Reader Submission: Winter Grand Canyon Memories

Our February issue (on newsstands now) features Timeless Land, an excerpt from our December 1944 issue. In it, writer Faith Baldwin recounted a trip she had recently taken from Prescott to the Grand Canyon in late March. That got LaRocque DuBose, an Arizona Highways reader who now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, thinking about his own experience at the Canyon in winter. He sent us the following, and we thought we'd share it with you.

Your reproduction of Faith Baldwin’s story of her 1944 visit to the Grand Canyon was especially interesting to my wife and me. We followed her seven years later on our honeymoon. We were married on January 29, 1951, in San Antonio, Texas, and intended to go to California for our honeymoon. But our plans took an absolutely wonderful change.

When we arrived in Flagstaff after spending the night in Winslow, I suggested that we make a detour and go up to the Grand Canyon for lunch.  My wife agreed, so we drove up to the east entrance and stopped at the Desert View Watchtower. I had been to the Canyon many years before, but the huge magnificence floored me all over again. We drove along the South Rim, stopping here and there at overlooks, and then reached Bright Angel Lodge in time for lunch. There was snow on the ground, but the weather was quite mild, around 45 degrees.

When we finished lunch, I said, to my wife, “You know, I wouldn’t mind just forgetting about California and spending the rest of our time here.” Her face broke into a broad smile and she said, “Let’s do it!” So I went to the front desk and asked if they had any vacancies. The desk clerk laughed and said, “Counting rangers, tourists and restaurant and retail staff there’s a total of 55 people on the South Rim right now. Yes, we have a vacancy.”

He booked us into a nice cabin whose name I still remember as being Supai 3. It had a wide window looking straight across the canyon to Bright Angel Gorge, a fireplace which the porter  got going for us and he brought us more wood every day.

For the next several days we visited probably every lookout on the South Rim. Deer would approach our car and try to stick their head in the window. Back at Bright Angel Lodge, we would sit on the low wall overlooking the Canyon and let birds and chipmunks eat out of our hands. After dinner on some nights, as the sun was setting over the Canyon, my wife would sit at the piano in the lobby and play DeRose’s “Deep Purple,” which matched what was going on in the canyon, and it always drew an audience of employees and a few tourists.

One morning about dawn we were walking up to the lodge for breakfast, and all of a sudden there was a very loud bang. I thought, “Oh, my God! That ranch house down in the Canyon must have exploded.” I looked down into the Canyon but could see no signs of fire. When we got to the lobby, I told the desk clerk what we’d heard, and he said, “Yes, that was an atom bomb test up in Nevada. We saw the flash 36 minutes ago.”

El Tovar was not open during the winter season in those days, but our two sons and their wives booked us a suite in it for the weekend of our Golden Wedding Anniversary. Oh, what memories that evoked!

We were entranced with Arizona on that honeymoon trip, and after almost 50 years of moving around the country, we wound up in Scottsdale, happy to have, finally, “come home.”

DuBose adds: "As mentioned, we were married on January 29, 1951, the coldest night in the history of San Antonio, Texas, -4° F. (Yes, that's a minus sign!) There was an ice storm covering south Texas and all roads were closed. There were no train, planes or buses, and about two-thirds of the friends and family we'd invited to our wedding were unable to make it. As a result of not being able to drive, we were "ice bound" in the Bridal Suite of the most expensive hotel in San Antonio for five days, an accommodation which I had booked for only our wedding night. And it was expensive, $20.00 per night! (A regular room was $4.00 per night.)

"That expense and loss of expected days made it more advisable for us to delete California from our itinerary and stop at the Grand Canyon. That was a fortuitous set of circumstances and we've been happy for the past 63 years that things worked out as they did."

Photo: From left, LaRocque DuBose, wife Estelle, son Adam, daughters-in-law Kelly and Linda, and son Denis at the Duboses' golden wedding anniversary at the Grand Canyon. | Courtesy of LaRocque DuBose

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