Tusayan Ruins preserve ancient dwelling foundations adjacent to a museum of historical artifacts.
Legs remain tired from yesterday's hike on Hermit Trail.
Following breakfast, the walk from Yavapai Lodge passes the water treatment facility and numerous, gigantic, storage tanks along the route to the Canyon View Visitor Center. The entire water supply for the Grand Canyon comes from Roaring Springs on the North Kaibab Trail in the Bright Angel Fault.
Large volumes of water gush from a cave high on a cliff-face to create a spectacular waterfall named Roaring Springs which then flows south as Bright Angel Creek, past Phantom Ranch into the Colorado River. An elaborate pipeline, and pumping stations, deliver water about 15 miles and a vertical mile up the south rim for storage in half a dozen massive storage tanks.
Many years ago there were no storage tanks which created a major exposure to the periodic interruption of water supply at Grand Canyon Village and their mandate to entertain several million visitors a year.
Next on the day's itinerary is a 22 mile (35 KM) drive east along Desert View Drive to the Tusayan Museum and Ruins for a stroll through ancient pueblo ruins on a short, flat, loop trail.
From the Tusayan Museum, inside Grand Canyon National Park, the drive east on Desert View Drive turns south to the town of Tusayan which is outside the south entrance into Grand Canyon National Park. The name ‘Tusayan’ comes from a Hopi Indian phrase meaning 'country of isolated buttes'.
The Town of Tusayan is a small hotel/motel location a few miles south of Grand Canyon Village which provides the opportunity to stay outside the hustle and bustle of Grand Canyon Village at reduced expense in exchange for the short commute to experience Grand Canyon National Park. The small town hosts an air conditioned IMAX theater, several good restaurants, fast food locations and one gas station. There is also a small airport and many of the Grand Canyon helicopter sightseeing tours are staged from this location.
On the return drive into the park there is an opportunity at the Canyon View Visitor Center to attend an interesting hour presentation on Grand Canyon geology given by 35 year veteran ranger, Keith Green. Geologic history is exposed within this amazing landscape.
There are generally 12 distinct layers of rock exposed in the Grand Canyon. The youngest, top layer of limestone is about 260 million years old, before dinosaurs roamed the earth. The oldest rock, 3,000 ft + lower, near the bottom of the Grand Canyon, is black, extremely dense rock called Vishnu Schist infused with bolts of pink and white granite, and carbon dated near 1.7 billion years old.
This harder, denser rock erodes more slowly to create the inner gorge, a canyon within a canyon. When hiking into the Grand Canyon, within the first 30 minutes of descent, the trail passes through all evidence of life on earth and there remains a few hours of hiking to get to the bottom. The scale is huge and difficult to imagine until enjoying the overwhelming experience of standing at the edge.
As the immense Colorado Plateau pushed its way out of the earth's surface over millions of years, the river, which had previously flowed over relatively flat ground, continued to carve a path through the rising plateau to form the chasm and subsequently the environment for subsequent weather erosion which created the Grand Canyon as witnessed today.
Following the presentation, the opportunity is taken for conversation with a Park Ranger about the potential for another unique and less public, but aggressive hike for the next day. These folks are veritable fountains of knowledge and information. They can rapidly determine experience level, knowledge and capability to suggest appropriate hiking missions.
The Park Rangers are very helpful and it is important to interface with them for hikes into the Grand Canyon. They have always provided the information required to provision correctly and to stay safe. What really concerns Park Rangers are the people who do not consult them. This often results in complex, costly rescues which too frequently end in loss of life. The terrain can be very dangerous and unforgiving for those who are not familiar or acclimatized to the unique and potentially hostile dry heat of desert environment.
The Park Ranger suggests a hike to Solitude Point a short distance past the east park entrance at Desert View. Solitude Point is not a trail but rather an ancient Anasazi (the ancient ones) spiritual site. There are many prehistoric native ruins there and spectacular views of the canyon from a promontory on the south, east rim. The difficult access leads to a seldom-visited special place.
This potential hike is appealing and half an hour is spent with the ranger pouring over topographical maps and detailed instruction for access. The prerequisite is a four-wheel drive vehicle to get within hiking range. The vehicle currently used does not qualify but, on the other hand, the trusty Toyota has survived the brutal drive on the Skutumpah Road through the Escalante. No guts: no glory.
As always, the initiative begins by planning the mission with military precision before executing the plan with recreational abandon. The drive east to the Desert View east entrance precludes a turn through the ranger complex onto the Cedar Mountain Road for reconnaissance.
The short access quickly delivers realization the Toyota cannot survive this road. Trees growing tight to the sides of the rugged, rocky road prevent the vehicle from avoiding deep ruts and the passenger car does not have even remotely sufficient clearance. Within a mile, the access attempt is finished. Extricating the car is challenging. A subsequent discussion with a helpful Navajo woman convinces me the long walk into the site is not practical or safe.
On the return trip along Desert View Drive the stop at Lipan Point provides the opportunity to locate and hike a short distance down the relatively rugged Tanner Trail before driving back to Grand Canyon Village for a hearty and well earned supper at Bright Angel Lodge.