July 6, 2012

Driving to the North Rim

  At the beginning of the year, when most Arizonans are complaining about the "cold weather", Eric and I got together with another family and decided to go camping at the Grand Canyon in the summer as a way to escape the heat.  However, Eric suggested going to the North Rim instead of the South Rim because we had already been to the South Rim.  The South Rim is where most of the people go to because it is 4 hours from the Phoenix Metro Area rather than seven.  You see, you have to drive around the Grand Canyon coming from the South to actually get to the North Rim.  And the drive, at least for the first time, isn't necessarily boring because the scenery changes so much.  For those of you who have never been to Arizona, in some ways, the state is divided into two sections:  The southern half is generally flatter and lower in elevation.  However, two to three hours north of Phoenix, the land rises dramatically in a high plateau, called The Colorado Plateau.  The eastern part of the Colorado Plateau is called the Mogollon Rim.  We have gone there several times in the summer at a place called Woods Canyon Lake as a day trip to have some fun, hike and fish.  We also camped there briefly last summer.  So Phoenix is at somewhere around 1,000 feet above sea level.  The Colorado Plateau is somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level.  It also explains why you can ski in Arizona in the winter. 

To get to the North Rim from Phoenix, you take the only major northbound highway, I-17 to Flagstaff, get on I-40 for a very brief time to get to 89 North.  After about 100 miles, you get on 89A for 50ish miles, which actually is an east/west road at that point.  Finally, you travel another 42 miles south on 69 to the park.    It is 383 miles from our house to the campground. 

The day before our trip started one of the kids in the other family was fighting a fever and had developed a rash, so the mother decided to stay home with the sick child, bringing our total group to nine.  We started at 8:45, a little later than we originally planned and were delayed by a car fire (yes, I typed correctly) that closed down I-17.  Overheating while climbing over a pass is a common enough occurence that warning signs are posted telling people to pull to the side and let their car cool down if the temperature gauge rises too high.  Apparently, the drivers either had a malfunctioning temperature gauge or other serious problem with the car.  When we read the traffic sign warning us of the closure. we looked at alternate routes, but they would have added hundreds of miles and several hours to our trip.  We also figured that maybe we were at the tail end of the fire and traffic might get better soon.  We were right about being at the tail end of it.  About 45 minutes later, we passed the burned-out hull of a small pickup with a trailer attached.  We stopped at Flagstaff to fill up The Beast (our black Suburban tripmobile) and then again at Navajo National Monument.  We pulled into the campground sometime near 5 pm.

Pictures are worth a thousand words and mine are almost used up.  So below are some pictures that were taken during our trip.  My husband just received a digital SLR camera for his birthday, so between that camera, our little camera and two cell phones, we took roughly 800 pictures.  Most of these pictures here were taken as we were driving by my cell phone or the little camera because if we had actually stopped to take all of these pictures, it would have taken us two days to reach our destination and our friends and family in the Midwest would have heard the shouts and complaints from our kids.  I did use the new camera, but my husband wants to go through the pictures and remove some instead of downloading 600 pictures and then removing rejects, so those pictures are currently inaccessible.  Enjoy!

This was taken near Flagstaff, maybe even near Sunrise Crater National Monument.  The black soil is probably crushed lava cinders.

Navajo Bridge, which crosses the  Colorado River.  The bridge on the left was the original bridge that is no longer able to support car traffic.  It has been turned into a foot bridge.  We drove across the bridge to the right and turned almost immediately into Navajo Bridge National Monument, which is part of the National Parks system.  The bridge span is 834 feet and is 467 feet above the Colorado River.  These statistics were on display on a bigger nameplate to the side of the bridge.  This area is called Marble Canyon.
I took this picture because of the sign warning you that if you jump off the bridge, you will be breaking a couple different regulations and also to get a feel for the scope of the bridge.  The cliffs in the background are lovely, too.

The Colorado River, looking North from the Navajo Bridge.  On the way back, we saw some people fishing at the river in the bottom of the gorge.  When Jessi asked me how they got there, all I could say was, "I have no idea."

This is a very desolate section of the drive.  It almost felt like we were on the moon.  Parts of the Painted Desert, in the northeast corner of the state look a lot like this.  As you can see, there are very few plants that grow in this area.  And of course, this is one of the places where the government sent various Indian tribes to live over a hundred years ago when settlers decided they wanted to live on what was currently Indian land.  Nice, huh?

Some of these boulders look like they were placed by human hands, but not the boulders near the background.  Seeing big bouldners so close to the road is a little disconcerting.

This looks like a mini-Grand Canyon, or maye a future expansion site of the Grand Canyon?
This, I believe is a long distance picture of the Vermillion Cliffs.  they are about 2,000 feet lower than the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is slightly higher in elevation than the South Rim.  

A close up of the Vermillion Cliffs.  In the process of writing this, I just realized that this is also a National Monument which we can visit some day.
North Rim Campgrounds.  We drove through meadowlands, aspen and ponderosa pine groves to reach this point.  The temperature at the start of our trip in Mesa at 8:30 in the morning was in the 80s.  When we arrived in the early evening, the temperature was in the 80's and settle down to somewhere in the 50's at night.


Adrienne said...

So pretty! I'm totally jealous :)

Jennifer Dougan said...

your days of camping near the Grand Canyon sound beautiful, relaxing and cool! The photos show how beautiful it was too. Stark, majestic, huge. I love camping too!

Blessings this week,
Jennifer Dougan