Sunday, June 08, 2008

Grand Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We’re off to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The lure of three of our national parks and a chance to caravan with a few other WIT (Winnebago-Itasca Travelers) friends – for the inaugural trip in Jeremiah the Second – my friend Hilda, Cat and I loaded up the motorhome and headed northwest.

Hilda is pleasant company (that means she sees the bright side and makes the best of all things) and it was nice to have a navigator. Of course, we took the scenic route (mostly two-lane roads) in order to go through Navajo and Hopi lands. First overnight stop was Second Mesa, Arizona – the heart of Hopi country. We parked at the undeveloped, and thankfully level, picnic-campground at the combination museum/gift shop/motel/restaurant. No water/electricity and no charge. In the morning we had delicious blue corn pancakes in the restaurant.

The next day we continued on to the North Rim via Vermillion Cliffs and Marble Canyon. The drive was awesome. Before we got to the dam, it was a “Kodak moment” – here’s Jeremiah the Second with the colorful cliffs in the background.

When we got to the dam at Marble Canyon, I pulled into a scenic overlook. Once I was committed I realized the only exit was the way I had come in. Oops! Fortunately there was a spot to try to turn around – by going back and forth several times. Hilda hopped out to assist. Whew! We did get turned around, parked and walked out on the old bridge road.

“You can’t miss it!” That comment usually means I’ll miss it. In this case, it took a couple stops to inquire the whereabouts of the National Park Campground. My assigned campsite was anything but level and it took several attempts at leveling with boards. But at $9 a night – no hookups – it was a bargain.

First order of business was to hike to the overlook at the Lodge. The view is very different from the South Rim.

Yes, indeed! The Grand Canyon is a very big and deep collection of canyons. And no photograph can do this justice. From my vantage point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, my eyes see a panorama of beauty; my camera just shows a small rectangular portion.

Hilda and I hiked quite a bit on the well-trod trails. On Day 3, Mary and Jack Harris took us along on a driving trip on park roads to several overlooks.

The nights at the North Rim were cold – got down to 39-degrees one night. That’s when I discovered that Jeremiah II’s furnace would not work! I could run the generator two hours each morning and two hours each evening, enabling us to run a portable electric heater in the morning to take the chill off. After three days, we headed north to Moab, Utah. North to warmer nights and hot days!

Wow! Amazing!

Miles and miles of arches and canyons; graceful sandstone patterns; numerous shades of reddish brown; sun-baked rock; twisted juniper; curving, convoluted smooth walls sloping upward; canyons with steep drop-offs – Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

With every turn in the park roads and from every overlook area the beauty of the areas amazed me. Again we rode with Mary and Jack, first to Arches National Park. And it is a good thing to see this by car because it is a 46-mile roundtrip. Hilda and I hiked at several stops along the way.

Too bad I slept through my one-and-only geology class. Interpretative signs along the way talked about the various formations – Paradox, Honaker trail, Cutler, Moenkopi, Chinle, Kayenta, Morrison, Cedar Mountain, and Carmel; and Wingate, Navajo, Dakota and Entrada Sandstone; and Moncos Shale – all Greek to me!

The nearby snow-topped La Sal Mountain range was quite a contrast to the hot, sandy and arid park.

I appreciated a quote by John Wesley Powell (Cañons of the Colorado)

“Wherever we look there is but a wilderness of rocks…ten thousand strangely carved forms in every direction, and beyond them mountains blending with clouds.”

Later I saw this quote by Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire)

“If Delicate Arch has any significance it lies … in the power of the odd and unexpected to startle the senses and surprise the mind into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful – that which is full of wonder.”

The road trip through Arches ended with a delicious lunch at a local brewery. Not only was the food tasty, but the interior of the restaurant was a delight.

On to Canyonlands National Park. The park, 527 square miles of gorgeous desert canyons, rough trails and spsectacular red rock formations, consists of three districts. We toured the one called Island in the Sky.

Our RV park was conveniently located to both Arches and Canyonlands, enabling us to easily tour both parks. What a contrast! While the sites at Arches were from ground level up, most everything at Canyonlands was from road-level down. Here the driving tour totaled 36 miles on roads that formed a “Y”. One branch of the Y led to Grand View Point; the other to Upheaval Dome.

Canyonlands remains remote and undeveloped. This park is also a geologists’ delight. “The bare rock and deep canyons reveal millions of years of geologic history,” says the park’s road guide. As we drove down the road, in the distance it just looked like a huge flat, dry mesa. Then you get to an overlook and look down – whooo!

We took the hike to Mesa Arch Trailhead – a half-mile loop. The arch is perched at the top of a cliff.

What a trip! Jeremiah II was easy to drive and gave us both a comfortable ride and deluxe lodging. The sofa makes into a bed for Hilda while I felt like the queen of Sheeba in my queen-sized bed.

On the last morning, Hilda rode back to Albuquerque with camping friends Betty and Frank Mason. The Harris’ and I headed southeast to Flagstaff where we spent the night. The next day I drove south to the Phoenix area and parked at the Tempe Elks Lodge for three nights.

Tonight (Sunday, June 8) I’m camped at Cave Creek Regional Park. It is just north of the Phoenix Metro area. This is the park where I’ll be a volunteer this coming winter. I’ve chosen site #9 and took pictures of Jeremiah II.

I also took a photo of the new Visitor Center complex being built at the park. I’ve been “hired” to get the center up and running this late fall.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I’ll drive to Prescott, Arizona.