Several years ago I ripped out an article from Backpacker or Outside Magazine describing a remote campsite on the lip of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon(NRGC); I knew someday I would camp there. Someday is here! I had first planned this trip two years ago with Lisa, but shortly before we were to leave my dear sweet mother fell down a flight of stairs shattering almost every bone in her body like a teacup. I traded my remote rim campsite for a seat next to my mother’s bed in the ICU. The view was not as I had imagined. Thankfully my mother made a full recovery and is likely chuckling as she reads this. Lisa never made it to the NRGC either so now we are off on this adventure together.
First stop is Elmer’s Bottle Tree Farm on Route 66.
Again I had read about this somewhere and knew that I would eventually make my way there. Elmer falls into a genre of art called Outsider Artists; artists with no formal training. It is a genre that I have long been attracted to. In a sense we are all Outsider Artists when we engage our creative side. But that is a topic for another blog posting. For now enjoy these whimsical sculptures.
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch
We arrived at Jacob Lake Campground on the Kaibab Plateau at dusk, leaving us enough time to locate and set up camp. The wind was howling and it was COLD!
I purchased a new piece of gear, The Kestrel Drop that records the temperature throughout the day and transfers the data to my phone. ( don’t worry it only weighs 1oz so I can take it backpacking) YES I know I could get a thermometer….but this is more fun….plus I can SEE it!
So at 5:30 am the next morning when I crawled out of my sleeping bag I can tell you it was exactly 29 degrees.
Everyone needs to be hugged…Even smokey the Bear!
Sunday May 17, 2015
After we thawed out with our piping hot morning coffee we continued driving along the Kaibab Plateau until we veered right onto a well graded, albeit muddy dirt road to Crazy Jug Point. There were remnants of the snow, hail and rain storm that occurred the previous three days in the form of snow patches, large mud puddles and cold crisp air. The dirt roads are like a massive spider web, some connecting and others disappearing into the trees. Most of the roads are marked and most of the marked roads are on the map which leaves us with some unmarked roads with no map. (Remember this point for later)
a smooth dirt road
Crazy Jug Point
We enjoyed the view, had a snack and inspected the campsites at Crazy Jug Point before moving on to the next Point….Timp Point.
Upon leaving Crazy Jug Point we took a wrong turn, that really looked like a right turn, but actually wasn’t a turn at all and was a straight road AND really we needed to turn RIGHT. We checked the sign on the road with the map we had and the numbers lined up……so off Lisa drove down a very red clay muddy road. As her new Forester, aptly named SUBYDU2 began sliding across the mud, she kept saying, “I don’t remember it being this muddy on the drive in.” To which I continually replied, “Me neither.” It wasn’t long before we found ourselves completely spinning and stuck in a HUGE mucky mud puddle. Lisa was less than pleased and I’m pretty sure she muttered some choice words as she exited the car. I put on my boots, rolled up my pants, opened the passenger door and was greeted by oozing red muck. My first thought was, “I don’t want my boots to get muddy.” I had images of stepping out of the car and having my boots fill up with mud and then falling in the mud and then being cold and muddy and STILL having a stuck car.” I slammed the door and climbed over to the drivers side leaning my head out the open window asking if I could try something. I have Fred Smith, FedEx and my defensive driving skills learned there to thank for this next move. I gripped the steering wheel and floored it, and kept flooring it as the wheels spun and mud flew every which way including in through the open window onto the new leather seats, dashboard, and all over my face. Finally the wheels got some traction and SUBYDU2 fish tailed this way and that while I concentrated on navigating away from the trees. SUCCESS. The car was unstuck. BUT now we were on the wrong side of the mud puddle. Lisa opted for continuing down the same road while I hemmed and hawed thinking maybe it was better to turn around. In the end we did turn around and I found a way to navigate the car, much like threading a needle, in and out of the trees avoiding the mud. Sadly, we weren’t thinking about photo documentation when we were stuck in the mud and only have this picture, which really does not tell the story.
We ended the day at this spot………….and finally my dream came true of camping on the edge of the NRCG!
The view from our campsite
Monday May 18, 2015
I slept in two nested sleeping bags and was toasty warm all night….in fact there were moments when I was too hot!
The birds started singing at 5:30 as the first light began making its way across the still sky. The red hues deep in the canyon accompanied our morning coffee. I spent a good part of the morning staring across the great expanse watching the color and light change and the clouds dance in the wind. It was a balmy 41 degrees.
The view from here
The plan was to pack our backpacks, with 1.5 gallons of water, for two days and hike along the rim trail and camp at one of the overlooks 10 miles up the trail. As we sorted gear and packed we watched the clouds gather and darken wondering not IF it would rain but when….and would it be a quick sprinkle or long steady drizzle. As soon as we were ready to heft our packs and begin to hoof it on up trail the rain began. It was in between a slow drizzle and a steady downpour….. enough for us to nix the backpack plan.
We engaged plan B which involved moving our campsite 500 feet down the road to a not to be missed stunning site with even more expansive views of the canyon. Lisa has a huge new tent, The BIG House, with a vestibule that you can sit and cook under. The thing weighs 16 pounds! Seriously…. it’s HUGE. I can set up my tent inside of it! She set her tent up so we could have an optimal view from inside the vestibule with the door rolled up.
The BIG house
While we played cribbage, studied maps and guidebooks, the canyon played hide and seek with the clouds. From my perch sitting in my chair, with my sleeping bag wrapped around me I enjoyed watching the light slide down the canyon walls and the rain patter on the tent. Actually I had all my clothes on….long underwear, fleece shirt, down jacket, rain jacket, fleece pants and down socks…plus my sleeping bag wrapped around me! It was cold and the wind made it colder. The temperature hovered around 45 for most of the day.
Watching the rain storm
The rain stopped long enough for us to get in a quick jaunt along the forested rim trail. The sun even appeared long enough to warm me up. But the rain was not done as evidenced by the dark clouds making their away across the canyon. We made it back to camp just as it began it hail marbles. More cribbage and maps and staring at the canyon walls. We even cooked dinner, Kaibab Mac & cheese, ( I named it this after putting bacon in it) under the vestibule this time accompanied by thunder and lightening. I’m now retired in my tent wrapped in my double bag nest which is really too warm but feels good!
Tuesday May 19, 2015
The chirping birds woke me at 5:30….clear skies and 29 degrees! I opened my rain fly and enjoyed the view of the canyon until the sun slowly crept across my tent. We enjoyed our coffee looking over the canyon. Really an amazing view!
We drove to North Timp Point and did a 13 mile hike to Locust Point…the destination of our aborted backpack trip. The trail meandered through ponderosa pine, juniper and aspen forest. We saw lots and lots of deer often hearing their springy bouncy gait before seeing them. Along some stretches of the trail the aspen haven’t begun to leaf out, while in other spots the tiny tender green leaves can be seen.
The view from Locust Point was even more expansive than our campsite at Timp Point. We enjoyed lunch tucked under a juniper bush away from the wind. One of the best parts was the absence of other people and the silence. We rested in the warm sun and watched the cloud formations before returning.
Back at camp I sat on our “veranda” and stared deep into the canyon. I watched the birds and could hear them flapping their wings. We ended the day with a short walk to Timp Point to watch the sunset over the canyon.
Wednesday May 20, 2015
It was much warmer last night and I didn’t need my double nesting bags. At 5:30 the birds were happily singing and when I poked my head out of my tent I was greeted with cloudy skies. We packed up and headed first to Marble View Point and then down into the actual Grand Canyon National Park. We wanted to do a few hikes in the park and decided to camp in a real campground with running water and flush toilets. The campground was full and in fact is full every single night through the end of the season in October! But we were able to get a site because someone had cancelled their reservation…… Perhaps because there is a 60% chance of snow on Friday. We got a site for a 40 foot motor home, in the Grand Canyon guide book this site is list as one of the 4 worst sites in the campground. It makes me chuckle because we had such an amazing campsite the last 3 nights. We spent the afternoon hiking on the Transpet and bright angle trails….seeing more people in the first two feet of the trail than we had in the last 4 days. The clouds gave way to clear sunny skies and the canyon gave us a fabulous light show.
We ended the afternoon sitting on the porch of the NRCG lodge in big Adirondack chairs. Again the canyon gave us a spectacular light show with the late afternoon light. And I gave the entire porch a show when I walked down the stairs and either missed a step or tripped on my own foot landing on the concrete with a loud thud. People came running and offered me tissues to soak up the blood coming from my knee and nose. I smacked my head, right above my left eye hard enough for me to feel concerned about my retina. My depth perception still can be a bit tricky for me.
I sat on the concrete for a long time trying to get my equilibrium back. I was embarrassed. Lisa told me she heard a loud smack and thought “ouch that person is going to hurt.” Then she turned around and saw me in a heap behind her chair. Ugh! Later, I thought it was a bit comical that I traipse all over the mountains up and down cliffs and cross treacherous rivers usually keeping both feet grounded but seem to have trouble in civilization. I’m reminded of one summer after spending 6 weeks backpacking, camping, and kayaking without any major mishaps, I came home and promptly sliced my knee on the trash can. Better to get hurt close to home than off in the wild!
Room with a view
Grand Canyon Lodge
Thursday May 21, 2015
Cloudy skies, chirping birds and hot foamy coffee greeted me this morning when I popped out of my tent. We were able to secure another cancelation campsite….this one with a primo view….of the trash can! Not to worry because we spent most of the day away from camp and when we were in camp we turned our chairs around the other way! It’s good to be flexible.
We hiked the Wildforss trail which had spectacular views of the canyon. This hike was more along the rim than our previous hikes. We could see across to the South rim and Lisa was able to pick out the trail she hiked on last November. We also saw the snow capped mount Humphrey’s, the tallest peak in Arizona.
Along the trail we encountered a male
grouse. I have often heard the deep throaty
sound the grouse makes in the Sierra but
have never seen one up this close.
When we got back to camp it was C O L D and W I N D Y, with a capital C&W! After a short rest we hiked down to the lodge and sat inside playing cribbage and having a snack. On our hike, which was really more of a walk, to and from the lodge we saw a Kaibab squirrel, which can only be found on the north rim. It’s face and ears look at bit like a rabbit and it’s long white tail looks like a skunk. It scurried away before I could get a good picture.
Next we drove up to Cape Royal for the view and potential evening light and sunset over the canyon. It was still cold and windy, still with capital C&W’s and it was beginning to sprinkle. I had an idea to heat up our dinner, “fire roasted burritos”in the microwave in the camp store. We ate them very very carefully in the new car on the drive to Cape Royal. (Don’t worry mom, I didn’t spill anything!) On the way I spotted a hawk in a tree snag…..that was great sight. We got to the point just as the clouds were dispersing…..what good fortune! The canyon walls glowed a reddish hue as the sun set. I stretched out on my belly and hung my head over the canyon edge. It was both thrilling and terrifying and my belly did flippy flops similar to the way I felt as a kid riding the wooden roller coaster in Santa Cruz.
I like the edge
Driving back to the campground the temperature dipped to 35 and We decided to head back to the lodge for on last game of cribbage.
view from Cape Royal
Friday May 22, 2015
The forecast for the next three days called for cold, wet, snowy and windy conditions. We packed up and headed to Snake Gulch hoping to get a short hike in before it started to rain. As soon as we got the the trailhead it began to sleet and hail and neither one of us felt like getting out of the car. We used the lid to one of the action packers and made a make shift table between the front seats and had our lunch watching the rain and debating what to do next. We decided to do part of the hike.
We wanted to see these!
Back at the car we made “Roadside Coffee” while we debated where to go next. We were both tired of the cold and the wind and knew that wherever we went in Arizona or Utah it would be raining….so we decided to head to Mojave Preserve back in California. We arrived there at 10:00 pm and it was SO WINDY we had to use the car was a wind block and anchor the tent to the picnic table. The wind howled all night. But it was a warm wind………and it wasn’t raining……or snowing.