North Rim – Revisited

We arrived home from our New Mexico trip to a heat wave that pushed the Phoenix temperatures into the 110+ degrees, way too hot for our liking. I smoked some chickens and pork before we took off to Prescott area and actually had trouble keeping the smoker cool enough in the valley weather.

We attended the yearly Orme school reunion and then went to our place on the rim, where Pam’s brother, Allan, made short work of a 30-foot ponderosa near the house. We now have fire wood for a year, once it dries out, and wood stump stools for the outside fire pit. Oh Yeah.

We dropped back into the sweltering heat again long enough to pack up and head north to higher and cooler climates. Our first stop was Walnut Canyon National Monument outside Flagstaff, AZ. We took our favorite route there, up through Payson and Lake Mary Road. When we crested the rim above Pine a mother bear and two cubs ran across the road in front of us. It was the first time either of us saw a mother with cubs in Arizona. Pretty Cool! The road passes by Mormon Lake and there was still quite a lot of water in the lake, which most always is dry by early June.

Walnut Canyon does not have camping within the monument, but the national forest around the place offered many places to camp for the night. You can see the San Francisco peaks in the background.

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We watched a great lightning show roll in from the east and had the nice patter of rain for most of the night.

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We were up early the next morning and at the gate as the ranger unlocked it and let us into the park. There are only a couple of short hikes in the park so we did them both. The canyon was the home to hundreds of Pueblos, where their homes were built into the rock faces, like a modern condo.

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The canyon had many rock overhangs that were made into dwellings.

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Many of the dwellings still exist today.

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We left Flag and headed north to the Vermillion Cliffs for lunch. We parked at the condor release site, but only spotted a single condor circling in the air. Rain showers were passing through, which may have grounded the condors.

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We jumped up onto the Kaibab Plateau and made our way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We pulled off into the Kaibab forest heading east before entering the park and found many beautiful spots to camp along FR 611.

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The overlook from this road is Marble Canyon, the Vermillion Cliffs and the eastern entrance of the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry.

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While we thought it was pretty spectacular a local squirrel didn’t care at all and just nibbled away at his pine cones in a nearby tree.

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We then headed to the west side of the north rim and to the back country camp spot called Fire Point. It’s about a 17-mile drive through the forest and you cross into Grand Canyon National Park for the last mile of the drive. The north rim is about 1000 feet higher in elevation from the south rim and much different in vegetation. The fall is very pretty on the north rim due to the number of aspen trees that turn gold, orange and red along all the forest roads.

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The park section of the drive is through a beautiful old growth ponderosa forest, where all of the trees have the golden orange bark and smell of vanilla. The ground was also covered in blue lupines.

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The road snakes through the ponderosas and some spots require that the side view mirrors are pulled in.

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However, you get to park right next to the rim and it’s all yours (except for the folks who drop in during the day to check it out too).

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The view looks over a large section of the canyon to the west. To give some perspective, the shaded rock walls in the side canyon on the right are about 500 feet tall, and the near peak, Steamboat Mountain, is just over two miles away.

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The rocks along the walls are all aglow as the sun sets.

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This is a pretty nice campsite.

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Now off to Utah and points further north.

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