After a slap-up breakfast, we looked around Kanab, which used to be the centre of the Western movies business. There was a time when everybody in Kanab, from the postman to the pastor, were extras in the movie business. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr, Dean Martin and Ronald Reagan all made films here. But that seems to be history – now the town is a dormitory for the Grand Canyon, with the main street full of cafes, motels and fast food restaurants.
However, just down from the hotel is Frontier Movie Town, which is a coffee and gift shop, and out the back they have a garden full of movie set buildings from the various westerns. Compared to the Calico Ghost Town that we visited, it was brilliant. Okay, so all the buildings were fake (but then, they were at Calico), but they were ‘good fakes’, and actually looked old. We spent an hour and a half there, exploring, taking photo’s and generally talking about the wild west way of life with the owner.
And the top moment was when we discovered the ‘cowboy cutouts’ – just like the seaside ones that used to be in England. Emily and Charlotte insisted on being photographed looking through everyone of the 8 face holes, as cowboys, cowgirls, saloon girls, sheriffs and outlaws. Of course, I only took part because they insisted that I should. What a cultural moment.
And then it was time for the Grand Canyon. We drove the 90 miles from Kanab to the North Rim of the Canyon, passing through green forests and meadows, spotting deer, wild turkeys and chipmunks on the way. The park was really quiet – about 50 cars in the car park, and most of them were staying in the park in the cabins. Because of the time zone changes between Utah and Arizona, we left Kanab at 2 o’clock and arrived in the park at 3:30 – after a 90 mile drive with a picnic stop. We went straight to the viewpoint, which was scary to reach – a narrow 4-foot wide path with 6-inch high kerbs, with near vertical drops of a mile and a half on one side or the other. In some places, there was no side – just a direct drop on both sides. None of us are afraid of heights, but both Charlotte and I got a little nervous on this walk.
Anyway, at the end was a small fenced platform on top of a rock, with a view down, up and across the canyon. There were only 6 other people there, so we had plenty of time and space to take in the view. The weather wasn’t great – thunderstorms moved across the landscape in the distance, with huge lightning detonations happening every few minutes, but the view was still great, with really clear visibility to the mountains 70 miles in the distance. The weather also made it quite cool, with us wearing our fleeces for only the third time in 7 weeks, and Charlotte even got so cold she needed a raincoat over her fleece. Rather than feeling energised we felt a bit drained – but we soon found out that this was due to the altitude – the rim of the canyon is at 8,800 feet – well above the top of Ben Nevis. Although we were on the edge of a huge plain, we were also on top of a huge mountain range.
Charlotte and Emily love the Junior Ranger programmes that they run at the National Parks. At the Visitor Centre you collect a booklet, with lots of small tasks to complete during your visit to the park. For the Grand Canyon this included ‘See the Sights Bingo’, which was easy because we’d seen so much wildlife on our drive in. They also had to write about how she felt about different aspects of the park (Emily scrawls all over her booklet then tells me what it says so that we can write it down for the Ranger to check). And then they had to draw their own petroglyphs describing an important part of their life to somebody else – Charlotte drew a drawing pad and pencils; Emily drew a swimming pool! (Golly, they’re being changed by the travelling). Anyway, at the end they took their booklets back to the Ranger Station, where they are checked by the Rangers, (including questions to check that they did the work themselves!) and then they receive a certificate, a Junior Ranger badge, and have to repeat the Junior Ranger oath. Charlotte takes all this incredibly seriously. Emily was too tired to even hold up her hand – so I had to crouch behind her, holding up hers and mine together. Then, when Sarah took out the camera, the Ranger produced two Ranger Hats for them to wear. Again, Charlotte took her role seriously, while Emily refused to wear hers and put it on me instead. So there I am, taking the Junior Ranger oath, wearing a Junior Ranger hat, holding up my hand, oath style, when Sarah decides to take a photo, and Emily decides at that exact moment to run off.
Here’s what that looks like – you’ll also understand why the Ranger was smiling in the first photo! Sometimes I wonder if this website is just career suicide – still lets hope nobody reads it who knows me professionally.