The Cooler Side of Grand Canyon on the North Rim (by Carmen)
Rim to rim, the Grand Cayon is eight to ten miles wide as the crow flies. But as our car drives, it is a 200 mile route that takes 4.5 hours. That’s because you have to drive to the very beginning of the canyon, where it becomes narrow enough to create a simple bridge over it.
But it is a beautiful drive. We were making our way at sunset which gave the landscape a golden glow. I couldn’t help but think that this what American road trips are all about.
We eventually crossed the bridge and headed just a few miles north of it, to Lee’s Ferry. This is a historical site that marks the first ferry crossing in the area. It was created in 1871 by a mormon family to help other mormons settle what is now Arizona. These days it is the launching point for the thousands of adventurous souls that raft down the canyon each summer. We took advantage of a small campground there to take refuge for the night.
The next morning we explored the area where there are still some cabins built by the original settlers. They even have a small graveyard for all those that perished in the settlement or while crossing. Another one of their legacies is a beautiful fruit orchard that stands out like an oasis in the red desert.
There are also these funky rock formations that are the result of a rock slide thousands of years ago. As the softer ground erodes away around the boulder, it forms a sort of tree shape. It was a reminder that this area of the southwest is truely a geologist’s dream.
As we made our way to the north rim, the landscape changed dramatically. Tall pines and aspens took over the red dusty earth. There were grassy meadows and small ponds. The North Rim is actually closed October to May due to snow. It was amazing what 1500 feet in elevation could do. This limited access also meant that fewer people visited the North Rim, which made for a calmer, more tranquil visit. If I could only visit one side, I’d opt for the north.
The aspens were particularly pretty. They were particularly prevalent because of a massive fire that swept through the area 20 years ago. The aspens are the first to recover and provide shade so that the baby pines can grow. Eventually the pines will become taller than the aspens, which will die out from too much shade.
After our arduous hikes on the south side of the Grand Canyon, I was ready to take it easy. But, of course, Nathan had other ideas. He was already ready for more hikes and backpacking. So we compromised with an overnight backpack trip that was 12 miles out and back to Tiyo Point. The hike did not dip into the canyon and instead remained on the rim. Therefore, it differed from inner canyon hike in three glorious ways: it was flat, shady and cool.
On our last night in the canyon, we made our way to Cape Final. This was a special campsite, only 4 miles out and back. It’s a popular day hike but for an even better experience it has just one little campsite sitting on the rim.
We cooked our dinner (indian curried veggies with couscous) right on the point. Meanwhile, we struck up a conversation with a day hiker who told us his inspiring stories of hiking in Nepal. Someday…
Our last morning we woke up with the sun and watched it rise over the canyon with no one else around. Spending a full week in the canyon was a wonderful opportunity, but it was time to move on north for more adventures.