Trains, Mule Trains, Mules and Mule Deer (Apr 29 2014)

GrandCyn60.JPGIt’s the last day at Grand Canyon and we get up early to get parking at the Main Visitors Center, but we rushed for nothing. At 9am, the parking lot is still pretty empty.

From here, we take the Orange Shuttle to the end of its route and walk back along the Rim. From South Kaibab Trailhead, down the switchbacks to Ooh-Aah Point. There are plenty of older people walking these trails, many with walking poles that look a bit like ski poles. They seem to have become very popular over the last few years.

A family of hyper-amped up Japanese run and skip down the steep trail, paying no attention to anything up ahead.

“So typical,” grimaces Big Dog. It scares us both – they look like an accident waiting to happen.

OohAahPt4.JPGOoh-Aah Point is mobbed by a huge group of school kids. They are not as cute as the two French boys we also meet on the trail. The older one is a teenager and a bit self-conscious, but the younger one who is about 10 or 11 is completely unselfconscious and cute as a button. Apparently, no one has told him that the entire world does not speak French because he asks me where I’m from – in French. (I am happy to have understood his question and been able to reply, though it probably did nothing to change his linguistic world perspective.)

One day, I’d like to hike down to the Colorado River, but Big Dog doesn’t think he wants to do that.

“How about a mule train, then?” I ask and he considers it until we cross paths with an actual mule train. It looked like great fun for me but too uncomfortable for Big Dog.

GCmuleride10.JPG“A river trip would be better. Plus, with the mules, you’re just seeing the same scenery from different heights. You’d get more from a river trip with the ever-changing scenery,” he says. However, at $200/day or more, it’s highly unlikely either of us will ever do this.

GCsign3.JPGThere are plenty of mules but also plenty of mule deer, who are, incidentally, not a cross between mules and deer! The name comes from their large, mule-like ears. The tourists go nuts when there’s one in sight, surround them and get too close. And feed them, despite all the warning signs.

GCmuledeer4.JPGGCmuledeer8.JPGBack at the Visitors Center, we eat, drink water and then take a shuttle to the Village area to check out the Grand Canyon train. There’s a real American train “otaku” on board with us, wearing a striped engineer’s cap.

GCtrainstn1.JPGThe station is small and well-preserved, but the train ride does not go along the Grand Canyon rim like we had thought. It takes you from Williams TO this station, thus Rails TO the Rim. Not Rails ALONG the Rim.

From the Bright Angel Trailhead, we walk down to a natural tunnel. It is incredible how many fit and active old people there are. It’s very encouraging. Plus, you don’t see many massive fatties in these parks. Guess massive fatties aren’t the outdoorsy types. Or even traveling types. How can you be if the couch is your best friend?

GCBrightAngelTrail4.JPGGCBrightAngelTrail5.JPGUnlike the Winter Roadtrip, this trip has not been about American Culture. It’s been about nature’s artistry and the wonders of the wilderness and we have soaked in much during the past couple of weeks.

Including dirt, dust and smells.

I really want to shower. I really NEED to shower. And there are camper services just outside the Mather Campground! Sure, it costs $2 to shower, but you get 8 minutes and even though Big Dog would have wanted to share that time, men and women are in separate sides so I get my very own 8 minutes of nice, warm showering.

When I start showering, I’m the only person there, but as I get ready to leave, another person enters and begins showering IN THE VERY NEXT STALL! Out of a dozen stalls, all empty except mine, she has to be in the very next one? What is up with that??? Water splashes in from her stall and it is a bitch to dry myself and get back into my clothes without getting all wet.

“I want to see the sunset! I think it’ll be a good day for it. We can drive to a viewpoint, watch the canyon colors change while having our beers,” I suggest.

GCsunset5.JPGBig Dog drives Sprockets to a viewpoint, east of the Visitors Center, but it’s a bit of a dud. Both the sunset and the beers. The canyons didn’t redden and “pop” like we thought they would, instead, turning into more shadow, and the beers were…just mediocre and better for their labels than contents.

GCsunset3.JPGWe stop at Yavapai point before the campground. The sunset is better here and there are throngs with cameras. On the west side of the museum, more people are sitting, staring at the setting sun.

GCsunset6.JPGGCsunset7.JPGGCsunset14.JPGGCsunset15.JPG“It’s just going to disappear behind the canyons and then everything’ll get dark,” says Big Dog. No, it’s not quite like a beach sunset.



Author: ontheroadwithsprockets

I've been traveling since I was born -- the first big trip was before I was two, across the Pacific, from my native Japan to Los Angeles on a cargo ship. There have been many journeys since then, through many continents and cultures.

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