Day 18: North Rim of the Grand Canyon (and a taste of Day 19 in Vegas)

Well we knew we weren’t in Colorado once the desert set in.  All that driving through lower elevations, sage brush, and mesas led us to the oasis from which I write these words.  The North Rim of the Grand Canyon sits at almost 9,000’.  At my campsite now I am surrounded by pine trees and the road leading to the canyon is lined with Aspens.  Local time is 6:30 but my clock says an hour later (Arizona does not believe in daylight savings time) and my fingers are numb from the cold.  If I were to guess I would say it is in the mid 50s.  All of yesterday until moments before setting up camp the temperature varied from mid 80s to high 90s.  In Cortez we left at 10 and the car thermometer read 93.  Last night looking across the canyon to the South Rim I did not see any trees.  It is hard to accurately read land miles away, but it seemed dry and hot.  It might very well be given that the South Rim is some 1,500 feet lower in elevation.  What it lacks in trees it makes up in crowds.  We met several people who told us of going to the canyon and having to wait for parking spaces, traffic jams, and completely filled campgrounds.  We wandered into our campground sometime around 5 and found it less than half filled.  A campground closer to the rim (we are 20 miles away) and the lodge are completely booked, but it all had a casual feel to it.  The main lodge here is truly magnificent and for the first time this trip I am jealous.  Usually the campgrounds are friendly and more a part of the park, the hotels cold and far away.  Here it is the reverse as the lodge features several decks spilling from the lobby with families hanging out on Adirondack chairs.  The trails also seem to begin at the lodge creating a festive and intimate atmosphere.  It all reminds me of the lodge at Starved Rock (both were built around the same time, both also experienced bad fires).

A little after typing those words I went to the front of the campground in order to pay for another night.  Henna accompanied me and on the way we said hi to a dad and her daughter (whom Henna had met earlier).  This led to a conversation and a quick friendship with the dad, a fireman out of Cheyenne).  Quickly joining in on the conversation was Nena (a teacher near Flagstaff) whose daughter was near the same age as Henna and the other girl.  Nena mentioned needing eggs, we were trying to unload eggs (eggs in our cooler usually lead to drama and we saw no use for them in the next day or two), so I gave her three.  All three of us needed to go to the store across the street so off we went.  At the store I found a cowboy hat better than the one I bought yesterday, but it was too big.  Nena volunteered to add a leather draw string to it (she had the materials in the car), so I gave my oldest, holiest hat to the dad (it was just adding clutter), and Nena said she would leave it under my tent (we wanted to get a start on the day).  All three of us adults were giddy, the three girls were getting antsy, and I was no longer jealous of the folks in the lodge.

In between hat swaps and pining for the lodge we also spent some time exploring the canyon.  Specifically we chose the Kaibab Trail.  Although the views were awesome, the hike was not my favorite.  Dropping 1400’ in 1.7 miles, the hike was almost entirely made up of switchbacks (I prefer the more gradual up and down involved with climbing a mountain).  Going down was easy and exciting as each turn around the bend showed a new angle of the canyon.  Going up, however, was a lot less fun and involved a lot of breaks.   Adding to the mystique of the trail was the frequent burro trains passing us (and kicking up a lot of dust in the process) as well as their droppings which seemed to be constantly under foot.  The trail itself wanders into the bottom of the canyon and then up the south rim (the Colorado River was a measly 14 miles from the top) and attracted everyone from families (us) to serious backpackers planning on exiting the canyon on the south side (3-4 days is typical for that trip).

After the hike we found a comfortable leather couch for Henna to read on, me to fidget on, and Corey to sleep on. The rain, which began as a light drizzle on our hike, turned into a steady pattern and we ended up eating pizza within the lodge.  The rain eventually ended and we enjoyed the cool air back at our campsite.  Woke up early, drove to Vegas, and that is where I am now, typing these words and wondering where to find some free wifi in order to post this.

Note:  Vegas was OK.  Henna liked some of the street performers, especially a spray pain artist.  She hated the loud noise of the casino.  We saw fireworks from our room as well as some from the show at Treasure Island.  All three of us loved the water show at Belagio, we also hated the smelly and drunk crowds roaming Las Vegas Blvd.  I could not stand the nickel and dime nature of it all (want better chairs at the pool, $35- wifi aint free and neither is anything else).  Went to a bank later and met an interesting guy in line who was there for the World Series of Poker.  He said it was 30% luck, 70% skill.  Also met a cool “resident artist” at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.  Anyways, I am about to post this from a small and comfortable coffee shop in Beaty, Nevada on way to Mammoth Lakes, CA (at edge of Yosemite NP).  Hope all is well wherever you are.

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3 thoughts on “Day 18: North Rim of the Grand Canyon (and a taste of Day 19 in Vegas)

  1. Welcome to California!!! It sounds like an incredible trip. We hope we get a chance to see you in Santa Cruz

    • I am so glad you emailed. We are in Mammoth Lakes now headed to Yosemite. I think we are going to head south of you then up the coast. Given that I have no idea when I will be in Santa Cruz, it will probably be easier to not crash with you but stay close by. I hope you and your family can hang out with us. I will e-mail you sometime soon with my cell number.

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