CHAPTER 57. The Grand Canyon

After talking about the Canyon for months and anxiously waiting to see it during the long railway journey from Chicago we arrived there at 9.15 on Sunday, September 4th, over an hour late. The journey from Chicago had been without anything untoward happening. I spent the time writing when Rozie would leave me alone, but she usually preferred to stay in the drawing room with me to going out and talking to the other passengers in the observation car.

World Tour 1938
The Streamlined Santa Fe Express at Chicago

This was the first drawing room we had travelled in. In America there are four kinds of sleepers. Firstly, there is the long car with the beds running down each side top and bottom. In these men and women sleep together, or perhaps, notwithstanding the many stories I have heard, it would be nicer to say they sleep in the same long compartment. This method has not been experienced by me so I am not in a position to confirm or deny its advantage or disadvantage.

The next is the bedroom. This was what we had in our journey from Detroit to Toronto as that train had nothing better to offer. The bedroom is a very small sleeping compartment for two people. The beds upper and lower are placed across the compartment. They are not considered very wide, but they are much wider than those we have in New Zealand. The other space is smaller but that space is very cleverly used as it carries all toilet requisites and space for clothes.

The next method is the compartment. This has more space than the bedroom and the beds are lengthwise so that you can lie with your head the way the train is travelling, which is regarded as the best method. In the compartment the beds are very wide and comfortable. I understand that it is quite common for two people to use only the lower bed. In fact, when ours was being made up when we travelled from New York to Niagara the attendant asked whether I wanted both beds made up. Two chairs and all toilet requirements complete the outfit.

The drawing room is built along the lines of the compartment, but with more space. The beds are just about the same. Instead of the two chairs and the toilet requisites being in the same room there is a long couch running the full length of the room and all toilet requirements are in another small room at the end. This room is fitted a little more elaborately than the others and I understand in the latest type of drawing-room there is also a showerbath. Until I got on board the train I thought we were going to have this facility, but the train travelling to the Grand Canyon does not have this latest type of pullman car.

In all of the three last named types of sleepers I overlooked mentioning that hot and cold water is laid on and also iced water for drinking purposes. The cars we travelled in were all air conditioned, which was a great comfort especially when travelling across the continent from Chicago. There is also an electric fan to switch on and this is much enjoyed when a draught of air is desired. The lighting is very good. In our bedroom we have ten lights which can be switched on according to requirements. There are also two lights in the toilet room. Being air conditioned and insulated against noise and weather conditions from the outside makes the cars run very quietly, so that we can get a fair amount of sleep during the night. Rozie has also found the couch a good plan for the same purpose during the day.

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The engine and train which took us to the Grand Canyon

That describes our drawing room, but there are other parts of this train to which we are entitled. The last carriage is an observation car. It is fitted with easy chairs and large windows so that the country can be seen quite easily. For the most part the country across America, at any rate, until we arrived at the Grand Canyon, was interesting.

Some of it was much worse as we travelled for many miles over desert and prairie lands which were flat and without any vegetation except some small growth never more than a foot high, which seems to be all that the prairie cattle have to live upon.

There are also several seats on the outside of the observation car for persons who desire a breath of the real fresh air and also some dust, except when it is raining. We had a fair amount of rain after we left Chicago. In this observation car there is a writing table and also a supply of magazines.

Ahead of the sleeping cars is the lounge. This is a long car with ordinary seats over about half of it and the other half is fitted with easy chairs. There are also several writing tables here. The first time I did some writing here the attendant switched on the radio so that I was able to write to a musical accompaniment. This car is for all passengers travelling in sleepers.

Just ahead of the lounge is the diningroom. This is just the same as the other pullman dining cars throughout the world. On this run I noticed that the charges were higher than on most of the other cars, A lunch or breakfast costs a little over a dollar and a dinner a dollar and a half. As the tipping is also 10% it makes the meal fairly costly when compared with our New Zealand standard. However, the meals helped to pass the time on a long journey as well as fill a cavity and get rid of a few dollars.

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a goods train over a mile long

The speed of the train varied according to the country over which we were passing. We started with one of the latest streamline engines and that pulled the train at a great pace. As we left Chicago at 10 o’clock in the morning we had the whole day to watch the scenery. Sometimes the train travelled so fast that it gave us both a headache to see the telegraph posts whizz by. Going over the flat country there were many long straight stretches and I am sure we did over 85 miles an hour. I have done 85 in the Chrysler and I know I never travelled as fast as that train along these parts.

World Tour 1938
The engine and train which took us to the Grand Canyon

Later we took on more carriages and then we had two engines. We only made one stop for any length of time during the day and that was at Amarillo, where we spent 25 minutes to give the passengers not riding in sleepers an opportunity to have a decent meal. Water was taken on very quickly at regular points and all of our engines burned oil fuel.

There was another stop made which caused us some disappointment. At 9 o’clock on the first night out from Chicago we went to bed as we were tired and there did not appear to be anything else to do. Shortly after we were settled in our bunks the train stopped and stood at the station for a long time. We both went to sleep and learned in the morning that two hours had been spent at Kansas City to enable the passengers to see the place. We missed it, but comforted ourselves with the thought that it was just like any other city and the good sleep was what we wanted.

World Tour 1938
The engine and train which took us to the Grand Canyon

By this time you will be doubting whether we did arrive at the Grand Canyon, but I can assure you that what I said previously is correct and that with a great deal of puffing and spluttering the two engines which picked up the train at Williams climbed the last hill which raised us up to an elevation of 7,000 feet and then stopped to blow off steam as though complaining of the job they had done while we climbed down the several steps to the ground below with the negro attendant ready to catch those who fell.

A free bus was waiting. Something free stirred my Scotch blood, but it was only for the hotel passengers and the hotel was only 100 yards away up a hill. We took the bus and as the dining car had been left at Williams we could not get breakfast on the train and were quite ready for that now. On my way to the diningroom I saw scores of people at a booking office getting tickets for something or other. I had been told that as I was only spending one day at the Canyon there was no necessity to take any trips. However, I wanted to be in on this thing in case I had been wrongly informed.

I joined the motley and excited crowd and found that they were handing in tickets in exchange for motor tickets. I was not getting near the counter so I went over to a man who appeared to be one of the hotel managers and told him I had been informed that motor trips were not necessary as I was staying only the one day and yet other passengers on the train seemed to be rushing the trip counter. He told me the best plan was for me to take a whole day trip right around the Canyon at a cost of ten dollars each.

Twenty dollars seemed a lot for me to pay to see this big hole in the earth and I hesitated and told him I must have been misled when I was told I could see the canyon without taking any trip. Then he started hedging and said I could walk around in the morning and take the afternoon drive which was the better of the two and that would only cost twelve dollars for two of us. I agreed to this. We had breakfast and then we went outside.

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A few yards from the hotel we looked down and suddenly without any warning the earth stopped short and the grand canyon of Arizona was below us. I am writing this in the train at the Grand Canyon Station so that I will give my impressions before they fade and even now after having walked away from seeing it in the moonlight but a few minutes ago and seeing it throughout the day in its varying moods and colours I am unable to describe it adequately.

World Tour 1938

What would you understand if I told you that it is a gigantic chasm over 200 miles long from 4 to 18 miles wide and a mile deep? That might describe a huge hole in the crust of the earth and of course that is the canyon, but nevertheless it does not describe it. All around it is a wilderness plateau and this canyon has broken and smashed the surface of that plateau for over 200 miles. How did such a hole get there is the natural question to ask.

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For millions of years the Colorado river has washed and scoured and eaten its way through all kinds of soil and stone and is continuing to do so at the present time. But the Colorado river with all its rapids and rushing torrents has not been wholly responsible for this spectacular hole in the crust of the earth. It is the world’s greatest illustration of erosion. The combined action of the wind, the rain, the frost, the heat of the sun and the elements generally have been responsible for this vast uncovering of the bowels of the earth.

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The job is not yet done, for to-day I photographed some huge boulders which I am sure will find their way to the bottom of the chasm before very long. They are resting on split rock and there are many other places like it. That river is doing its work perceptibly, for every year shows some alteration. As it is still 2500 feet above sea level there is a lot of hard material to wash away before the sea comes in and even at its present rate it will be many millions of years before the sea level is reached.

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I hope you are getting some idea of this awesome and unparalleled piece of nature. It is colossal. You step to the edge and shudder. Rozie called me back until she was tired while I was taking photos.

When Will Rogers first saw it he opened his mouth and eyes very wide and said “Golly! What a Gully!”.

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But its real grandeur has not yet been mentioned. Without its colouring it would be what my description had probably led you to believe – a great hole. Its colours make it the grand canyon. I saw coloured photographs, printed postcards,oil paintings, but they are all wrong. That postcard is certainly not as I see it. But I looked again. The colour has changed. It is constantly changing.

With every cloud the light is altered and the colour is different. With every hour of the day the sun’s rays differ and the colour is different. I took some coloured photos. on my way to a lookout and when I returned I took them again because the colour was different.

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What makes the colour? The atmosphere, the distance across, the depth below and the varying colour of the stones, soil and short vegetation. The sky seems a deeper blue than usual and that seems to exaggerate the red in the gully. The greens of the trees in the foreground enhance the brightness of the other colours. No, it is useless, I cannot describe it. I might go on for hours and I must agree with others who have seen it and say it must be seen to be believed.

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I walked with Rozie around the rim. As we had been shut up in a train since Friday morning we were ready for a walk.

World Tour 1938

In a little less than two miles we came upon the museum and lookout from which the best views are obtainable. I remembered this was where the afternoon drive was to be. We got back to the hotel at lunch time, but it was a good four miles when we had finished and Rozie was tired. After lunch I told her to rest at the hotel and talk to the other tourists, a little game which she seems to excel in.

I then started out by myself. I found I could see much more than could be shown to me from a motor car and in any case I did not believe in spending twelve dollars for a car ride where I could not take photos. while the whole canyon was available to me for this purpose while I was on foot.

World Tour 1938

I found some very fine lookouts and took a number of pictures which I hope will be good. Then I started down the trail where the mules go to the bottom of the canyon.

World Tour 1938

I walked a long way until I met the mules coming back. Then I returned with them and took their photos.

World Tour 1938

The walk back was too steep and tiring for me to keep up with the mules, but as there were four parties I let them get ahead one at a time and before the last arrived I was at the top ready to snap them as they went past.

World Tour 1938

At 5.30 there was a Red Indian dance which was very similar to what we had seen in Canada.

World Tour 1938

Rozie was refreshed and I took her a short distance to show where I had spent the afternoon and then we had dinner. It is now ten o’clock and I am tired but it has been a good day. The marvel of nature is now behind us, but has left its uplift. No one can see that sight without remembering the Creator.

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