That Glorious Grand Canyon
National Parks back in the day - they were something. Old fogeys like me remember them as quiet and iconic and sensational - as I travel 'round the West it has become clear to me that our National Parks are simply being overrun (I know it's a constant refrain of mine - but it bears repeating). There are a few exceptions and this scoop - for my readers only - is that you can find old time National Park bliss at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
In the evening and morning you can drive the Cape Royal Road and, at times, be completely alone at some of the most magnificent overlooks on planet earth. You can stop and breathe and stare at that canyon for hours. This was my second trip in the last few years and I'm already planning my third.
It is a bit of a drive to get there. It's much easier to get to the South Rim and the North Rim is, indeed, significantly more isolated. It keeps the riff raff out.
I thought, since it's such a long drive that I'd make a stop along the way. I knew it would be hot but surely not "Africa Hot" (see Biloxi Blues). It was 108F when I arrived at Quail Creek Reservoir State Park. I spent the night in 90 degree weather inside the trailer. Oof. It was a pretty place for a man made thing but I decided to "GTHO" the next day and drive to the mountains.
I drove straight to one of my favorite spots in all of the West - Cedar Breaks National Monument where, at 10,000 feet, was a beautiful 65 degrees. Cedar Breaks, I'm convinced, would be a National Park if there weren't already five in Utah - which already frustrates those among us who would mine and develop and ruin these natural areas.
From there I took lesser known roads and drove to the site of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. It is the site of one of the ugliest episodes of the old West - and there were plenty of those. I would encourage you to read up on this one...the story has changed - even during my lifetime and it merits broader awareness. It's a very sad place.
From there I took a leisurely drive up to Pine Valley and down around Snow Canyon in Southern Utah.
I called Lupe before I left in the morning to help me figure out a strategy for dealing with the trailer sitting in the sun while I went to the mountains. We figured closing it up was best. So, I closed the blinds and locked it up. I'm not certain it was the best plan. When I got back it was ONE HUNDRED TWENTY degrees inside! Good Lord, man! I opened it up, sat outside, and when it reached only ONE HUNDRED I tried to sleep. It didn't work very well so I got up early, hitched up my little fiberglass home, and hit the road for the high country of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
I arrived in the early afternoon, and I suppose from the altitude and electrolyte loss, was wiped out and simply sat around the campsite. The next morning I went to take a reinvigorating campground shower and waited for my amigo Scott Jones. He and his partner Jen and some friends did stop by for a bit. It was enjoyable but far too short. Yes, that is an Everett Ruess shirt the old guy is wearing. Scott and I are going to attend the USC vs ASU football game this fall at the Coliseum. He's a Sun Devil and I received my doctorate at USC so- FIGHT ON! See you in October!
My pal and fellow train lover, Liz Kylin, was staying at the North Rim Lodge and came by too. She and I drove out to Imperial Point and a few other spots that evening. Turns out it was a nice to time for it.
I did spend a bit of time at the North Rim Lodge. What a cool place. You all know the famous Brighty of the Grand Canyon, right?
Liz and I drove out to a spot Scott had recommended - Marble Viewpoint via a sweet dirt road. We got there in the middle of a hazy day and the photos don't do it justice. Not even close. What a magnificent view.
I spent the next few days wandering. The North Rim Drive is an unparalleled gem. The little cabin below was used by cowboys for stock food storage. That pretty flower is the Arizona Mariposa Lily.
The following gallery has a few photos of iconic Grand Canyon sights, to wit; Colorado River, Angel's Window, Wotan Throne and the Vishnu Temple. I did spend one day driving the entire Cape Royal Road. The last photo of this series is a panorama of Wotan's Throne (on the right) and the Vishnu temple (on the left).
Of course it sometimes pays off to get up at the crack of dawn to make photos. One morning I awoke at 4:00 AM to do just that - I drove up to Imperial Point - set up the tripod and waited for the light. It was a stellar morning- warm and breezy and solitary.
As I was post processing the photos I spent hours looking for opportunities to make black and whites. Some of these turned out OK.
Someone asked me once why I share so many photos on my blog posts - I wasn't sure how to take that question. Did it mean that many are bad and don't need to be shared? Maybe - but I answered the way I felt - my blog is a travel blog - not a photo blog per se. Do I want you to see the artistic expression of my photography? Of course - but - most importantly I want you to vicariously come along. Most of the time I'm alone when I travel and, like most travelers, I enjoy sharing the sights and sense of adventure I feel with others of my species.
I am, of course, happy about the quality of some of the photos and feel fulfilled when someone decides to hang one of them on their wall...I think of them whiling away the time looking at those magnificent vistas and feeling that "grand" feeling with me.
So, hey, thanks for coming along! We all know, especially as we get older, that we are only here for a limited number of days. As I reach the final trimester of my life nothing gives me more sheer joy than my family and my trips and my photos. How blessed I am that you are here with me.
Oh, and get out to the North Rim - but SHHHHH! We don't need another Zion or Arches...let's keep the wonder of the place just between ourselves.
7/18/2018 10:46:05 am
Fantastic photos, Doc! That part of the southwest is fantastic. The last time I was at the Grand Canyon was in 1981 in the middle of a bicycle tour around the U.S. Even then, the park was crowded.
Doc, this post made me super-excited for my first-ever Grand Canyon trip this October! I'll be in the Southwest with family, then have a week to bum around. The North Rim is on the list, and now Cedar Breaks is too. I'll be flying in and out of Las Vegas, so any suggestions are appreciated. We'll be in Zion for 3-4 days, to start. I hope to meet up with Scott sometime during the trip. Thank you for this! And do not, under any circumstances, reduce the number of photos you post. :-)
Lauren, that is GREAT! I'm super excited for you. Remember to take a deep breath before you look over the first time because it is guaranteed to take your breath away. October is a fabulous month to visit the area although it might be a bit cold at cedar Breaks - it's 10,000 feet - of course it's 9000 at the North Rim too. As far as advice you might look for places to closely see the Colorado River, Vermillion Cliffs are remarkable and the Valley of Fire near las Vegas, NV. Hit me up if you have any questions!
7/18/2018 06:04:47 pm
Great post Jeff. My brother Rick and I were there in August a few years back, but not in depth as your visit. Thanks for sharing your insights. As a fellow photographer I say keep the visions through your lens coming.
7/19/2018 09:35:32 am
I very much enjoy whiling away some time with your blog, and of course, your photos (the more, the merrier).
7/19/2018 03:08:44 pm
What a fun trip. I've only made it to the GC twice - once when I was about 3, and it rained the first time in about 2 years. I went back again a few years ago in March. Unfortunately the North Rim was still closed, but the South Rim wasn't crowded at all. There were only a few other campers. Probably because it was well below freezing at night! :D
7/21/2018 12:49:13 pm
Great photos and story! I'll be at the South Rim in December. Hopefully it won't be too crowded.
I spent ten incredible years in Cedar City, UT, so well familiar with this area. Cedar Breaks is incredible, and my favorite hike is taking the Rattlesnake Trail down the Northside of the breaks, then hiking up into the bowl under the breaks, before hiking on out to UT 12 just west of Cedar City. The Pine Valley Mountains are also unique and very different and of course, Mountain Meadows is full of history and controversy.
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