Pam and I departed the roasting Phoenix valley in mid-July for our fifth summer trek this year, adding another chapter in the P&D Earthroamer Adventures logbook. We had a late start this year due to our youngest son getting married, but it was worth the wait.
After four years of road trips we’ve found that campground reservations are only required for Friday and Saturday nights during the summer. Any other day and there will usually be one spot, except for the more popular National Parks, where you really need a reservation if you really want to stay.
We decided to head north, get to higher elevations and out of the heat. I made one campsite reservation this year the week before we left home. I found one open spot at Cedar Breaks National Monument for the Friday after we planned to depart and took it (there are some first-come spots, but we didn’t know how early we would arrive). I figured we would roll the dice for the rest of the summer and see what happens.
The monsoons had arrived in Arizona, and the forest on our way to Flagstaff was a vibrant green. This was great to see since we didn’t have a very good snow year this past winter. The forest was extremely dry and closed to camping prior to the monsoons. We stopped at Bonito Campground in Sunset Crater National Monument for our first night in the Roamer. I fired up our volcano grill, cooked our first meal and we had a nice campfire in the cool 7,000-foot air near Flagstaff.
We continued north on Hwy 89 and then onto 89A heading towards the Vermillion Cliffs. We crossed the Colorado River near Lee’s Ferry where all the Grand Canyon river trips load up and depart. We saw a couple of boats heading out as we watched from a few hundred feet above the river. While the river water is cold, the folks on the boats must roast in the triple digit heat on the river this time of year.
We turned south at Jacob’s Lake and headed towards the Grand Canyon. The north rim of the canyon is about 1000 feet higher in elevation relative to the south rim, and therefore cooler. As we entered the park we passed a heard of bison grazing on one of the many beautiful meadows that line the road to the north rim.
There were some good-looking bison and a lot of calves among the herd. They are not native to the area and seem to know exactly where the Park boundaries are that keep them safe from hunters. They are displacing the native deer and elk populations but thinning or moving the herds is very political.
The Grand Canyon is always a sight to behold. The scale is just mind-boggling, and the canyon stretches as far as you can see to both the east and west.
The patio of the north rim lodge was nearly empty but is always standing room only near sunset and into the night.
We didn’t camp within the park this time. We have a favorite dispersed camping spot just north of the park in the national forest along FS611. The road, and the camping spots, run right along the ridge.
From the east facing ridge you see the Vermillion Cliffs on your left and the entrance of the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon on the right. It’s also at about 8,000 feet so a cool air temperature compliments this majestic view.
I broke out the Volcano grill and made dinner but was disappointed with the results. I use a Weber charcoal grill at home and the uncovered Volcano grill did not yield the grilling perfection I wanted. The dinner was good, just not great. I needed a remedy, or this trip was going to be mediocre with just good dinners. The view made up for the shortfall in cooking.
We jumped into Utah and headed to a BLM campground we discovered last year near the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Ponderosa Grove campground. It was a nice stop and we watched the evening rains fall all around us but missing our campground.
The following day we climbed up to Cedar Breaks National Monument, which sits at about 10,700 feet. The white, red and orange colors of the rock formations are just spectacular.
We did a couple hikes around the lip of the monument. On one side there was a small group of bristlecone pine trees, some of the oldest trees in the world. They have so much character in how and where they grow, and their needle boughs are so thick and soft.
The hike around to the other side of the monument gives a better view down into the gorgeous rock canyons. A few years back we cross-country skied from Brianhead to here in the winter, where all the rocks were snow capped for an entirely different look.
We even spotted a new bird (lifer) along the hike, a Cassin’s Finch. Our new camera allows us to catch a good shot and identify the bird later at the campsite with the help of an adult beverage, or two.
The night we were there was the night of the lunar eclipse on the other side of the world. However, even though not eclipsed, the moon rose golden colored and beautiful.
Our next stop – Great Basin National Park.