Monday, May 29, 2006

Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon May 8th- 10th

Monday 8th May -Hoover Dam.
Finally we left Vegas, and drove past the famous 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign. I had enjoyed my time there but I was not sad to be leaving. Despite being very glitzy and clean on the surface, their policy to allow smoking everywhere finally got to me. Dick is normally the one who doesn't like crowded places, but I was with him this time. That and the men and women lining the streets slapping their hands to try and get your attention to give you an almost pornographic card advertising the 'services' of some young scantily clad woman. Lovely. You can imagine the litter build up at the end of the day. Not a place to take anyone under the age of 18.

So we headed east out of Vegas towards the Grand Canyon. There was lots of building work going on near the Hoover Dam. It seems they are building a bridge across the river, so you won't have to drive across the dam itself in years to come. Probably a security issue these days. You have to go through a security check point even now.

The dam is not as big as I imagined as you drive up to it, but is huge when you stand on it. First we did the tour, where you watch a movie of the history of the dam first. It is then that you realise how much of a huge achievement it was when it was built during the depression. It was finished sooner than they had planned and gave a lot of people jobs when there weren't any, as well as providing water for so many. Then they take you down into the dam and they show you the insides. The guide told us that they had only recently started allowing visitors to do this again after 9/11. Unfortunately you can't go outside at the bottom of the dam any more, which apparently really did make you realise how big the dam is. But you do get to go on an observation platform which hangs over the dam and you get a real bird's eye view of the power tower's which hang at a 45 degree angle over the valley. We walked across the dam into Arizona, where I discovered they do not have summer time, so despite changing time zones, the time was still the same.

Back on the road, the scenary becoming more sparse and dry toward the canyons. I wanted to go in the East entrance of the canyon, and we got their just as the sun was going down which was perfect timing. You start to see clues that you might be near the canyon when the landscape changes and everything looks very flat. The park is free to enter at that time of day, and there are several viewpoints. We stopped and watched the sun go down over a smaller end of the canyon and it was stunning. We were warned that there was so much more. Driving along towards Grand Canyon village it was getting darker but there were sparks of what looked like firelight. The parks service were doing some controlled burning which gave the whole end of the trip a really surreal feeling.

We stayed at the Grand Canyon hotel, an attempt at a lodge style hotel, which had free wifi in the lobby, so Dick was a happy man (somewhere to download his podcasts!) It was late enough that we ate in the hotel and had an early night ready to go hiking the next day.

Tuesday 9th May- Grand Canyon
We bought an annual National Parks pass, a cheaper way to see all the parks we would see this trip. Nothing really prepares you for parking up and walking over towards the canyon in what seems a normal tourist area and then suddenly seeing the huge expense of the canyon right in front of you. Stunning. Gob smacking. Ten miles from the south rim to the north rim and it seems a lot further. I just couldn't stop taking photos, and it is true that none of them can really show what is there. Everytime you look, you see something else that catches your eye.

We had planned to walk some way down the Bright Angel Trail, a trail that can lead to the canyon floor, but you can't safely do it in one day, and we had not planned to hike for more than a couple of hours as it is very hot down there. The trail meanders down but fairly steeply, and I was concerned about coming back up as I am not as fit as I should be right now. So Dick, Joel and Stevie carried on down a bit further and I had fun playing with my camera whilst making my way back up.

After lunch we drove to some of the other view points and I took yet more photos. I just couldn't get enough.

That night we ate at a restaurant at a spitting distance from the canyon, so Stevie and I even walked over to see the sunset again between courses. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and watched the famous Imax movie about the history of the Canyon, which was also well worth it.

Wednesday 10th May- Sunrise
I had seen two sunsets over the canyon but not a sunrise, so I got up at 4:30 am, and drove into the park to the nearest viewpoint where people were already gathering for the sunrise. It was cold! I had on a fleece and a jacket and was still cold, but it was worth it. More people arrived, including a Japanese tourist bus- I only really noticed them as some were wearing masks as if they were trying to avoid the pollution. Pollution? I had a great view and took loads more pictures, the reds in the layers of rock showed even more clearly.

I drove back to the hotel on deserted roads only to see elk eating the flowers in the hotel flower beds! I saw four in total and they totally ignored me. Then I went back to bed to warm up!

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