Monday, June 15, 2015

Last Days at the North Rim



On Friday after lunch we moved a quarter mile to the North Rim campground, where we were lucky to have gotten a very nice pull-through site on the perimeter. For a national park campground it’s better than most we’ve been to, with large, fairly level, well-spaced sites. For $9 with Jim’s pass it was worth it to be so close to the rim. There is potable water and a dump station, and restrooms with flush toilets. Down the road a short distance is a building with a laundromat and pay showers, and the general store is just a short walk.



It rained a bit as we were setting up, but it soon stopped so we went for a walk down the Bridle Path Trail to the visitor center, then continued on past the lodge to Bright Angel Point. This is just a short paved trail, 1/4 mile long, with 200 feet of elevation drop to the point, but it was probably our favorite as it affords such wonderful views along a narrow, steep ridge with Roaring Springs Canyon on one side and Transept Canyon on the other.








We spent more time on Bright Angel Point than we thought we would, so we arrived back at the lodge a few minutes late for Gaelyn’s ranger talk about the California condor. She is a great story teller and teacher, and we really enjoyed learning about the efforts being made to save the condor from extinction. She had a large captive audience.


After her talk, we walked over to the tavern and got a beer which we brought back to the lodge and sat on the porch watching the dark clouds over the canyon. Since we couldn’t see in that direction we didn’t realize another storm was brewing back towards the campground. Just as we were planning to take the 1.25 mile trail back it started raining, with thunder and lightning, which quickly turned into some serious hail.



We probably watched and waited for a good 45 minutes, with Jim even checking to see if we might be able to get a table at the restaurant for dinner, which of course we couldn’t. Finally he found an employee who said we could hitch a ride on the employee shuttle back to the campground, which we did. When these storms move in over the canyon they not only drop rain and hail, but the temperatures drop dramatically, too. We were happy to have gotten a ride back.

The next day we hiked the Widforss Trail, which skirts the Transept Canyon. There were dark clouds and thunder in the distance, and we couldn’t tell which way it was moving, so of course it moved right over us, pelting us with small hail for about 10 minutes. We started to turn back but it was letting up so we continued on to the halfway point on the trail at about 2.5 miles.

A frequent sighting, the Kaibab squirrel, which is only found on the North Rim.


That white tail just doesn’t look like it belongs there.


There was a warning sign at the trailhead about an aggressive grouse that has a nest near the trail. The park has put up pink tape around the area of the nest and asks people to go around the trail outside of the tape so as not to disturb her. We did as asked but when we were just about to get back to the trail we saw a guy who didn’t go around but continued down the trail. He warned us that the grouse was right there in front of him, and us, outside of the pink tape area. She would come charging at us as we walked towards her, and we hurriedly went around. It was pretty funny, and she was right there waiting for us when we came back.


Trail views, before the storm.


And after.



It took a minute to realize we were seeing the San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Humphreys near Flagstaff. The snow capped mountains almost look like clouds.


Since the trailhead was on the road to Point Sublime, we decided to continue driving on the 17 mile dirt road with signs recommending high clearance and four wheel drive. Hey, we have an all wheel drive Subaru with relatively good ground clearance so how bad could it be. Turns out the road wasn’t too bad initially but due to all the rain it was muddy and rutted in spots. In fact we did some sliding around in the mud but made it through. After several miles we entered a lovely meadow where a truck was coming towards us. The driver stopped next to us and said we should probably turn around as the road got worse ahead. He said the last time he drove it he saw a Subaru with a punctured oil pan, so that was all we needed to hear. End of our off-roading adventures for the day, with a little mud to show for it.


It rained more after we got back, but began to clear up late in the afternoon. Being our last day in the park I really wanted to see the canyon one last time, but Jim’s back was bothering him, so I drove to the North Kaibab trail, the only maintained trail on the North Rim that goes into the canyon, and went down to the Coconino Overlook, just a 3/4 mile hike. It was quite steep, and since this is where the mule rides go, also full of mule poop and mud from all the recent rain.


These black-headed grosbeaks were enjoying something in the mule droppings.


I would love to go all the way down but just don’t think my knees could take it.


Zoomed to show the trail snaking down into the canyon. I was alone on the entire hike back up.


Still wanting more I walked out along the Transept Trail at sunset. Although nor really photo worthy, it was still beautiful.


Crazy weather and all, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon definitely merits a visit. We understand why Gaelyn loves working there so much.


  1. I stayed at that campground in a little pop up trailer back in 1969. I don't believe the sites were paved back then.

  2. Oh I just love seeing what you've been doing at the North Rim. Despite the weather you really did see a lot and your pictures are wonderful. Love the look of your site. What number was it? Perhaps I can reserve it if I can ever get back there. I'd like to stay 2 weeks and reservations are the only way I could no doubt. Thanks for these post. Love seeing Gaelyn at work. I do understand why she loves coming back to the North Rim.

    1. We were in site 24. Most of the ones along the perimeter are nice pull-through, but the best are the premium sites along the rim if you can get one.

    2. We were in site 24. Most of the ones along the perimeter are nice pull-through, but the best are the premium sites along the rim if you can get one.

  3. Gorgeous photos of the North Rim. Been a long time since I was there, I can barely remember...It was great seeing Gaelyn and hearing your take on her wonderful teaching. Nice.

  4. Outstanding photos of the Grand Canyon! I really enjoy following your adventurous hiking at each Western location you visit. Stay healthy and have Jim check you for ticks after each woodsy hike.

    1. Thanks, hope to see you guys next month in Ouray!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. It has been many years since I have been there myself...time for another visit. Dang it is hard to accept there are limits to what are bodies can do....but there always has been I guess. My mind still wants to do it all. Love all your photos, it feels like we are there with you.

  6. I think the crazy weather just adds to the drama of the place! Beautiful photos! That sure is a sweet site you snagged!

  7. Your photos are wonderful, thank you for sharing that beautiful place. What a treat to catch one of Gaelyn's talks! When reading medicine cards, if the card is upside down it's referred to as contrary. One of the cards is Grouse. Seems like you found your own version of Contrary Grouse :-)

  8. Even with the rain you two made the most of your visit. I've been hearing reports from visitors about our aggressive grouse. Probably a good idea you didn't go any farther on the Pt Sublime Rd. It's bad in the best conditions. Glad you got into the canyon. Spent 2 hours at Bright Angel Point yesterday, divine. Hope it wasn't too hot in Page.

  9. Even with the changeable weather, you got some pretty great pictures. I see I'm going to have to pay another visit to the North Rim.

  10. I have never been to the North Rim, although Terry has. Your posts and wonderful photos make me want to go! Hope Jim's back is doing better.