Grand Canyon Part I: Grand Canyon Village
This year is our third trip to Grand Canyon National Park (the 4th if you count a stop at both the South Rim and the North Rim in the same year). We went to the South Rim in 2007 when Lora and J. Michael flew out to meet us, then we stopped at the North Rim on our way to Utah after they left for home. We went to the South Rim last year, and again this year. Both last year and this year, we stayed in Trailer Village in the park.
Trailer Village is operated by a concessionaire (Xanterra). The roads are paved, but the sites are dusty gravel. There are full hook-ups with 30/50 amp electric and cable. The site width is decent.
The great thing about going to a place you like for the second or third time is you can take time to see and do things you didn't have time for on the first visit. The other nice thing is you can have a more leisurely visit. It was mid afternoon by the time we got set up, but we didn't feel compelled to go out sightseeing right away. We just chilled out in the campground for the rest of the day. It got cloudy late in the afternoon, so we didn't even go over to the canyon for the sunset.
The next morning we headed over to Grand Canyon Village. We have come to appreciate the ranger talks and walks, and there was one titled "The Human Story" that sounded interesting. We had about 45 minutes until the program started, so we walked along Rim Trail to the east a short distance. We came across this little lizard.
We are always in awe of the spectacular views of the canyon. The next photo looks across the Grand Canyon toward Bright Angel Canyon on the North Rim. Bright Angel Canyon follows a fault line that crosses the Grand Canyon. The intersection of Bright Angel Canyon and the Grand Canyon is the center of activity on both the North and South Rims. Bright Angel Canyon is the inverted "V" in the center of the photo.
The program started at Vercamp's Visitor Center. Rather than a ranger for this presentation, we were led by a volunteer. Wally, our volunteer, started with a brief the history of Native Americans who lived in and around the Grand Canyon. Evidence of human habitation at the canyon dates back almost 12,000 years, and many area Indian peoples today can trace their ancestry back to the Grand Canyon.
Wally then gave us a summary of the exploration of the canyon by non-Indians starting with the Spanish in 1540. Although there were others, John Wesley Powell is probably the best known and most successful of the early canyon explorers. Powell led two expeditions through the canyon, one in 1867 and the second in 1871-1872. The second expedition resulted in the first photographs of the Grand Canyon and the first accurate maps.
Most of the early white settlers around the canyon were miners. However, because of the expense of hauling ore up out of the canyon then hauling it a long distance for processing, many of the settlers soon discovered tourism had a bigger potential than mining.
By the late 1800s there were several hotels and tourist camps at the Grand Canyon. The only way to get to the Grand Canyon was by a dusty, bumpy, 12-hour stagecoach ride from Flagstaff, but tourists still came.
Vercamp's Visitor Center was originally built as Vercamp's Curios by John Vercamp. Vercamp, who originally sold souvenirs out of a tent, built the shop in 1905. The store was operated up until late 2008 by descendants of John Vercamp. The visitor center now is owned by the Park Service.
Our walk proceeded west from Vercamp's along Rim Trail where we learned about the people and the history behind more of the buildings in Grand Canyon Village. In 1901 the Santa Fe Railroad completed a line from Williams to Grand Canyon Village. Tourists no longer had to endure the long stagecoach ride, and they began to arrive at the canyon in larger numbers. A luxury hotel, the El Tovar, was built by the Sante Fe Railroad in 1905.
In the early days of railroad travel, food and lodging were hit and miss. The Santa Fe Railroad changed all that by hiring the Fred Harvey Company to build hotels and food service facilities along all of the Santa Fe lines. These could be considered the first restaurant and hotel chains. The Harvey Company ran the El Tovar Hotel and most everything else at the Grand Canyon. The Harvey Company waitresses became known as "Harvey Girls."
The Harvey Company hired Mary Coulter to design many of the buildings at the Grand Canyon. She designed the interior (but not the exterior) of the El Tovar. Across from the El Tovar is Hopi House designed by Mary Coulter in 1905. Mary Coulter believed in designing buildings that fit the surroundings, so she built Hopi House in the style of a pueblo using native stone. Hopi House was intended to be a living museum where Hopi Indians could live and work on traditional crafts. Native Americans still sell and sometimes demonstrate their crafts at Hopi House.
Incidentally, the Fred Harvey Company was bought in 1968 by Xanterra,which is the company who operates the El Tovar today, as well as other park consessions such as Tralier Village.
A lot of work was done around the canyon in the 1930s by the CCC. During the Depression, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was made up of single men who worked on conservation and other public construction projects around the country. Margery's dad was in the CCC and worked at what is now Laurel Hill State Park in Pennsylvania. The men received free room, board and health care. They were paid $30 a month, $25 of which had to be sent home to make sure they didn't blow it.
The original walkways and walls around Grand Canyon Village were built by the CCC. There is one place on the wall where there is a heart-shaped stone. The young men in the CCC liked the Harvey Girls, and legend has it one of the guys made a special stone and put it in the wall, possibly to impress one of the Harvey girls.
The next historic building we came to was the Buckey O'Neill Cabin. Buckey O'Neill was an early settler who built a cabin along the South Rim in the 1890s. It is the oldest surviving building at the Grand Canyon. Buckey O'Neill was one of the people who found tourism to be more lucrative than mining, and he was instrumental in bringing the Santa Fe Railroad to the Grand Canyon. O'Neill was killed serving in Cuba with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in 1898, so he never got to see the arrival of the railroad.
Buckey O'Neill's cabin became part of the rustic accommodations at the Bright Angel Hotel after his death. When Mary Coulter designed a new Bright angel Lodge to replace the hotel in 1935, she incorporated the cabin into her design. Totally updated inside, the cabin is still part of the Bright angel Lodge today.
In 1914 the Fred Harvey Company built Lookout Studio to compete with Kolb Studio, which is located a short distance to the west. Mary Colter designed Lookout Studio the same way she designed other buildings at the Grand Canyon - to blend in with the surroundings. The building can barely be seen from down over the rim. Back in the day Lookout Studio offered photographs and books about the Grand Canyon, just like it does today.
Just to the west of Lookout Studio is Kolb Studio. Ellsworth and Emery Kolb built their studio partially down over the canyon rim in 1904. The brothers made their living photographing hikers traveling down Bright Angel Trail. The brothers also sold photographs of the canyon. In 1911 they retraced Powell's route down the Green and Colorado Rivers and made a movie of the journey. Emery Kolb showed this movie regularly in the studio until his death in 1976 at age 95. The studio is now an art gallery.
The beginning of Bright Angel Trail is just beyond Kolb Studio, and while we were there, Wally told us about Ralph Cameron.
Cameron, who owned a number of mining claims in the area of the Grand Canyon, widened an old Havasupai Indian trail down into the canyon and renamed it Bright Angel Trail. Cameron charged a toll of $1 per person to enter the land covered by his mining claim to hike down Bright Angel Trail. The government eventually prevented Cameron from collecting tolls. Today, Bright Angel Trail is a popular place for hikers and for mule trips down into the canyon. We'll have more about Bright Angel Trail in our next post.