A few things about the Grand Canyon National Park first. The part of the Grand Canyon that the park service maintains is the eastern portion. The western portion is owned by Native Americans. (that is where the sky walk is) This eastern portion is covered in thick forest. That threw me off when I first arrived here. I expected a plateau of some sort with a barren desert landscape and a giant hole. In the national park, the only spot that you can see for miles is looking into the canyon itself. The park has a few campgrounds and during the winter only the Mather campground is open (that’s where I’m camping). The park has a village that includes a full blown grocery store, post office, and Chase Bank. That also surprised me. There are around eight lodges that feature huge rustic lobbies, gift shops, bars, lots of rooms, and the worst wi-fi known to man. The wi-fi lets you make it to your home page then it goes on vacation. Thank God I found the library at the park headquarters. It is the only place in the whole park with an internet connection worth messing with. A lot of folks along my journey told me that there wouldn’t be anyone at the park this time of year. I know that there is no where near the amount of people that the summer time brings, but there are still several thousand tourists running around here in the cold of winter and finding a parking spot near one of the lodges, even on a motorcycle, is damn near impossible. I couldn’t imagine the sort of madhouse that this park would be in the warmer months. If you can handle the cold, I would highly recommend coming to the Grand Canyon in the winter months. I’ve been walking around for a few days and I here way more foreign languages being spoken than English. Now on with day 81.
The light of morning graced my Kelty tent and the rush to get some hot coffee going began. The elevation around here is around 7,000 feet and it is bloody cold out when you wake up. All caffeinated up, I strolled to the campground facilities for a hot $2.00 shower. That will get you 8 minutes around these parts. The stall I happened to be in had an engraving in the wall that said “$1:50 4 a shower, rip-off “. I guess the park service didn’t get that guys memo before they hiked the price up to 2 smacks. Finally it was time to get going. My mission was to familiarize myself with the layout of the village and not stop until I found some good internet. I just knew if Big Bend (one of the most remote spots in the USA) had good wi-fi, then surely the Grand Canyon would have it also. There is no way I would go 7 days here without doing a post. For one, I would forget everything I did on the first few days and, two, my goal is to record the trip as thoroughly as possible. My wild goose chase took me all around the park, through all of the lodges and finally to the park headquarters and library thanks to a tip from a guy at one of the visitor centers. By that time it was after 2 pm and most of the light of the day had passed. No worries though, I’ll be here for a total of 7 days and I have plenty of time to mess around in the canyon. After leaving the library, I decided to hike a short, 1.3 mile, trail near the visitors center, before dark. When at the Grand Canyon it’s tough to be creative with your shots. It’s a massively impressive gap in the earth and the thing to do is take millions of pictures of it. I soon realized that I could spend a week taking the same sort of pics, all of them pointing down into the hole, which kind of concerned me due to the lack of creativity that that requires. The little paved trail meandered on the rim of the canyon had clear spots here and there for viewing. Like I mentioned earlier this part of the canyon is very wooded. As you hike the rim you can’t see around the next corner. One of those “next corners” got me. I was strolling around like the pale picture taker that I am when I rounded a corner and BAM! Right beside the trail were three huge elk. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous. The shrubby little trees weren’t big enough to climb and if one of those beasts wanted to charge I’d have nowhere to go. Backtracking would put me in the forest way after dark and on one side of the trail was a few thousand foot cliff and the other were the elks. I had to get the hoofed herd to move. I reverted to some trail knowledge that I learned in some of the other parks that I’ve been in on the trip. Signs say, if you encounter wild life, to make noise throw rocks or sticks and keep your distance. So there I was, raising my voice, demanding them to move and throwing anything I could find at them. (trying not to actually hit them with the rocks). They didn’t give a shite about my protest and just kept grazing. One time I got one to look up when I was waving my arms around. Finally they just walked far enough away for me to safely pass. Relief. The Goose wasn’t far away and on my short trek back I came across a mule deer with a massive rack. Like the elk, he wasn’t worried about me either.
After my wildlife encounter I headed to the Bright Angle Lodge to charge up some batteries before heading back to camp. I asked a fella behind the desk if the elk have ever charged anyone in the park. He said they have on about five occasions. The people they charged were tourists who thought the elk were tame and owned and managed by the park and a few of the unaware tourists even tried to pet them. The only thing owned and managed in the Grand Canyon are the donkeys folks. Everything else can is as wild as a West Virginian and can hurt you. Yee haw!
(Somewhere around 1pm I was sitting in the lobby of the headquarters with one other lady. Her and I started talking and she and her husband camped right beside me in Page AZ at the campground. Small world. She told me her daughter, is a tri-athlete who ranks 8th in the world. Her daughters last name is Wurtele if you want to look her up.)