2010: Lake Powell

Grand Canyon North Rim


We took a day of rest in camp after Friday's adventure on the Colorado. It had been at least three or four days since anything broke on the trailer, so the next one had to be a biggie: the handle of the dump valve, used to empty the trailer holding tanks, broke off in Mike's hand. I see you scratching your head. What does this mean, you ask? Well, basically it means you stop using the toilet in the trailer 'cuz you have no way to empty its tank. And of course this happened on Saturday, when the only RV parts store in Page was closed. Mike managed to pry the valve open so it could drain into the sewer connection, but he wasn't sure he could get it closed again. We considered making a two-and-one-half-hour drive to a parts supplier in Flagstaff, but eventually we decided to just wait out the weekend and get the part locally on Monday.

So, while waiting...Lake Powell is a two-and-one-half-hour drive from the Grand Canyon. We'd visited the south rim years ago, but had never been to the north rim. We were hoping to leave on Monday after getting our replacement part, so despite feeling pretty tired, we decided to make a day trip away from the scorching heat on Sunday. We drove out of camp at 7 a.m. Our route took us once again toward Lee's Ferry, and again I was struck by the dramatic landscape below us as we came through Antelope Pass: the red imposing cliffs, the canyon fissure, and the endless plain stretching to the horizon.

The two-lane highway was nearly deserted. We saw many more motorcycles than cars; this route seems popular with the Harley crowd.

Eventually the road led us away from the cliff faces. After a long stretch of more traditional sand-and-scrub-brush desert, we began a steep, winding climb into a scruffy juniper forest. On one of the hairpin turns we encountered a strange sight -- a semi with a trailer full of passenger cars, pulled over in a turnout. Why on earth was this truck here? Was the driver having lunch? Taking a nap? Texting? Tweeting? Eaten by wolves?

As we climbed ever higher, the junipers gave way to aspen trees and Ponderosa pines, and the temperature plunged twenty degrees into the mid-seventies. What a relief! There were even a few patches of snow in the shadowy edges of the forest.

Closer to the national park, I was surprised by the vast meadows on both sides of the road, where I noticed several small ponds encircled by corral fencing. A roadside sign explained that this is multi-use land; the fence preserves the water for wildlife and keeps the grazing cows away. It didn't explain where the cows get their water.

Finally we reached the gate to the national park, but the North Rim Lodge was still another 14 miles down the road. This rustic lodge was built in 1937, to replace the original 1928 building that burned in 1932. Its simple stone construction blended perfectly with its remote, peaceful setting.

We entered the lodge lobby and inhaled the irresistible smells of breakfast. The buffet was about to close, so the Grand Canyon would have to wait.

Fortified with fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, link sausage and biscuits with gravy, we set out to explore the canyon rim. It was starting to warm up a bit, but nothing like where we came from. The high here would be about 88 degrees, very mild compared to the triple-digits at Lake Powell. As we explored the short trail to Bright Angel Point, I saw a young girl who had climbed to the top of a rock, posing triumphantly for her friends. I understood completely.

Imposing, majestic, breathtaking -- all words to describe an indescribable sight. I was impressed with the fact that at the various viewpoints we visited, the people around us either spoke in hushed tones or were silent, a gesture of appropriate reverence toward the grandeur below.

There was only so much to see from the lodge area, so we decided to take a drive to another viewpoint at Point Imperial, northeast of the lodge. As we walked back to the parking lot, I admired the rustic cabins where guests of the lodge are housed.

Point Imperial provided a different perspective, including impressive views back toward the way we came. The visibility was at least a hundred miles; we could see the gash of Marble Canyon far in the distance, where we crossed the Colorado to get to the north rim side.


There was more to the scenic drive -- another fifteen miles of winding road to Cape Royal -- but we were tired and had a long drive back, so we decided to call it a day. While Mike and I were glad we'd visited the Canyon for a second time, we agreed that the view from the north rim did not seem as spectacular as the south rim. Or perhaps it's just that nothing can duplicate the first time you see this magnificent sight. Personally, I've come to prefer the stark beauty of the rock formations at Zion and Lake Powell.

Drivingback across the desert to Lake Powell, we'd get to see one more awe-inspiring sight -- the outside thermometer of the truck console hitting 110 degrees.