I was up at 8 despite my best efforts to get more sleep. I was awake. After trying my pack on, I realized it wasn’t going to work for this trip, so I moved everything to my larger pack, and after a couple more delays I was on the road at 10.
The weather was pouring rain for at least 4 hours on the road. Whatever storm was coming through was nasty. My first real problem, however was my gas gauge. Normally when it’s on E, it still has at least two gallons left, this time, however I got the tell-tell first sign of running out by the brief scent of gas coming through the air system, then a minute later as I was approaching an exit I got an engine stutter & finally when I came to a stop at the end of the exit ramp, it died. Fortune was on my side since there was a gas station a couple hundred feet away. A couple turns of the engine and I was able to get out of the way. Gas can in hand, I waltzed across the street and filled it up & went on my way. I had to eat anyway, so I drove off to a Maverick to get it topped off & a bite to eat from the mall.
Next stop on the trip was Bryce Canyon. It was my first time, and I probably shouldn’t have gone in retrospect due to the amount of time it really took to get there & back on my route, but it was a fun, quick little stop. I think I’ll try to plan a trip there next May or June to backpack it. It was freezing up there, and it was crowded, so it’s not really the kind of place I want to be in. It’s probably a lot better once you get off the viewpoints. I only went to the first one, so we’ll see when I go there again how it really is elsewhere.
The sun was low in the sky as I entered Fredonia, AZ, and I began climbing into the old forests of Kaibab National Forest. I had an inkling that deer and other animals would be coming out, so I watched for them. Unfortunately that wasn’t good enough. Out of nowhere (that’s how it always goes) a herd of about 10 small deer appeared just off my side of the road. I braked and one jumped in front of me, so I swerved, but it wasn’t enough. The deer was small enough that it didn’t seem to do any major damage. The truck drove well, so I just headed for some lights down the road so I could inspect the damage.. Bent hood, cracked grill, dented sides, no right headlight & the spot where the parking light was, is now just a nice crushed looking mess, and the bumper is jacked & the plastic covering the wheel wells now rubs the tire when I turn or brake & the hood won’t close all the way unless I make some special adjustments & the windshield wiper fluid cap is MIA. With one headlight I managed to make it to the lodge and then on to the campsite.
I knew the North Rim would be in a forest up around 8000 ft, but the pines are just awesome. They’re very old, thick, tall, and nothing grows on the forest floor below them.
My new Kelty Crestone 1 is nice. I could use a couple more inches of headroom, especially when I’m sitting on my pad, but in he end it’s just shelter, and it does that well. I especially like that it’s lightweight, and the amount of air circulation it provides is really nice. The Big Agnes 3″ inflatable sleeping pad is sweet & comfy beyond expectations.
Day 2: It was freezing, literally. I’m glad I decided to bring some pants, a fleece & a zip-up hoody cause it was really, really cold in the morning. Breakfast was 2 really good cinnamon rolls from the deli & we were on our way. The North Kaibab Trail is awesome. You’re either surrounded by trees, or walking in the shade of a cliff. The quadriped poop situation is pretty bad, but better than I thought it would be. There are tons of pics of the trail & the sights, so check those out, it’s best left seen. I had a lot of fun taking those.
At about mile 6 you see a waterfall gushing out of the cliff & running down the canyon side. It eventually gets bigger, but remains temptingly out of reach until you get to the Cottonwood Campground which incidentally takes 1.5 more miles to get to than all the signs say. I’ll trust my GPS, thank you. That water was flesh numbingly cold, but was totally worth getting completely soaked just to get the trail dirt & sweat off. The campground is pretty nice. Some sites have really good shade, the latrines don’t stink, water’s on tap, and you have the creek to serenade you to sleep at night.
I planned for a 35 lb max on my backpack & somehow it’s closer to 50. My upper back is feeling the load. Probably because the pack is pulling my back into a more proper alignment.
So dusk falls and out comes this army of fearless mice. No respect for the superiority of mankind. Yelling didn’t work, nor stomping. Rocks helped divert their direction of attack, but they still came. It was only after they had inspected our site for food, and waited to see if their presence would be rewarded by handouts that they left, presumably to the next site.
The temps at 4000 ft were perfect that night. No clouds in the sky. The stars out in full show. I was able to watch the rotation of the earth as the sliver of moon moved behind a cliff in less than a minute.
Day 3: The morning brought an undeniable chill, even though the sun was up, it wouldn’t shine on our camp until just before we left.
The trail out of camp was your typical desert terrain, unlike the majority of the previous day’s hike where we enjoyed the trees & the shade while hiking atop the cliffs.
We were on our way to Ribbon Falls. I had only seen bad pictures of them on the internet, so I was anxious to see them in person & I was glad that it was only a quick side trip. I had fun with a lot of the photos. Again the water was freezing cold, but it felt great just the way it was because I knew in another 30 minutes I’d be hiking in the sun again, and sweating like none other. The water temps of the streams & creeks in the canyon are supposed to be around 45 degrees since they’re all spring fed this time of year and don’t have any rain or snow melt to supplement the flow. The next couple miles were unremarkable, then we entered a narrow canyon where the sun only occasionally reached the canyon floor. It was very comfortable to hike through all that shade, even though it was moderately warm.
Phantom Ranch awaited us outside the canyon. It was a lot more rustic than I thought it would be. All the activity hovers around the canteen which is where everyone eats and socializes. It only holds 48 diners, so when they say you have to be staying at the ranch, or have a reservation, they mean it.
The night here is really warm. There’s a cool breeze coming through, but it’s not expected to drop below 61 degrees. Our high was 91. Our campsite is the most secluded of the 21 sites here. I’m using 2 rocks & a string to secure my tent, It’s quicker & easier & more adjustable than stakes are. The ground is just too hard to drive them in without bending some of them.
Day 4: This was the rest day, and it was really, really nice not to do any hiking with a pack on. We took a hike on the River Trail which connects the Black Bridge to the Silver Bridge. The river is Mountain Dew green from the amount of algae that can grow in the clearer waters. All the silt from the Colorado in Utah & Colorado settles in Lake Powell, so it can’t block the light that algae needs to grow.
Day 5: The rest day was just what we needed. The muscles were still a little sore, but nothing like they were on previous mornings. We started hiking at dawn in some warm temperatures, but it was still nice. I was expecting to have a much harder time getting out, but I guess the rest day worked it’s magic. Even after laying down at the top for a couple minutes, getting up didn’t make my muscles scream. A nice pizza at We Make Pizza & Pasta was really, really good & well deserved.
Back at the North Rim it was raining and hailing as we setup camp in the dark again, but at least showers were available. The breakfast buffet was pretty good.
After camp was packed up I headed to Zions National Park to check it out. I was planning on spending the night at the Lava Point Campground (or whatever it’s called) When I got up there, and this is after a long drive into a remote corner of the park, I couldn’t get into the campground since there were 3 cars parked in the entrance blocking it. When I got out to talk to the people I realized these weren’t ordinary camping/tourist folks. They looked like Amish with technology, at least the women & children. The guys were dressed normally. So, given the Arizona license plates, I’m guessing they were polygamists. The guys were cutting up firewood or something left over from the forest revitalization project going on in the area, and the women & kids were left in the cars the whole time I was there. The wood was piled like it was going to be loaded up & sold in typical logging fashion by the NPS, & those guys up there were just taking advantage of the situation to stockpile some wood for themselves. There were 12 tents, count them, 12 that were exactly the same, and looked like they had been frequently used due to the UV bleaching of the fabric. There was nobody else in the campground, and the occupants of the 3 sites filled with those tents hadn’t bothered to sign in to the register The wind was blowing hard, this was up around 8000 ft again, and was cold, and given the really, really weird circumstances up there, I decided just to leave. On my way out I passed more trucks & cars with AZ plates, and guessed that those were the occupants of some of the other tents & that it was one big group of them taking the wood. It makes sense that they would do this on a Sunday to avoid all the real workers up there.
I went back down to the main area of the park, and hopped on the shuttle that goes around the park to do some reconnaissance for future visits. After 90 minutes I was back at the parking lot and on my way home. 6 hours later I was home again.