Arizona – Grand Canyon and Lake Powell

OCTOBER 4, 2010

Bam! Crash! That’s what woke us up this morning. Then Opal was hurdling herself from the sofa to our bed. It was a loud thunderstorm with lightening and a few minutes later some rain. This is the first really rainy day we’ve had since leaving Charlotte. Not bad for 5 weeks of travel. Today is a travel day for us so it doesn’t really impact our plans. It looked like the storm had passed by so we started the clean up and hitching up procedure. Bam! Crash! A hard rain began to fall. Opal was huddling in a corner. I looked out the window to the horse pasture. When the thunder and lightening hit the horses would buck and run around. Then the rain became mixed with hail. They would turn their backsides to the storm and lower their heads. When the wind changed direction, they would turn all at the same time. By 10AM the storm had passed and we finished packing up.

There was intermittent rain as we headed south to Kanab. We’d seen a photo store yesterday when we drove through town. We stopped to see if I could replace the polarizer I’d lost at Canyonlands. He did have one. Then we started talking to him. He does photo tours of local canyons and interesting areas. We took his contact information. Since we plan to return having a guide and instructor lined up would be great.

We drove to Fredonia, Arizona then turned west for about 10 miles to Pipe Spring National Monument. It is located on the Kaibab Indian Reservation and is a joint venture  between the Kaibab Tribe and the National Park Service. We spent time in the museum and watched a 25 minute film about the history of the area. Originally the ancestral puebloans had settled here. Later the Kaibab Indians of the Paiutes were hunter/gatherers here. Beginning in the late 1840’s the Mormons began settlement of Utah and Arizona including Pipe Spring. Because of the consistent water source, this area was coveted by all. Cultural and legal conflicts developed. The federal government wanted to outlaw polygamy. The Mormons wanted statehood. The Kaibab Indians wanted their ancestral land. Gradually each would have what they desired. Polygamy was outlawed by the church and statehood was granted. Utah was the 45th state. Pipe Spring had been a Mormon tithing ranch. When members of the church couldn’t give money for their 10% tithe they could give cattle or supplies to the ranch. In order to get statehood, the Mormon church sold its economic holdings such as Pipe Spring. The Paiute Indians were given a reservation. Equal shares of water from Pipe Spring were given to each entity. In the museum there were examples of various water containers from the different inhabitants. I really loved seeing the Indian baskets and a wonderful papoose carrier that even had a sun shield. I spoke with a woman at the information desk who is doing a two month volunteer job here. She’s done volunteer jobs twice and enjoys it. I picked up a brochure about being a volunteer in the Parks for future reference. Steve and I also talked to her about a remote area of the Grand Canyon called Toroweep. I’d heard of it. It’s supposed to have spectacular views. The problem is it is accessible only by a 60 mile gravel road and the last 2 miles are over slickrock with sharp edges. To make this drive, you must pack extra water and tires. Steve says even for him this sounds like a drive we won’t be doing. By the time we were finished with the movie, the weather had turned rainy and the temperature had dropped to the mid-fifties. So a tour of the site will wait for another time.

Jacob Lake is our destination and was a 20 mile drive from Pipe Spring. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is much more remote than the South Rim. I’m guessing only about 10% of the visitors ever see this side. There is only one lodge and one developed campground serving this area other than the Grand Canyon Lodge and cabins in the park.. We’re staying there. It is called Kaibab Campground.  It is located about 40 miles north of the park in the Kaibab National Forest. When we arrived I was surprised to see how many other RVs were there at this time of year. Our site is a private one on the outer loop backing to woods.


Our First Look At The Grand Canyon


We set up, made a fresh pot of coffee for our REI mugs and jumped into the car to get our first look at the Grand Canyon. The temperature had fallen to 45 degrees and it was raining. As we drove toward the park the skies began to clear. The sun came out and I needed my sunglasses. We were getting excited about catching the light at a good time for photos. We drove through Kaibab NF and saw more aspens at peak color. About a quarter of a mile after we entered the park the clouds reappeared. By the time we reached the Visitors Center, rain again. Not to be outdone, we went to the Lodge observation deck and took a few shots. After all, anyone can take photos of the Grand Canyon in the sun!


Chari Takes Photos Rain or Shine


We even walked down to an overlook but by the time we got there my camera lens was covered with raindrops and the photos were poor. We checked with a ranger about tomorrow’s weather. It looks like a 50/50 chance. The ranger said yesterday it had rained most of the day and cleared for a spectacular sunset. Steve remarked that it sounded like what he heard a lot when he went fishing … “You should have been here yesterday, they were really biting.” Then we bought a Christmas ornament and the CD from Ken Burns “The National Parks – America’s Best Idea”. Here’s some trivia. The Grand Canyon is 10 miles across but it is 203 miles by road to get from the North Rim to the South Rim.

We were cold and wet so a hot bowl of soup and crackers for dinner sounded good. Steve checked on the level of propane as we didn’t want a repeat on running out of gas in the middle of the night. It’s going to get very cold tonight.  I turned on the faucet and no water. Steve checked to see that the source was turned on. No water. Then he removed the hose, filter and anything else he could think that might be blocked. Each trip out into the cold rain. About 20 minutes and ten trips later we still had no water and no idea of what was wrong. Finally, we filled the RV tank and decided to use the pump as if we were boondocking. At least we have water. We’re not sure if we’ll have to do this all the way back home or not.

We’re planning to leave Opal in the trailer and hike a 3 mile rim trail tomorrow. Then we’ll drive to another part of the rim to some overlooks. With the weather being so uncertain, the mule ride will wait until another trip. Pray for good weather!


Our Best Day At The Grand Canyon


OCTOBER 5, 2010

They tell me that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon gets about ten more inches of rain than the South Rim.  They didn’t tell me that it all falls on October 5…  well, actually, some of it fell on October 4, when we got here, but the rest came down today.


North Rim Beauty



All night, last night, it rained…  sometimes hard, sometimes a little easier, and sometimes there was some lightning and thunder, and sleeping in the trailer was nice.  The sound of the rain on the roof and once in a while a gust of wind, and being nice and cosy inside was very relaxing.  We both slept well, and when we got up around 7:00, it was still raining, but beginning to break up somewhat.  Chari made some huckleberry scones from a mix that we bought at Bryce, and with eggs and bacon, we had a nice relaxing breakfast.  Then, knowing that it would probably be an off-and-on day, sometimes rainy and cold and blustery, we put on a second pot of coffee to fill the thermos and take along with us.  We left Opal in the trailer, and headed out to the Grand Canyon.

With the weather the way it was, we were hoping that during the breaks in the rain, we might have some views, with maybe the sun shining through a hole in the clouds lighting up the canyon below us, with some wisps of fog here and there creeping out from some slot canyons.  We took a turn off the main road and went out to Point Imperial.

And, we saw exactly what we were hoping for!


The rain didn’t break, there was no hole in the clouds for the sun to shine through, but there was a single wisp of fog below.

And what a wisp!  It was a mile deep, ten miles wide, and two hundred miles long!

So, we headed on to the next point.  From Point Imperial, we drove to Vista Encantada, where we kept on driving, because the rain was coming down so hard it was pointless to stop.  Eventually, we got to Roosevelt Point, and the sun was coming through a little bit, and we did get a picture or two of the tops of some of the rock formations below us through the fog.  We kept driving toward Cape Royal, where the sounds of the thunder rumbling through the canyon were like a continuous drumroll.

The rain mixed with sleet.

But off in the distance, there was a wisp of blue sky!


The Canyon Appears At Last!



As we turned back from Cape Royal, looking from the road, we actually got a view of the canyon!  We stopped at a wide spot in the road, walked over, and the view was absolutely breathtaking.  Really!

It was all we had been hoping for.  There below us was the canyon in all its glory, with the sun hitting some spots, wisps of fog here and there, and it was beautiful.

We drove back toward the Visitor’s Center, stopping here and there for more views, and naturally, some more pictures.  In some spots the views were spectacular, in others, the rain and fog were moving in again.

Eventually, it started raining steady again, and we headed back to camp.

It might sound like we didn’t have all that good of a time, but really, we did.  We laughed a lot about the weather, and had a lot of fun anyway.  And not everyone gets the chance to shoot the Grand Canyon in stormy weather.

We only planned one day here, knowing that one day is not enough.  We’ll be saving this place for another trip, when we’ll be spending a lot more time, and hopefully doing some hiking and seeing the canyon from the bottom up instead of just the top down.

Tomorrow it’s off to Lake Powell, and maybe getting our paddles wet again.  It’s been a long time.


The Vermillion Hills National Monument



OCTOBER 6, 2010

The wind and rain beating on the roof woke me up about 6AM. I stayed huddled under the covers for another hour. Then staggered to the coffee pot and hit the button. Nothing happened. I checked the connection but nothing worked. Then I looked at the microwave and the panel was dark. I knew then that we had no electricity and the lights were running on battery power. It turned out to be an area wide power outage. We’d thought to bring a percolator but hadn’t bought any ground coffee. So a cup of tea had to suffice. We lingered over breakfast hoping the rain would end. No luck. Steve had to hook up the trailer in the cold, wind and rain. It was 39 degrees.

Our trip to Page, AZ would be about 90 minutes. We stopped for gas at Jacob Lake but they were without power too. The next gas station was 30 miles away. We drove through rain and wind and fog. The day looked like it would be a lost day. At a town (and I use that loosely) called Cliff Dwellers, we stopped for gas. While there Steve learned there was a tornado watch in effect. Yesterday 2 tornados had touched down about 20 miles away. Steve didn’t want to be on the open road in those conditions, especially with a trailer. So we drove as fast as weather and road conditions would allow. The Vermillion Cliffs National Monument looked like it would have been beautiful, if we could have seen it. We noticed that many of the dry washes were full of “blood red” water and some even had waterfalls. No photos today! We made it to Page and found the Lake Powell Campground without difficulty. We waited inside the trailer for 20 minutes hoping it would clear. Steve donned his rain gear and went out to set up the trailer. It was cold and nasty. I had a cup of hot coffee for him when he was done. Within an hour the rain stopped and the sun began to peek through the clouds.


A Wash After The Rain In The Vermillion Hills


We quickly gathered up our things and got into the car. We hoped we might still see the washes when they were full. We drove back about 20 miles the way we’d come down US 89 to 89A. The Vermillion Cliffs were magnificent as they dropped straight down with clouds and fog whirling around them. We stopped for several pics. Once while walking across what seemed to be solid ground we both wound up half submerged in mud. We looked like 2 kids who just couldn’t keep themselves out of a mud puddle. The washes had a little water in them but nothing spectacular. It must be all or nothing. Then we saw a sign for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and turned in.


A Rainbow At Glen Canyon National Recreation Area


This area along the Colorado is also known as Marble Canyon. The Glen Canyon used to be 200 miles long. When Lake Powell was created in 1963, most of the canyon was submerged. The National Recreation Area protects the remaining 15 miles. Here the Vermillion Cliffs are on one side and the Colorado River making a canyon on the other. With the unsettled sky and fog it was amazing. As the afternoon progressed, the weather got better. We visited an area called Lees Ferry where a cable ferry had operated from 1880-1928. There were some old buildings and relics of the ferry and gold mining days. The Paria River merges with the Colorado River here. We noticed that the Paria carried a greenish silt while the Colorado carried reddish silt. For a mile or so after the confluence you could see the two colors of water running together. Just as we were getting ready to leave the GCRA a rainbow appeared over the river. About a dozen pictures later, it was disappearing and we left too. Then we went to the Navajo Bridge which has a Visitors Center and a pedestrian walkway for viewing the river. The land adjacent to the GCRA is the Navajo Reservation. Part of the walkway is under the NPS and part under the Navajo Tribal Council. We were looking at the river when someone pointed out to us that there were three California Condors on the rocks. We ran to the car for our big telephoto lenses. These birds really are ugly. I was fascinated every time they unfurled their wings. I saw one bird finishing a meal he’d stowed away earlier. It was an unexpected thrill to see them.


A California Condor Drying Its Wings


On the way home we stocked up on groceries. It’s so tempting to buy the way you would at home. You have to keep in mind the limited storage space.

Here’s hoping the weather tomorrow is suitable for kayaking. We also want to get over to the famous Horseshoe Bend Overlook.

OCTOBER 7, 2010


Glen Canyon Dam



Ah, sun today! We started out with the idea that we’d do some sightseeing this morning and go kayaking this afternoon. We went to the Glen Canyon Recreation Area Visitors Center and looked at the exhibits about the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam and some history of the area. We spoke with a Ranger about kayaking put-ins and areas to see. She suggested Antelope Canyon which is nearby or two places uplake. She said there was a 30% chance of thunderstorms this afternoon and recommended we wait until tomorrow. We followed her advice.


Generators 500 Feet Below The Dam


This gave us time to sign up for the dam tour at 12:30P. We had time to give Opal a run along the river before taking her back to the trailer. The Glen Canyon Dam tour is about 45 minutes long and takes you down into the bottom of the dam which is over 500’ from the top. The guide was very knowledgeable and related many facts about the dam which (I’m sure you’re relieved to hear) I can’t recall. It is the second largest concrete arch dam, next to Hoover Dam and the fourth highest. It is the widest dam. There is enough concrete in the dam to pave a four lane highway from Phoenix to Chicago. The town of Page was created to house construction workers beginning in 1956 as they plotted the exact location and began blasting. The dam itself was constructed from 1960-1963. Then the power plant was built from 1963-1966. I’d recommend the tour if you’re in this area.


Bridge Across The Colorado At The Dam


From the dam we went to the John Wesley Powell Museum. I’d heard of him but did not know much other than that he was responsible for the exploration of the Grand Canyon. Steve bought a book about his first trip on the Colorado in 1869 while we were at Grand Canyon. He’s read a few paragraphs to me. The fact that Powell and his party came through alive is amazing. If there ever was a more unlikely person to shoot the Colorado River rapids than this one armed, slightly built, geology professor in a wooden boat, I can’t think of one. There is a movie called “Ten Who Dared” that tells the story of Powell’s expedition. When Powell went through the Grand Canyon rapids the flow was estimated to be 45,000 to 90,000 CFS. Now when the flow gets that strong the NPS closes down the canyon to all rafting. His wife must have been unique in her own right. She was the first woman to climb Pikes Peak. Her name was Emma Dean. That’s what Powell named his boat. Maybe her thoughts and prayers were what got him through safely. There were also paleontological exhibits and an interesting display about western authors, photographers and adventures. One I hadn’t heard of before was Edwin Ruess. I’d like to read more about him. There was also a display of western artists and authors. We learned who Maynard Dixon was. When we were in the Zion area, we saw a sign for the Maynard Dixon House and Museum. We didn’t have a clue who he was. Now we know that he was a painter. Next time we’re in the area we’ll go to the museum.

I know it’s become a bit of a joke about our menus but I have to brag a bit about Steve’s delicious Chorizo and chicken enchiladas we had for dinner. Then Betty Crocker (or was it Duncan Hines) and I whipped up fudge brownies for a brownie sundae. While I waited for them to cook, I worked on pictures for our long overdue Capitol Reef blog.

OCTOBER 8, 2010


Chari and Steve Kayak Lake Powell



A cloudless blue sky and sun with temperatures in the high 60’s today. A perfect day for kayaking. We were out on the water at Antelope Point by 10:30. When you enter the Glen Canyon Recreation Area they ask whether your boat has been in the water in the last 30 days. Ours hadn’t so they issued us a Mussel Free Certificate that we had to display on the dashboard. This is to prevent the introduction of Zebra or Quaggi mussels. The certificate is good for 7 days. I’m not sure what they do if your boat has been somewhere else within 30 days. Steve says they might make you steam clean it. We got our certificate yesterday when we came by to check on the ramp. Today as we entered they rechecked our certificate and then a NPS employee was at the ramp double checking certificates.


Canyon Reflection On Lake Powell



Canyon Entrance


We paddled around to the left of the ramp about a mile and then another 1.5 miles into Antelope Canyon. After 3 weeks in Utah and Arizona you begin to think you’ve seen everything possible to do with rocks. We were fascinated with the canyon as it rose 80’ above us. The water in the lake was 400’ deep and in the canyon about 75’ deep. At the mouth the canyon was 60-80’ wide and narrowed to 40’ at the end. We paddled until the water became very muddy with recent rain silt. I’m not sure how much further the canyon goes. We met 3 boats and 1 other kayak all morning. There were times you could sit still and hear absolutely nothing. After the boats came through the water was a little choppy. I can see where in the prime season with many boats that the water could get quite rough. OK fellow kayakers, you need to put this paddle on your life list. In all We paddled between 4-5 miles. While we were loading the boats, Steve pulled a bit too hard and one of the side mount kayak carriers broke. So he had to put the boat flat on the roof rack. This was OK but now we could only open the rear hatch halfway. Later he found two pieces of lumber on the side of the road which he has used to lift the boat up so we can open the door almost all the way.


Upper Antelope Canyon #1


A quick change of clothes and off we went to do a walking tour of the Upper Antelope Slot Canyon. We found out that they didn’t take credit cards. We had to merge funds to come up with the cash. The 2 o’clock tour was just ready to leave but they waited for us to grab our cameras and hop on. It is 3.5 miles into the canyon and you can only go in with a Navajo guide.


Upper Antelope Canyon #2



Upper Antelope Canyon #3


The tour truck bounced along (deja vu Botswana game drives). There were eight people in the tour group including a couple from Greenville, SC. Our guide was excellent. He’d played in the canyon as a child. His grandmother’s home includes this land. It’s hard to relate the experience we had. The canyon walls swirl and dance and form fascinating shapes. They recommend not using a flash in the brighter parts of the canyon to capture the natural colors of the sandstone. As the canyon gets darker you need both a high ISO and a flash. We really needed to have tripods and more time to get great pics. The few that turned out should give you a sense of what’s there. FYI they don’t take credit cards so come with cash. This is a MUST for anyone coming to this part of Arizona. There is a lower Antelope Canyon that is a separate tour. Between April-September at mid-day there is a place that catches the sunlight and forms a shaft of light through the roof to the floor. We’ll have to come back! I don’t think you can see a place like this and not believe in a higher power.


Upper Antelope Canyon #4


It was time to get Opal and give her a run. We returned to the same area near the dam. She found a hole and began sniffing and digging. Steve thinks she was after ground squirrels. She kept digging until she had a hole 3’x2’. We kept walking and she kept sniffing and digging. At one time she kept going until she had dug a 5’x2’ trench. I think she’d have kept going longer if we’d have let her. She never did catch a squirrel. I don’t think she’d know what to do if she had.

As I’m writing this, Steve is outside talking to another RVer here who had noticed our carryall box when we were at another park. Steve is showing him how he built it. This is the fourth person who has asked about it. This couple is from Greensboro, NC. They bought their trailer this spring and this is their first long trip too. They’ve been on the road about as long as we have. It turns out that they enjoy kayaking, hiking and bike riding too. We’re going to swap contact information and hopefully stay in touch.

Time to wind up. Tomorrow we’re heading back to Utah and Monument Valley.


About vagabondpress

Recently retired and "hitting the road". Hobbies include travel, nature photography, kayaking, hiking, good food and good friends.
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One Response to Arizona – Grand Canyon and Lake Powell

  1. dave says:

    “a double rainbow”

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