July 24, 2005 – Sunday – Day 29

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 143 – Total Miles: 6819 – Average: 235.1 (travel days)
(-staying at a cabin overlooking the Grand Canyon North Rim)
UT,AZ (25/48)

Sell your pets, rent out your house, trade in green stamps, find a sitter for the kids, and just get yourself to Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon!

After a good breakfast at Harold’s Place Inn, we took off by 10am for the northern rim of the Grand Canyon. After the magnificence of Bryce we were thinking of skipping right to Four Corners, but put off that decision until the last moment at the turn off.

We took Route 89 most of the way today. And right after that landscape opened up to total flat in every direction for as far as one could see. It was very impressive. And the long walking stick-straight road was more than 20 miles in length. At the end of it was a small mountain, and looking back from the mountain, the plain was very striking with that road curling down through it. And NOTHING else there could be seen but scrub and land.

As we crossed that landscape Karen noticed a little stream called Asay Creek which was snaking along and curly-qued for miles and miles.

Just before Kanab, there was a canyon of red rocks. The most spectacular was a double football field sized canyon wall with unbelievable scoring on its surface of straight lines and holes and designs.

It was precisely 100 miles from Bryce to Jacob Lake, which leads to the Canyon. There were huge storm clouds over the canyon area, so we had lunch until they cleared. A very friendly mid-80’s couple was in there. They were from Sedona, AZ which they proclaimed was “the most beautiful place on earth.” The man said he was born in Philadelphia. The smiley fellow said that they used to ride mc’s when they were younger. Karen mentioned that most of the folks on motorcycles we see on the road are around our age, and he replied, “That’s young to me!”

Unfortunately, by the time we got gas, more huge black clouds returned. I made a call from the lodge at Jacob Lake and discovered it wasn’t raining on the rim. We asked several locals and tourist types whether the rim would be worth seeing after having experienced Bryce. We got mixed replies, but generally favorable.

We left for the rim at 1pm. And almost immediately we were riding through a cool steady rain through cold winds. We were very cold. Karen was glad to have bought those Aerostitch pants so long ago it seemed. I had to stand on the pegs a few times to see over the water-dotted windshield.

It took an hour and a half to go the 44 miles. It was sunny at the rim with white clouds playing over the big hole in the ground. But the enormous black cloud was still over the area we had ridden through – maybe bigger now. I checked out availability at the Grand Canyon Lodge and found there was exactly ONE cabin left. And I decided to take it! Most times it’s weeks or months in advance to get such a place, but we lucked into a cancellation.

As Karen was putting the cover on the Shadow she chatted with a guy at his van waiting for the rest of his family. He was admiring the bike and as Karen was telling him about our journey he said a couple times that was something he always wanted to do – take a long trip on a motorcycle. Karen advised, “Do it soon, before it’s too late!”

It was a cabin that had a view of part of the canyon walls. It was simple but spacious, and also had a homey gas fireplace.

The rim of this northern part of the Grand Canyon is 8,255 feet, which is a thousand feet higher than on the southern edge. The average depth of the canyon is one mile. From South Rim to North Rim is 10 miles as the crow flies and 200 miles by car! There are far fewer visitors in the winter than summer on the North Rim because the average snowfall is ten feet a year.

The Angel Trail out to Bright Angel Point which overlooks the Canyon on the northern rim goes out about a quarter mile. The path is only about 3 or 4 feet wide. And on either side are unparalleled views of the Canyon stretching out to infinity. The path is smooth of surface but raises and lowers in elevation at points by a hundred feet or so – it’s not an easy trek out the end point. One could spend literally a year photographing the rocks alongside the path, the views spreading out from the path, the plants and trees all around it. Some of the rocks raise high beside the path and brave (or stupid or talented) scramble high up and cavort or pose there for pictures. Two such girls did so high above the path (and Canyon) on a mostly narrow boulder, and we all gasped.

In a related note, Karen spied in a pamphlet that over 250 folks a year are rescued from the depths of the Canyon.

The Grand Canyon’s top five layers are clearly visible on the walls of the Canyon. They represent 50 million years of ancient environments – swamps, seas, and deserts. Some rock layers are sheer vertical layers, while others form slopes because some of the rocks crumble more easily than others. Geologists guess, though, that it has taken less than five or six million years to carve the canyon.

The views really were amazing. And they made me really crave my good photo equipment – and a tripod. It made me laugh and surely seemed ironic and perhaps even oxymoronic seeing someone take pictures there of all that grand majesty with a cheap disposable camera. One guy I saw took some shots with his pda. There was a Frenchman there with a higher-end camera on a tripod. I got a good shot of him far out on a ledge with the canyon walls as dramatic backdrop – and gave him my email address to send him the shot.

Way out at the end of Bright Angel Trail I scanned below with my binoculars and amongst the trees saw a big waterfall – tiny through the lens, of course.

On the path, people of most every description were walking to and fro, coming or going. Sometimes going the same way, sometimes passing us walking in the other direction. It was a friendly conglomeration of folks and I got right into the spirit of that friendliness. A few times as people would pass, I’d put on a mock grin, and put my hand out, and say, “That will be $5 to pass, sir.” It got a good laugh every time. And I’d go up to someone and innocently say, “Do you know if they deliver pizza out here?”

Hard to compete with a 35 year old memory of that southern Grand Canyon rim that I had, but the views here were as spectacular. And a lot different. Not as deserty as the West Rim that Karen knew.

We missed seating for the dining room which overlooks the Canyon walls, but had good eating in the deli… veggie-tofu over rice, and two good portabella mushroom sandwiches.

We spent some time in the gift shop, and then back at the cabin we settled in with the usual chores of unpacking – and trying to go to sleep early.

Tomorrow morning – a short run along one of the biggest holes on earth, and a huge mileage day!

(BTW, just as a reminder, readers are welcome to write in and ask things about which you may be wondering. We like hearing from you and knowing you’re with us. Hope you’re enjoying the trip. — Joel

Any online readers can also feel free to leave their comments by clicking the appropriate “Comments” link under each online journal entry.)

Author: Joel Perlish

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