A few years ago, I wanted to take Sheri to see the Grand Canyon. We flew into Phoenix, and rented a car for the drive up to Williams, Arizona for the night. Once we got to the hills, we hit a snowstorm. We made it to the hotel, despite nature’s best effort to send us slipping and sliding off of the freeway. I call it driving by the braille method.
We were headed to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams. It is a huge hotel owned by the Grand Canyon Railway. It has a huge indoor pool, and large dining and shopping facilities. Whether I would call it magical or tacky, we were excited about the train ride to the Grand Canyon the next day. The snow would only make that much more beautiful. The hotel, railway, and meals are sold in a package, and the very best way to do this trip. I would advise against driving to the canyon, if only to keep this magnificent area as green as possible.
Our drive up to Williams, just past Sedona, is almost due north of Phoenix. Once we got into the hills, it started to snow profusely. Traffic was stopped for about an hour while road clearing equipment made their way to our area. It was not a good feeling, as it was getting darker, while the snow was getting heavier. As we limped toward Williams, what we could see around dusk was just beautiful.
While the Hotel was not the most plush place we have ever stayed, it served its purpose. It was warm and dry. The cafeteria style dinner would work out just fine. The food was fairly non descript, but the great hall in which we ate was rustic and spectacular. We found the staff to be very friendly, and still full of Holiday cheer. All of us in the dining room were anxious for our trip to the Grand Canyon the next morning. We walked the hotel grounds and the train station area, both decorated for the Christmas Holidays. With the fresh snow, the Christmas lights, and the real snowmen, it was a scene out of a children’s story book.
Again, the next morning, we, and the hotel guests, ate our breakfast, while eager to begin our journey to the greatest natural wonder in the world. First, we had to negotiate our way through the busy train station. There were about three trains ready to take off for the Canyon. This chaos did allow us a little time to shop, and find out that our train would be second for departure.
When our train pulled up, we had to find the club car, since we upgraded, which I would highly recommend to all of you, especially those of you with young kids. Besides the obvious bar and snack service, the club car has much more room, and a personalized conductor/concierge to plan our trip once we get to the Canyon. As the journey begins, the low hills start with some sparse pines, then rapidly becomes heavily forested. We decided to skip the bus tour and do most of our sightseeing on foot.
As we approached the Grand Canyon, the excitement was just too much to contain. Kids and adults were as giddy as high school cheerleaders. We opted to walk over to the Canyon for a quick view, then lunch at the El Tovar Hotel dining room. First, it is hard to just take a glimpse of the Canyon without the sheer size and grandeur overwhelming each person. The snow we faced the evening before, was now our friend. The canyon was fully dressed for winter, and it was spectacular!!!
But let me tell you about lunch. The dining room at the El Tovar built in 1905, was more spectacular than the huge dining room at the Railway Hotel. It is the most luxurious lodging available on the south rim of the canyon. It gets better, as Sheri ordered a burger. Not just any burger, but maybe the best burger either of us have ever had. I can’t even remember what I ordered, but it paled in comparison. And the views from the dining room provided a great back drop to a busy lunch. When we go back, the El Tovar would be a great place to stay for a night or two. Now, we needed to head out on foot, walk off our lunch, take photos, buy some souvenirs, and enjoy the views.
Consensus is that the Grand Canyon was carved by the Colorado River over six million years. It is 277 miles long, and from 4 to 18 miles wide, and one mile deep. Two billion years of the earth’s history are exposed. Six hundred deaths have occurred here, primarily overzealous photographers. Since I don’t like heights, I cannot get too close to the edge, even if there is a barrier. Many locations along the path do NOT have a barrier. It makes walking on snow and ice a little bit of an adventure. In 1919, the Grand Canyon achieved National Park status. Five million visitors enjoy the same or similar views as we, each year. A good way to see it all is to fly over, which I have done many times.
One of the best things to do is to find a quiet bench, sit down, and just take in the incredible view and enormous Canyon vistas. As many writers have said, the Canyon makes each of us feel rather insignificant, for its sheer size, and its place in history. We began to view the spectacular colors, formations, and canyon floor. Some winter animals can also be spotted down below. I am not sure whether it is the size or the beauty of the canyon that stands out most. It is just too hard to make a determination. I will leave it up to you, as any description I provide would fall far short of its magnitude and brilliance. Perhaps it is just an overwhelming experience, so just look, enjoy, and feel.
After getting walked out, we headed back to our train. The ride back was rather quiet for most of us. We were tired, needed some hot chocolate or a hot toddy. We faced a 4 hour drive back to Scottsdale. All of a sudden, the beautiful snow we admired at the canyon, would become our nemesis for the next hour or so. Our car was covered with about two feet of snow. After I dug it out, we headed out, and back to the flatlands. This was a rather mundane end to a spectacular day and one of the most memorable experiences in our lives.
Subsequent visits to the Grand Canyon were done by auto from Sedona, or Scottsdale.