Once again, I am confirmed in my wisdom to take guided hiking tours. But not just any tour. I seek out locally run, preferably small Mom-and-Pop type outfits. These are usually run by enthusiasts with a great love of the parks they tour and an infectious enthusiasm. I had great good luck back in Moab and Canyonlands with this tactic. I had an qually good experience at the Grand Canyon. The outfit I chose was Canyon Dave’s Tours. Turns out, it really is run by Mom and Pop, the marriage between a geologist and a botanist who wanted to offer a more informative canyon tour. Our guide was not either Mom or Pop, but one of their younger guides, Kenny.

Here's Kenny giving us a brief botany talk. Later he gave us a great and understandable overview of how the canyon was formed.

Here’s Kenny giving us a brief botany talk. Later he gave us a great and understandable overview of how the canyon was formed.

As far as taking pictures that capture the totality of the Grand Canyon, I’ve found that to be impossible. But in terms of getting a grasp of the geology, botany, history and a selection of fun facts, Kenny was amazing. He even had a store of trivia — which I always appreciate. One of his fun facts, the Pronghorn Antelope that live in the area developed as the fastest land animal in North America back when the continent was crawling with Mega Fauna and extinct animals like the North American Cheetah. But once the Pronghorn had developed the speed to elude these, it had no further need to evolve. So they are still much as they were back in the days when Sabre Tooth Tigers roamed our continent. After that tantalizing bit of information, I was disappointed to see no Pronghorns. But we did see herds of Elk, all female and their young. Since it’s rutting season, we wondered if the males were all off somewhere fighting or comparing antler sizes.

But we didn’t have time to obsess about animals, as Kenny kept us engaged with a basic grounding in the geology that formed the canyon, as well as an overview of some of the key trees in the area and their traditional medicinal uses.

There are a lot of juniper trees. Sadly, these are not the kind you can make gin from.

There are a lot of juniper trees. Sadly, these are not the kind you can make gin from.

But one of my favorite parts of the tour — and something I hadn’t seen in the several times I’d been here was the Desert Tower, built for the Fred Harvey Company by his favorite architect, Mary Colter.

Designed to reference Native American forms, but not copy them, Colter decreed that no tool marks could show on the stones. She clad the outside in an uneven pattern of stones to "create shadows and add more vigor to the walls."

Designed to reference Native American forms, but not copy them, Colter decreed that no tool marks could show on the stones. She clad the outside in an uneven pattern of stones to “create shadows and add more vigor to the walls.”

Inside, Colter commissioned Hopi artists to decorate in Native motifs.

Inside, Colter commissioned Hopi artists to decorate in Native motifs.

I loved the pottery lights.

I loved the pottery lights.

But back to that canyon. Canyon Dave’s tour took us to lesser known viewpoints away from the crowds.

Unfortunately, it takes a more skilled photographer than me to capture a sense of how huge the Grand Canyon is.

Unfortunately, it takes a more skilled photographer than me to capture a sense of how huge the Grand Canyon is.

Here are two of the most famous formations: the duck in the foreground and Vishnu's Temple in the background.

Here are two of the most famous formations: the duck in the foreground and Vishnu’s Temple in the background.

Even Hillary got into the act.

Even Hillary got into the act. She was feeling top of the world the afternoon before the final debate.

And she proved a popular subject for my tourmates.

And she proved a popular subject for my tour mates.

Add to all this fun, an excellent lunch of Navajo Fry Bread and Green Chile Stew at a one hundred year old trading post, and it was a most excellent Grand Day Out.

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