Our visit to the Grand Canyon on the Sunset Limited was related in an earlier issue of Vittles, It is a steam driven train of the Grand Canyon Railway Company which goes from Williams to the south rim of the Canyon during the summer. But it was only the newest in our visits to the Grand Canyon which have spanned several decades.
On our first visit we actually traveled the original Route 66. This historic bit of western lore started when Lt. Edward Beale was commissioned by the Federal Government to discover and build a wagon road through Arizona to California where gold had been discovered. This was in 1858. Lt. Beale chose such an excellent route that when the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad laid tracks to California they basically followed the Beale Trail. Then in 1913 with horseless carriages in vogue the Southern California AAA paced markers on the trail called it the "Old Trail Highway". This evolved into Route 66 destined to become famous though song and film.
Williams, Arizona was the last city on Route 66 to be bypassed when Interstate 40 replaced the old highway. This occurred October 13, 1984.
Our most memorable visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon occurred when this Writer's whole family, wife and two sons, hiked the Angel Trail to the Colorado River and return the same day. This was considered something of a 'tour de force' even then but the one day trip is now discouraged by the Park Rangers.
>We started at 7 a.m. on a July morning taking the usual rest stop at Indian Gardens, which is roughly the half way point. The trail drops roughly 4,000 vertical feet, all downhill to the river and all uphill back to the South Rim. Down to the river and back is registered at 15.5 miles.
Down at the Colorado River we ate our lunch while cooling hot feet in the water. The river flows so fast that even in summer water temperature generally averages about 48 degrees. There is, of course, a large change of temperature between the 7100 foot elevation of the South Rim and that at the river at any time of year.
We did the trip in July which meant very warm temperatures at the river and while the Park had many visitors we met not one past Indian Gardens. Afternoon clouds began to build and this covering of a relentless sun was most welcome as we started back up the trail. Again we enjoyed a long respite at Indian Gardens which offers fresh spring water. Our Journal reports that we topped the South Rim just as dusk was sliding into darkness, about 8 p.m.
On our most recent visit aboard the Sunset Limited we were not so fortunate with the weather. An early Fall weather front was present with briskly moving clouds packed with rain and often a strong wind. This made our viewing at the South Rim somewhat limited. However I was rewarded with a fine view of the Angel Trail as it winds along a stretch of plateau some 2000 feet below. Also in view Indian Gardens. It all looked exactly the same, only the viewer had most certainly changed.
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