2019 Marks Family Vacation, Part II: The Grand Canyon (Updated)

Toby taking some pics during our Grand Canyon Sunset Tour.
Update: Toby has posted about our Grand Canyon trip on his blog with a ton of his excellent pics. Go check it out!

Day 3 of our Family Vacation began in Williams, Arizona, at The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

It's a neat place to stay, but taking the train into the Grand Canyon in this manner is so much fun. The Parks Service also really appreciates fewer cars in the Park. It is a very busy place in the summer and navigating it by car can be difficult. The lines to get in can be long and there is limited parking. I'm a road trip kind of person, but I do appreciate this option. 

Our day began with a wonderful buffet breakfast (which is one of the many things included in your package). Everything is marked for food allergies, which is a nice bonus for Augie and I. Our train departed at 9:30, so this was an early day for us. We had to check out of the hotel here, leave our luggage for the staff to get to trucks to take to the Maswik Lodge where we'd spend the night in the Grand Canyon. (They do all this for you!) When we arrived in the Grand Canyon, our luggage would be waiting for us in our room at the lodge, so we could focus on sightseeing. (The next day, we'd leave our luggage in the room and they'd get it back to the Railway Hotel for us as well.)

After leaving our luggage where it needed to be and having breakfast, we headed over to see the Wild West Show they have each morning before the trains leave (you can see a bit of it in the video I posted above). It's a hoot! 

We purchased the Dome Class Tickets, so we were on top of the train in a fully glass enclosed dome with great views! It also comes with drink service and snacks. Win-win!

Anthony has always loved trains. His first train ride ever was last summer when we did this very trip. He loved it just as much this time. We all did!

Its a deceiving trip. You can only see the Grand Canyon once - just for a second - while in the train. Otherwise, you start out in the desert, flat land then gradually get into the pine trees as you approach the South Rim. 

The staff of the Train are very helpful and fun. You get entertainment from guitar playing cowboys. They also help you prepare for how to see the most you can during the time you have. Some people would only be there for a few hours, which his what we did last summer. On that trip, we added to our package a private bus tour that takes you to the best stops and gets you back to the train with enough time to get a bit of shopping in and includes a lunch. But some of us would be spending the night and they provided tips for those as well. This year, we booked the private Sunset Tour that evening and the Sunrise Tour the next morning for Toby and I. 

During our first day, we had time to ourselves to do as we wished and ate lunch at the popular Arizona Steakhouse. At the South Rim, most of the trails on the rim are paved and extend the length of the rim that's inhabited, if you will. It's very easy just to take off walking from any direction and see different vantage points. We grabbed a few pics during the day even though the light can be a bit harsh. 

This set is all captured just from the rim near the tourist stops and shops mid-day.

The green area down there is Indian Garden, a campground and stop for those hiking down to the Colorado River.

We checked into our room to rest a bit and have some downtime before our Sunset Tour. That was a great trip with a bus driver / guide who was just really, really loving his job. He was extremely serious and like a professor teaching us how the Canyon was carved. He did rush us a bit at the final stop. There was still a bit of light I wanted to capture. Oh, well, he was nice enough to drive us to our dinner location (which was not one of his stops) and saved us a few steps at a point in our day where we were all a bit tired.

But, first, the fruits of my photography during the Sunset Tour.

I loved watching that storm in the distance with the sunset behind it. There was gorgeous lightning in it that could not be captured. 

This is one of my favorites of the Sunset Tour.

The last pic of the evening for the Sunset Tour.

Next, we had dinner at the very famous El Tovar Hotel. At the time it was built, it was the fanciest hotel west of the Mississippi River. Toby and I have plans to stay there one day, perhaps for another Adventure for 2. Dinner was spectacular, as you'd expect.

Gluten free rolls! Very rare.

This was a sort of surf & turf. There was quail, filet mignon, and shrimp with veggies. Very nice after a busy day.

Little man did not make it to dessert. It's rare I get asked to hold him when he's tired as he's now approaching 7. 

We hiked back to our lodge and then went to bed. 

Day 4 began very, very early. Toby and I got up at 3:45 a.m. (as in, in the morning!) to get on our bus at 5:00 a.m. This was our first little Adventure for 2. The kids had no real interest in doing that and we didn't want them to be wasted for the rest of the day. We got some great pics! (They are posted in the order I took them.) It was neat to see the same places we'd been just a few hours before in different light.

It was still pretty dark when we got there. 

This may be my favorite of the morning. 

Also one of my favorites from the morning.

Our bus driver / tour guide on this trip was as unhurried as our first one was hurried. He was just so eager to stop and show you fossils and make extra stops and stay as long as you wanted. It was a neat contrast.... up to a point. Eventually, we were wanting some breakfast and coffee! When we got back, we finally had that quick breakfast and some much needed coffee, then went to our room for a little rest before checking out, getting the kids lunch (gluten free pizza! - I have to say, it's pretty easy to eat gluten free out West and in our National Parks) and hiking some toward the opposite direction from where we had been the day before. Our train would then pick us up about 3:30 for the trip back to Williams. 

Our mid-day hike was fun, but the younger two were wilting in the heat and humidity. Toby and I had ideas of him taking a pic of me on an outcropping of rocks in the distance at one point, but we got our signals crossed. When Augie and I took off to hike to it, I passed it up and went further - well out of Toby's sight. It was a comedy of errors of sort. Here are some highlights from it. 

It seemed there were always little storms in the distance during this trip. That made for some very interesting photography and, at times, kept the heat at bay. At other times, we experienced far more humidity than we'd have liked in the desert. 

All along this trail, there were samples of the rocks that you find in the different layers of the Grand Canyon. Also, it was a "walk back in time" going about 10 million years per yard, I think. The time was marked by pennies embedded in the concrete. For some reason, I was so focused on the walking and looking, I didn't get pics of that. 

Ferns! Even at the Grand Canyon. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see these little guys where it was pretty warm and dry. 

A canyon raven. I took these for Toby once Augie and I took off hiking on our own. When we retuned, I found that Toby had been taking pictures of this same bird. We are united in so many ways....❤️

Anthony is pretty safety conscious himself. He finally agreed to take a pic by this tree. We convinced him it was not actually on the edge of the cliff.

We headed back to the main area of the Village and did a bit of souvenir shopping. We picked up, among other things, a neat throw that has a map of the Grand Canyon which we have on our couch right now. We had a bit of time to kill so we bought drinks at the bar at the El Tovar and sat on the front porch there in rocking chairs. It was cool in the shade and we were pleased with how well our trip was going and just enjoying being out together. 

We took the train back and were "held up" by the cowboys and enjoyed more guitar music. It was fun. We had drinks and snacks and then checked back into The Railway Hotel and had dinner.

Anthony loves taking pics in these things. One reason we went to the Grand Canyon again was because this was the 100th anniversary of it becoming a National Park. We love the National Park System. It is, in our opinions, a very great use of public money.

Once back in the room, we rested a bit. Toby and I went down and had a drink at the bar and reflected on the day and what our next plans were. We decided that we'd sleep in just a bit before taking off for our next adventure: Zion National Park

Thanks for reading!