About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Arizona Chapter 4: Grand Canyon North Rim

Thursday, June 30th
From Grand Canyon South Rim I took Highway 64 East to 89 North to Scenic 89A - following the beautiful, multi-colored Echo Cliffs to my right!

Upon entering the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, I stopped at the Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center for some info on the area, and walked over the huge, 834-foot long bridge over the beautiful, turquoise-colored Colorado River 467 feet below.  Until its completion, "no direct route existed between Utah and Arizona. People had to travel 800 miles (1287km) around the canyon to reach the other side of the river!  It was an historic day when, on January 12, 1929, the bridge was opened to traffic." At the time, it was the highest steel arch bridge in the world!  Due to pedestrian accidents, they decided the bridge would exclusively serve pedestrians only, and they built another bridge just downstream of it for motor vehicles in 1995.

Navajo Bridge, Glen Canyon Nat'l Rec. Area

Once finished marveling at the bridge, I took the first right from the interpretive center to Lee's Ferry Launch Ramp, the historic access point for transportation on the Colorado River - first real ferryboat at Lees Ferry first launched on January 11, 1873!

As I made my way back from Lee's Ferry I stopped to snap a few pictures of the huge balanced rocks.

The scenery really started to change as I climbed elevation from the flat, desert landscape up to the green meadows and forests nearing the village of Jacob's Lake, where at the bakery I bought 4 made-from-scratch cookies for $5 - Lemon Zucchini, German Chocolate, Chocolate Parfait ("buttery cookie loaded with Guittard milk chocolate chunks") and chocolate raspberry (my favorite!).  Of course you can't have cookies without washing 'em down with bottle of cold milk, so I had a cookies & milk fest while driving down the highway (probably not the best idea, lol) to Grand Canyon North Rim.

I reached the campground at Grand Canyon North Rim at 5:30pm, and while it's on a reservation-only basis and all the signs said it was full, I'm glad I checked at the actual campground, because I got lucky and was able to get a site due to a cancellation (always check!).  It was 10 feet from the bathroom, but hey I suppose that might have its benefits, lol.

I went to the visitor center for info and got sworn in as an official Grand Canyon Junior Ranger!  I had to complete every activity in the 16-page booklet to do so, and I became a Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger, too (you have to get a special booklet while down at Phantom Ranch)!  I got a Grand Canyon badge and patch, and a special "Phantom Rattler" patch, too!  God I'm a dork :)  My friend Jo would be so proud of me.

One of Many Species of Wildflowers

Also at the visitor I very serendipitously bumped into my friend Liz Roth, the artist-in-residence I met at the south rim!  No way!  She showed me the beautiful, historic North Rim Lodge, with incredible views from the large window panels on the back walls and from the big deck outside.  We kicked back outside and got all caught up on the lazy Adirondack chairs overlooking the canyon all the way across to the buildings on the south rim 10 miles as the crow flies.  We made a play date then I let her do some painting while I walked out to Bright Angel Point for more spectacular views looking onto Bright Angel, Transept and Roaring Springs side canyons.

I set up my tent just as the sun went down, then I moseyed over to the large campground amphitheater for the ranger-led program "Monsters & Microbes of the Paleozoic."  It was a fun, interactive, Jeopardy-style discussion on the history of the early organisms that have been found in the 3 sets of rock within the canyon.  He'd hold up a photo and we'd guess what it was based off our cheat sheets.  And we got to pass around fossils, too.

I met Liz at 9pm in front of the campground General Store, and we walked over to her cabin where we had some laughs and red wine.  Liz is hilarious.

A Wasp of Some Sort on Cliff Spring Trail
Friday, July 1st
I packed up my tent and left the campground for a more secluded place, first having breakfast at the lodge (amazing views from my window-side table!) - ranchos huevos with extra green chili sauce.  I pitched my tent in the national forest 5 miles outside the park boundary.  It's a nice, quite, shady spot off a dirt road with peek-a-boo views of a meadow.  I'll sleep like a baby tonight :)

I re-entered the park and did the 11-mile scenic drive through the green, winding, hilly forest to Point Imperial, the highest point on either rim, with great views of Mount Hayden, Saddle Mountain and eastern Grand Canyon.  Connecting scenic drive #2 consisted of 14 more miles of splendid scenery, but even more beautiful and cliff-side (in fact one part has cliffs on either side!).  Great walks, hikes and overlooks, with stops at Vista Encantada, Roosevelt Point, a walk through Pueblo ruins, Walhalla Overlook, an short 'n sweet hike to Cliff Springs via a trail down a forested ravine past ruins of a Pueblo grainery, to beautiful canyon views from under a tunnel-like cliff overhang, lined with hanging plants and flowers at the spring - one of my new favorite hikes!

Next was a 4-mile hike on Cape Final Trail through ponderosa pines, where I spotted a Mountain Short-Horned Lizard!  They turn different colors to blend in.  This one was pink with white and brown patches with white spikes.  It was so curious about me!  I kneeled  down and we just took a moment to check each other out.  It sat their with its little head cocked looking up at me, that was, until [RANT WARNING!] some pompous hillbilly fool and his goons came along, cornered the thing, and aggressively snatched it up from his place of comfort on the ground, terrifying him.  The careless moron asked if I wanted to hold it (as if he's the proud/ignorant owner).  If he wanted to be held he'd leap into my hands, thank you!  Just because you're bigger and [arguably] more intelligent doesn't give you license to grab whatever wildlife you take an interest in.  Whatever you do to the unfortunate creatures you come upon in your backyard at home is your business, but here it is ILLEGAL to deface or disturb anything in the park - that would include lizards, dumb-ass!  Of course, that's what went through my head.  I courteously declined, saying "No thanks, I'm an observer." Of course as soon as the idiot let the lizard go it took off as fast as its legs could go.  *SIGH*

Mountain Short-Horned Lizard
Also along the way I saw several species of colorful wildflowers and prickly pear cactus in bloom, interesting chunks of rocks and astounding views from Cape Final Point.

When I got back to my car I drove down to Cape Royal, an easy .6-mile round-trip walk on a flat, paved trail, providing stupendous views of the canyon, Angel's Window (cool!) and the Colorado River, with markers interpreting the area's natural history.  I stayed there for quite a while, taking photos and having a picnic dinner on the ledge of a rock as the sun started to set.

At 8pm I caught the evening ranger program at The Lodge Auditorium, a beautiful historic space where the fun, informative ranger took us all on a virtual journey from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon via his personal photos and commentary.  I learned some things and someday when I do this hike I'll do it in April or May or October for the seasonal waterfalls and Roaring Springs, go on a nighttime, ranger-led scorpion hunt at Phantom Ranch, and do the side-hike from Indian Gardens to the plateau.

Got an ADS - "Adios Mother Fucker" or "Code Blue" at Rough Rider Saloon, where I talked with a fun couple from Phoenix - husband from Boston (sounded just like Matt Damon!) and wife from England (sounded just like she's from England!  hahaha), and I chatted with Max Dagger, the bartender, who works only 5 months a year and has the other 7 off to sail on his boat!  That guy knows what he's doing!

Just Another View from the Lodge :)

On the way back to camp tonight I saw FOUR mule deer within a one-mile stretch!  I stayed warm through the cold night in my tent (8,000-9,000 foot elevation on the North Rim), thanks to my fleece footy pajamas, hoodie and 3 sleeping bags, lol!

Saturday, July 2nd
I slept in 'til 8am - 2 hours later than usual, woo-hoo!
I hiked the enchanting 10-mile (round-trip) Widforss Trail, named Arizona's best hike by Arizona Highways magazine.  The trail follows the canyon rim as it skirts the transept, a large tributary gorge of Bright Angel Canyon, and has numbered posts the first 2.5 miles that you can follow along with on the trail guide you can pick up from the metal box at the trailhead.  It's mostly shaded as it winds through a mixed spruce-fir forest, ending at a picnic area near Widforss Point, overlooking Haunted Canyon.  I was delighted hiking through diverse groves of trees, smelling wildflowers and strolling through meadows to the great view at the end.  And I spotted a black and yellow bird with bright orange head on the way back!

I rewarded my hiking with the pasta lunch buffet at the North Rim Lodge Dining Room.  The pasta was mediocre, except for the rich alfredo sauce, but it was nice to banter with the friendly, conversational assistant chef.

Did laundry, took a hot shower, called Mom who informed me the state of Minnesota is on a lockdown!  State agencies, programs and even the state parks are shut down - meanwhile people are getting notices of layoffs until a budget decision is reached!  Gee, that makes sense; let's come up with a budget to save money while shutting down money-makers like state parks over the Fourth of July - quite possibly Minnesota parks' biggest revenue weekend!  Ugh, politicians disgust me.

View from Cliff Springs Trail
I took a break from journaling inside the big, beautiful lobby at the lodge to admire the mesmerizing sunset outside - vivid pinks, oranges and purples lit up the sky and dazzled the packed deck of fellow onlookers.  On my return to the quaint desk inside, I came upon a foreign woman curiously looking over my journal, maps and papers thoughtfully placed about.  Embarrassed, she apologetically fled, not knowing these things weren't placed here by the hotel, lol.  I chuckled to myself as I realized the occupied desk did indeed look professionally staged, heh heh.  I ordered a glass of Merlot and continued journaling, before heading back to camp, where on the way I saw FIVE mule deer next to the road!

Sunday, July 3rd
I packed up my tent and said my goodyes to Grand Canyon North Rim this morning.  I would be heading back into Utah.  I already visited Utah back in October, but with so much to do and so close to the southern border, I figured I could check some more things off my list that I wasn't able to get to last time when I was on a time crunch.

On the way, I visited Jacob's Lake again for another selection of cookies and sat inside the restaurant for a breakfast of typical diner fare.


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