We got up early on Thursday and headed out of the campground. It’s over 200 miles from the north rim campground to Grand Canyon Village on the south rim where we had campsite reservations for 3 nights. The plan was to get going early and to stop at the cafe at Jacob’s Lake for breakfast. And, this is exactly what we did. Backtracking the 40 miles from the CG to the cafe wasn’t too bad since the scenery was a little different going this direction and at this time of day. For instance, we passed a large herd of buffalo grazing in the meadow right alongside the road. Following National Park rules, I didn’t stop and take pictures since there was no pull-out. Well, that and there was a Park Ranger right behind us.
Breakfast at the Jacob’s Lake store/cafe/motel was okay but not particularly memorable. The dining room was decorated with Native American arts and crafts, mostly rugs. All were for sale but were probably going to remain for sale a long time seeing as how I saw price tags up to $4600.00. Even a little 1.5′ x 2.5′ rug was priced at over $500. I realize they’re a lot of work, what with some being dyed with natural dyes (onion skin, berries, etc.) and some using only different colored wools for color changes but still… I suppose it’s more like artwork hanging on a gallery wall. It’s mostly to show what you do. However, if someone should happen to want to spend a lot of money, well that’d be OK, too.
After breakfast we got underway again. The scenery definitely changed to more of what we’d originally expected as we dropped from 8800′ to around 5000′, sometimes a little lower.
Just after passing through a wide spot in the road called “Cliff Dwellers” we saw something off to the side that made me turn around and come back. This is what we saw:
We parked and got out to explore. There were several little rock dwellings although the one above is the most elaborate. There’s a very faded sign explaining what it’s all about but you can read about it, and see more photos, here.
A few miles further along the road we came to Navajo Bridge spanning the Colorado River just downstream of Lee’s Ferry. The visitor center was closed for repairs but there’s a parking area on the other side of the river and a foot bridge paralleling the automobile bridge.
Looking upstream, you can see what the Grand Canyon probably looked like some umpteen jillion years ago:
Looking down into the water, you can see the incredible amount of silt the river carries with it. Picture that happening over a few jillion years and it’s much easier to see how the canyon was formed (well, that and uplifting).
Pushing on, we passed lots of (mostly empty and closed) roadside stands selling native art and jewelry. The road runs through the Navajo Nation at this point. We stopped to look at a few things but were mostly unimpressed. We’d seen some really nice stuff for sale by some young women at a roadside viewpoint a few days before so we were somewhat jaded.
We finally reached the turn off to the park but still had many miles to go before we actually passed on to National Park property. At one point there was a viewpoint where it looked like a bunch of vendors had set up tables and tents to sell their wares. We drove up and found an entry kiosk where “donations were accepted”. The woman in the booth explained that the donations helped keep the viewpoint open as this was Indian land, not National Park land. Turns out the “donations” are mandatory and are set at $10 per vehicle. No thanks. Not going to pay a supposed donation for the privilege of seeing if there’s anything I want to spend money on. Nope. We turned around and proceeded to the park entrance.
There’s a visitor center at the east end of the rim drive that runs along the rim (duh!) all the way to Grand Canyon Village and beyond. We pulled into the parking lot and immediately saw the difference between the north and south rims. WAY more people. Besides the visitor center there were several stores and eateries. There was also this very cool guard tower:
The views of the canyon were just as spectacular on this side but somehow seemed more expansive. The north rim views seemed craggier and rawer if you know what I mean. This side presented more calender-type photo-ops.
We pressed on to the campground at Grand Canyon Village. Again, reservations might not have been necessary as the campground wasn’t full by quite a ways. Once we got the rig leveled and started perusing the literature they gave us, we were really happy to see that we wouldn’t have to move Flipper during our stay. They have free shuttle buses that run all over the place. We could catch the Blue Line just a short walk from our campsite and then connect to the Red or Orange lines to go wherever we wanted. It being late afternoon, we opted to take showers ($2 for 8 minutes) and just chillax for the rest of the day. Figured we’d do our exploring on Friday and Saturday.
Friday (Hallowe’en) was absolutely beautiful. Warm enough for a t-shirt with only occasionally requiring a second layer. We rode the shuttle to the “Marketplace” first to check it out. There’s a general store that has lots of miscellaneous hiking paraphernalia as well as a whole bunch of overpriced hiking food. Things like $4 granola bars and $8 bags of trail mix. They also had groceries but we fortunately didn’t need any. We did, however, need (I mean “want” not “need”) a bottle of Old Crow and, as it happens, that’s one of the few things they carried that cost about the same as on the “outside”. After dropping the jug off at Flipper, we loaded a bag of M&Ms, some beef jerky, a bottle of water, and the map in our day pack and headed to the Blue bus to take it to the place where we’d transfer to the Red bus. Until the end of November, the Red bus is the only vehicle allowed along the rim road headed west from the Village. The bus stops at a whole bunch of places along the route and passes each stop every 15 minutes or so. It’s all set up so one can get out, walk along the rim trail for anything from 0.2 miles to as much as 13 miles and then get back on the bus without having to backtrack. Very nice. I read that, during the busy season, one might have to wait for 2 or 3 buses before being able to board one. We didn’t have that problem. We got out at the second stop and decided we’d just walk along the rim trail until we were tired and then we’d get back on the bus.
The trail is more of an easy walk than a hike. It follows right along the rim and so, is practically level. But what amazing scenery.
We ended up “hiking” a little over 3 miles before deciding that we’d ride the bus the rest of the way up to the end of the road, Hermit’s Rest.
Hermit’s Rest is a gift shop and snack bar. It was designed by the same woman who designed the tower back at the other visitor center. I was really hoping to get a corn dog but unfortunately, this snack bar consisted of things like granola bars, trail mix and cookies. No thanks, not when I have my heart set on a corn dog.
We got back on the Red bus and rode back to the Village where we transferred to the Blue line after turning in a sweatshirt that Lulu found along the trail to the Lost and Found office. We rode the Blue bus to the Grand Canyon Village visitor center where we transferred to the Orange Line to see the other end of the park. There are only 3 stops on the Orange line. We got off at the first one where, as usual, the scenery was spectacular. As elsewhere in the National Parks, we heard more people speaking foreign languages than we heard speaking English. Two young Amish couples, one with a little kid, were sitting up forward in the bus and asked another tourist what language she was speaking since, I guess, it sounded sort of familiar to her. The European tourist replied that she was speaking German to which the Amish woman replied that they spoke Dutch. I kind of wanted to talk to the Amish folks but didn’t want to be rude. But, after this interchange I figured it’d be OK if I just asked them where they were from. So, at our next stop, when we all got off and the opportunity presented itself, I asked them where they were from. One young woman said that she and her husband were from Kentucky but the other couple was from New York. I told them that I was just curious because I was a Yoder. They were quite surprised and, it turns out, one of them were Yoders as well. This sin’t that surprising as Yoder is kind of the Amish version of Smith or Jones. The young Mr. Yoder asked about where I was from, etc. I explained that we were from Oregon but that my Amish connections most recently extended to Yoder, Kansas where my ancestors and their kin live(d). He was very interested and said that he thought his dad had some kind of Kansas connection. I told him my grandparents’ names and he said he’d pass the info on to his dad and see if he knew of any connection.
From there, Lulu and I decided to hike back to the campground, a distance of only a couple miles. At one point, the trail passed through the Geological Museum. This museum is very small and looks out over the canyon. There are displays explaining the theory of the canyon’s development. There was also this loud-mouthed beast-woman proclaiming how she just didn’t buy the idea that the canyon was carved by the Colorado River. She was sort of “explaining” her theories to some family member but was actually trying to suck someone into an argument. Why else would she be so loud and keep repeating the same things over and over? She proclaimed that “something cataclysmic” happened here. She seemed to accept the theory that uplifting caused by plate tectonics was partly responsible but denied that the river could have possibly done what it’s purported to have done. “There’s metamorphic rock all over the world but you don’t see canyons like this all over the world!” “There are millions of rivers all over the world but only one Grand Canyon. Why Clearly something cataclysmic happened here!” She even went on to claim that “they” had just inflated the role of the Colorado River so “they” could sell “those $800 raft trips”. Oy! Fortunately, no one took her bait and she was left haranguing thin air. We walked on.
When we were on the north rim, it seemed weird that we couldn’t see any signs of humans on the south rim. Maybe it was too far away but maybe it was just that we didn’t know what to look for. I’d spent a fair amount of time during our south rim walks trying to find the north rim’s Grand Canyon Lodge. And finally, I did find it.
This is what it looked like with no magnification:
I zoomed in on what I thought was the Lodge and, sure enough:
Tried to do a selfie with the Canyon behind us but I’m afraid my arms are just too short for a very good selfie:
We continued our hike back to the campsite. It was starting to cool down so the bean soup I planned for dinner sounded pretty good. Thank goodness for pressure cookers although, for once, I actually remembered to soak the beans the night before.
The plan for Saturday was to take our bikes on the various trails open to bicycles. Good thing we got plenty of sightseeing in on Friday because Saturday was nasty. A cold wind blew all day. It was definitely not conducive to riding our bikes to see places we’d already seen. We ended up staying in Flipper all day long, burning copious amounts of propane to run the furnace. The campground was pretty empty and didn’t get any fuller as the day wore on. The leftover bean soup helped take the edge off the cold but, after it rained much of the night, we were ready to vacate come Sunday morning. We’d heard several predictions of snow for Sunday but, fortunately for us, it didn’t happen, at least not before we hit the road.
Grand Canyon North Rim Campground (including some driving in the park) to Grand Canyon Village (south rim) Campground: 266 miles
Total to-date: 4,472 miles