Travels in the American Southwest

Grand Canyon North Rim

Tuesday, 9/2

A sight I didn't have the opportunity to see last time I was in the neighborhood was  Mossy Cave. Flash floods had rendered the trail unsafe but with the current drought, flooding was not a worry as MSO and I headed to Mossy Cave. Technically a shelter rather than an actual cave, spring water seeps through the roof dripping onto the walls and floor. Moss thrives in a cool, damp environment and the attraction is aptly named. Also along that trail is the Tropic Ditch Waterfall. Perhaps only a dozen feet tall, the amazing thing is not its size but that it exists in such an arid local. During my last visit, I'd learned that the local citizens built a ditch to bring water to the area of Tropic, UT. This irrigation ditch turned desert into breadbasket. Even today, there is a local holiday celebrated annually. It's called The Day the Water Came.

An hour or so later, MSO and I reversed course heading west on Route 12. Again we passed through Red Canyon. I should have mentioned this state park earlier. It provides a wonderful visual prelude to Bryce. Picnic tables are available and many were in use as we drove by. Red sandstone is this park's attraction and is well worth a stop. You can walk right up to the towering red cliffs and play in the red sand for no fences keep you from experiencing this park up close and personal. Bicycle paths run through the canyon.

We headed the RV southward at Route 89. We had reservations at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon - a canyon view RV space awaited us as did dinner at the lodge but we had miles to travel. We cruised through the little towns of Hatch and Mt. Carmel as we headed south. To our west were tall cliffs of red; the western views of Bryce Canyon National Park. This area of Utah is quickly becoming more populated. Billboards announcing land for sale seem to be everywhere. MSO and I chuckled at one particular ad offering "estates". While the view of the western cliffs of Bryce were quite beautiful, it was the sign that said "Potable water available - May thru October" that had us chuckling. I guess the "estates" are only intended for summer occupancy!

Entered Kanab just before noon. This is the area where many westerns were filmed going way back to the 1924 "Deadwood Coach" starring Tom Mix. Many of the great stars of the big screen have been filmed in Kanab. Jack Palance, Henry Fonda, Claudette Cobert, Forest Tucker, Anthony Quinn, Jimmy Stewart and of course the Duke- John Wayne. Kanab was also the background for a number of the old television show westerns including "he Lone Ranger", "Have Gun Will Travel", "Daniel Boone", "Gunsmoke", the comedy "F Troop" and even that heartwarmer "Lassie". Information on these and the many other films and TV shows shot in this area is available at the Kanab Visitors Center. Photo stills accompany the movie posters which line the walls of the center. Many photos are signed by the actors/actresses, the majority thanking the kind folks of Kanab for their hospitality during filming. This interesting buffalo guards the Visitors Center. I wish we could have stayed longer in Kanab but it was time to top of the gas tank with the relatively cheaper Utah gasoline and continue our journey south into Arizona.

At Fredonia, AZ, US89 becomes a scenic highway. The Escalante Staircase with its five colorful steps runs east and south from here. Hopping off US89 onto SR67 at Jacob Lake, the road began the long climb to Grand Canyon's North Rim. Desert sage gives way to thick groves of Aspen and Ponderosa Pine. Menacing clouds coagulated into a sky of black as raindrops started to dot the windshield. Bolts of lightning flashed as the accompanying thunder boomed. The raindrops became more steady and heavy. Hail began bouncing off the RV as a bolt of lightning made contact with a pine tree off to the west beyond the meadows. The tree lit up like neon but the fire was quickly quenched in the downpour. It was as if Mother Nature was putting on a spectacle just for us! We paid our admission fee at the Ranger Station and cruised into our campsite fourteen miles later.

I had reserved a "rim view" campsite and after settling in, we walked the 100 feet from our camp to the very edge of the canyon. The rain had stopped and the sun shone again. Words really can't describe the view. The red sandstone seemed to shimmer in the midafternoon sun. I leaned over the edge, looking 1000 feet straight down. My mother would have killed me had she seen me! There are no safety rails in this area of the park and I can now see how some 250 canyon rescues are performed annually.

Dinner was at the North Rim Lodge that evening. Now this is a lodge worthy of being in a National Park. Timbers of Ponderosa Pine supported more Ponderosa Pine trusses which in turn supported the roof. Being early for dinner, MSO and I enjoyed a beverage in the lodge's Sun Room. It is from here that most people catch their first glimpse of the Grand Canyon when visiting the North Rim. Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed the lodge and the road so that no views of the canyon could be seen as visitors drove or were driven to the rim. Disembarking from the vehicles, the guests would be shown into the lodge, descend a short stairway and then see the canyon in all its splendor through three large windows in the Sun Room. All I could say was, "Oh, wow!" as I descended the steps into the Sun Room. Thick comfy overstuffed chairs and sofas allow guests to relax as they take in the views. Since we were so early for dinner, we had another set of drinks out on the lodge's porch. Wooden seats and rocking chairs allow those who wish to enjoy the views outside in the crystal clear air. It was funny watching folks jockeying for the prized front row seats. As MSO and I rose to head for the dining room, two couples leapt up from their second row seats. I smiled and said, "Ok folks, we're opening the bidding on two prime seats." Both couples laughed.

Saw the maitre d' at the front desk and inquired about a table by the twenty foot tall windows overlooking the canyon. My hand was in my pocket clutching my planned gratuity should such a table become available. The maitre d', who seemed a tad flustered at the large group of diners who had just arrived without reservations, looks me in the eye and says, "What's the window table worth to you?" I shot back, "Oh, maybe this" displaying the folded bill. I'm not sure who was more surprised, me at her "no nonsense this is how to get the table" attitude or her that I was prepared for her question! "Oh sir, I couldn't take that, but your table is being set now." It was the desired window table so as we were being seated, I surreptitiously slipped the bill into her hand, an action she responded to with a thank you and smile. Dinner was delicious. MSO had the duck while I savored the pork tenderloin. Both were cooked to perfection and the view from our table seemed to make everything taste even better!

Called it an early night because tomorrow we'd be off exploring the North Rim and many of its sights.

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