Above photo: Navajo wood carving for sale at Hopi House. (In the old days I woulda bought it, but now I just take a photo of it!)

I awoke to harsh winds, and rain that turned to sleet and then to snow. My helicopter tour was canceled, and I sat fretting about what to do next. Then, as quickly as it had come, the snow ended, and melted right away. By 2:00 p.m. I was on my way to Grand Canyon Village.

Bright Angel Lodge at the village has been there in one form or another since the 1800s, even before Grand Canyon was a protected national park.

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Much else of what you see at the village is due to Fred Harvey. El Tovar, the venerable and stately hotel, was designed by a Santa Fe railroad architect.

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And then of course there is Lookout Studio, designed by Mary Colter, completed in 1914.

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And The Hopi House, also by Colter, built in 1904.

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What do you suppose these great American lodges and architectural masterpieces would look like if they were commissioned today? Lots of bad faux stone with metalwork, no doubt. Towering menacingly above the landscape, without regard for integration into the environment.

I was fascinated to learn of the Fred Harvey Indian Couriers and Indian Detours. According to the museum in the Bright Angel Lodge, “The Harvey Company launched Indian Detours on May 15, 1926. Passengers departed the train, boarding chauffeured Packard and Cadillac touring sedans with courier guides. The Harvey Company hired young women, all armed with college degrees in history, geology, art and archaeology, to interpret the Southwest to travelers. They had to speak Spanish or learn it and were tutored by the leading geologists and archaeologists of the day. The Fred Harvey Couriers provided the intellectual component to his long-standing reputation for first class hospitality. They helped mold the image of the Southwest known to this day.”

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The Grand Canyon is a cruel mistress. It is easy to become obsessive/compulsive about the canyon. Take a photo and walk away, then turn around less than a minute later to find the hue or depth or shadowing of the terrain has already changed. It must be maddening to painters.

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At VerKamp’s Visitor Center I came across those national park “passports” I see everywhere:

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As one travels to various national parks, stamps can be obtained, usually found in the gift shop, to add to the booklet.

I see these as great fun and a good distraction for children, but why an adult would want to do it is beyond me. In fact, while touring the Oklahoma City Memorial Museum, dedicated to the victims of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, tourists old enough to know better barreled through the exhibits, nattering incessantly about where to find their stamps. So much for solemnity.

I was able to get a same-day dinner reservation at El Tovar because the weather scared everyone away. I stopped in for a cocktail at the bar before my appointed dinner time. The two bartenders were excellent personifications of the types of people drawn to work at the Grand Canyon. One had been in The Canyon for one and a half months; the other had been bartending in The Canyon since 1983. They both struck me as fiercely independent and somewhat eccentric individuals (just my type of folks), and they both invited me to return for the tourist season, because the Grand Canyon always needs bartenders. How fun that would be!

As I fully expected, both dinner and the service were superb. I looked out the window next to the fireplace onto the canyon as the sun set.

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What a perfect day.