Grand Canyon RV Park: Road Trip Heaven

Perfectly placed adjacent to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and within walking distance of the Route 66 historic district

Some of the happiest travelers are the ones who never leave home. Why? Because they take their home with them in the form of an RV!

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each year hundreds of thousands of these dedicated RV travelers map out their personalized Great American Road Trip and push a pin into one of the world’s great destinations, the Grand Canyon. As they wrap up their driving day, they find a great place to spend the night at the 5-star Grand Canyon Railway RV Park. But it’s not just the park’s many amenities that attract RV travelers. It’s the location, location … and history.

Historic Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66 once stretched uninterrupted from Chicago to Los Angeles. Over time, however, it lost ground to the interstate system until, on October 13, 1984, I-40 bypassed the final, stubborn section of Route 66 in Williams, Arizona. Having outlasted every other mile of America’s Mother Road, Williams retained a retro-hip 1950s vibe highlighted by kitsch signage, neon lights, and cool diners—an absolute must-do for road trippers.

Grand Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perfectly placed adjacent to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel and within walking distance of the Route 66 historic district, the highest rated and only all-paved RV park in the Williams area offers three levels of options, from pull-through sites to buddy spaces to back-ins. Each full-service site is equipped with 50-amp utility services and is large enough to accommodate big rigs.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And while the Tin Can Tourists who once traveled Route 66 would have been astounded to receive a Western Union telegram at their campsite, today’s guests can stay as connected (or as disconnected) as they wish, with free Wi-Fi as well as high definition digital TV. Other amenities include coin-operated laundry machines, updated shower facilities, a community picnic area with gas grills and fire pit, and access to the hotel’s indoor swimming pool and hot tub.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guests of the RV Park and Railway Hotel enjoy an extra perk for their traveling pets, namely the animal equivalent of a luxury vacation. The Grand Canyon Railway’s Pet Resort is one of the area’s most comfortable and modern facilities where dogs and cats, both small and large, enjoy abundant indoor space for lazing about. This is especially useful since they must be leashed at all times at the Grand Canyon South Rim and are not permitted on trails below the rim, on park buses, or in park lodging (service animals are exempt).

Aboard the Grand Canyon Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But from their base in 28 clean, cool kennels at the pet resort, dogs will enjoy individual playtime in the outdoor exercise yard and dog run. Kitties, too, can enjoy a dog’s life in 16 sun-filled cat condos overlooking the basketball and volleyball courts. From atop their private sitting ledge, felines savor the setting as they take a catnap.

En route to the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For both people and pets, the location and amenities of the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park is about as good as it gets — a welcome adjunct to the railway itself.

Arriving at the Grand Canyon Train Depot © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Grand Canyon Railway takes passengers on one of America’s most picturesque train journeys. Departing each morning from the station beside the RV Park, the train chugs north out of Williams for a ride up and over the massive Colorado Plateau. At just over two hours, the journey gives RV travelers the chance to take a 65-mile shortcut and leave the driving to the engineer. It’s a perfect way to arrive at Grand Canyon National Park rested and relaxed without worrying about navigating an RV through the twists, turns, and often dense traffic that concentrates at the park’s south entrance.

Departing the train at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And it’s all made easier by a quiet night, modern conveniences, and the perfect location of Grand Canyon RV Park.

Worth Pondering…

The Grand Canyon…

Do nothing to mar its grandeur…

Keep it for our children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.

—Theodore Roosevelt

Chasing John Wesley Powell: Exploring the Colorado River—Canyonlands, Lake Powell & Grand Canyon

Retracing John Wesley Powell’s first descent of the Colorado River and its canyons 150 years later

One hundred fifty years ago in May 1869, a one-armed Civil War veteran set off with nine mountain men on a scientific expedition to map one of the last blank spaces left on the US map: The Green and Colorado Rivers through the Grand Canyon.

Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

John Wesley Powell’s 1,000-mile, three-month adventure, officially called the Powell Geographic Expedition, started in Wyoming and ended in Arizona. But the heart of it went through Utah and its jaw-dropping wilderness—through what would become Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Dinosaur National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, and Lake Powell (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area).

Colorado River south of Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Certainly, some of the scenery and route has changed since the 1869 trip (which Powell repeated in 1871): dams were built, altering the rivers and flooding the canyons he explored. But much of the route remains protected, ensuring a rugged and wild adventure for those following in Powell’s wake.

Here are key segments of his trip through Canyonlands National Park, Lake Powell, and Grand Canyon National Park—and what they offer today.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“God help the poor wretch that is caught in the canon during highwater.”
— Jack Sumner, member of the Powell expedition

Cataract Canyon sits 3 miles below the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers— and it bedeviled the Powell crew. The rapids appeared so dangerous, the crew spent days portaging their boats past cataract after cataract.

Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park as seen from Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, a large sign warns paddlers of “hazardous rapids” as they enter Cataract Canyon and the free-flowing Colorado River. Some 400 miles away from the dam that impounds the Green River and 180 miles from another on the Colorado, this segment of the river provides the most powerful white water in the country. It boasts 30 big rapids including The Big Drop, where the river drops over 30 feet in less than a mile.

Canyonlands National Park; the Colorado River is down there somewhere © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boaters and paddlers can obtain permits through Canyonlands National Park which manages the canyon. Cataract itself is 14 miles, but river trips are usually about 48 miles, starting upstream on the Green or Colorado and ending on Lake Powell.  

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For those who don’t want to travel via river, there’s still plenty to do in the surrounding national park, from taking in breathtaking vistas in the park’s Island in the Sky district on its paved scenic drive, to hiking or four-wheeling in The Needles district, or serious backcountry trekking in the remote section called The Maze.

Lake Powell

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Powell described Glen Canyon as a “land of beauty and glory” and named it for its many glens and alcoves near the river. About 100 years later, the canyon was flooded by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River forming a lake named for the one-armed explorer.

Lake Powell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With 2,000 miles of shoreline, Lake Powell offers boating, kayaking, and fishing amid rugged red rock canyons and mesas.

For visitors seeking more solace than the lake’s annual 3 million visitors provide, the surrounding Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers numerous hikes, multi-day backpacking trips, and mountain biking.

Grand Canyon

“The limestone of this canyon is often polished, and makes a beautiful marble. Sometimes the rocks are of many colors—white, gray, pink and purple, with saffron hints.”
— John Wesley Powell

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 900 hundred miles and three months after they launched their boats, Powell and crew reached what he later named the Grand Canyon. Theirs was the first recorded passage of white men through the entirety of what Powell called “the great unknown,” though Grand Canyon has been inhabited for 12,000 years.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the canyon is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It contains 277 miles of the Colorado River and is up to 18 miles wide. Most of the 5 million annual visitors come for the majestic views of its fantastic shapes and colors—red, buff, green, pink, slate, and violet.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those who venture below the rim can hike and camp in the backcountry (with permits), take a mule ride down to the bottom, or raft the mighty river that carved the canyon 5 to 6 million years ago. Whitewater trips last from 3 days to 3 weeks.

Worth Pondering…

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

—Arthur Ashe

Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon

Woman dies from fall at Grand Canyon, the fourth park death in less than a month

A 70-year-old woman died after a 200-foot drop last week at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim—the third person to fall to their death in the national park, and the fourth body recovered in the area in less than a month, AZ Central reported.

Rangers at Grand Canyon National Park received reports at around 1 p.m. of a person in need of aid near Pipe Creek Vista, officials said. The woman fell before rescue efforts could begin. A technical rescue team was deployed via helicopter to locate the woman’s body, and a group of about 15 people later assisted in recovering the body, officials said in a statement.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On March 28, a 50-year-old tourist from Hong Kong died after falling hundreds of feet while taking photos at Eagle Point in Grand Canyon West. Less than one week later, a 67-year-old man fell over the canyon edge. His body was recovered about 400 feet below the rim. A fourth body, identified as a possible international tourist, was also recovered in March in a wooded area south of Grand Canyon Village.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Not to Die at the Grand Canyon

About a dozen people die each year in the park, and while that’s a small number compared to overall visitors, there are ways to make sure you don’t become one of those fatalities.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watch your step. It may sounds like a cliché, but it’s a salient bit of advice in the wake of a third death in 10 days in (and near) Grand Canyon National Park, whose centennial celebration is expected to lure five million visitors to its rims this year. National Parks are often so well manicured and lighted and signed that selfie-snapping tourists tend to forget they’re in a dangerous expanse of a park that lies between 7,000 and 8,000 feet of elevation, where rattlesnakes roam, where temperatures easily creep past 100 degrees, and where there are a dozen ways to die.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to survive the Grand Canyon, therefore: Don’t underestimate it. This may be a National Park, but it’s also a wild place.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What goes down must come up. What those who stumble down from various points into the canyon itself can too easily forget is that the route down is twice as easy a trek as the way back out when it’s likely to be hotter, windier, and steep. People need to know their limits. It’s easier in than it is out with the return typically taking twice as long. It never hurts to train for a few weeks before your trip. Not a lot of people live in an area that’s nearly 7,000 feet in elevation.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get wet. With water, that is. Many of the 685 deaths catalogued adroitly in the oft-updated book Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon by Thomas Myers and Michael Ghiglieri are from dehydration and heat stroke, which can be prevented by hauling enough of that precious stuff of life to keep you hydrated for the long haul: A minimum of a liter per hour. And be sure to add some salty snacks, to keep the electrolytes flowing.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get dressed. But leave the Instagram-cute outfits back at the Airbnb and be sensible about your wardrobe choices especially if you plan on hiking into the canyon. Flip-flops? Nope. Sturdy boots or trail runners. Tank tops and crop tops? No! Layers, bandannas, even a couple not-so-cool trekking poles. Consider that depending on the time of day and time of year you start your hike, the way back may be windy and frigid.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Watch the weather. The Grand Canyon can see monsoons from July to September, often accompanied by thunder and lightning strikes. Be on the lookout for bad weather and be ready to call it a day.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take the path more traveled. While the designated trails are well-maintained (and often paved) in the park, visitors craning for a better view (or selfie) often sneak a few feet off the trail, where they may not realize until it’s too late that what presents as stable ground is actually paper-thin, thanks to millennia of the very same erosion that carved that canyon wall in the first place.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pay attention to your surroundings. Among the more modern dangers in the Grand Canyon or anywhere is distraction from people who are on their dang phones walking and texting, not looking where they’re going.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Increasingly, people endanger themselves in that never-ending quest for the epic selfie which is doubly dangerous on an unstable trail because it typically means you’re neither looking at the ground nor how close you might be to the edge of a cliff. Selfie taking is scary, in part because your focus is typically on the camera. Put the phones away and enjoy yourself.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

None of this advice is to suggest the Grand Canyon has turned into a deathtrap locale best avoided altogether in favor of the sanctity of a Florida theme park. About a dozen people die each year in the park but the odds of that tragic end are roughly 1 in 400,000, which is less than those of being attacked by a dog, killed in an airplane crash, or stung by a bee, according to the National Safety Council.

Worth Pondering…

Take care of yourself. You’ll find it hard to get a replacement.

Making a Grand Trip Grander

The Grand Canyon’s fantastic landscape turns a train trip into a fascinating geology lesson

Since 1901 the Grand Canyon Railway has enchanted millions of people from around the world. From its yester-years of transporting ore to present-day journeys to the canyon with authentic characters that bring the Old West to life, the story of the railway is almost as dramatic as the spectacular surroundings.

The Grand Canyon Railway made its first journey in 1901 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon Railway made its first journey to the Grand Canyon on September 17, 1901. And since that time, notable passengers to ride the Grand Canyon Railway include Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, William Howard Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Clark Gable, Jimmy Durante, Doris Day, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates.

The Grand Canyon Railway pulls out of the station in Williams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As we boarded the Grand Canyon Railway and rolled out of the historic town of Williams, we were traveling across the bottom of what was once a prehistoric sea. We also traveled across the peak of a huge mountain—all at the same time.

On board entertainment © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The shallow sea that once covered Arizona dried up at the end of the Pre-Cambrian Era billions of years ago, but the soft curves of the seabed are still distinct atop the 1,152-square-mile Kaibab Plateau which is a only a fraction of the 130,000-square-mile Colorado Plateau it rests upon.

Grand Canyon Railway station at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To the rhythm of the steady and hypnotizing click-clack of the historic train, the dramatic landscape became a mesmerizing sight. It commanded our attention throughout the 65-mile journey to the Grand Canyon Village where even more spectacular wonders awaited.

Grand Canyon Railway station at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But for now, on a trip that lasts just over two hours, we looked outside our window and peeked into the past as we witnessed billions of years of geological evolution caused by erosion, volcanoes, weathering, and tectonic uplifts. The show began as we departed the depot in Williams and traveled across the deposits of dozens of now-extinct volcanic cones that erupted from roughly 15 million to just a few thousand years ago. It is the accumulated ash, cinders, and hardened lava thrown across the ground that created the land on which we traveled.

Grand Canyon Railway station at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not long into the northbound trip, we looked to the right and saw the largest volcano of all in the range of the San Francisco Peaks, outlined on the broad plain roughly 30 miles east of the tracks. Like Washington’s Mount St. Helens, the summit here—estimated to once have exceeded 15,000 feet—was reduced to 12,633 feet after a high-pressure eruption blasted the peak from the top of the now-extinct volcano.

Grand Canyon Railway station at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the scenery is already larger than life, the grandeur of this world is magnified when viewed from the comfort of the Grand Canyon Railway’s parlor cars, observation cars, and historic Pullman coaches. Incredibly, the magnificent drama of the Colorado and Kaibab plateaus heightens when you roll into the station at the Grand Canyon Village. As volcanoes were creating new land, rivers were washing it away to create one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

Grand Canyon Railway station at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s no better way to make a grand trip grander than on the historic train to the Grand Canyon. Like us, you’ll travel over 120 round-trip miles through beautiful northern Arizona while being entertained by historical cowboy characters and strolling musicians. Spend several nights in Williams next door to the train depot at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort.

Grand Canyon Railway station at the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Estimated to be between 1.7 million and 2 billion years old, the canyon floor is roughly half as old as the planet itself! And, that is something worth contemplating as the train pulls into the Grand Canyon Village.

Grand Canyon Railway station is a short walk to the rim of the Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.

—Major John Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons

King of the Road: America the Road Trip Capital of the World

Get your kicks on Route 66

You can travel by plane, by bus, or by train, but you’ll never experience the satisfaction you’ll have with an RV road trip. There’s something about the long and winding road—and the RV lifestyle—that’s partly hypnotic and wholly satisfying.

In a commission survey for Hertz in the UK which polled 2,000 British adults, the top road trip in the world is a drive along Route 66 with 56 percent of respondents naming the US as “the road trip capital of the world”.

Historic Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mother Road! Route 66. Main Street of America! Will Rogers Highway. The quintessential American Road Trip!

“The influence of social media has had a huge impact on destinations of choice, bringing increased awareness of less well-known areas, as well as ensuring that gems such as the Route 66 are still as popular as ever,” Temerity Vinson, senior director of international marketing said in a news release.

Historic Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mother Road stretches from Illinois to California through eight states. Once among the main routes for cross-country travelers, the largely two-lane road was decertified as a U.S. highway in 1985 in favor of modern interstates.

Route 66 Museum in Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The mention of Route 66 to most baby boomers conjures up images of George Maharis and Martin Milner cruising along in their early Corvette roadster in the television series of the same name.

While reminiscing you have the popular rhythm and blues standard (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 echoing through your mind. Composed in 1946 by songwriter Bobby Troup, this hit song was followed by the Route 66 TV drama in the early ’60s.

Powderhouse Visitor Center and Route 66 Museum in Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the original highways in the U.S. highway system, Route 66 stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica, totaling in 2,448 miles of ribboning highway. A major route for western migration in the 1930s, the route is chock-full of history, nostalgia, and sites you’ll see nowhere else.

Route 66 Mural in Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas or see a living ghost town with gunslingers and burros (Oatman, Arizona). Spend the night in a tipi at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona. And be sure to visit the near-by Petrified Forest National Park.

Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additionally, Route 66 was followed in the Hertz survey of British adults by the roads around Grand Canyon and the Pacific Coast Highway, giving the U.S. three spots on the top 10 list.

Wigwam Motel in Hollbrook, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Celebrating its centennial this year, Grand Canyon National Park has become one of the country’s most beloved sites. More than 6 million people visited the park in 2017.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is difficult to comprehend through photos or words.  Much of the canyon is over a mile deep, 15 miles wide, and 277 miles long, carved through geologic formations that are over 1.7 billion years old.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most popular viewpoints, such as the South Rim, are visited by over 90 percent of the park visitors. Roughly 30 miles of the canyon along the South Rim is accessible by the road. The North Rim, about a 220-mile drive from the South Rim, gives access to the Kaibab Plateau and Bright Angel Point.

Hopi House, Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Centennial celebration events will include a historical symposium, a living history week, and an effort to showcase some of the lesser-known sites through social media and other events throughout the year. Focused ranger-lead talks on the geology, cultural history, and natural resources will be available as well.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to celebrate the Grand Canyon on its 100th birthday is to see it yourself and take in the natural wonders spanning 13,000 years of human life, and eons of time before that.

Take the train from Williams to the Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Furthermore, the survey identified the ingredients of an epic road trip as wide-open roads, driving past famous attractions, and spotting wildlife along the way. Discovering views and enjoying the scenery is the main purpose for adults over 38-years-old while millennials want to enjoy a new experience.

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the survey, over two-thirds of millennials use Instagram to plan their trips, and 36 percent say they’d have a hard time remembering it if they didn’t post photos to the platform.

Worth Pondering…

I hear the highway calling. It’s time for a road trip.

100 Years of Grandeur

Standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s easy to feel insignificant

The ancient curves of red rock draw the eye toward the hallowed waterway below. Stunning and ever-changing light bounces off spectacular geologic formations, reflecting the winged shadows of raptors floating overhead.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Earlier this year (February 26, 2019), the US celebrated the 100th anniversary of the designation of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, the Grand Canyon, as a national park. However, the underpinnings of what would become a national treasure and bucket list destination began to take shape eons ago.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is difficult to comprehend through photos or words.  Much of the canyon is over a mile deep, 15 miles wide, and 277 miles long, carved through geologic formations that are over 1.7 billion years old. The vast majority of the Grand Canyon National Park is extremely rugged and remote, and many places are only accessible by pack trail.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most popular viewpoints, such as the South Rim, are visited by over 90 percent of the park visitors. Roughly 30 miles of the canyon along the South Rim is accessible by the road. The North Rim, about a 220-mile drive from the South Rim, gives access to the Kaibab Plateau and Bright Angel Point.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And then, there is the human history, the stories of those individuals with a pioneer spirit, ingenuity and steadfast commitment that laid the groundwork for how we experience the Canyon today.

The first known Europeans to view the Grand Canyon—a scouting party of the Coronado expedition in 1541—arrived, peered down, attempted to scramble down to the river, failed, and left. Only Native Americans would gaze upon the canyon’s wonders for more than 200 years.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interest in the canyon and the Colorado River would spike with the classic account of Maj. John Wesley Powell’s harrowing first expedition down the river in 1869, and, 13 years later, the reports of Capt. Clarence Dutton, whose monograph was published by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The exploits of those explorers were accented by the work of illustrators Thomas Moran and William Henry Holmes. Holmes classic set of drawings, including those entitled “Panorama from Point Sublime,” remain to this day some of the great depictions of the Grand Canyon as viewed from the South Rim.

El Tovar, Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The enterprising Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1901 and soon after, in 1905, El Tovar opened and quickly developed a reputation as the fanciest hotel west of the Mississippi.

The Fred Harvey Company, now named the Xanterra Travel Collection, was hired to manage the hotel. They knew how to address the needs of tourists lured to the West by the railroad’s promotional images of the extraordinary Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The company soon needed help keeping pace with the increasing number of adventuresome travelers eager to explore the Western landscape and turned to a former St. Paul, Minnesota art teacher for assistance.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mary E.J. Colter, who would become the chief designer and architect for the Harvey organization, drew inspiration from Native American and Spanish Colonial design. Rather than mimicking European architecture, her creations were meant to blend in with or enhance their surroundings. She was responsible for the design of 23 buildings, including Hopi House, Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio, Hermit’s Rest, and The Watchtower, during more than four decades with the company.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Grand Canyon National Park Lodges welcomes guests on the South Rim with iconic accommodations like El Tovar and Bright Angel and encourages guests to sleep in the area’s rich history.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Fred Harvey Company, in the earliest years of the nineteenth century, envisioned that the El Tovar Hotel, resting on the canyon rim, would enable people from around the world to experience the wonders of the Canyon. That vision is now a reality.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to celebrate the Grand Canyon on its 100th birthday is to see it yourself and take in the natural wonders spanning 13,000 years of human life, and eons of time before that.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.

—John Wesley Powell

Ah, Arizona! Check Out These Other Diamonds during Spring Training

If you’re in Arizona for spring training, you’re missing out on other cool sights. Check out these other diamonds across the state.

Cactus League Spring Training, a seasonal rite in Greater Phoenix, roars to life every March with the iconic sounds of cracking bats, snapping mitts, and happy fans.

For baseball lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this: sunny weather, affordable tickets, and unparalleled proximity to the best players in the game.

Baseball may have lured you here, and odds are good that your days and nights are planned around the sport. Good for you. But you’re missing out on diamonds of another kind. We’re here to help with some of Arizona’s can’t-miss destinations, and what you can do there in just a day.

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Odds are high you’ve never been this close to America’s greatest natural wonder. You’ll have 81 chances this year to see the Cubs play in Chicago, or Brewers in Milwaukee, or … you get it. But this could be your best shot to see a marvel a billion years in the making.

Must see: Stroll along and stare at the canyon for 30 minutes or so before visiting the historic Kolb Studio. This 1905 Victorian house seems to defy gravity from its perch on the South Rim. The story of photographer brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, who explored the canyon with cameras in tow, is a stunning as the views.

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Head down the Bright Angel Trail for the customary below-the-rim experience. Just keep in mind it will take you twice as long to hike up as it did to walk down. 

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Insider tip: Buy a Grand Canyon pass online ($20), then park in Tusayan outside the front gate and take the free shuttle to the visitor center. Grand Canyon is busy during spring break, and the shuttle bypasses the long line of cars waiting to get in and searching for a parking spot.

How much time to allot: Eleven or 12 hours. The round-trip drive will take about eight hours, giving you three or four hours to enjoy the views.

Sedona

Hiking Cathedral Rock at Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With buttes, towers, and spires sculpted of rock in countless shades of red, Sedona occupies the perfect setting for a mythical city. And in a way Sedona is just that, if you believe healing energy whirls from spiritual vortexes. (Be sure to pick up a $5 daily Red Rock Pass; many sites require it for visits).

Must see: The Chapel of the Holy Cross protrudes from the red cliffs less than 4 miles south of Sedona’s “Y” intersection. The main stained glass window is held together by a giant cross and overlooks the Verde Valley.

Oak Creek at Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Cliched tourist experience actually worth doing: Take a jeep tour. Excursions rumble you across suspension-challenging terrain to breathtaking views. Costs roughly range from $75-$150 for 90-minute to 2-hour tours.

Insider tip: If skies are clear and you have the time, stay for sunset when rocks glow as if illuminated from within. Airport Mesa is the most convenient (and popular) overlook. For a quieter, more intimate experience, head to Red Rock Crossing and watch the dying light set Cathedral Rock on fire.

Red Rock Country near Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How much time to allot: At least eight hours (10 if you add a jeep tour). The round trip from Phoenix is four hours, giving you four (or six) hours to explore. If you’re going on a Saturday, you might want to build in another hour for traffic.

Worth Pondering…

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.
—George Will

13 Icons That Describe Arizona

Come along and discover the 13 Arizona icons that describe the state

Try and describe Arizona—its history, geography, and cultures—and a few iconic names and places likely come to mind.

At some point, you’ll get around to explaining how people living in Arizona’s deserts survive the scorch of summer. But you probably won’t be able to hide your bliss about what keeps you and other snowbirds returning winter after winter.

Here are 13 Arizona icons:

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Let’s start with the state’s crown jewel, the Grand Canyon—an iconic attraction that’s on every RVer’s bucket list. It’s hard to imagine a trip to Arizona that doesn’t involve at least a peek at the Grand Canyon. This massive gorge isn’t just a geological marvel, it’s a symbol of Western adventure and American spirit. One look over the edge and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

When filmmaker John Ford cast his lens on Monument Valley, he couldn’t look away. The stunning red buttes that rise from the dusty ground are iconic Arizona, and Ford made Monument Valley a backdrop for 10 films, including “Stagecoach” in 1939. Situated on the Navajo Reservation in a remote part of northern Arizona near the Utah line, its glorious skyline draws thousands of tourists to U.S. 163, the only road through Monument Valley.

Diverse topography

Sprawled across the state’s 15 counties is a topography as varied as the people who live here. Deserts cover 30 percent of the land, grassland and steppes spread over 53 percent, and highlands make up 17 percent.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Arizona once had petrified wood as far as the eye could see. Visitors arriving on the railroad around the turn of the 20th century took care of that, pocketing what they could and leaving behind enough to justify creation of a national forest.

Route 66

Historic Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

One of the original U.S. highways, this eclectic drive was established on Nov. 11, 1926, and became one of the most famous roads in America. It started in Chicago and ended in Los Angeles, covering 2,448 miles. Route 66 was immortalized in pop culture by a hit song and 1960s television show before being removed from the national highway system in 1985.

Sky Islands

On the Mount Lemmon Highway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Few geographic formations in the world illustrate such stark contrast as Sky Islands. Visitors to Southern Arizona are often struck by these vast mountain ranges rising suddenly out of the desert and grasslands. Saguaro, prickly pear, and ocotillo rapidly give way to a coniferous  forest, and a much cooler climate. Usually 6,000–8,000 feet in elevation—sometimes exceeding 10,000—these majestic mountains emerge from a sea of desert scrub and provide an oasis for an abundance of wildlife.

Sedona

Cathedral Rock, Sedona

Sedona is famous for its scenery, art, and history. Even if you’re not an adherent of the New Age movement, plan on visiting at least one of Sedona’s famous vortexes. They’re at some of the most gorgeous spots around town. Pink Jeeps are ubiquitous in Sedona, shuttling visitors past the sights year-round.

Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

There’s a reason Oak Creek Canyon is the second-most visited canyon in Arizona. In just 15 miles, the drive takes you past countless outstanding vistas. Just make sure the driver’s eyes are on the road — it’s narrow and twisty. Don’t miss Oak Creek Canyon Vista at the top. It has a terrific overview of the canyon.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This national historic landmark was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction on the White Dove of the Desert, south of downtown Tucson, began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.

Colorado River

Colorado River at Bullhead City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The river not only is a major source of water for the state, it is also a prime spot for fishing, rafting, and other recreational activities.

Kartchner Caverns

The limestone caves in southeastern Arizona were discovered in 1974 by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts as they explored the hills near the Whetstone Mountains.

Scorching heat

The highest temperature ever recorded in Phoenix — 122 degrees — was enough to temporarily shut down Sky Harbor International Airport on June 26, 1990.

Hiking trails

Hiking at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Short or long, straight or steep, hundreds of trails make Arizona an outdoor wonderland for those willing to lace up their boots and explore the outdoors.

Worth Pondering…

Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever. Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area. Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip “south”. There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.

Grand Canyon National Park Celebrates Its 100th Anniversary Today

One of the world’s great natural wonders, the Grand Canyon National Park, turns 100

John Wesley Powell said it best, “The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself.”

A universally recognizable iconic destination, Grand Canyon National Park is a true marvel of nature that’s on every RVer’s bucket list. A powerful and inspiring landscape, Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size.

Although the Colorado River has been carving the Grand Canyon for over 6 million years, the Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating its 100th birthday today!

During 2019, the Park will commemorate its past and work to inspire future generations to experience the majesty and resources that the Park provides.

The first sighting of the Grand Canyon always comes as a surprise. It’s not one giant slot in the desert but a staggering series of splinters dominating the horizon. The colored layers in the rock, though, remain strikingly consistent.

A deep gorge carved by the Colorado River about seventeen million year ago, the Grand Canyon stretches for more than 250 miles and is up to 18 miles in width and more than a mile deep in some areas. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming. One look over the edge and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

There are two public areas of Grand Canyon National Park, the North and South Rims. At 7,000 feet above sea level the Grand Canyon South Rim is the most accessible section of the national park with numerous places where visitors can admire the views.

The Grand Canyon is perhaps the most famous of American parks, and was the second most highly visited national park in 2017 with over 6.26 million visitors. Most visitors see it from overlooks along the South Rim. Crowds are usually thick along the canyon’s South Rim but quickly lighten the deeper into the canyon you hike.  

A much smaller number of people see the Canyon from the North Rim which lies just 10 miles (as the condor flies) directly across the Canyon from the South Rim. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a 220 mile drive from the more easily accessible South Rim, rises a thousand feet higher and offers a different perspective of the park. The North Rim generally closes at the end of October through the middle of May due to snow.

If you’re seeking a secluded escape to Mother Nature, you should be prepared: The Grand Canyon can be very crowded. The South Rim—home to the Grand Canyon Village and the well-worn Bright Angel Trail—is particularly popular for sightseers and hikers. It is on this side that you’ll find the most amenities. However, for a true escapist experience, head to the North Rim. This is the place for backwoods camping and hardcore hiking.

Grand Canyon Village is the center of activity and the transportation hub for the South Rim of the park. The Village is the only place where the Grand Canyon Railroad reaches the rim of the canyon. 

Within Grand Canyon Village, there are three main areas of interest: Visitor Center/Mather Point, Market Plaza, and the Historic District.

The Visitor Center/Mather Point is where most visitors park and get their first look at the Grand Canyon. Four large parking areas are located here as well as the transit center for the free shuttle buses.

Market Plaza is the business center where the general store, bank, and US Post Office are locate.

The Historic District with the railroad depot and original lodges is where the pioneer village started. 

To get around the Village, the Village Shuttle Bus (Blue Route) connects the Visitor Center/parking areas with the lodges, campground, restaurant, and shops. 

From the Visitor Center, the easiest and fastest way to get out and see Grand Canyon is to take the scenic Kaibab Rim Shuttle Bus (Orange Route). This bus provides the only access to the South Kaibab Trailhead and Yaki Point. The Scenic Hermit Road Shuttle Route (Red Route) operates March 1 through November 30 and stops at nine canyon overlooks along the scenic 7 mile Hermit Road (west of the village).

Worth Pondering…

The Grand Canyon…

Do nothing to mar its grandeur…

Keep it for our children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.

—Theodore Roosevelt

5 RV Trips for 2019

A new year and an empty calendar! Does inspiration know any finer muse?

A new year and an empty calendar! Does inspiration know any finer muse?

When it comes to RV travel, the arrival of January fuels daydreams of adventures and far-flung exploration.

Here we explore five new and evolving travel opportunities across America, everything from a cool oasis in the West Texas desert and the centennial of America’s most famous geological marvel to wildlife adventure. And with the exception of two— Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival in July and the Custer Park Buffalo Roundup in September—these ideas aren’t tied to a specific date, making them worthy of a trip any time of year.

Start marking up that calendar now.

Balmorhea’s New Beginnings

Expect big changes at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas, which will reopen its swimming pool this winter after major repairs and unveil a revamped motor court and upgraded campground this spring.

Renovations of the lodging facilities had already started when, in May 2018, crews discovered an eroding wall near the high dive in the pool. Officials shut down the swimming hole, dry-docking visitors looking for a respite from the heat.

Pool repairs started in September and should be wrapped up in time for you to take a flying leap into the crisp, fish-filled water by the time temperatures heat up again.

The Grand Canyon

In 2019, the park dedicated to America’s most famous geologic marvel will celebrate its 100-year anniversary with a series of talks, concerts, and special exhibitions throughout the year. And while you can certainly have an awe-inspiring experience without venturing far from the designated lookout points, there’s more to see and experience.

The park becomes extremely crowded when school lets out in June, so plan your visit before then, if possible. To avoid the crowds, plan a trip between May and October to the North Rim: less than 10 percent of the canyon’s 6.2 million annual visitors see this side of the park.

Louisiana

To many, Louisiana is known as the place where jazz music was born, where over-stuffed po’ boys are bountiful, and where the greatest Mardi Gras celebrations take place.

The list of lesser-knowns from this swampy Southern state is deliciously new to the visitor: a steaming hot bowl of gumbo, freshly-made beignets, crawfish, jambalaya, boudin, and crackling. Thankfully, the uninitiated can head down one of Louisiana’s Culinary Trails to acquaint themselves with the candid Creole/Cajun flavors.

But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

At an elevation of over 10,000 feet, Cedar Breaks National Monument looks down into a majestic geologic amphitheater, a three-mile long cirque of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone. Like a naturally formed coliseum, the Amphitheater plunges 2,000 feet taking your eyes for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons. The colorful wildflower bloom is generally at its peak during the first two weeks of July, which coincides with the annual Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival, a wonderful reason to visit the park.

Custer State Park

Custer State Park in the Black Hills encompasses 71,000 acres of spectacular terrain and an abundance of wildlife. A herd of 1,300 bison roams freely throughout the park, often stopping traffic along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. The Annual Buffalo Roundup draws thousands of people to Custer State Park every September. Watch cowboys and cowgirls as they roundup and drive the herd of approximately 1,300 buffalo.

Besides bison, Custer State Park is home to wildlife such as pronghorns, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros. Whether hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, or camping, you’ll find your adventure along the park’s roads and trails.

Worth Pondering…
From wonder into wonder, existence opens.

—Lao Tzu