One of the many things I learned on this trip was that if you are really in the know, you leave out the “the” – which makes sense, you know, since it’s called “Grand” not because it’s big, but because the Colorado River used to be called the Grand River. And you don’t say “The Bryce Canyon” or “The Cloudland Canyon.”
So we’re all cool now, because we say “Yes, we went to Grand Canyon.”
As I think I said before, it really is Grand, no matter why it’s named. All of my anticipatory cynicism was blown away by the real thing. But because this series has gone on just too ridiculously long, I’m going to finish up the Grand Canyon portion – Sunday, May 24 to the morning of Tuesday, May 26 – as succinctly as I can.
- Our Sunday route, as I explained before, was a rather convoluted one from our AirBnB near Fredonia, Arizona, back up to Kanab, Utah for Mass, and then back down to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at the Jacob Lake Inn, which has a famous bakery, bought some baked goods, saw snow (the North Rim Lodge had opened on the 15th..in the midst of snowfall) and at that point, it was still a little early. As I recall, it was before noon, and we couldn’t count on getting in our rooms until four, and we would have a full day tomorrow and as much time as we wanted on Tuesday for the Canyon, I decided to take a little detour – to the Vermillion Cliffs.
- All we did was drive (I had bought the boys sandwiched at the Jacob Lake Bakery, so they had sustenance..after having risen at, um, 6:30 AM or whatever it was. But it was a stunning drive. There’s a point at which you pull around a curve on 89A, having just driven through woods – you see an overlook, and beyond you, to the north, you see them.
- We drove down and around a bit, but there was really nothing to “do” in the area in which we drove except be amazed, and I’m the only one who can sustain that for longer periods of time, so early afternoon, we turned around and headed back.
- Remember, we were at the North Rim. The entrance to the park is about 12 miles or so from the Lodge. You drive and drive – hoping to see the famed bison and deer in the meadows (we didn’t – they are probably active at night) – and finally you’re there.
- We checked in, got into our room even though it was a little early, took in that first amazing view from the lounge in the Lodge, and then got into our cabin, which I liked a lot. (See this entry for more on the accomodations – a lot )
- Then our first “hike” – the ritual Bright Angel Trail hike. This begins at the Lodge, is paved, and follows a short portion of the rim out to Bright Angel Point, which juts into the Canyon. Along the way are various other jutting points, unguarded, on which people like to stand and do daring things. I was nervous just watching people I didn’t know pull these stunts.
- After a dinner of pretty good pizza from the café, we settled in for the night. I went to do laundry at the campsite, the boys took a screen break.
- The next day, we drove and walked. You can see a lot of the North Rim via driving to various points, and considering the North Rim is less visited, and it was quite early in the season, it was very easy to do – efficient!
- We first drove down the Cape Royal Road – this is a great outline of the drive, giving you all the stopping points. When we stopped at the Cape Final parking lot, I’d thought we might do that hike, which is pretty long – but then my 14-year old said, “Why don’t we just walk up that hill over there?”
So we did:
They spent a lot of time searching the rocks. The older boy found a geode early on, so the competition was on….
This was also the parking lot where I backed into a small pine tree that jump behind my car. I took a bit of paint off and left some tar. I worked hard to get that tar off before I dropped car off and waited for several weeks for some demand for restitution, but apparently either there were enough other scratches on the bumper or those car rental agencies in Las Vegas are used to cars being returned in much, much worse shape than with a quarter-sized patch of paint missing….
- It’s a great drive, and the odd thing is that even though you think, “Why do I want to stop and see the Grand Canyon from different viewpoints? I mean…is it really that different every time?” Answer: yes.
- As I recall, after all of that, we returned to the Lodge for lunch. Sandwiches, which were good and not outrageously priced. After that, a bit of a rest, then back on the road. We drove to the parking lot for the North Kaibab Trailhead – this is one of the trails that goes into the canyon and by gosh, we were going to do it! We wouldn’t, of course, go all the way to the canyon bottom, but I wanted to attempt to get to the Supai Tunnel (are you laughing yet?) – four mile round trip. It would be our only activity for the rest of the day…..
- I’ll add at this point that I was annoyed that the visitor information in the Ranger station didn’t tell us much about this trail. The information was certainly there for the asking, but it wasn’t being suggested – but why? Why were they holding back? What did they think we were? Wimps from East of the Mississippi?
- It didn’t take long for me to figure out why, in fact, this trail wasn’t pushed on the casual hiker. It’s hard for a couple of reasons. First, and most importantly, it’s really hard coming back up. Because, of course, you’re coming up the canyon walls. As it turned out, we got to Coconino Overlook (.7 mile down) and that was enough. We all agreed that the hike back up was going to be challenging enough at that point, and we had no need to triple the distance. We couldn’t even.
- The second reason is that this trail is also used by the mules. You also share trails with mules and horses at Bryce, but there’s a difference: Bryce is dry and deserty, and the trails are wider, sandy and gravel-y. The North Kaibab trail is narrow, is in forest and is mostly dirt, which means in the spring it is muddy and also that the animals have no room to do their business (which they do frequently on the trail rides) except on the trail. It was kind of a mess. It was a pretty gross mess at times, with no way to avoid it all except by stepping into Grand Canyon.
- Despite the relative difficulty and the mess, I’m glad we did what we did – I would hate to have gone without hiked even just a bit down into the canyon.
- Finally, we headed up to Imperial point. You could see so much of the canyon, plus so much of what lay to the north, including the Vermillion Cliffs.
And that was it….you can see that even if you’re not a big hiker, you can easily see what the North Rim has to offer in a (long) day. I suppose it’s a copout for the backcountry folks, but that’s not us, and I although I harbor thoughts of someday, if I stay healthy and in shape, attempting a Rim-to-Rim, I was very satisfied with what we experienced in a day and a half.
Next up: Ranger Jake!