Nov 11, 2023 – Grand Canyon NP, AZ
We’re camped in Mather Campground which is close to the main visitor center. It’s a large campground without electric or water at the campsites but has nice bathrooms. Pay showers are available in an adjacent service area. The campground is nicely spread out and is shaded by a mix of ponderosa pine and juniper.
WAWA Parked in Our Mather Campground Campsite
We woke up to an outside temperature of 15°, which we expected. WAWA handled that with ease. We kept the heat set at 65° overnight and had the water heater set to periodically turn on and circulate to keep it from freezing.
We used the free shuttle bus system to go to Mather Point and the main visitor center there. There’s a very popular walkway out on to the protruding rock that is Mather point. The view was spectacular, as expected, and everyone was taking photos standing on a tall rock in the center of the walkway.
We Strike Obligatory Pose on Mather Point Rock
One of the Views from Mather Point
Another View from Mather Point
Back at the visitor center we watched their film about the canyon. It emphasized the history of the place and the efforts underway to preserve it and keep it as natural as possible. That’s a huge challenge for a place with as many visitors as it has.
We then followed the rim trail west as far as Yavapai Point and the Geology Museum. There was a volunteer there who had a spotting scope aimed at the first bridge within the canyon to cross the Colorado River. An amazing engineering feat, the black-colored suspension bridge was designed to carry hikers and mules. It was barely visible with the naked eye. With the scope we could easily see individual hikers crossing it.
Center Left is Tiny Dark Line that is Kaibab Trail Suspension Bridge
Others Were There for the View Too
We asked the volunteer about a structure we’d noticed low in the canyon on a point above the river. He said it was several shipping containers that had been flown in by helicopter to store equipment and tools that were being used to replace the pumps and water line that supplies water to facilities and homes in the park. It is a 5 year, $300,000,000 dollar project. Designed to last 70 years, it will replace the old system that was designed to last 25 years but is still in use after about three times that. It really is a demanding project that has to be executed in a very difficult environment and to lift the water about a mile vertically.
We returned to WAWA for lunch and during that time several elk grazed their way through the campground. They are quite habituated to humans and were unperturbed by the attention they received.
Several Elk Browse through Campground During Lunch
In the afternoon we biked the eastbound rim trail as far as South Kaibab trailhead. The curving, paved multiuse trail was pretty, alternating between stands of pinyon pine and juniper and sections right on the rim with almost nothing to prevent you from riding over the edge. The trail ended at the Kaibab trail, the most popular trail down into the canyon from the south rim. There we saw lots of hikers climbing back off the trail as well as others just beginning their descent down the initial switchbacks. Not a trail we were up for.
We Were Hardly Alone on Rim Trail
One of Many Spectacular Canyon Views from Rim Trail
Puffy Jackets Felt Good in Cool Afternoon Weather
Just Another Grand Canyon Viewpoint
Rim Trail Ran Through Pygmy Forest in Some Places
In Other Places You REALLY Didn’t Want to Run Off the Trail
On our way back to the campground we stopped at the park’s General Store. It’s quite a place. They offer everything from high quality outdoor apparel, equipment and supplies to a rather complete range of groceries including a great selection of beer, wine and liquor. Yep, “general”.
Back at the camper we cooked up a batch of chili and then left it to take the shuttle back to Mather Point to see the sunset. Well, you can’t actually see the sunset over the canyon from there but the view east is pretty anyway. There weren’t many clouds so it wasn’t particularly colorful but a very pretty view in any event.
Clear-Sky Sunset Looking East
Lots of Folks Gather at Sunset
Colors Were a Bit Different Facing West
Back home we ate our fill of the chili and had a quiet evening.
Nov 12, 2023 – Grand Canyon NP, AZ
We began our day by moving WAWA from our shaded campsite to the sunny parking lot near the Backcountry Office to let our solar panel system recharge the camper’s batteries while we explored more of the park.
Today we wanted to visit the viewpoints to the west of the visitor center. We chose, this time, to see them using the shuttle bus. The busses run about every ten to fifteen minutes so you could step off a bus, look at the views and then hop back on the next bus. We skipped some of the stops, planning to walk part of the way back to our camper from one of the intermediate viewpoints.
View from Mohave Point, We Think
Just Loved the Shape and Texture of this Tree Trunk
Enough Juniper Berries to Flavor a Couple of Gin and Tonics
Canyon View with Glimpse of Colorado River
Closer View of Colorado 5,000 Feet Below Us
The westernmost viewpoint is named Hermit’s Rest. It was built in 1914 at the end of Hermit Road and the Rim Trail as a rest stop for people on carriage tours before returning to Grand Canyon Village. It still serves much the same purpose today with restrooms, snack bar and, of course, a gift shop.
Arrival at Hermit’s Rest
View from Hermit’s Rest
Gift Shop Situated in Great (and Only) Room at Hermit’s Rest
Shaded Porch was Nice Place for an Ice Cream Snack
Wouldn’t Want to Get Caught in this Bear Trap
On our return trip we got off the bus at Mohave Point and walked the Rim Trail to Powell Point. It was there that Bill believes that he caught a glimpse of a California condor as it glided past the point; a condor because of its size and its long wingtip feathers. He saw it again at a distance, cruising the updraft winds from the canyon, but at that distance he couldn’t see it in detail.
Powell point is named for John Wesley Powell and there is a monument to him. In 1869 Powell led the first documented passage through the Grand Canyon. Starting with ten men and four wooden boats they started in Green River, WY, following first, the Green River into the Colorado, and then the Colorado for a total of 930 miles. Along the way they encountered the many unknown and dangerous rapids while mapping and documenting what they saw along the way. It was an epic journey!
Sandy Takes Picture of Bill
Bill Takes Picture of Sandy
Walking Rim Trail Toward Grand Canyon Village
Our journey was less epic as Bill’s knees were beginning to bother him so we bussed back to the Village and the recharged WAWA.
We took lots of pictures along the way and, although we included some of them in this post, they begin to all look the same after awhile. The magnificence and sheer size of the Grand Canyon is something you really have to see to even begin to understand. Many very capable people have spent their entire careers studying aspects of the place and there is still very much to learn. It provides a unique viewpoint into the history of this earth and the creatures that inhabit it.
Final Shot of Glorious and Seemingly Endless Grand Canyon
Nov 13, 2023 – Grand Canyon NP to Kingman, AZ
Leaving the park, we headed south to the town of Williams for breakfast at Anna’s Place Grand Canyon Coffee & Café. It has a reputation for serving a great breakfast and it did not disappoint. The building the Café now occupies reportedly began its existence as a brothel which explains the scantily clad female figure in the second story window.
Lady of the Evening Beckons Us to Breakfast at Anna’s Place Café
One of Many Nostalgic Businesses in Williams
The Town is Ready for Christmas with Artificial Tree
The Mother-of-All-Tee-Shirt-Shops along the Mother-Road
Historic Route 66, known as “The Mother Road”, passes through Williams and the town has a reputation as the best preserved town along that highway. We spent a couple of hours walking the town. The people of the town have, in fact, done a great job in the heart of the town preserving the old storefronts and maintaining the general appearance of what the town probably looked like in its 1950s heyday. Most of the buildings have been repurposed, of course, and today they house a variety of shops and galleries. The goods offered for sale are fairly upscale compared to what we find in most tourist destinations and we enjoyed looking through the shops.
Retro Motor Inns Dot the Route 66
What’s Your Fancy, Cocktails, Tattoos or Ice Cream?
Don’t Know if Bypassing Williams Hurt or Helped the Town
Cars of the Mother Road
We Yearn for the Gas Price but Not for the Ride
This Ford Looked Pretty Good
How Many Cars Did it Take to Make This Example?
Hey, We Didn’t Have Unleaded Back Then!
Mini Guided Tour Anyone?
After a west-bound stint on I-40, we jumped off at the town of Seligman to take Historic Route 66 the last 60 miles to our destination in Kingman. The road is a two lane blacktop strip with a speed limit of 65 mph, unheard of in our native Pennsylvania. Of course, no PA road is as level, straight and lightly traveled either. We kept count for about 40 miles and were passed by just one car and only passed seven cars traveling the opposite way!
Yup, there are a few old fashioned Burma Shave sign sequences along that section of road. The brand is long gone but someone resurrected them to offer a few driving safety messages.
We drove to downtown Kingman because it, too, is reputed to be something of a Route 66 throwback. However, the two blocks through the main historic section is being rebuilt and, since it was Monday, the stores were closed. Bummer!
We drove back north to our night’s destination, Mike’s Route 66 Outpost & Saloon. Mike’s is a Harvest Host location so we’d have a free place to spend the night but we were a bit put off by the appearance of the place. Those concerns were quickly gone when a patron sitting on the porch told us where we’d be able to park our rig and that we should do so before checking in. The spot was a nice, level gravel spot at the rear of the property. There were about ten full hookup campsites on the property and even a clean rest room.
Mike’s Outpost Looked Sketchy but was Actually Quite Friendly
Dollar Bills Covered Ceiling and Most Walls
Monday is dart night at Mike’s and the place was crowded as people competed in the informal competition. We spent time talking with a local couple who were in on the dart competition. Then, we ordered our food and Sandy spoke with another local couple who gave advice on places to visit on our way west while Bill spoke with a another couple from Quebec who were on a six-month warm weather camping trip. They, too, were camping for free at Mike’s and we had a lot in common except for language. We worked our way through their limited English mixed with Bill’s very limited understanding of French.
Nice Sunset Outside Mike’s
It was a fun evening.
Nov 14, 2023 – Kingman to Parker, AZ
We left Mike’s Outpost in the morning, drove back to Kingman to hop on a short section of I-40 and then picked up AZ-10/Oatman Hwy/Historic Route 66 again towards Oatman. This section on Route 66 was a difficult one for early travelers on the Mother Road. It crossed the Black Mountains via a twisting, steep pass. Early automobiles’ cooling systems and brakes weren’t so hot and people sometimes had their cars towed over the pass.
Many Historic Route 66 Signs Along the Road
Route 66 Gets Pretty Narrow Heading Toward Black Mountains
We stopped at Cool Springs Station just prior to arriving at the portion of the road that crosses the pass. The place is just an unassuming stone outpost with a couple of small outbuildings. Historically, it has a spring and the owner supplied water to travelers before they crossed the mountain. The original building had already been replaced a couple of times when the folks making the movie, “Cars”, decided to use the site. They rebuilt the old stone building as a movie set, blew it up for the movie and moved on. A subsequent owner rebuilt it again to become a tourist attraction.
There’s not much else to see on this road so people do stop, hear the story, buy a souvenir or two and move on. Perhaps the most popular souvenirs are tee shirts, signs and magnets that say, “I survived 191 turns, 8 miles, no guardrails.” That pretty well describes the road over Sitgreaves Pass. Vehicles over 40 feet long are actually prohibited from driving the road because it would be difficultto make multi-point turns to negotiate some of the many hairpin turns along the road.
Cool Springs Not a Town but a Building Along the Road
This Couple was Pictured on an Old Poster
One of the traditional stops on the road is the “goldfish pond”. An early land owner noticed consistent water seepage from rocks above the road and built a retaining wall to capture the water. Somewhere along the way a person unknown released some goldfish in the pond and the rest is history. We were told it can be difficult to spot and we agree because, although we were looking, we completely missed the stone stairway to the little pond.
Wild Burros are Common Here
Sandy Spots Burros Along Road
Sitgreaves Pass has a wonderful overlook.
Looking Back at Some of the 191 Turns from Sitgreaves Pass
… and at What Awaits Us on the Way Down the Other Side …
The pass is also a place where people have chosen to place memorials to loved ones they have lost. There are hundreds of small crosses, plaques and other types of memorials at the top of a small peak next to the parking area and they continue down the hill on the west side of the pass. It’s a touching sight.
Some of the Many Memorials on Sitgreaves Pass
Cross of Pistons, Timing Chain and Camshaft Must Memorialize Motor Head
Other Messages in Pass Less Focused
Even Kermit Makes an Appearance
Beyond the pass is the town of Oatman. It began as a small gold mining camp in 1915 and the population rapidly grew to several thousand, becoming one of the largest US gold producing areas of the 1900s. During WWII the government ordered the mines closed because mining other metals was higher priority. The town was then almost completely abandoned. Today, with a population of about 100, it survives as a nostalgic Route 66 tourist town with old western-looking buildings with wooden sidewalks selling the usual souvenirs.
Busy Downtown Oatman
Black Peaks of Black Mountains
There are also lots of wild burros in this area. They often wander the streets of Oatman looking for handouts and the shops sell small cubes of hay to feed them. We only saw one during our drive through town. However, a few miles further on an “independent operator” was standing in the middle of the road blocking traffic while looking for handouts. It actually nuzzled our windows but we were without a treat.
Burro Begs for Handout
Lake Havasu City is situated along, you guessed it, Lake Havasu on the Colorado River. It’s a good sized town and attracts lots of visitors for water sports and is home to a sizeable snow bird community in the cold months.
It is also home to the London Bridge which used to cross the Thames River in London. When the city of London sold the bridge it was disassembled, each stone marked and shipped to Lake Havasu City. It was reassembled there, crossing to an island in the lake. There is a tourist area at the foot of the bridge designed to emulate what it may have looked like in London at the time of its construction. We were impressed. The bridge is lovely and looks like it’s just where it belongs. The “London Village” is tasteful and appears to be quite popular.
London Village at Foot of Bridge
London Bridge Looks Like it Belongs Here
There are several AZ state parks south of town along the Colorado River that offer camping. Our intention was to spend time in and around Havasu City the next day. However, Bill misunderstood where the park was when he made reservations. Oops, Buckskin Mountain SP was actually about 25 miles south of the city and much closer to Parker, AZ! However, it was a lovely park. Not much more than the campground itself, it is on a point largely surrounded by the river. There are campgrounds all up and down this area including some in California, just across the river.
View of Lake South of Lake Havasu City
We settled in and enjoyed the evening, deciding that the next day could be a “lay day” for us to catch up on some chores.