October 24 – 25, 2012
The next stop on our tour of the southwest was going to be the Grand Canyon. Originally we planned on going to the North Rim, but we found out that it was probably closed so we had to change our plans slightly. On the way to the South Rim we stopped at the Glen Canyon Dam near Page Arizona.
The Glen Canyon Dam is the next dam upstream of the Hoover Dam, with the Grand Canyon in between. The 4th tallest dam in the US is a concrete gravity arch dam like Hoover, but it is considerably thicker. Like Hoover it’s primary purpose is to impound water for release to water owners below with power generation being a bonus.
The crest of the dam serves as a parking lot for power plant employees – traffic is routed over the steel
Navajo Glen Canyon Bridge just downstream of the dam.
My brother and I went on the tour of the dam which allowed us to get out on the crest and ride the elevator through the dam to the power house. The tour was a little underwhelming and rushed with the tour guide regurgitating facts about the dam without a particular interest in discussing the dam’s more technical details. It was too bad because it turned out that there was an engineer in all four groups of people on the tour, one each from Italy, Germany, Canada and the US. As the enginering representative from the USA I was particularly proud that I looked like I had just stepped out of Phish concert after several days of hiking and being on the road without the benefit of a shower.
One of the unique aspects of this dam was a large field of grass that sat between the toe of the dam and the power house. We saw a guy 600 something feet down there on a riding mower right when we got there. It turns out that the grass was planted to keep several hundred feet of soil placed from blowing away. The soil was placed to dampen the vibrations of the pipes which lead to the turbines in the power house.
We made it to the Grand Canyon right before sunset. It was cold there, in the low 40s or so. The park had a surprisingly well stocked and inexpensive grocery store with a stellar beer section. We bought ingredients for burritos, and made them on the tailgate. After dark Tayler and I wandered through the woods toward the canyon attempting to use the stars to guide us north. We couldn’t find the big dipper, the little dipper or orion because of the trees. After exhausting our celestial navigation skills we stumbled around until we came across a major road with signs pointing to a paved hiking trail along the rim. A true backcountry experience.
I tried to make some long exposure images at night, but with no tripod or shutter remote and a steady breeze, they didn’t turn out great.
Turns out it is easier to photograph the Grand Canyon during the day.
When we woke up we saw our car thermometer had gone down to 26 during the night. After indulging in hot pay showers we chowed on breakfast burritos and decided to head south to warmer weather.