We exited the park immediately entering the Navajo Indian Reservations. The canyon to our left looks much different than the one we just left. It was kind of green, looked like the earth just crumbled away. We stopped at the first Native American shops we saw. The ladies had tables set up with jewelry and pottery. I was mostly just browsing, not looking for anything in particular unless I saw something affordable. We stopped at countless more roadside shops, each one selling almost the same thing. A lot of the jewelry looked like plastic kit jewelry and definitely not handmade gemstones. But still I applauded them sitting out there in the hot sun selling to canyon tourists. Not even halfway through our 5 hour drive, we discovered a shop with real rock jewelry and I bought a set of blue bear lapiz earrings. At another store 30 minutes down the road I found a matching blue bear lapiz necklace. Eventually we ran out of shops to explore and had to continue driving. It was high noon out anyways and scorching.
We drove past incredible mountains of red and orange dirt in layers. They looked otherworldly, as if they were alien homes. We crossed the Colorado River again, stopping to check out the old, now pedestrian only bridge. It was neat to see the colors of the river, especially since we wouldn’t be able to walk down the canyon to see it up close. It was the border of the Navajo land. We drove on, winding around curves and watching the mountains keep rising ahead of us. A bunch of cars were parked on the gravel lot to the right so we joined them. There were tiny homes built into and under all the boulders. This certainly was the dwelling place of aliens on our planet. The homes were mostly dug into the sandy dirt with a few wooden walls or windows. The soil was an intriguing mix of red dirt and small rocks that Travis confirmed was Martian. We finally saw a a sign for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon but it was another hour or so of climbing over the twisty turny roads. Our gps led us to a nice gravel road just off the main road. We passed a few occupied sites and came to an empty one next to a small clearing. This was a 9,000 foot elevation site so when we stepped out it was chilly. The wind picked up as we set up our tents and started getting dinner ready. On the rocks making the fire ring sat a 6 inch cast iron skillet. Someone had burnt a meal in it and left it to rust. Travis knew it could be cleaned and re-seasoned so we set it in the car. Travis made a pasta dinner while I hopped about, taking pictures and not getting cold. The sky was a gorgeous cotton candy swirl with the sunset afterglow from the treetops. This would be the first of several meals eaten in the car, protected from the cold.
In the morning, we headed to the park, not realizing we had camped within 5 miles of the national Park entrance. We went through 16 more miles of curvy road to make it to the visitor center. We filled up on water and got a park map before setting out to see Bright Angel point. Travis wore his work shoes and I my walk the dog shoes because this trail was mostly paved and gravel. But immediately there were rocks to climb out onto and side trails to explore. Neither of our shoes were very grippy but Travis could make his work. I was sliding all over the place, turning my ankles and I realized my Altra hiking shoes were just way more comfortable than casual sneakers. We joined all the other tourists on the paved viewpoint, getting a first look at the Grand Canyon from the north rim. There were plenty more trees and it appeared more lively and not so barren looking. We went back to the car to change shoes and continued along the rim. I’d picked a 4 mile round-trip loop combining a rim hike with a trail that came back to the parking lot alongside the road. It started off easy, meandering by the lodge and many viewpoints. I was so giddy as we started climbing a hill through a forest. I like trees! We made it up the first hill and I was pooped. Conveniently there was a bench so we took a break and stretched. It ended up being a good-sized break even though we’d only been hiking 20 minutes. Lots of families and teens passed us so I figured the trail was fairly easy. For some reason, I was having a difficult time but I attributed it to my lack of good sleep the night before. We hiked for 20, rested for 15 several times, stopping to take lots of pictures, before stumbling upon a cool rock outcropping. This was another rock peninsula out into the canyon. We spotted some sort of umbrella purposely stuck into the ground far below and Travis wanted to figure out what it was. I was too tired to rock climb today, but he could go spend some energy. He clambered down while I sat in the sun. It wasn’t too cold in the sun if the wind died down a little bit. I started eating lunch as he returned, unsuccessful in reaching it. But he had fun with the challenge of climbing and figuring out routes. I needed to go to the bathroom but there were just too many people out taking in the vistas. We cut across the campground to the restroom and decided to head back from there cutting off about half a mile. We finished lunch at the general store, and headed back along the trail by the road. I really wanted to hike another trail that afternoon but I was just too tired. We got to the car and I grabbed my notebook to blog in and charging cords. Upon entering the Lodge, I spotted a statue of Bright Angel, the mule that traversed the canyon many times, that I’d grown up reading about. I posed for a picture next to one of my childhood heroes. I hoped we’d get a seat in the lodge next to an outlet to charge our stuff but the only spot left was a couch. I’ll take it! Travis had grabbed his Mexican blanket and I curled up in it, equally freezing but warm. I was too exhausted to write but couldn’t fall asleep with all the commotion. After an hour of dozing and trying to get comfy, Travis felt my forehead and declared that I was sick. What?! I couldnt be, where could I have picked up flu like symptoms, in June? Ugh, I wasn’t sure I was but he’d gone off to find Tylenol. He came back with two double tabbies of 500mg. I took them and sat for a bit more before deciding to go back to our campsite.
Several people had vacated, leaving us to be able to choose a different site if we wanted. We found a perfect site with a campfire ring of rocks and two flat tent sites a bit further back into the woods. I could actually put most of my own tent stakes in, using a rock for just two of them. He had been setting up both tents because the ground was just too hard for me to pound the stake in, even using rocks. He made pasta and we went to bed early so I could hopefully sleep it off. I worked on my blog before falling asleep.
I woke up refreshed and cool, no fever at all. I wondered what kind of 12hour bug it was but didn’t really care now that I was well. We set off for Point Imperial, the highest point on the canyon rim. It was going to be a mostly driving day, with short hikes and scenic vistas, but about halfway down, Travis started feeling super tired. He drove me to a few more overlooks but then asked me to drive back to camp because he felt too bad. I was bummed he was sick now too and was hoping it’d be as quick as mine. He passed out fast asleep while I drove back down the curvy mountain road and up the gravel road to our same campsite. We were in our tents by 7, reading and blogging. I prayed God would restore his health back as quickly as He mine. Sure enough, Travis woke up fine.
As we drove into the park, we saw a herd of bison. Travis slowed down so I could get a picture, but I made him turn around and park so I could be a tourist. They were all laying down, with the young in the middle of the group. I was breathless as I got back in the car, excited from seeing wildlife I hadn’t seen before. We turned down the road we were on yesterday and drove to the very end of all the curves. I needed to go pee really badly but there were too many people. The trail curved around the parking lot and had very little underbrush. I just wanted to scream, everyone turn away!! But finally Travis found a small shrub and stood guard. What a relief! Ha, now I could hike.
We hiked a four mile trail to Cape Final, which ended at a cool rock outcropping overlooking the canyon. Travis was looking for places to boulder and venture into the canyon more while I ate lunch. He found a place to go down but just getting there was rough because of the surplus of prickly pear and cholla. We made it down one set of boulders before I decided I was done. It wasn’t that difficult, I just didn’t want to walk all that way in the sun and try to climb another cliff. Travis had picked a cliff set in the canyon way out in the distance at least half a mile away through sparse little trees. I watched him as he clambered down to the flat section, as he walked under a few trees, then with my cameras zoom as he continued. He looks like a little ant way down below as he disappeared in and out of view. I watched him through my camera as he started up the cliff part. He got a ways up but came down before reaching the top. I guess he couldn’t get up that route and he went around another side but reappeared soon after. I took pictures of him taking pictures and then he headed back to me. I turned my attention back to the cliffs behind me and thought about attempting to get back up on my own but decided against it. A squirrel came out of a crevice and chittered at me, posing for close-up. Travis reappeared and we climbed the last cliff, avoiding the prickly pear. We piled back in the car and visited a few of the vistas we didn’t get to the previous day. We visited Angels Window, a picturesque arch overlooking the Colorado River, with lots of people around.
I’d gone down a .2 mile trail to Roosevelt point but it looked like the trail went further. It was definitely a well-used unofficial trail that followed a ridgeline to another cliff. Except this one was way past our skill level and too dangerous to attempt. We turned around and headed to the showers. We took turns showering, charging stuff and eating a rice mix. The shower had such high pressure it stung my skin. I’d gotten a little bit better at quick showers. As we exited the car back at camp, we were greeted with a temperature at least 30 degrees cooler than where we just were. We slowly piled on our warm clothes and hats as the temperature continued to drop. I put a blanket in my tent as well as my sleeping bag. I had an REI kilo 20° which had lost a lot of loft and feathers so it was more like a 30, 35+.
I slept great, waking up early to a crisp morning. After eating breakfast, we got in the car at 7 a.m. and the car said it was 28°. Whoa! But it was great because we were going to hike the North Kaibab trail part way down into the canyon and I didn’t want a repeat of my last canyon excursion. We kept our jackets on for a good hour as we flew down the mountain. There was more shade and it stayed cool. The trail was in much better shape than the south rim but still way too much sand. We made it to the tunnel and took a break for an hour. We ate some snacks and took pictures of all the butterflies landing on the puddles from the faucet. Some guys passed by carrying large tools and I asked them were they doing trail maintenance and yes they were. I inquired jokingly as to why they were carrying their tools versus using a mule and they replied, “What, use one of those trail destroying animals?” So even the trail maintainers knew the mules were the ones that mutilated the path. Travis and I wondered how long it would be before the mule riding was discontinued. The hike up was rough, steep but with some shade. The finish back to the parking lot was anti-climatic as I stuck my head under the cold faucet to cool off, went to the bathroom (always a necessary step), got in the car and drove out of the park to Zion.