Canyonlands National Park to Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
Sunday, July 23, 2006 … 110 Camper Miles – Total 3,918
Another scorcher, 80 in morning, 100 in Blanding by mid-afternoon
We wanted to do a hike in this park, mainly to walk one of the Needle District’s famed slot canyons. The trail to Chesler Park trail from the Elephant Hill trailhead travels through one such canyon. We were on that trail by 7:30 to beat the heat. The trail crossed slick-rock, passed fascinating rock formations, climbed up and down small canyons and, yes, went through a very narrow slot canyon. Overall, it was a neat hike but the destination, Chesler Park, was a disappointment. We expected a lush meadow. What we found was sage-covered desert. Where’s that customer satisfaction survey, anyway? We finished the 5.8 mile round trip in 3 hours and the temperature, when we returned, was already 95!
There was absolutely no one around so we used the outside camper shower, sans clothing, with straight cold water. How refreshing!
On our way back out of the park, we stopped at a large petroglyph panel called Newspaper Rock. We then went on to Monticello where we had lunch at the Peace Tree Juice Café where we’d had breakfast a couple of weeks earlier. Our destination was Natural Bridges, NM, again, for another visit with Fred & Tanya Richter. We had intended to take a food contribution but it was Sunday and the few places that sell groceries in the region were closed up tight. We did manage to pick up a few items at a convenience store in Blanding and filled up with gas and ice before heading to Natural Bridges.
This time we set up “camp” in Richter’s driveway. After they got home from work we caught up, watched the replay of the final 20 minutes of Tour de France and visited with some park staff. Imagine, a Lancaster countian WINS Tour de France! Afterwards we put together a chicken and veggie stir-fry over rice accompanied by tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and avocado.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Monday, July 24, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,918
Sunny, hot, mid 90s
Sandy and Tanya did a walk before Tanya went to work. Then she did four loads of wash and helped out filling in our notes about where we’d been and what we’d done for the past week or so. Bill wrote and edited photos for the web site and created the web pages.
During the afternoon Bill and Fred helped in a rescue in a small way, small because Fred was recovering from a leg injury after a fall from his bicycle and Bill because he had no official stature in the area. A couple had hiked down to Sipapu bridge. The woman then slipped at the bottom, 500 ft down, broken her ankle and injured her wrist and shoulder. She had to be carried out in a litter, climbing ladders and steep slick rock sections in temperatures approaching 100 degrees. Fred and Bill simply carried water down to the rescuers who were nearly at the top of the trail. There, the woman was transported by ambulance 70 miles to the nearest small hospital for treatment.
Dinner was a stir-fry of chicken, beans and veggies. Afterwards, Fred did his ranger program and then we looked at photos we’d taken since we’d last been in Natural Bridges.
Natural Bridges National Monument to Kaibab Camper RV Village, Jacob Lake, AZ
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 … 334 Camper Miles – Total 4,252
Sunny, 90 by 11:00 am
We were on the road about 9:30, stopping at the Visitor Center to say goodbye to Fred, Tanya and the rest of the staff. We headed south toward Page, AZ, negotiating the Mokie Dugway in the down direction, this time with the camper in tow. Much of this drive was through the huge Navajo reservation and we stopped for groceries and fuel in Kayenta. At the Visitor Center there we learned that this progressive looking town was a tribal experiment. It was created in 2003 and had it’s own government. The idea seems to be to find ways to move Navajo people into more affluence and more quickly into modern lifestyles. Of course, the struggle is to preserve traditional values and culture at the same time. Time will tell. Just outside Kayenta the traditions seem to still be in place with hogans alongside modern houses and a woman in traditional garb with her herd of sheep.
At the Navajo National Monument we walked the one-mile loop through Anasazi ruins. We couldn’t help notice that non-Americans outnumbered Americans walking the loop 4:1.
Arriving at Page, we pulled into a shopping center and noticed that the temperature was 108 degrees! We decided that what they say about “But it’s a dry heat,” was a bunch of crap and we decided, instead, to head for high country for the night. Lake Powell looks beautiful, but it will have to wait for cooler weather for us to take time to admire it in any detail.
Our new destination became the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, instead. The drive took us through the beautiful Marble Canyon as we began the climb to higher altitudes. We noted that when the altitude hit 7,580 ft it was 82F … quite a cool-down! We stopped for the evening at Kaibab Camper RV Village, in Jacob Lake, about 45 miles north of the Grand Canyon. We’d save the final few miles for full daylight so we could examine the recent fire damage to Kaibab National Forest more closely. Just a few weeks ago, about 318 sq miles of the forest had burned, much of it at high intensity.
Dinner was a spinach salad with a rotisserie chicken that we’d picked up in Page. That night we had rain and thunderstorms overnight. It got quite cool … just what we were hoping for!
Kaibab Camper RV Village to Grand Canyon North Rim, AZ
Wednesday, July 26, 2006 … 43 Camper Miles – Total 4,295
Bright sunshine, 63 deg in morning
This morning we left early and drove through the fire-raged Kaibab plateau to the North Rim. Of course, the forest wasn’t all burned and the Ponderosa pine sections that remained were beautiful. A surprise, to us, were the large green grass pastures along the road as we approached and entered the park. They were lined with aspen and pines and were a real treat to see. We arrived at the North Rim campground about 9:30 and had to wait for a site. (Actually, there were plenty of sites, but the reservation computer was down so we had to wait about an hour for the staff to give up on it and go manual.)
We secured a site but it was still occupied, so we dumped the camper and drove to the North Kaibab Trail. This trail leads down into the canyon and up to the south rim. A hike to the bottom is a multiple day affair. Instead, we decided to go as far as Supai Tunnel, a four-mile round trip with a 1,415 ft vertical drop. It is a neat trail with amazing overlooks. Unfortunately, it is also used by mules carrying tourists, so you have to dodge their waste. It seems where one goes they all go and some areas are really fragrant!
Along the way we met Mica and Emily, a couple from Boston. They are on a five-week trip in their VW camper and are planning to hit the same parks as us during this section of our trip. It got a bit warmer as we descended and we had a light, cooling shower as we returned up the trail. The cloud cover that came with the rain was also welcome as the climb was hard work.
We set up camp in light rain and noticed a VW camper with MA plates not too far away. We took welcome showers and headed over to the Visitor Center area to check out the North Rim Lodge. Although the original building burned after only a few years, the replacement building used the same design. It was designed and sited to give visitors their very first look at the canyon as they stepped down from the lobby into the parlor. The view is stunning. You can walk outside to two beautiful overlooks only 100 or so yards away, one to each side of the lodge. This is one of the best overlook areas on the North Rim … don’t miss it! As we were having a drink at the Lodge’s bar, the park lost electrical power. We were told that this was fairly common and could last a long time.
We returned to the campsite for a dinner of green beans with mushrooms and sun dried tomato chicken sausage with onions & peppers. Excellent! Then, it was back to the Lodge for a ranger program entitled “Tales of Old”. As we walked into the Lodge we noticed that the restaurant was in business on emergency power but that they seemed to have trouble keeping up with demand as the line of prospective patrons was long. For the program, the Ranger impersonated a long-ago ranger and told some amusing tales about the origins of the park. He was a very good actor and speaker. It was too bad the room’s sound system caused his voice to be muffled.
Grand Canyon North Rim
Thursday, July 27, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 4,295
Mostly sunny, afternoon clouds w/ threat of thunderstorms, mid 80s
Bill stopped at the camp store as they opened at 8:00, just as power was restored to the park. He secured the campsite for a second day. (Since the computers had been down they could only give us sites a day at a time.) After breakfast, we drove the 15-mile rim and overlook tour stopping at all five overlook points and walking all the associated short trails. Many of the overlooks are spectacular. Sometimes, for the physical observation locations, seemingly suspended in mid-air, as much as for the view of the canyon. We also walked the Cliff Spring Trail, past a granary ruin to a large seep spring.
During that drive we were struck by different phases of fire recovery we could see along the way. Although none of those particular areas burned this year, it was clear that some of the areas had burned within the past few years and some much further in the past. Historically, the National Parks have practiced rigorous forest fire suppression. This has promoted high forest density and allowed dangerous levels of undergrowth and dead materials to accumulate on forest floors. The parks hope that by allowing low intensity fires to burn areas of their forests periodically, they will prevent devastating, high intensity fires that have plagued many parks in recent history.
Of course, aspens are among the first types of trees to recolonize burned forests in this climate. So, older, burned-out areas are thick with these beautiful trees. There is beauty in the recovery! In addition, we saw and photographed several new-to-us wildflowers along the drive.
That evening we’ planned to eat at the Lodge, which was reputed to be very good. However, we decided that we were too tired so we simply showered and returned to the Tin Tent for the evening. That night we had heavy rain with lots of wind.
We were happy with our choice to visit the North Rim instead of the South Rim. Although there were plenty of people, we weren’t annoyed by crowds. The temperatures were about ten degrees lower than on the South Rim. The Grand Canyon is, indeed, grand. It is a spectacle that is hard to comprehend because it is so, so huge! It is a shame that the air clarity that is needed to view it at it’s best is so diminished by pollution.