The Santa Fe Railroad constructed this eight-mile-long road from Grand Canyon Village west to Hermits Rest in 1912. Stops along the way allow you to walk to the rim and enjoy the views. Highlights include a superb overlook of the Bright Angel Trail from Trailview, the copper and uranium Orphan Mine from Maricopa Point, great views and a historic marker at Powell Memorial, the Colorado River from Hopi and Mohave Points, the 3,000-foot sheer drop of the Abyss, and, from Pima Point, views of Granite Rapid and foundations of an old hotel below. Your map will help identify Canyon features: Bright Angel Trail switchbacking down to the grove of trees at Indian Garden, Plateau Point at the end of a short trail from Indian Garden, Bright Angel Canyon on the far side of the river, the many majestic temples rising out of the depths, and the rapids of the Colorado River.
The imaginative stone building here marks the westernmost viewpoint and end of the drive. Mary Colter designed the structure and its Great Fireplace according to what she thought a hermit might like. Hermits Rest offers a snack bar, gift shop, drinking water, and restrooms. A free shuttle bus runs the length of the drive except in winter, when you can take your own vehicle. Bicyclists enjoy this drive too, and they aren't affected by the shuttle-season ban on cars. Because Hermit Road is so narrow, cyclists need to pull off and dismount when large vehicles wish to pass.
If you've walked to Hermits Rest on the Rim Trail, you'll probably want to rest too. Louis Boucher, the Hermit, came to the Canyon in 1891 and stayed 21 years; he lived at Dripping Springs and constructed the Boucher Trail to his mining claims in Boucher Canyon.
Compact cameras can take wonderful pictures—if their pea-sized electronic brains aren't too heavily relied upon! The small size of compacts makes it easy to keep your camera ready for those "magic moments." Here's a checklist of ideas to obtain rewarding images:
*Moving in close to your subject gives striking results! Too often a person steps back and tries to take a photo of his sweetheart AND the Grand Canyon without doing justice to either. A closer snap of the sweetheart with a bit of Canyon background would make a better shot. Simple backgrounds give a sense of place without distracting from the subject.
*To zoom or not to zoom? Wide-angle settings often work best for landscapes and in confined spaces. Normal or telephoto lens settings do well for portraits.
*People busy enjoying themselves make memorable photos.
*The early photographer gets the greatest shots. Morning's warm, soft, misty light creates wonderful effects for both landscapes and portraits. Evening's light is almost as good.
*Foregrounds add depth and interest to scenics. The infinity or spot button on many cameras ensures that the camera focuses on the distant scenery—not a nearby tree.
*To flash or not to flash? Cameras optimistically think their flash will illuminate the entire Grand Canyon for that evening shot! Then it's best to turn off the flash, prop up the camera on something (a tripod if you're lucky enough to have one handy), and use the self-timer or remote to release the shutter without jarring the camera; you can obtain surprisingly good night and interior shots this way. Some cameras have a "night scene" mode that illuminates near objects with flash, then leaves the shutter open to expose the distant background; again, you'll need to prop up the camera. Flash can work well in daytime to "fill in" dark shadows. You can dust off the camera's instruction manual to see what flash modes, flash ranges, and shutter-speed range you have.
*Flash ranges: If you copy the flash-range distances out of the instruction manual for the film speeds you use and write it on a label on the back of the camera, you'll always know when you're "in the light." Typically compact camera flashes work from the minimum focusing distance up to about 16 feet at wide angle, decreasing to about 9 feet at telephoto settings with ISO 100 films; distances double with ISO 400 and double again at ISO 1600.
*Steady cameras get the sharp shots. If you hold the camera securely but not tightly, and let out half of your breath and hold it while clicking the shutter, you'll get the best results. In low light or with telephoto settings, you might consider propping up the camera.
*Digital photography has made a big splash with its instant results—you can see the photo immediately on the built-in screen—and ease of doing all kinds of "darkroom" modifications with a computer. You can then e-mail the photo to friends or see it emerge from an inexpensive color printer. Digital photography is a great learning tool and it can be lots of fun.
*Outdoors or on a river-rafting trip, you'll find a water-resistant camera handy. The best models feature weatherproofing, a glass lens protector (can't jam), and a zoom lens with only a slightly higher cost and weight than unprotected models. Waterproof disposable cameras provide a low-cost alternative.
*A critical look at professional photos in Arizona Highways magazine will provide a wealth of ideas—you can see how lighting, camera angle, foreground, background, and placement of subjects lead your eye into and around each photo for a delightful experience.
*Books and Internet sites offer examples and tips. Kodak has many how-to books; its website features picture-taking advice at www.kodak.com. Sun Spot Photography offers picture-taking instruction at www.sunspotphoto.com. The author of www.photo.net provides lots of how-to and equipment advice. Short Courses at www.shortcourses.com specializes in digital photography.
On to Desert View Drive