Arizona 2020

We intended to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon earlier in the year, but the area was closed due to the Magnum Fire. I was worried that the beautiful meadows leading down from Jacob Lake to the North Rim would be burnt, but the fire stayed further north and to the west, leaving the meadows untouched by flame. The fire did burn the forest around Jacob Lake and down the hill towards Fredonia, AZ, but the crews were able to save the few buildings at Jacob Lake.

The North Rim bison herd was in the meadow just past the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. Somehow, they know not to stray out of the park. However, they are not native and are seen to negatively impact the local deer and elk populations. Studies are in progress now to determine the extent of the damage and possible solutions. I saw recently that bison herds from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota were moved to a nearby Indian Reservation for the same reason after both parties agreed with the relocation.

We used to have a bison head mounted in our cabin, from a bison taken from this herd back in the 1950s. We no longer have the head, but that’s another story. We now have a pronghorn mounted in its place. The pronghorn is not as majestic as the bison, but it is much better looking – lol.

We continued to the North Rim and found a nice place to park. I was a little worried about finding parking, given the number of tourists we saw in southern Utah. It was still early in the day, so the park was not that crowded yet. Also, the North Rim is a little out of the way of normal traffic. The South Rim has significantly more tourists relative to the North Rim because it is a little easier to access. I still think the North Rim area is much prettier.

We hiked out to the rim to see the Grand Canyon. It was a little hazy from the smoke blowing in from the California fires, but still awe inspiring.

While El Tovar hotel is a picturesque building on the South Rim, the rock structure that is the Grand Canyon Lodge is still my favorite Grand Canyon building.

The dining room in the lodge was closed for the season due to COVID. The view from the lodge porch overlooking the canyon at sunset should be on everyone’s bucket list.

We also stopped at the back-country office to talk with the Ranger on possible dispersed campsites within and outside the park. We found out that our favorite spot, Fire Point, was closed due to a fire in that area last year.

Packed with a list of possible new places to camp, we instead went to one of our other favorite dispersed places, along FS611 just outside the park. The spot is right on the rim and looks over the eastern entrance to the Grand Canyon. The rock formation in the valley below looks like a huge sea serpent making its way across the plains.

The morning sun lit up our campsite with a golden hue, while the temperature was just above freezing.

We left the area after a warm cup of coffee, heading for Flagstaff, AZ.

California condors are released into the wild in two places in the US, around Big Sur, CA and on the west side of the Vermillion Cliffs in AZ. The Arizona released condors sometime fly to the Grand Canyon to the south, or Marble Canyon to the east. As we passed over the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon, we nearly did not stop this time, but decided to stop just to stretch our legs.

You can see the Vermillion Cliffs rising in the background of this picture of the bridge over Marble Canyon.

The Colorado River flows 400 feet below the bridge. There are two bridges at this location. The newer bridge is used for vehicle traffic, while the original Navajo Bridge is now just for pedestrians. As we made our way across the pedestrian bridge Pam spotted a condor on the lower beam on the far side of the vehicular bridge. Luckily, she had her binoculars, but I did not have the good camera with the zoom lens, so you’ll have to find the condor in the photo. His name is Waldo – lol.

Just upstream is Lee’s Ferry, the launching point for all the Colorado River traffic through the Grand Canyon. Usually we see boats floating down the river to begin their journey through the canyon. No boaters this stop, just our first ever condor at Marble Canyon.

We made our way to Flagstaff next and had lunch at Proper Meats + Provisions, a nice butcher shop in Flagstaff with great food and local brews.

After lunch we decided to head to our cabin and call Summer Trek #7 complete. We put on another 3,000+ miles on the Roamer during this COVID shortened two-month trek. In our seven years of Roamer trips we have covered just over 98,000 miles in the US and Canada. We have now camped in 307 different camping spots in the US; in 38 of the 50 states, and 24 camping spots in Canada; in 7 of the 13 Canadian Providences and Territories.

Places where we have hit double digits in camping spots are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Our utility box collection is a couple of stickers deep in many spots now – but with room for a few more.

Summer Trek #8 may have to be a return to Alaska and northern Canada. Stay tuned…