The Grand Canyon South
By Sylvie Berthiaume
For travellers arriving by Route 66 via Flagstaff, the south shore of the Grand Canyon is the closest. Even if it is visited by numerous families and hikers, the site is quite calm, as their attitude is different from the one of the Las Vegas partiers who go mainly on the West shore to walk on the transparent gateway called Skylark.
The road that leads us to the South shore offers us surprising views, often very close of the Oak Creek Canyon, as well as of the Vermillon and Echo cliffs.
Let’s talk about the discoveries, in the order in which they present themselves en route.
The Navajo culture at the shop and at the museum
Before arriving at the entry of the Grand Canyon, we cross the Cameron village on the Navajo Nation's territory. The Cameron Trading Post reveals itself as an essential stop.
The vast shop is divided in two parts: The one providing authenticity made by hand in the form of useful or decorative objects as well as of silver and turquoise jewelry; the other part, well identified, offers the small souvenirs which constitute copies. We therefore know what we really buy.
Do not hesitate to enter the small museum, located just aside the shop, where you can buy for sometimes up to thousands of dollars… dresses, moccasins and other vintage Navajo accessories or art from famous artists.
Grandiose is an euphemism
Once arrived on the South shore of the Grand Canyon National Park, you may decide to drive by car on the summits and to stop at each of the two dozen lookouts, or to opt for the sport of hiking down to the floor of the canyon where flows the Colorado river.
Magnitude of the site: Elevation of 2,100 meters on the South shore, total length of 4,950 km, width of 16 to 28 km, depth of 1.6 km.
Its peaks, turrets, chimneys, plateaus and other incongruous shapes have been formed by the erosion of the Colorado. Only in the Grand Canyon, the river extent is 446 km in length, and its depth varies from 12 to 25 meters.
The surreal beauty and hypnotic feeling of the site is equal to its scope. The photos of course say more than words.
Grand Canyon Village
A village both genuine and luxurious awaits us. It is here that tourism has started with the famous El Tovar Lodge, a former hunting lodge built by a large railway company, inaugurated in 1905.
The same year, the first woman American architect - Mary Jane Elisabeth Colter - erected the Hopi House, using the indigenous techniques and materials. Later, in 1930, Mrs. Colter also signed the architecture of the Bright Angel Lodge.
These hotels and a series of small chalets can be visited and, of course, leased. The surroundings encompass other hotels built mainly in the years 1960-1970.
Once our curiosity satisfied, we treat ourselves with a beautiful walking promenade above the Grand Canyon, on a small asphalt road, during approximately 30 minutes. Before dinner...
Dinner at the Arizona Room
Tender seafood and large juicy steaks are served on beautiful tables, in front of large and high panoramic windows overlooking the Grand Canyon. Their portions and taste go hand-in-hand with the show outside.
Comical fact: Utensils are plastic. At first sight, we are a little shocked by this lack of sensitivity to a beautiful meal. The reason is simple and legitimate: we are in a desert and it is absolutely necessary to save dishwater… Fortunately, the true knife for steak is the exception to the rule.
Apotheosis: The sunset
Early evening is a very beautiful time to prioritise. The observation sites take a little respite since there is less visitors and the light is always sweet before sunset.
People sit on flat rocks and wait for, with more and more excitement, the phases of the impending nightfall. Each new shade of color, each thinning and each radius between the clouds brings its stream of interjections and photographic clicks.
You should however admire it fully and take pictures of the canyon before the sun reaches its full yellow and orange brightness, because when it occurs, we see only the sun, and the formations of the canyon disappear under its glare.
The route to go back is illuminated differently as well as all the rocks and mountains we saw earlier during the day: It is worth stopping and taking new pictures with all those new colors.
Costly egocentric temerity
It is downright appalling to see people, even families with children, take crazy risks to make beautiful pictures of themselves, at the end of the rocks of the canyon, above the emptiness!
The danger of falling is real. To preserve the nature and the authenticity of the site, there are few places with fences. Each year in the Grand Canyon, a few tens of people die…
Trekking off of marked trails is also very hazardous… The dangers are the extreme heat, the roughness of the ground, animals, etc. It is necessary to know that zealous adventurers can get lost, and multiply the dangers for their health and lives. The financial consequences can also be serious: Any rescue operation by the emergency services is charged easily up to thousands of dollars.
Nature is stronger than human:
Respect for nature is a sine qua non condition.
Respect of our own limits, as well.