It is from the south. The motor-road to Grand View is available for most of the year. The railroad to the El Tovar Hotel serves the year around, for the Grand Canyon is an all-year resort. There is a short winter of heavy snows on the rim, but not in the canyon, which may be descended at all seasons. Both routes terminate on the rim. Always dramatic, the Grand Canyon welcomes the pilgrim in the full panoply of its appalling glory. There is no waiting in the anteroom, no sounding of trumpets, no ceremony of presentation. He stands at once in the presence.
Most visitors have bought tickets at home which permit only one day’s stay. The irrecoverable sensation of the first view is broken by the necessity for an immediate decision upon how to spend that day, for if one is to descend horseback to the river he must engage his place and don his riding-clothes at once. Under this stress the majority elect to remain on the rim for reasons wholly apart from any question of respective merit.
After all, if only one day is possible, it is the wise decision. With the rim road, over which various drives are scheduled, and several commanding points to whose precipices one may walk, it will be a day to remember for a lifetime. One should not attempt too much in this one day. It is enough to sit in the presence of the spectacle. Fortunate is he who may stay another day and descend the trail into the streets of this vast city; many times fortunate he who may live a little amid its glories.
Because of this general habit of “seeing” the Grand Canyon between sunrise and sunset, the admirable hotel accommodations are not extensive, but sufficient. There are cottage accommodations also at cheaper rates. Hotels and cottages are well patronized summer and winter. Upon the rim are unique rest-houses, in one of which is a high-power telescope. There is a memorial altar to John Wesley Powell, the first explorer of the canyon. There is an excellent reproduction of a Hopi house. There is an Indian camp. The day’s wanderer upon the rim will not lack entertainment when his eyes turn for rest from the chasm.
From the hotel, coaches make regular trips daily to various view-points. Hopi Point, Mohave Point, Yavapai Point, and Grandeur Point may all be visited; the run of eight miles along the famous Hermit Rim Road permits brief stops at Hopi, Mohave, and Pima Points. Automobiles also make regular runs to the gorgeous spectacle from Grand View. Still more distant points may be made in private or hired cars. Navajo Point offers unequalled views up and down the full length of the canyon, and an automobile-road will bring the visitor within easy reach of Bass Camp near Havasupai Point in the far west of the reservation.
Many one-day visitors take none of these stage and automobile trips, contented to dream the hours away upon Yavapai or Hopi Points near by. After all, it is just as well. A single view-point cannot be mastered in one’s first day, so what’s the use of others? On the other hand, seeing the same view from different view-points miles apart will enrich and elaborate it. Besides, one should see many views in order to acquire some conception, however small, of the intricacy and grandeur of the canyon. Besides, these trips help to rest the eyes and mind. It is hard indeed to advise the unlucky one-day visitor. It is as if a dyspeptic should lead you to an elaborate banquet of a dozen courses, and say: “I have permission to eat three bites. Please help me choose them.”
Wherever he stands upon the rim the appalling silence hushes the voice to whispers. No cathedral imposes stillness so complete. It is sacrilege to speak, almost to move. And yet the Grand Canyon is a moving picture. It changes every moment. Always shadows are disappearing here, appearing there; shortening here, lengthening there. With every passing hour it becomes a different thing. It is a sun-dial of monumental size.
In the early morning the light streams down the canyon from the east. Certain promontories shoot miles into the picture, gleaming in vivid color, backed by dark shadows. Certain palaces and temples stand in magnificent relief. The inner gorge is brilliantly outlined in certain places. As the day advances these prominences shift positions; some fade; some disappear; still others spring into view.
As midday approaches the shadows fade; the promontories flatten; the towering edifices move bodily backward and merge themselves in the opposite rim. There is a period of several hours when the whole canyon has become a solid wall; strata fail to match; eye and mind become confused; comprehension is baffled by the tangle of disconnected bands of color; the watcher is distressed by an oppressive sense of helplessness.
It is when afternoon is well advanced that the magician sun begins his most astonishing miracles in the canyon’s depths. Out from the blazing wall, one by one, step the mighty obelisks and palaces, defined by ever-changing shadows. Unsuspected promontories emerge, undreamed-of gulfs sink back in the perspective. The serpentine gorge appears here, fades there, seems almost to move in the slow-changing shadows. I shall not try even to suggest the soul-uplifting spectacle which culminates in sunset.
Days may be spent upon the rim in many forms of pleasure; short camping trips may be made to distant points.
The descent into the canyon is usually made from El Tovar down the Bright Angel Trail, so called be-cause it faces the splendid Bright Angel Canyon of the north side, and by the newer Hermit Trail which starts a few miles west. There are trails at Grand View, eight miles east, and at Bass Camp, twenty-four miles west of El Tovar, which are seldom used now. All go to the bottom of the Granite Gorge. The commonly used trails may be travelled afoot by those physically able, and on mule-back by any person of any age who enjoys ordinary health. The Bright Angel trip returns the traveller to the rim at day’s end. The Hermit Trail trip camps him overnight on the floor of the canyon at the base of a magic temple. The finest trip of all takes him down the Hermit Trail, gives him a night in the depths, and returns him to the rim by the Bright Angel Trail. Powell named Bright Angel Creek during that memorable first passage through the Can-yon. He had just named a muddy creek Dirty Devil, which suggested, by contrast, the name of Bright Angel for a stream so pure and sparkling.
The Havasupai Indian reservation may be visited in the depths of Cataract Canyon by following the trail from Bass Camp.
The first experience usually noted in the descent is the fine quality of the trail, gentle in slope and bordered by rock on the steep side. The next experience is the disappearance of the straight uncompromising horizon of the opposite rim, which is a distinctive feature of every view from above. As soon as the descent fairly begins, even the smaller bluffs and promontories assume towering proportions, and, from the Tonto floor, the mighty elevations of Cheops, Isis, Zoroaster, Shiva, Wotan, and the countless other temples of the abyss become mountains of enormous height.
From the river’s side the elevations of the Granite Gorge present. a new series of precipitous towers, back of which in places loom the tops of the painted palaces, and back of them, from occasional favored view-spots, the far-distant rim. Here, and here only, does the Grand Canyon reveal the fulness of its meaning.