|Travels With Mimi www.avita.us|
NORTH RIM GRAND CANYON &
September 10, 2022
Our ultimate goal was a trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and back seeing sights along the way. It's said they have some nicer views from the north end and the crowds are less. We had tried this twice before but without success usually facing road closures.
The problem with planning a camping trip is all the guesswork involved. Take temperature for example. We're not sure the camper will be good down into the teens. I know we aren't. At least not for long. We're even less fond of temperatures over 100. You can always put on more clothes but taking them off won't necessarily cool you down. I've taken the averages of all the areas we're going though to make sure they're hospitable. Even then, predicting weather 6 weeks ahead is near impossible. Plus for every 1000' of elevation temperatures cool off by over 5 degrees and we're going from almost sea level to 9000'. Then we're not sure of how interesting new sights will be. Will we want to spend a few minutes there or two days? That has a direct bearing on where we camp and makes campground reservations almost irrelevant - if you can even get them in this post Covid camping frenzy. Luckily (as a result of intensive planning thanks to the internet) the lowest temperatures we encountered was into the low 20's just before daybreak, and the hottest in the mid 80's. One of the more useful tools I've been using lately is Google Maps. You can simply plot all the interesting sights onto this map and when done use it to figure the most efficient route between these sights.
As diesel was about $7 in California and $5.50 in Nevada, it was our hope to be able to make it there on half a tank. But we decided to error on the side of caution and fill up here a little and then in Nevada a lot as sort of a compromise. Our first stop was Mormon Station, a small park in Genoa just east of Lake Tahoe. It looked worth a half hour but mostly was a leg stretcher. Well, the town was charming and just happen to have Mercedes Gull Wing car rally. There are few left and the 1955 alloy Gullwing numbers only 24 cars in the USA and I believe there were two of them there. After fueling up we headed for the Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park to hike some trails and look over the new exhibits. We hadn't heard of them cloning any dinosaurs yet so felt we'd be safe.
The next stop would normally be the Great Basin Park on the eastern Nevada border but as we'd been there a number of times Mimi asked for something different. Cave Lake just southeast of Ely would be about the right distance to spend the night, with a stop at the Hickison Petroglyphs for another half way leg stretcher.
While the Petroglyphs aren't stunning, they are interesting and the area has a wonderful little hike up to a small summit overlooking the whole vast basin. The ride up to Cave Lake was standard Nevada scenery except for the amazing red roads leading up to the campground. The area was fairly scenic so before settling in we took a short walk to the river area that was suppose to have a nice overlook hike. Part way down the road we were stunned by the glowing yellow fall color from the Alders lining the creek.
The main mill at Berlin having undergone extensive rehabilitation.
After a hearty breakfast (for one of us at least) we parked our camper at the trailhead at the end of the road for the Cave Overlook Loop Trail. The Alder woods were almost surrealistic, something you would expect from back east instead of the West Coast. After snapping a dozen pictures we headed to Red Canyon about three hours away. There we found that the campground we were really hoping to get had been closed down in spite of the great weather. We had just enough time left to take the amazing Pink Ledges Trail which wandered in and out of the wooded red cliff faces before getting to the job of finding a camping spot.
Luckily we found someone who knew of a nice dispersed campground only a few miles away. While down a dirt road and a bit of a challenge in places it was quiet, scenic and completely free with only a few well spaced fellow campers which made us feel a little safer. One fellow came by on our short hike for a friendly conversation and an exchange of handy tips.
After another hike (I won't say much about unless you like large dry dusty horse manure filled washes) we headed for Bryce. We thought we were going off season but apparently not as we joined a half dozen cars at the entry station. Then we were told we couldn't park at the trailheads with our camper and would have to take the shuttle busses. Well we almost didn't get a space at the RV parking lot, but in spite of our misgivings the shuttles were nice. They came every 15 minutes and you didn't have to wait or search for a spot. Just put up with being squeezed in with 50 other visitors for about 10 minutes. Yes, we had our masks. We stopped and wandered around many of the overlooks but it was too warm to really hike. As usual, one campground was closed for repair and the other one was full up, so off to another dispersed camping place which wound up to be nice. And did I mention free?
We had a bit of a scare. It was in the 20's outside and the camper wouldn't move after putting it into gear. I'm not sure if it was a fluke, but I kept it in gear to hopefully warm the transmission up and after about 3-5 seconds it moved. We cautiously made it back to our RV parking spot and donned our hiking gear for the Navajo Loop Trail. It was still a bit cold so we ascended the great crevasse with about every coat we had. This was one of the most impressive trails on the trip with giant cliffs of red sandstone bounding the switchbacks as you descended about 500 feet to the valley floor. On getting to the bottom we found the round trip was blocked at the other end due to slides, so we had to backtrack up the hill. It sure warmed up in a hurry then and we must have looked like a walking clothesline.
Heading down on the left and entering the Navaho canyon above.
We had considered another day at Bryce. But after the crowds, the fact that we had taken one of the best hikes, and facing another possible 20 something degree night - we decided to move on down 89 towards Kanab and the Red Hollow Trail out of Orderville.
At first I thought I made a mistake as Ms. Garmin (as we call our GPS) took us though some old suburbs and onto a crude dirt road. But then we saw the trailhead ahead - filled with cars. But after a bit someone left and we managed to get a spot. It was a long stretch of sandy arroyo to the slot canyon but it was worth the trudge. There were quite a few people there but everyone was friendly and made room for each other.
Next we stopped at a two museums for a quick look before taking on the Elkheart Cliffs Slot Canyon trail. This had a drop of at least 500' on another sandy trail which made for hard walking even down, so we dreaded the trip back up. I half jokingly said too bad we didn't bring some cardboard to slide down on. The canyon towards the end was also amazing with very few people this time - not hard to understand considering the trail. But the trip back wasn't that bad, as we were prepared for the worst. After that we backtracked a few miles for another dispersed campground.
On left: The Red Hollow trail and slot canyon.
Above: Mimi and I were stopped by a 10 high wall at Red Hollow, but kids seemed to have no problems going on. We just didn't want to show them up of course.
Above: Mimi near the mouth of Elkheart Slot canyon.
A curiosity shop built into the red cliffs.
At the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Today we head for the North Rim. Our first stop was the Sand Cave hike which we didn't expect much from. But it was delightful with lots of desert plants and trees lining our trail until we came to some amazing red sandstone cliffs at least 100' high. We backtracked a little as we spotted an interesting 'museum' built right into the cliffs before heading on. On getting to Jacob Lake and the visitors center we found everything was closed including all the campgrounds. And unfortunately the dispersed camping was at nearly 9000 feet and we feared problems with low temperatures again. At that point we decided to make a day of it, at least what we had left of the day and then backtrack to an RV park (ugh) in Fredonia considering the lack of camping spots. The views from the North Rim were stunning. Unfortunately fog or mist covered many of the distant formations, but what we did see mesmerized us. We also got adopted by a tall young lady who joined us on a few overlooks. About 4 we headed back along the beautiful forested hwy 67 to our visually challenged RV park caught between an old housing development and a truck stop. But we had all the water, power, septic and wifi we needed. It was an excuse to stream a movie.
Pipe Springs National Monument is an outpost on the Paiute Reservation that contains hiking trails, a garden, a historic fort and cabins. It's now an education center for ecology. Unfortunately when settlers took over this area their cows decimated the grasses upon which natives lived leading to mass starvation. The Texas longhorn above has a horn span between six and 7 feet.
Today it's on to Snow Canyon just northwest of St. George. This is another park which has become so popular in the last few years that campsites are booked up months in advance. On the way we stopped at the Pipe Springs National Monument, a water source and grazing grounds for settlers to the chagrin of the natives. Then a stop at the Red Hills Desert Gardens, a tastefully done large botanical garden run by the city and free. While many of the plants were well past blooming, they did have elaborate Halloween displays all over to the delight of the kids (both young and retired). After that it was up to the park with a 'campgrounds full' sign prominently displayed at the entry. I asked if there were any cancellations and they said they didn't know and directed us to the campground office. With few expectations Mimi went in there while I waited in the camper. After about 20 minutes she came out and I figured either a long line or by some miracle she had secured a site. Well, with a big smile she said we were able to get the very last site of the day due to a recent cancellation which really made our day as it was a stunning area and campground. We spent the rest of our time enjoying some local trails through these amazing formations including the short Jenny's Canyon Trail.
One of the many short trails we took at Snow Canyon.
We saved one of the best trails, the Johnson Canyon Arch trail, until morning as it was longer and temperatures were cooler. The end of a long scenic desert hike led to a huge tree lined canyon surrounded by monolithic cliffs that ran about a half mile in. It had vegetation, water, and shade from the heat and I can well imagine some natives living here. After a half dozen pictures we headed to Nevada and Charleston Peak, about 7000 feet above the Nevada desert just northwest of Las Vegas. The elevation gain was so steep we could only managed about 45 mph up that grade (I think the camper must have gained some weight). We had a similar camper following us right into the campground and somehow managed again to get the very last spot. I felt sorry for the camper following us. We donned our hiking gear once more and took the almost alpine Eagle's Nest Loop trail. It was a bit longer with more hills than we thought, but just took it easy and finished it all. Our reward was a beer and grilled meal afterwards.
Jenny's Canyon. Mimi is the tiny tiny red spec at the bottom center of the light area for scale. Click to enlarge.
Distant mountains, clear desert air, unique flora and volcanic geology mark the trail to Johnson Canyon.
Johnson Canyon from within looking south. This oasis in the desert is home to wildlife and abundant vegetation including willows and cottonwoods.
This Range Rover is one of the interesting rigs we see in campgrounds.
Not all trips end well. This looked to us like an RV that had perhaps caught fire from overheated brakes. One of three accidents we saw on our trip.
The view from the Eagle's Nest Loop trail on Mt. Charleston.
A quick break half way down Mt. Charleston for a few photos.
Our itinerary was to visit the Bristle Cone Pine Forest northeast of Big Pine on 395 in California. Another place we had attempted to get to before. Heading north on 95 in Nevada we were contemplating when to fuel up due to the distances between stations when all of a sudden the camper lost power. We pulled over with some concern. But it started again and ran ok for a while before giving out once more some miles down the road. At that point we realized we had a problem and stopped behind a highway patrol who advised us to go back about 100 miles to Las Vegas. We really didn't want to go back or visit that town with the possibility of having to spend a week there waiting for repairs so decided to take a chance and push on for Reno, about 250 miles away.
Mimi scowered the map for camping places and found Walker Lake, a stark but beautiful area we had passed though before and it was within range with a little luck. We got there a bit after 4 and found a free almost empty campground with sites overlooking the whole lake and nearby valley. I made a number of phone calls and there was not one shop that could take us and our vehicle. But the Mercedes dealer suggested an independent who said they would look it over quickly. After that we took a short walk and then tried to enjoy the rest of the evening.
Our last campground on the hillside of Walker Lake as the sun starts to set.
We babied the camper but it still lost power a few more times before limping into the independent in Reno. The helpful husband and wife team got right on the problem and said we had a bad turbo and inter cooler, and they couldn't get to us until the end of the following week with an estimate of around $4500. With a lot of reservations we decided to push on home, as spending a week in Reno or renting a car wasn't an option. The owner cautioned us about the long uphill grade to Truckee with few places to pull over on Hwy 80 heading west. As is was the turbo and it generally doesn't work hard except at higher RPM's, I babied it keeping them low. Fortunately the highway almost always had pull over room and the camper didn't lose power once. At the Truckee summit we celebrated with lunch as it was downhill from here. The rest of the ride home was uneventful except for the usual traffic. Overall it was an excellent vacation and we only lost the last two days.