Sunday, September 11, 2011

North Rim of the Grand Canyon, First Day

Driving into the Park at 8:30 am we passed the 1,000 mile mark on our trip odometer; the temperature was 52 degrees in this 8,255 foot alpine forest and we made an immediate decision to beat the crowds and drive the 23 mile scenic route to various view spots. It was a great decision. We saw one or two other people until the very end when the final parking lot started filling up fast; but even that wasn’t bad. The North Rim really does live up to its reputation of being less crowded and quieter. It has only 500,000 visitors per year, compared to 4.5 million for the South Rim!

First View

Colorado River

North Rim View

The penultimate viewing spot is called Angel’s Window at the Cape Royal stop. We stared at the spectacular views and had fun watching storm clouds move in and out. Within 15 minutes we went from sun to rain to sun again. A volunteer ranger told us that this is unusual weather—the monsoon season is generally gone by this time of year.

Angel’s Window

By the time we made it to the lodge it was 11:30 Arizona time. (12:30 Utah time; so we were hungry--having gotten up at 5:30 this morning in Hatch). We decided to beat the crowds once again and have a nice lunch in the outstanding dining room with souring ceilings and massive windows looking right out over the rim of the Grand Canyon. We were seated at a nice table by one of the giant windows and enjoyed the best meal of the trip so far. Our server, Clayne, from Idaho, recommended the Navajo Taco and the Roasted Vegetable and Cheese Quesadilla. Good choices! Reasonable prices! Best meal on the trip so far!

Veggie Quesadilla

Navajo Taco

Our assistant server was Vince, from Malaysia. All of the servers are college students from various parts of the world. Vince was very excited about being here and told us that this student program includes a month of travel before he returns home. He was extremely polite and personable.

Clayne told us that he is a Jr. and his father was supposed to be named Dwayne. The person filling in his birth certificate didn’t understand and mistakenly wrote Clayne. He was proud to tell us he is the only Clayne on Facebook.

Dining room

After lunch we visited the Visitor’s Center and spent a fair amount of time talking with the two guys working in there while a thunder storm roared outside. We sure hadn’t figured on cold and rain in the Southwest! One of the guys is retired and has lived with his wife in a motor home for 16 years. He seems to enjoy working at the North Rim and has done this at a number of other national parks. The other guy is retired Navy and is a volunteer ranger and gives talks at the lodge.

Soon, the sun came out and we wandered along the Bridle Trail taking in the breathtaking views. I don’t think I’ve felt this relaxed and enjoyed myself this much in a long time. The day was absolutely perfect. We had fun taking pictures of other people and they did the same for us. We scrambled up some rocks and looked over cliffs. It’s amazing how few safety barriers there are.

On the Cliff

View Point


Claire on the Rocks

Today was 9/11 and we were curious to see if there would be any recognition. We found the flag at half staff and a note on the white board that it was a day of remembrance.

Soon enough, another loud thunder and lightning storm worked its way in and we rushed back into the lodge.

Storm Coming

It Came

After some ice cream for Chuck and an iced tea for Claire (best iced tea in awhile too), we decided to hang out in the gift store until this storm passed so we could move into our room. Though our new wheeled suitcases are perfect over smooth surfaces, the rain forced us to use the zip-out backpack straps, which were just the thing for making our way from the parking lot through rivers of water, bogs of mud and slippery stone stairs to our own little lodge. Our room is great—no TV, no WiFi—and very quiet, at least during the day. In the evening we could hear the guy next door snoring then jerking awake with a shout then lapsing into snoring again. Earplugs work great! The room was $113 the first night; $116 the next night. They had a rate increase since we made our reservation so I guess we got a deal (?) on our first night even though it was guaranteed with our credit card. Maybe that guarantee is only for them—if we don’t show up, they charge us.

Our Lodge

I took a break today to hear a volunteer ranger talk about Condors. It was quite interesting for me, since I have always been interested in all things Peruvian—my dad was born in Mollendo, Peru. But, Andean and California Condors are distinct—the CC has a wingspan of only 9 feet—about a foot less than their southern cousins. Curiously, only Condors can distinguish gender visually—humans have to rely on blood tests. Even male Condors sometimes make mistakes!

We had reservations for 6pm at the Lodge’s Rim View Dining Room—we planned a leisurely dinner that would permit us to view the sunset through the large windows. We decided to make this a special night and ordered a Cactus Cosmo for Claire (High Spirits Prickly Pear vodka, Cointreau, cranberry and lime juices. Served up.) and a Grand Margarita for Chuck (Cuervo Gold tequila, Cointreau, Prickly Pear syrup. Shaken and served on the rocks.) They were delicious. The bread they brought was so hot I had difficulty holding it to tear off pieces. It was lovely. We finally decided upon Utah Ruby Trout for both of us--generous and wonderful. Later, we decided to share a dessert; after negotiations, we got the bread pudding—we think the presentation was supposed to represent the Canyon!

Utah Ruby Trout

Homemade fresh baked pinon-chocolate bread pudding. Served warm with caramel sauce. Claire gave it a 12 on a 10-point scale.

May the warm winds of heaven blow softly upon your house. May the Great Spirit bless all who enter there. May your moccasins make happy tracks in many snows, and may the rainbow always touch your shoulder. ~ Cherokee Prayer Blessing