The Grand Canyon
Day Eight (Sept. 1, 1975) was dedicated to touring Arizona’s Grand Canyon, carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries as well as mass erosion over the last 17 million years. The result is that nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed along the sheer walls of the Grand Canyon, which is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide at some points, and over a mile deep.
My family took advantage of the free shuttle bus service to view the Canyon. During the busier summer months, when parking is difficult to find on the South Rim, the shuttle bus might be your best option. Bus routes and schedules are posted HERE. You can hop on and off at multiple scenic viewing sites, and buses arrive every 15 minutes (sometimes 30 minutes), depending on season and route.
Tusayan Ruins and Desert View Point
We visited the Tusayan Ruins (aka Tusayan Pueblo), an 800-year-old Pueblo Indian site located within Grand Canyon National Park. You can view a small living area, storage rooms and a kiva (a room used by Puebloans for religious rituals). The site was occupied for only about 20 years (1185-1205), according to excavation clues and tree ring studies.
Next, we stopped at Desert View Point (elevation: 7438 feet), a short 1/4-mile walk from the parking area.
In addition to Desert View, there are numerous other scenic vantage points along the 25-mile Desert View Drive on the South Rim: Pipe Creek Vista;Yaki Point (not accessible by vehicle, you have to take the free shuttle bus); Grandview Point (a very steep and unmaintained walking trail starts here; you’d better bring water); Moran Point (great view of the three major exposed rock groups); Lipan Point (view the Unkar Delta below, where Puebloan people once lived); and Navajo Point (highest overlook on the South Rim).
Exactly which ones we visited, I cannot remember. After hours and hours of “oooohs” and “aaaahs”, the scenic viewpoints all start blending together.
Wupatki National Monument
My family visited both the Lomaki Ruins and the Wupatki Ruins at Wupatki National Monument. You can walk/hike the Lomaki Ruins trail (0.8 miles roundtrip) to see several pueblos (as well as rubble piles in the distance), last occupied some 800 years ago. Lomaki means “beautiful house”.
We saw even more pueblos amidst red-rock outcroppings at the Wupatki Ruins. (Wupatki means “tall house” in the Hopi language.) The area was first inhabited around 500 C.E./A.D. A volcanic eruption at nearby Sunset Crater, between 1040 and 1100 C.E./A.D., showered the area with volcanic ash, which improved the soil for farming (mainly maize and squash) and led to a population influx of about 2,000 Puebloans. By 1225, however, the area was permanently abandoned.
We visited Sunset Crater in 1975. Unfortunately, we did not see any raging volcanic activity or Puebloans fleeing for their lives.
The Painted Desert
Our final stop was the Painted Desert outlook. From here, you have a view of the Painted Desert area – a vast landscape of rocks in many hues: deep lavender, red, orange, pink and gray. The Painted Desert stretches eastward from Grand Canyon National Park to Petrified Forest National Park. Much of it lies within the Navajo Nation.
After a 150-mile drive of touring and sightseeing, my family checked into Newton’s Inn Motor Hotel in Phoenix, exhausted.
The next day, Day Eight (Sept. 2, 1975), we “took a vacation from our vacation”. In my old Journal, under “Places Visited”, I only wrote: “swimming pool”.
Interactive Google Map of the places mentioned above: