Arizona: Flagstaff & the North Rim of Grand Canyon Utah: Kanab, Zion, Bryce, Pipe Springs, St. George, Snow Canyon SP
Arizona: Flagstaff & the North Rim of Grand Canyon Utah: Kanab, Zion NP, Bryce NP, Pipe Springs NP, St. George, Snow Canyon SP
Friday, June 15, 2001 Woody Mountain Campground, Flagstaff, AZ (7,300')
The temperature only got down to 36 degrees last night. The high was 76 today with no humidity. We have decided to move the motorhome to the north rim of the Grand Canyon where we will spend a day or so before heading to Zion and Brice National Parks in Utah. We have been in Flagstaff for three weeks. We could keep busy experiencing new and exciting things in this area for another three weeks.
We needed to do laundry, clean the motorhome, put away literature that we have been using for the past three weeks and do grocery shopping prior to our trip north.
A pro-rodeo and dance from 7:00pm to 1:00am was the big thing in town this weekend. Let it be said we got our moneys worth. Sneaking back to the RV reminded us of the old Percy Sledge song "In the Midnight Hour". What a way to spend our last night in Flagstaff. The rodeo announcer and clown need to keep their day jobs. Both were so bad they may have been stand-ins. The band at the dance was top notch. We danced Friday away and got a good start on Saturday.
The temperature dropped into the 30s again. This is great!
Saturday, June 16, 2001 Kaibab Camper Village, Jacob Lake, AZ at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon 8,000'
Despite not getting home until the wee hours we hopped up, connected the Saturn to the motorhome and headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The GPS and Street Atlas say it is 168-miles.
We traveled 89 north out of Flagstaff through the Painted Desert then turned west on 89A to transverse Marble Canyon's bridge across the Colorado River. After turning onto 89A the road runs along Vermillion Cliffs for miles and miles as we descend to 5,000' in elevation as we cross the river. This section of our drive is spectacular to say the least. Vermilion Cliffs towering above us on one side and the desert floor sweeping away from us on the other as it slowly descends to the Grand Canyon and Colorado River was the view we experienced for an hour or so. Now we must ascend to 8,000' at the North Rim. After a 10-mile drive along the base of more Vermilion Cliffs on the North Side of the Colorado River the highway suddenly tackles the turning, twisting climb into the cool Kaibab Forrest. The drive on 89A to us was much more scenic than other publicized scenic drives. The view from the bridge over the Colorado River is one not to be missed.
After crossing the Colorado the fun part, for us, began. The fun part I am referring to is the climb to 8'000 feet. We are not disappointed. The first part of the climb is at the base of spectacular cliffs overlooking the Colorado River. For 10-miles or so we thread our way between the cliffs to our right and the river to our left. The road is constantly climbing as we inch our way up the face of that cliff. After that the road heads up into the Ponderosa Forrest. Surprisingly, there are not many hair raising switchbacks just LONG steep grades. On the steepest grades I had to reduce our speed to 20mph in order to control engine temperature. Just like ascending up to Flagstaff from Phoenix the limiting factor on my rig was engine cooling. Any upgrade or modification I make to the motorhome will be to increase the radiator size.
The Campground we have chosen is actually located about 45-miles north of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at a spot on most maps called Jacob Lake. Jacob Lake is located next to the RV-Park on a piece of private property located within the boundary of the Kaibab National Forrest. To call it a lake is stretching the term. It may be an acre in size after the spring thaw. In mid-June it might possibly be a quarter of an acre. It is surrounded by a lush fenced pasture/meadow with several horses. I expected to view some wildlife as the sun goes down but none appeared.
The temperature, as we arrive, is divine and keeps getting better as the afternoon slips by.
The biggest surprise of the day is that our cell phone works up here and they have a courtesy phone line where we can connect to download e-mail. Many people utilized that phone line but I was never able to connect with my ISP on that line.
The RV-Park advertisement says they are a full hook-up campground. Full hook-up is technically true but practically very inaccurate. They have 30amp hook-ups but it only has 100 volts, if you turn anything on it drops to 95 volts. What good is a hook-up with only 95 to 100 volts? Oh well! I suppose it will suffice to keep the batteries charged and run a few lights. Like our previous RV-Park in Flagstaff they also have to haul their water. However, their water supply is in Kabab, Utah about 40-miles up the road. This place has water police that are ever present to make sure you do not use a damp rag to clean your window shield. This is water rationing on a serious note.
We noticed that the park has installed showers. When Dave and Helen Damouth were through here in June of 1998 the campground did not have showers. The facilities appear new so I am assuming they were constructed since Dave and Helen were through here. There were several signs stating that a 5-minute shower costs $1.50. The machine took quarters.
Sunday, June 17, 2001 Kaibab Camper Village, Jacob Lake, AZ at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon 8,000'
Sleeping in this weather is utterly divine. It was 54 in the motorhome as we arose this morning. I ran our portable electric heater to warm up the bathroom even though it pulled the voltage down to 95 volts. I do not see how the park can advertise full hook-up with such antique electrical service. By the time we fix hot chocolate and oatmeal on the propane stove the temperature is up to 70-degrees.
We are seeing numerous rental motorhomes. The further west we travel the more we see of these rigs. The owner of the RV-Park we stayed with back in Flagstaff said that Europeans predominantly rented them. If anyone is interested in traveling via this arrangement the number is 1-800-RV4rent. The company is obviously doing a landmark business because we see them everywhere. Even though there are as many Asians as Americans and Europeans touring the area the Asians stay in Motels and Hotels. The owner of Woody Mountain Campground told us that he only had a few Asians visit in a motorhome all year long. He told us the Germans and French travel extensively using a car and tent. Isn't that difference in the two cultures amazing?
We got up and headed to the North Rim 40-miles south of us. The first 20 miles are through the Kaibab National Forest and area punctuated with ponderosa pine forest and meadows. No wildlife was visible on our trip in. The last 20 miles is in the National Park. In the National Park there are less meadows and the forest turns more alpine with an increase in quaking aspen, fir and spruce trees.
Many natives consider the North Rim to be more spectacular and inviting than the hugely popular South Rim. The throngs that dash from pull-out to pull-out along the South Rim are gone. The historic Grand Canyon Lodge is the hub of everything happening on the North Rim. There are a number of great views within walking distance of the Lodge. After taking in many of these breathtaking vistas we dine in the Lodge. Several of our friends have told us that dining in the Lodge is a "must-do" and we agree. The view is "one-in-a-million". Now we have been there and done that. The lodge at the North Rim is much grander, in my opinion, than the Lodge on the South Rim. To us everything is "better" at the North Rim. After our LATE lunch, we drive to a number of other viewpoints where they have short trails out to awesome vistas. The canyons become even more beautiful as the sun starts to set and the light becomes very bright on one wall while shadows are created on the other. It is this contrast that makes the colors of the Grand Canyon so breathtaking.
As the sun started to set we headed home through the series of meadows in the National Park and the National Forest. This time mule deer were in every pasture. At times we could see up to 15-deer. The groups of deer were all female. The males were almost always solitary and standing at the edge of the forest. We even saw a porcupine. This is the first time either of us has seen a porcupine in the wild. Because both of us enjoy wildlife so much this was possibly the most enjoyable part of our entire day. If we had camped in the National Park we would not have made this trip in the late afternoon and would have missed seeing the deer. The 40-mile drive for us was part of the ambience of visiting the North Rim.
According to literature the North Rim opens for visitation on May 15th and closes after the first snowfall of the winter, usually October 15. Plan accordingly.
It is 9:00 by the time we get home from another awesome day.
Monday, June 18, 2001 Kanab RV Corral Kanab, UT 435-644-5330 elevation around 5,000'
We moved the motorhome 36 miles north to Kanab, Utah this morning. We started at an elevation of over 8'000 feet and descended to less than 5,000' in short order. The decent from the Kainab Plateau is as awe inspiring a drive as we have experienced. Highway 89A up to the North Rim is an awesome drive and should be counted as one of the most scenic drives in the country. The drive was uneventful except for a dozen or so bicyclers on the narrow mountain road (89A). One particular female drove so far out into the lane that we were not able to go around her on the steep downgrade and I was having trouble holding the motorhome back. She was oblivious to us being right behind her. She was oblivious to everything but hanging on to that bike as she descended. With that trying moment behind us the rest of the journey was spent in awe of the sheer splendor of the changing scenery. In the distance toward Zion and Bryce National Parks are sheer red cliffs that line the valley we are headed for.
We intended to get the motorhome connected up in a spot then head for Zion National Park. It did not work out that way. A lazy bug hit us as soon as we were connected up. Joyce put on her bathing suit and headed to the pool with a book. I grabbed the laptop and downloaded e-mail. We have not been able to make a connection since Flagstaff. By 7:30pm Joyce was tiring of the pool and I was waking from my nap.
While lazing away the afternoon we met Chuck & Mary Ann Pippin from Spring Hill, Florida. They were good Seminole fans and we struck up a friendship immediately. Both of us have plans to visit Zion National Park tomorrow.
Following our tradition of eating out every night day we dined at Nedra's Café in Kanab, Utah last night. Nedra's is a 3rd generation family restaurant that was started by a Mormon settler years ago. Nedra's is another of those restaurants boasting about the long line of movie stars that dined there. Barry Goldwater used to have gallons of their salsa shipped to his Arizona Ranch. Barry had good taste in salsa. I liked it also. In accordance with my goal of sampling local dishes I had MACHACA. They say it is a "traditional" northern Mexico dish with shredded lean roast beef cooked with tomatoes, onion green chilies, cilantro and egg. As with ALL Mexican dishes it is served with refried beans and Spanish rice with the scoop of shredded lettuce and dop of guacamole and sour cream.
Tuesday, June 19, 2001 Kanab RV Corral Kanab, UT 435-644-5330 elevation around 5,000'
We drove to Zion National Park this morning. Zion is another spectacular canyon. It is physically located about 80 miles north of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Zion is a bit hard to explain. Highway 9 runs east and west through some of the best parts of Zion. By the best parts I mean two tunnels and myriad sandstone cliffs in countless shapes, colors and forms. One tunnel is just that a nondescript tunnel through about 200 yards of sandstone. "THE TUNNEL" we have heard so much about was a real kick in the pants. It is different, much different than any other tunnel we have experienced. This is the tunnel all RV'ers have heard about. Now Joyce and I know why. The tunnel has low vertical clearance and virtually all RV's need to travel down the middle of the tunnel so as not to hit the arched ceiling. This tunnel has turns and corners as well as a pretty good grade. Another unique thing about this tunnel is the 4 or 5 "windows/openings" that let light and air into the tunnel. The sign said it was 1.5-miles long. The tunnel was drilled and blasted along a horseshoe shaped canyon wall. The windows from the tunnel allow you to see the opposite canyon wall. Totally awesome. Park rangers were only allowing one-way traffic all day since there were so many motorhomes. The eastbound traffic would run for 5-minutes then the westbound traffic would transverse the tunnel for 5-minutes. That was the way it worked all day. From the west approach to the tunnel you can see some of the "windows" in the tunnel high on the cliff wall. Another notable thing about the tunnel is the change in landscape that takes place from one side of the tunnel to the other. On the west side is Zion Canyon with its massive cliff walls. On the east side is slickrock country where rocks are colored in white and pastels of orange and red. The sandstone walls have eroded into hundreds of fantastic shapes. Then almost as suddenly the slickrock gives way to magnificent open rangeland where the buffalo roam.
There were numerous pullouts where you could stop and view each of the magnificent formations along highway 9. In order to access the part of the canyon where the lodge is and some of the other spectacular cliff walls requires that you park at the visitors center and take a park provided propane powered bus down that part. This was a satisfactory arrangement. It was even more satisfactory when the drivers told us that last summer they would have as many as 6,000 automobiles along the 6-mile road that went back to the throat of the canyon and lodge with only 200 parking spaces. Everyone in his or her individual automobile was just creating one huge traffic jam. The busses were nice except for the windows. OSHA must have designed the windows. We found them to be extremely difficult to see out of.
The small town of Springdale is on the western edge of Zion National Park. Springdale has restaurants gas stations, motels and other things necessary for tourist.
As luck would have it we met up with Chuck & Mary Ann just as we are about to board the propane powered busses for that part of our Zion experience. We ate lunch at the Lodge in Zion with them. Unlike most of the Lodges we have visited this one was not constructed by the CCC. This lodge was constructed by the Union Pacific railroad in 1929. Zion lodge is not nearly as grand as the lodge at the North Rim. It was nice but not nearly as spectacular. The view out the windows of the lodge was of the sheer sandstone cliffs. We all got off the bus at the end of the canyon and hiked a mile or so back into the canyon until the path was reduced to river. We got pictures of us standing at the point where there was no more dry rocks to walk on. Others were wading even farther up the canyon to where it narrows to only a few feet wide and the water was chest deep. At this point the sheer walls of the cliff were still, several thousand feet high letting only a sliver of the mid-day light into the canyon.
Just outside the western end of the National Park on highway 9 is an RV-park. There is also a herd of buffalo in a picturesque pasture a couple of miles west of the western entrance to the National Park.
Now that we have done Zion I do not understand why anyone would drive a motorhome into Zion. It is not necessary, unless of course you were using highway 9 as your route east and west. Also the approach to the west side of the tunnel is a hairy set of switchbacks transposed on an awesome grade. My advice to anyone contemplating visiting Zion would be to stay in an RV-Park in one of the towns along highway 89 about 25 miles east of Zion. There are any number of quality RV-Parks between Bryce and Zion that would, in my opinion, better situate you to visiting both of these National Parks.
On the way back from Zion we could see smoke from a forest fire on the North Rim. The fire was the talk of the RV-Park when we got back. Highway 89A was closed to traffic. The fire was about 3 miles north of Jacobs Lake. There was enough smoke to be very concerned, as it turned dark.
Once back at the park we sat outside and talked with Chuck and Mary Ann until almost midnight. One of the things that I remember Chuck commenting on was the number of class C motorhomes in the pull-outs as we came out of the canyon, all with their hoods up. The heat was obviously working on them as they came up the grade to that infamous tunnel.
Wednesday, June 20, 2001 Kanab RV Corral Kanab, UT 435-644-5330 elevation around 5,000'
Good news, the fire at Jacob's Lake is either out or under control. We cannot see smoke from where we are and we have a good view of the North Rim.
We drove to Bryce Canyon National Park this morning, what a let down after spending time at the North Rim and Zion. Bryce is ok if you have not seen the other two but in comparison it is just a baby brother. Actually I have given Bryce a bad wrap it has gigantic spectacular horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters of towering spires, fins, arches and labyrinths of limestone, sandstone, and mudstone, imbued with shades of brown, orange, red, yellow, white and myriad more hues two numerous to name. It is the smallest of Utah's National Parks, yet it contains some of the most beautiful and bizarre geological formations on this earth.
To access Bryce from highway 89 you have to drive through "Red Canyon" with two small tunnels through red rock formations. Red Canyon and Bryce have such drastically different rock formations yet they are only a few miles apart. How many different rock shapes are there? We had never heard of Red Rock Canyon and really enjoyed our 5-minute ride through it.
The ride from Kanab to Bryce was up highway 89. Much of this ride was in a valley following along the east fork of the Virgin River. The river provides necessary water to the area. Around the towns of Orderville and Glendale are irrigated farms growing hay. Neither of these towns is large enough for a traffic light. On scenic Byway 12 the topography changes dramatically with each road cut and each turn in the road. As you turn off 89 onto Scenic 12 you are in a green valley. Several miles down the road you round a turn and zap you are in the Red Canyon. The relatively lush valley disappears as if hit by a meat cleaver. On the other side of a road cut pops out Red Canyon. Then 5 minutes down the road another road cut and we pop out onto a high plateau where we stay until entering the ponderosa pine and spruce forest that sit atop the plateau above Bryce's Canyons.
Bryce is the land of the "hoodoo". A hoodoo is a pinnacle, or odd-shaped rock left standing by the forces of erosion. Bryce Canyon National Park must have the most hoodoos of any place on earth. There are literally thousands of these fantastic shapes within the boundary of the park. Hoodoos in Bryce National Park range from small only a few feet high to monolithic spires towering over a thousand feet into the air.
Inside the Visitors Center at Bryce was an excellent display. If visiting Bryce do not overlook the visitor's center. The Lodge was constructed in 1924 (pre CCC) and reflects the rustic style of that period. It is nice but lacks an awesome view and is less grand than the other Lodges we have visited.
For those of you interested in visiting Bryce it is a good way to spend a day. Just outside the entrance are several places that visitors may be interested in. For RV'ers there is gas and diesel as well as a car wash and motorhome wash. There is an RV-Park at Ruby's. In fact Ruby's is a restaurant, RV-Park, Motel & convention center, gift shop, grocery store, etc., across the street you can hire helicopter rides, rent horses and they advertise a nightly rodeo in the arena across from Ruby's.
We ate at the Rocking Café/Bistro on Main Street in Kanab. Joyce's mother used to tell her not to say anything if she couldn't say something good. Following her mothers advice that is all we will say.
Chuck & Mary Ann, our friends from Tampa, went to the North Rim today. They said the fire was out but there was still a lot of fire fighters and their equipment in the area and traffic was slowed considerably in the area of the fire. They did not see any deer in the meadows. The moral to that story is the deer do not come out until it is almost dark. Keep that in mind if you want to view deer.
Thursday, June 21, 2001 Kanab RV Corral Kanab, UT 435-644-5330 elevation around 5,000'
After two very long days touring two National Parks we decided to slow down. Mike spent some of the morning talking with a diesel shop about our diesel getting hot on steep grades. They looked at our radiator and told me that it was a 6.5-liter GM diesel. It seems that they are notorious for getting hot when pulling a load up steep grades.
Oh well, I can live with that. It sure would be nice to be able to utilize available horsepower when ascending some of the steeper grades.
Joyce did laundry in the morning then spent the rest of the day at the pool. I joined Joyce at the pool in the afternoon. Cool off in the pool, read for a while, then cool off again. It is a tough life but someone has to do it.
Friday, June 22, 2001 Kanab RV Corral Kanab, UT 435-644-5330 elevation around 5,000'
This was another sleep late day. Then we got up and headed west on Arizona 389. Our first stop is Pipe Springs National Monument about 15 miles down the road. Pipe Springs has a lot of history in the early settlement of the region. The spring is on the Arizona Strip, a vast, isolated landscape that lies between the Grand Canyon and the Vermilion Cliffs of extreme northern Arizona. It is an arid and seemingly uninhabitable region. This spring is one of few in the area. The water comes from rain and snowmelt that has percolated down to a hard shale layer of rock then flows southward to the base of the Vermilion Cliffs where it appears at the surface.
The ranch at Pipe Spring was part of Brigham Young's vision for the growing Mormon population. Back in those days Mormons often tithed to the church in the form of cattle, and the growing "tithing" herds of southern Utah needed more space. Young also needed a source of beef and dairy product to feed hundreds of laborers working on the Mormon temple and other projects in St. George, Utah. Noting the presence of water at Pipe Spring and the expanse of free grazing land on the Arizona Strip, Brigham Young decided to create a tithing ranch and business venture at the Spring. In 1870 Young purchased the land and started building the ranches main structure. It was a "fort & house". The walls are 2 feet thick sandstone and mortar. It was constructed over the spring. The spring actually ran through the living room, courtyard and finally out the "spring house" down to some holding ponds. During the Mormons ownership of the spring they were supplying cattle, butter and cheese to the town of St. George. The "house/fort is in surprisingly good shape. According to our docent it was lived in continuously until taken over by the National Park.
>From Pipe Springs we continued west through Colorado City, and Hurricane, before stopping in St. George, Utah where we headed to the Saturn dealer for an oil change and replacement of our transmitter key.
After getting that chore behind us we drove through Snow Canyon, State Park just outside of St. George. The canyon is a drive of about 6-miles through a variety of geologic features. Much of the drive is adjacent to an ancient lava flow. The canyon floor has an elevation of 3,100' while the cliff walls rise to over 5,000'.
As we enter the canyon the temperature is in excess of 106-degrees. It is so hot outside we are watching the Saturn's temperature each time we climb a steep grade. We were forced to shut off the air-conditioner on significant grades.
In addition to the magma field the park contained an area of red sand dunes. Then a little farther down the sand dunes had been petrified and were solid rock. The road then leads to the gigantic crater where the volcanic ash cone towers in a semi-circle where you can view where the lava flowed out the southern end of the canyon. It is easy to see how the lava encased the sandstone cliffs as it flowed southward down the canyon. On it's southward journey the lava flow formed several "tubes". These tubes were formed when the outside of the lava solidified and the liquid lava kept flowing out the end. The result is deep caves for the adventurous to explore when the temperature is not 106-degrees.
For those traveling through St. George Snow Canyon State Park has a nice RV-Park.
Joyce cooked tonight. Miracles are still occurring in southern Utah to this day!
Mike & Joyce Hendrix
Until next time remember how good life is.
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