

I stop at the expansive Visitor Center, but the big fancy projector in the movie theater is not working.  Turns out it’s so automated that no one knows how to revive it. So I decide instead to have a chat with the Ranger.  At first, he seems a bit bored with my “rim shot” questions, but then I tell him “I am not one of those ‘wham-bam’ tourists…I actually spent the last three days at the bottom of the canyon.”  From this point on, we have a lovely and engaging conversation, sharing a few laughs.   He tells me his number one question asked is “What’s there to see and do here?”

Mather Viewpoint.

Mather Viewpoint.

A Raven gets his rim shot.

A Raven gets his rim shot.

The most bizarre book I have seen yet in an NPS bookstore...

The most bizarre book I have seen yet in an NPS bookstore…

Not only does he reinforce the statistic that only 1% of the five million visitors travel below the rim, but he tells me the remaining 99% spend an average of 15 minutes at the rim.   Fifteen minutes. At first, I find this inconceivable.   The Grand Canyon is not exactly a drive-by stop.   One must drive at least an hour from I-40 to get to the rim.   Could it be true that people would go to all that effort, walk to the edge, snap a few selfies, and then drive away?

I return to the scene where a stop along Hermit's Rest road overlooks the Bright Angel Trail. Looking at the switchbacks (far right lower corner) of yesterdays hike makes my feet AND my stomach ache!

I return to the scene where a stop along Hermit Road overlooks the Bright Angel Trail. Looking at the switchbacks (far right lower corner) and following the trail on down make both my feet AND my stomach ache!

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Beautiful fireplace in Hermit's Rest, one of four Mary Colter Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

Beautiful fireplace in Hermit’s Rest, one of four Mary Colter Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

But then, I remembered…I was once that tourist.  In 1995, I attended an American Express sales meeting in Phoenix.  While sitting around the conference table as the days meeting was wrapping up, someone mentioned the Grand Canyon, and a discussion ensued.  Who had seen it?  Who had never been?  Before you know it, one of those crazy plans was in full swing.  We would rent a car, stay at a hostel in Flagstaff, and be back by morning….If we spent fifteen minutes there, that was a stretch.  We dubbed ourselves the “GC5,” a moniker that stuck between four co-workers and our Continental Airlines Sales Rep, bonded over a 24 hour escape from the conference room with only the forgotten film in the 35mm canister to solidify our reputation among the remainder of our teammates as “the crazy ones.”

The "GC5 in 1995."

The “GC5 in 1995.”

Aside from one other visit on a family vacation when I was twelve, that was it.  So I figure another day on the rim can’t hurt.  There’s an art show going on in Kolb Studio with many of the same artists I met in Zion.   It’s fun to see the Grand Canyon in their same styles, after watching them paint Zion Canyon.

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View of a sliver of the river from Mojave Point along Hermit Road.

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Sunset over the canyon from Hopi Point along Hermit Road.

The shuttle to Hermit’s Rest stopped running December 1st, which means cars can now drive the eight mile scenic Hermit’s Road along the rim.  By now, the roads are dry, so I decide to drive this road at sunset.   But the more interesting show turns out to be the people getting in their fifteen minutes along the rim.  I ponder the question, “How close is ‘close enough?”  There’s still a good bit of ice and snow on the rim, yet people seem determined to park their tripods (or worse, their butts!) right on the overhang.  Does that extra few inches edging out toward the abyss really make that much difference in a photo? So I sit there on the concrete wall, one eye on the setting sun, the other eye watching for falling objects.  😉img_1840 img_1850 img_1851

It’s a pretty benign sunset on the South Rim my final day.  Still, I think of a new version to the old adage on the bumper sticker….”A bad sunset on the South Rim is better than a good sunset from the office window.” Fifteen minutes on the rim is better than fifteen hours in the conference room.

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I wish all my friends and followers of the TTTH blog a very “Merry, Happy, Feliz, Joyous” whatever adjective best fits your festivity and warms your heart. Your support and comments throughout the year have each been a special gift to me, making me smile, while keeping me company on the road. I am grateful for your friendship and fellowship.

May your holidays be filled with love and laughter, joy and light, and the greatest “gift” of all…good health.

30 thoughts on “One Last Look Over the Rim

  1. My BIL and family took a trip West, visited the GC BIL stopped got out of car took a look, about 5 seconds worth, then went back to car to listen to ball game. It’s no wonder I don’t want to visit on holidays :)

  2. I’ve just discovered your blog, and you write and photograph beautifully. I love the Grand Canyon and think it is one of the most wonderful places on earth. Visited both rims, hiked to the river and back, ridden a mule in it, and rafted the river twice. Now after seeing your beautiful pictures, I’m going to plan a winter trip.

    Happiest of holidays to you.

  3. Sadly, this Ranger is right. I notice at overlooks visitors spend from 2-6 minutes, snap a few phone selfies, and off they go to the next stop. That book is the #1 best seller. Welcome to the GRCA 1%. Sure glad you took the extra day. Next, the North Rim.
    Merry Christmas!
    PS: Snowing in Kanab.

  4. I get the heebie jeebies just looking at the pics of those people so close to the edge. I have just recently signed up for your blog and am very much enjoying it. Merry Christmas and continued adventures n 2017.

  5. I have loved every word of this Grand Canyon series. Your photos and your prose are amazing. You are quite gifted! Happy holidays to you and many wonderful adventures in the upcoming year!

  6. Our family lived in Flagstaff for many years and spent a lot of time at the South Rim. One time, we had friends visit and we offered to take them to visit the canyon and explore the park. They refused – because they “had seen pictures of it”. One of our fondest memories is staying in a historic cabin at Bright Angel Lodge in February, enjoying cups of hot coffee on the walkway near the Kolb Studio, while watching the sun rise.

  7. I am actually a proud owner of the book you have a photo of “Death in The Grand Canyon” and I have actually read it cover to cover………some very interesting stories there and spoiler alert not all of the stories end in death as some escaped to live another day.

    Merry Christmas to you as well. Again some awesome photos!

  8. Your sunset shots from the South Rim are stunning, and what a sweet photo from 1995…your memories brought a smile. I’m hitched up, Suzanne; tomorrow the Shasta will be heading south…final destination: Cedar Key, after a few days exploring the Emerald Coast. This first solo camping trip is dedicated to you as you have been my greatest inspiration from the first reading of “Alone, But Never Lonely” through this gorgeous and insightful “coffee table” blog. The best of the best. May 2017 bring you all you ever hoped for (good health is a great start)…”For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice.” ~~T.S. Eliot…Onward, ho! :-)

    • Rhonda, this comment gave me a lump in my throat and a little mist in the eye. LOVE that quote…it’s one I had not read before, and you know how I love a good quote. 😉 Please travel safely, and as Kenny Chesney would say, “French kiss life square in the mouth.”

  9. I found every word of this series fascinating. We lived in Northern Arizona for almost 30 years and visited the Grand Canyon many times but never made the trip to the bottom of the canyon. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  10. Merry Christmas! Always looking forward to viewing your posts with your amazing pictures. You sure are an adventurous girl with a gift of the pen.

  11. A couple we know visited the GC, and as they were walking to the rim encountered some kind of ecumenical religious service. They detoured for the service and when it was concluded felt so uplifted they left without seeing the Rim and Canyon. She has repeated this story many times to us and others, so it was obviously a very moving experience for her. So, went to the GC and spent ZERO time at the rim? I laughed when I first heard this and am chuckling now as I type.

  12. Merry Christmas, Suzanne! Thank you for all of the great stories and beautiful pictures you have been so willing to share. Looking forward to see what adventures you will experience in 2017!

  13. Love, love, love your blog! We got 3 miles down the south Kaibab trail for a day hike. Love the canyon. I wish you a Merry, Joyful, Happy season, and can’t wait for your next post my friend! Who were the GC5 in 1995??
    Take care!

    • Thank you, my beautiful friend, and a Happy New Year to you and Chris!

      The GC5 were L to R behind me, Chris Carr, Claudia Santino, and Rebecca Pope. The guy in the back was our Continental Sales Rep, whom we all adored, but now I sadly can’t recall his name…

  14. Thank you for so many arm chair adventures this year. I hope that you continue to give us access to all those fascinating places, your descriptions both written and photographed create so much fascination and enjoyment. Please have a wonderful new year. You have brightened ours this year and we hope to share those adventures next year.
    Peace and joy1

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