Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Grand Canyon

Driving south from Zion, northern Arizona is mostly forested high plains. The northern part of the state is a broken piece of land known as the Grand Canyon.  From plateaus to forests, beautiful trees open to soft meadows where wolves once ran.  We drove toward the north rim to camp at the Demotte Campground, the only public campground within a few miles of the north rim.  This would be the first time dry camping for an extended time since the Denali fiasco and we were hoping that our battery issue had been fixed.

As soon as we were set up, and even though it was late afternoon, we couldn't wait to see that big hole in the ground.  We drove the 8 or so miles with anxious anticipation and pulled into the parking lot just after the sun set.  We practically ran from the Jeep to the north rim which was just on the other side of the parking lot.  Tears streamed as we got just a peek at the beauty we would be enjoying the next few days. Our breaths were taken away as we watched the sunset and the overture began to play in our heads.  (The Grand Canyon Suite by Grofe`, which we listened to on our way to the canyon.)

The next morning we were up early and eating a big breakfast to prepare for the day.  We hopped in the Jeep, put the CD into the player and hit "play."  We drove a few back roads along the north rim and fell in love with Cape Royal. 

The fall colors were already spectacular.  Instead of looking south and west, the view is east.  You can see Navajo lands as well and the beginnings of the crack that is the Grand Canyon. This area allows you to get very close to the edge and feel the vastness of the earth's fracture.  From a single river, the canyon is cut over a mile deep. 

We drove back to the RV for lunch and puppy patrol.  As we drove, we saw something in the glen near our campground.  It was a raven playing with a dog near a water hole.  No, not a dog, a coyote. We watched as we got closer as the two were having too much fun.  As we zoomed in for photos, we began to sense that the coyote was not a coyote after all.  It was a wolf!! A raven and a WOLF were playing in a small watering hole in the middle of the glen.  We watched for a few minutes and even got a short video before the two of them really noticed us. It was amazingly beautiful and unexpected. Kathy and I were lucky enough to see the first one to come back to this area after years.   A few weeks after seeing the two, we would read that a wolf had been spotted near the north rim - right where we were.  We are convinced that we watched the wolf that day and are still hoping to get a confirmation of our video and photographs.

After lunch, we headed to the park headquarters.  We inquired about donkey rides and were told there were no donkey rides but that there are mule rides.  We went into the lodge and a few other buildings and reserved our place for the mule rides the next day.  Then we walked out to Angels Point.  The wind reminded us, fall was in the air although temps were in the high seventies.  The walk down a narrow tar path is exhilarating. At some point people walking in opposite directions must pause and step aside to let others pass.  I found a little alcove in the rocks to stop and enjoy the shade.  The point is an experience where wind wraps you as you look down for the river which is just out of sight.

We decided to walk the rim trail back to the parking lot. The long winding trail ended up in the campground.  We were disappointed to find the "completely booked" campground was nearly empty as only five days remained before the park closed for winter.  We stopped at the little store and had some ice cream.  Kathy figured out how to get back to the Jeep while I used the wifi to get caught up on emails and Facebook.  We drove home and enjoyed the evening with the puppies and a satisfying dinner.

Our last day at the canyon we met the mule wranglers near the lodge.  The company which offers mule rides on the north rim has had the contact for more than ten years.  Our wrangler had only been with them for two seasons.  He was a horseman and who had learned to appreciate miles surefootedness and toughness.  He told us about how the rental mules were rescue heroes.  They were the means of rescuing hikers who were injured or gave up on the canyon floor.  We enjoyed riding the edge and seeing the canyon and forest from a different view.  Even Kathy liked the mules although she is not terribly fond of horseback riding.  

What a great time with no crowds.  We highly recommend visiting the north rim close to the end of the season.

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