Thursday, September 11
Julie and I are up bright and early today to revisit the north rim of the Grand Canyon. When I drove out there a couple weeks ago, my visit was cut short by thunderstorms and I didn’t get to do any of the hiking I’d wanted to.
Today’s forecast is sunny and warm…at least at lower elevations. At 7,000 feet it should be quite comfortable. Water bottles, trail mix, beef jerky, sandwiches, and sunscreen get tossed into Bertha, and it’s off we go.
At the very end of the paved road at the north rim, down the spur that proclaims “Winding mountain road, vehicles over 30 feet not recommended” lies an easy and short one mile paved hike out to Angel’s Door, which is what I believe is generally called a window formation, despite the name. A hole has been cut out of a jutting peninsula, and the trail gives multiple views of the window, and eventually leads out over top of it giving a good view of the canyon.
The Colorado River is just visible between the twists and folds of the land, and a sign brings one’s attention to the color of the river.
These days it tends to flow bluegreen, the sediment all caught by the dam at Lake Powell above, but in older days before the dam it flowed red, and it flows red today due to the flooding earlier in the week. I consider myself fortunate to catch a glimpse of the Colorado in it’s more natural state.
Second up on the hiking agenda is the Cliff Spring trail, the one I was really eager to try on my last visit. It’s not paved and there is a bit of elevation change, but it’s still only a mile long out and back.
Before even reaching the spring, a stone formation covers a crude and old looking structure within. It’s an ancient granary, long ago a tribe of Native Americans use to farm the top of the north rim in the summer, then retreat down to lower elevations when winter came. This activity was already pretty much over by the time white settlers came to the area, scientists think because climate changes brought less rain and made growing crops more challenging.
Not far beyond that, the valley deepens and the trail hugs the side under a truly impressive overhang of rock that runs for a good quarter of a mile. Ponderosa pines climb up from the bottom and cling precariously to the cliffs above. Add to the mix spring water seeping from those orange faces and a plethora of hanging gardens and moss decorated pools and you have a very impressive hike…and photograph.
It would be a shame to drive out this far and not try to recapture some of the overlooks I couldn’t get good photos of before due to rain. At Vista Encantada, Julie and I have a seat on the old bench and I get a good shot of the view in late afternoon sunlight. The closer ridge almost seems to have a red sand dune running along the top of it, but from the trees growing out of it, I think it’s more solid than it looks.
Time is running short, but I remember how many blog readers commented on the last post that I should get down below the rim to really get the whole beauty of the Grand Canyon, so we duck on over to Grandview trail, which I quickly ascertain is for serious hikers when an outdoor outfitter group in matching shirts with big backpacks and poles tiredly lugs their way back up to the top with whoops of joy at reaching the end. Julie and I are still in our sandals, and there’s no way we can make it to the midway point, let alone all the way down to the Colorado which is a good 10 miles and several thousand feet in elevation away, but the first check point at Coconino Overlook is only a 2.2 mile round trip and only a drop and subsequent climb of 1,200 feet, that should be possible for two casual hikers such as ourselves, right? Right?
I avoid looking into the faces of the serious hikers as we make the descent, worried I’ll see doubt there. I do notice how even the most athletic among them are huffing and puffing on the way up. The overlook is pretty, if mostly shaded this time of day. After a quick trail mix stop, it’s back up to the top.
I’ll just blame the panting and slow pace on the elevation, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
Having worked up an appetite, we mosey on over to the Lodge, which is turning a brisk business, even on a weekday and now out of peek season. Food is on our minds, but the lure of one last hike before dark is too much to resist and before we know it our shoes are carrying us out to Bright Angel Point as the sun is about to fall below the canyon walls. It’s that magical time just before sunset when the light turns ruddy and sharply offsets the deepening shadows. My phone camera isn’t worth much in low light situations like this, so you’ll just have to trust my word for it that it was a magical moment.
The grill at the lodge has a waiting list over two hours long, so we opt for a pulled pork sandwich at the little cafeteria style counter instead. It tastes amazing, but maybe that’s what anything would taste like after a day like today.
With the full onset of night, we linger in the gift shop, at the seating area outside the little coffee saloon from which music pours out into the night, and then on the porch outside the lodge which offers a stunning view of the stars. At the large outdoor fireplace nearby, three travelers share tales of the road. It’s a busy place, but we both conclude that we would probably enjoy staying in the cabins at the lodge, the place has a good vibe even after dark, a welcoming, comfortable, almost village-like feel. Maybe someday I will tow Cas up here and splurge for a few nights in the campground.
* * *
It took a couple hours over the course of two days to get this post up on the bad WiFi with all of these pictures, I hope you all enjoy it!
Also, Sunday the 14th was the anniversary of my second year on the road, I can’t believe it’s been two years already. All I really have to say about that is: “Here’s to many more!” And best of luck to all of you wannabe full-timers out there, hope to meet you all on the road someday soon.