Canyons 2015: winter wonderland

By the time we made our way back to our room last night, the temperature was going down. Although there were a few flakes of snow in the air they may have been from the trees; the sky was clear and the stars were out. Sunrise photography was off the menu though. Let me put it this way. The weather app said that the dawn temperatures would be -11C, feeling like -17C. Er…no. Thank you, but no. I couldn’t see me mustering up much moral support for that activity either. So we had a lie in, at least until 7.30, and then opened the curtains.

Blue skies! Sunshine! Woohoo again!

Once we were ready to go we decided to head for the visitor centre to find out if the shuttles were running. Before we could get more than a hundred yards we saw one, so that answered that question. With that established we decided to walk to the village again and head up the Hermit Road. The Greenway was looking lovely and it was nice hiking on the fresh crunchy snow. 

Until the bobcat showed up. This is a snowplough for paths not a wild animal, but it left a thin veneer of compact snow/ice behind it which was much slippier than the snow to walk on. We walked a bit slower and often slightly off the edge of the path, a tactic we would use frequently during the rest of the day to avoid dangerously icy spots (as long as the edge of the path wasn’t…well…the EDGE of the path…).

We walked past the train station and up by the El Tovar again – and there was the canyon! It looked very different to yesterday. 

 We caught the shuttle bus to Hermit’s Rest, staying on until the end of the line. The snow was melting off the bus stop roof where we boarded but it was still icy on parts of the road.

 Before setting off on our hike we had hot chocolate and a cookie sitting by the fire.

Today was apparently the National Park Service’s “take a hike” day. And we had a very good hike. Eight miles along the Grand Canyon Rim. The views are always good, changing as you make progress and the sun moves round. 

Parts of the route are paved, and where the sun had reached this, the snow had generally melted off. Other parts were still icy. About half of the walk is still unmade ground. This was often still snow covered and walking on these sections felt like walking into the freezer aisles in Tesco before they installed the more environmentally friendly units with doors on! The air temperature fell several degrees on top of the snow and away from the sunshine.


We had seen some elk early in, sitting by the side of the road, but at one point we encountered elk on the path. They have the whole park to wander in and yet they have to stroll along the paved path, munching leisurely on occasional juniper plants. We took to the woods and walked around on the road to give them the required distance. Apparently elk blocking your route is a legitimate reason for being late to work here.

We walked out to Powell Point again…the canyon really is out there!

We made it back to Bright Angel shortly before sunset, passing some deer in the woods, so we strolled between there and El Tovar while the sun went down.

 Then it was time to walk over to Maswick Lodge for dinner. We encountered some more deer, one of whom was very curious and carefully came right up to Andrew to check him out. The herd then crossed the road, using the pedestrian crossing location!

 In total we had walked around 11.7 miles, making us just a little peckish. Afterwards we thought (briefly!) about walking back to our lodge, but opted for the bus instead as it was dark and icy. And cold. Luckily the bus came almost as soon as we got to the stop and we were soon back at Market Plaza. The short walk back to our cabin probably rounded up our daily total to 12 miles in any case. Now it’s time to rest, shower and have an early night. Long drive tomorrow. 

(Note to readers: I am using flaky wifi in the room, which theoretically we shouldn’t be able get here at all but it is too cold to go back to the main lodge building, so if there aren’t any/many photos uploaded, please check back again after 5pm on Weds, GMT!).

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