South Rim of the Grand Canyon & Camp Verde
And the end is near ……
We are coming to the end of the caravan with only two more stops! Before we left Lake Powell to head to Williams, AZ it was suggested that our en route stop should be the Cameron Trading Post. This outpost, in the middle of the desert along the Little Colorado River, was established in 1911 as a trading post visited, at that time, only by the Navajo & Hopi locals to barter their wool, blankets, & livestock for dry goods. Today it is a thriving tourist location with a constant flow of shoppers looking for that perfect Indian souvenir or diners enjoying their famous Indian Fry Bread tacos. When we arrived the place was packed with tour buses, RV’s, bands of motorcyclists, and lots and lots of tourists. We were able to squeeze into a tiny overflow parking lot but found the wait at the restaurant was a bit long so after walking around the store we then had a picnic in the parking lot before heading on to Williams.
Our next campground, the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park was right off of Route 66. So after getting settled we took a walk down the famous byway seeing how people got their kicks in years gone by at the restored stores and restaurants. We returned to the campground for another social and a quick white elephant exchange game then had dinner with Richard and Kathy at the Pine Country Restaurant. On the walk back to the campground Joanna spotted a rather large skunk scurrying down Route 66. Guess the wildlife like getting their kicks too on the famous thoroughfare. (Sorry he was moving to fast to get his picture!)
Our big excursion in Williams was the Grand Canyon Dome Car Train to the South Rim. This epic tourist train included a pre-ride gunfight at the train station, special seating in the dome car for the 2 1/2 hour one way trip, on board entertainment and food (including champagne), a train robbery with robbers attacking the train on horseback, and beautiful scenery as we traveled to and from the canyon. We had three hours to explore the rim area so we hiked down a portion of the Bright Angel trail. We wanted to revisit this trail as we had hiked it 28 years ago, but that time Jon was carrying our 18 month old daughter on his back! It was much easier going this time!
As was becoming our habit the next day, we skipped the bus tour to Bearzonia and headed back to the canyon. We were much more interested in hiking than seeing a wildlife zoo. Since we started out 4 months ago we had been slowly increasing the length and difficulty of the hikes we had been attempting. The six mile Grandstaff Trail back in Moab showed us that we were getting pretty fit so we decided to take the shuttle bus out to the Hermit Rest Rim Trail thinking we would hike several miles then catch the shuttle back. There were several shuttle stops along the route but every time we got to the next stop on the hike back, we would say, “ahhh maybe the next one” and we kept hiking. Hiking aaaalllllllll the way back to the Bright Angel Lodge, hiking ….. TWELVE MILES!!!! And it was AMAZING!
We hiked the rim all the way back and when I say rim, I mean RIM! There were times it seemed we were more on a goat path than a trail. As most people only explored the area around the shuttle stops we had the trail between the stops almost to ourselves. We saw condors, a bull elk, an elk doe and yearling, big horn sheep (we were on their trail!), swifts, hundreds of ravens and red tail hawks sailing on the updrafts, scurrying lizards and lots of squirrels. At every turn we saw simply fantastic views of the canyon. It was so beautiful we just couldn’t stop but wanted to see what was hiding around the next corner, on the next promontory, and over the next ridge. By the time we got back to the lodge we could feel every mile in our feet and legs but it was soooooo worth the effort!
After our epic adventure we needed a day of rest, so the next day we hid out in our coach doing chores and recovering. We had our last travel brief and social on the morning of the last travel day and then we headed out to Camp Verde, AZ and the Distant Drums RV Park. The last scheduled tour was a bus tour of the Sedona area and, as we had skipped out on the last few tours, we really felt we needed to attend the last one. Though is was nine hours on a bus (ugh!) we got a glimpse of Montezuma’s Castle, Turzigoot Ruins, had lunch in historic Jerome, drove up Oak Creek Canyon and got to see the view of the valley from the Airport Mesa. It was a bit of a blur by the end, but we were glad we had made the effort to be sociable.
The caravan ended with a Farewell dinner at the Cliff Castle Casino’s Storyteller Restaurant. The name of the restaurant comes from the Navajo tradition of passing on history though stories and the decor really invites you to sit back and enjoy your meal while sharing stories of your day. We were up early the next day, packed up and headed north to find trees, rain, and family!
We do realize that there has been a negative undercurrent to these post about the caravan. We have written a long detailed evaluation which we hope Adventure Caravan finds useful in making improvements to the tour. We have learned a great deal from this experiment. We are retired and want to set a much slower pace, we enjoy having more time to explore the areas we visit, and we love long adventurous hikes in the wild. We do want and enjoy social interactions but on a more person to person rather than group level. At this time, we do not foresee taking another caravan of this nature as it does not fit our traveling goals.
All that being said, we did meet some very nice people, some of whom we hope to meet down the road again. We got a glimpse of an amazing area of our country which we plan on returning to in our future travels, and we are grateful for all we have been able to see and do over the last month.
Next we will catch you up on our month on the Olympic Peninsula.