We got an early start this morning and headed south towards the Grand Canyon. Shortly we hit the Arizona border and shortly thereafter began climbing. We reached a scenic overlook where Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders once stood. It was at this site, according to the roadside sign, that he decided to set aside all the land in his sights, quadrupling the amount of lands preserved originally. We also first encountered the Navajo artists who were selling their art at different rest areas across the vast area surrounding and in their reservation.
As we approached the Grand Canyon, we wound our way through the remains of a gigantic forest fire. It had to be at least 30-40 miles long and stretched on both sides of the road almost as far as we could see. It’s amazing to think of the power of these fires. It was also a pretty recent fire as there was not very much new growth emerging yet. After the fire zone, the road becomes perfectly beautiful. You drive on the edge of a natural meadow with a tiny stream flowing through it. On the edges of the meadow are the cutest small Christmas trees which slowly fade into a forest that looks a lot like the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The North Rim has one of the more rustic welcome signs. After waiting what seemed like a week and a day for Cousin Eddy and his wife to finish taking pictures of the sign, their car, the scenery, us, more of the sign, more of each other, etc…. we finally had the chance to take our picture with the sign. As always it was worth the wait. But actually this picture came out quite well and was a cute one of us. Cousin Eddy seemingly had trouble finding his cash to pay admission to the park. We waited another 10 minutes behind him at the entry booth.
Once we were in the park, we immediately came upon stopped traffic. Right on the edge of the road was a heard of bison. They were not as attractive as the ones in Yellowstone and instead looked like they’d been crossbred with cows.
While not as awe-inspiring as the South Rim, the North Rim still presents a nearly incomprehensibly vast landscape. It’s very hard to take in. We parked and entered the lodge on the edge of the canyon. In a way, I am a bit disappointed that Kristie’s first view of it had to come from a hotel observation area, but that’s just where we happened into. We then hiked out to Bright Angel Point. This was a great vista. Our first picture from this part of the trip was taken by a group of European Harley Enthusiasts. They were an interesting pair of couples for sure. We then took a detour to get closer to the edge. Kristie climbed to a perched rock making me pretty nervous! I took pictures and then we scampered back to my trail. My cheap sandals were not best equipped for off trail hiking and I also get really nervous whenever someone I care about is near danger. I’m weird like that.
When we returned to the lodge we had really good meal overlooking the canyon at the Lodge Restaurant. Kristie had a very filling homemade macaroni and cheese and I had an amazing black bean burger. The French fries (quartered fried potato) left a bit to be desired but the rest of the meal was awesome. The highlight was probably the incredibly refreshing ice water/seltzer. I may have finished a whole pitcher myself. After lunch, we drove to the eastern outlooks. First we wound our way to Cape Royal. On the way we stopped at Vista Encantada and a nice guy offered to take our picture. Once back in the car, we somehow got back on the disputed topics of the evening before. I was dying to just get to the next outlook because it felt like this conversation was going nowhere good. Finally we got to the outlook and parked the car. After a few minutes to compose, we headed out on the hike to the overlook. The scenery had changed dramatically as there were tons of flowering plants and much more of a desert type of setting. As we continued walking in there were breathtaking views. The best of which was Angel’s Window. We were finally able to hike out onto this spot which gave us 270 degree views of the canyon and, for the first time, the Colorado River. It was amazing.
As we were sitting on a rock, taking it all in, a young family with a boy and a girl were taking a family picture. Kristie burst into tears and said she had to go. I followed her and we hurried to the car. She cried for quite a while. I assume that it was because she felt as if she was never going to have this experience. I don’t know how to show her that I really do want this too. She’s got it stuck in her head that I don’t want to get married and have children with her and/or that I want to wait until we’re old to have kids. I don’t know what to do. It seems that she’s constructed a huge wall and I’ve responded by building my own buttress, but I just don’t know what or why I’m defending and arguing. Kristie fell asleep in the car before we got to the final overlook – Point Imperial. I woke her up when we got there and we headed down to take a few photos. This overlook was not as impressive as the view from Angel’s Window.
After picking up a magnet and some chocolate at the gift shop, we began our drive to the evening’s hotel – The Lodge at Vermillion Cliffs. The drive down was beautiful. We descended from 75 degree forests at the Grand Canyon down into a deep red desert backed by the Vermillion Cliffs. The hotel was a hole in the wall but had a nice clean room. The only thing lacking was a tv and internet. So, after checking in, we headed out to explore. The Navajo Bridge was located about a mile from the lodge. We walked out on it and Kristie was very excited because this was another X-Files associated part of our trip. There was a Morman family there at the same time as us.
Near the bridge we saw a sign for Lake Powell Recreation Area. Though it was getting a bit late, we decided to go in and explore. Right when we were about to turn around, we came upon a parking area where you could access the Colorado River. When we got out of the car, it sounded like there were thousands of rattle snakes rattling all at once. This had to be some other animal making the noise – at least we hoped. We headed down towards the water. I was more careful than Kristie. I think she enjoyed my anxiousness regarding the snakes. I’ll admit it is kind of hilarious. On the way down, we clearly saw the swerving paths of snakes who had passed this way previously. The water was quite cold but it was great to put my feet in this once mighty river. This was the point from which many of the early rafting expeditions had entered the water. I think both of us really liked this spot. It was a great surprise addition to the trip.
Dinner in the lodge restaurant was a blast! The cook and the waitress had very engaging personalities. They had a great beer selection and we tried a beer that is “made in the oldest continuously occupied home in Scotland” – not exactly what you’d expect in the middle of the Arizona desert. We had onion rings for an appetizer. For dinner, Kristie had a NY Sirloin and I had a meal that I don’t think I’ll ever live down… the Blue Cheese and Raisin salad. Just for the record it was amazing. Kristie was like what man eats a salad when his girlfriend is eating a steak. I responded that a lot of men on the coasts eat salads, but she heard on the “on the west coast” and responded with “yeah, in San Francisco.” The waitress and cook loved this as did a group of Kristie’s Facebook friends. And, that joke went on for much of the rest of the evening.