Grand Canyon Village on the south rim is the center of east and west rim experiences.
Grand Canyon West Rim and East Rim Yavapai Sunset
The day begins with an early 1¼ mile (2 KM) walk along the South Rim from Yavapai Lodge to the Bright Angel Restaurant for the customary hearty breakfast.
On the way to the shuttle bus for the West Rim, my Florida neighbors are returning from their hike to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
It is surprising to see them so early in the day but they camped overnight at Indian Gardens, on the Bright Angel Trail just above the Tonto Plateau, before beginning their early climb out of the Grand Canyon using headlamps in cool air.
Apparently they enthusiastically embraced my advice to monopolize the cool parts of the day. The recount of their adventure comes from voices saturated with excitement and their inner children fully engaged. Experiencing the inner sanctums of the Grand Canyon can be a special, humbling and life-changing experience. Everyone who has done this, knows this.
At Mohave Point, following departure from the shuttle, the 3 mile (4¾ KM) return hike to Grand Canyon Village begins. A portion of the hike is off-trail when the opportunity presents itself and the initiative provides the best views.
At Maricopa Point there is an excellent view of the abandoned Orphan Mine, on 20 acres of land between Powell Point and Maricopa Point, overlooking a nearly vertical cliff face.
The Orphan Mine Claim was first filed in 1893, a year after my father was born. Sporadic, manually intensive, and very risky copper mining activity began there in 1906 and continued intermittently for four decades as copper prices justified the high cost of recovery.
In 1951 geologists discovered the presence of high-grade uranium deposits. In 1953 a private mining company leased the property's mineral rights and in 1956 they purchased all mineral and surface rights. Substantial capital investment developed many structures and shafts to haul the uranium-rich ore to the rim. The Orphan Mine became the most important source of uranium for the development of nuclear programs in the United States.
In 1962 Congress authorized the transfer of title to National Parks with a mandate mining could continue no later than 1987. Mining ceased in 1969 but nothing could be done to recover the site until mineral rights expired. The radioactively contaminated site was fenced off to prevent public exposure and to this day the mining complex is double fenced as clean-up operations continue. My understanding is the mine may be preserved as a Historic Place if that becomes possible.
Hope remains the site can be cleaned up sufficiently to allow public access so the rich history can be enjoyed by future generations.
Nearby, to the east, the Powell Memorial provides outstanding canyon views and recognizes the significant contribution Major John Wesley Powell and his crew made to history with his 1869 and 1872 voyages, in row boats, along the Colorado River mapping the entire length of the Grand Canyon.
From Maricopa Point there are also excellent views of the Bright Angel Fault, a giant latitudinal crack across the Grand Canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim.
The fault is the most popular and frequently used route across the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail or the South Kaibab Trail on the south side, and the North Kaibab Trail on the north side.
In late afternoon, a walk from accommodation along the east rim turns around at the Yavapai Observation Center. On the return meander to dinner at Bright Angel, frequent stops provide the opportunity to enjoy the sun setting on the Grand Canyon.
A huge flock of turkey vultures captures the attention for awhile. Back at Village Central the Grand Canyon and surrounding terrain is bathed in brilliant gold, orange and red hues interrupted by the contrast of long shadows. The spectacle is breathtakingly beautiful.
Following supper at the Bright Angel Restaurant, the 40 minute walk back to accommodation at Yavapai Lodge occurs in total darkness, occasionally disturbed by momentary headlights from a vehicle.
On this evening, it is so dark there is no visual ability to see the road or paths and direction can only be maintained by trial and error using the sound and feel beneath sandals.
The return to accommodation at Yavapai Lodge seems like a long 1¼ miles (2 KM) but the sky is ablaze with stars above cool, breathless air. A flashlight or headlamp would have actually detracted from the experience.