Week 1 - Phoenix to Gallup; North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Sunday 26 June 1994: Next morning, another hot cloudless day, we went
along the east rim drive - road 64, and stopped at
Desert View to View Desert. This was the best place to see
the canyon that we found; long vistas west and north along the Colorado, and east to
the Painted Desert. There was a curio shop selling the usual cheap souveniers, an old
stone-built watchtower (more money to go up) and the last gas station for a while.
The road veered away from the Colorado, passing through forests at first, then across
hilly scrubland, before descending towards US 89, and back to barren desert.
The Little Colorado River Gorge is worth a visit; most of
the land is completely flat, but the river cuts a twisted narrow canyon across the plain.
A left turn at Cameron, and due north took us through the centre of the
Painted Desert. Along with an area of southern Utah,
around road 24 west of Hanksville, this part of Arizona looks most like another
planet, with the multicolored earth sculpted in many strange forms and stretching for
miles and miles. About the only signs of any civilisation were the regular Indian
jewellery stalls, many abandoned, but some with bored-looking Indians waiting for a
chance visitor. As we approached the Colorado river crossing at Marble
Canyon, the distant cliffs on either side came closer and more scenic.
The bridge across the Colorado was being rebuilt at the time, but it was still
spectacular. On the other side of the river, the road doubled back, and continued with
the incredible Vermilion Cliffs to the right. Cliff Dwellers
is a useful stop to fill up with gas, and to marvel at its setting.
The temperature here was 102 °F. Later, US 89 turns away from the cliffs and becomes
perfectly straight for about 10 miles, before climbing abruptly towards the Kaibab
Plateau. A viewpoint gives magnificent views eastwards towards the flat desert
towards the Colorado; soon after this the surroundings change once again to forest as
the elevation steadily increases. We turned left at Jacob
Lake (no sign of either Jacob or a lake) passing through thick pine
forests and across grassy meadows and reached the
north rim of the Grand Canyon by early
evening. This I found a little disappointing, the view was only of a side-canyon, and
the weather was not ideal, being a bit cloudy. At least there were many fewer people
than at the south rim - the guidebook says that only one in ten visit the north.
Another road continued for 25 miles to the Cape Royale viewpoint but
the journey took almost an hour due to the sharp bends and hills. A short walk led us
from the carpark to the canyon edge, in the company of many people waiting
hopefully for a sunset. In the distance, the watchtower of Desert View on the south
rim was just visible, and beyond the San Francisco mountains north of Flagstaff could
be seen. This would have been the perfect place to watch the sun go down alone, with majestic views in both directions, but there was no sun, lots of people, we were tired
and were not allowed to park our RV overnight within the National Park. After a
speedy (as possible) trip back up the entrance road we found a logging track leading
into the forests where we could stay the night, in the company of some other campers
and quite a few deer.