Looking out over the desert toward the Grand Canyon Escarpment.
The next day it was still overcast. I had been to this part of the country in mid-February of 2017, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The air was so clear you could see for thirty miles. In July of 2017 I could see small rains in the distance. This trip was the first time I had seen the sky totally overcast, and I wasn’t digging it. But, as a Park Ranger said to me later in the trip, nature gives you what it gives you. So I was off to the Grand Canyon National Park, driving down Hwy 89. Once again beautiful mountains and views, some spectacular cuts and overviews, a great drive. This was Navajo country, and I was starting to notice quite a few falling apart trailers and just about done roadside stands. My first trip to the Grand Canyon hadn’t seen me go up this way, so this was new territory.
The edge of the Painted Desert.
From past blogs people might remember I had wanted to see the Painted Desert. I had found a swatch of it on the north end of Petrified Forest National Park, but I wanted to drive through it. I noticed that as I got to the turn off to Tuba City the colors of the formations were looking a lot like the Painted Desert. I was going to drive toward Tuba City later in the day, so it was looking like I was about to hit the jackpot. I stopped at the Cameron Trading Post just past the bridge over the Little Colorado River. I bought a couple of cokes and a handmade Dreamcatcher. Not really anything I needed, but I liked what I saw. They wrapped it well and I was on my way. If you get this way I can recommmend this trading post, which is really a well stocked first class gift shop.
The Watchtower on the east end of Grand Canyon National Park.
There is now a roundabout at the junction of Hwys 89 and 64 (the road into the park). I thought they were interesting when I was in Europe. I hate the damn things in our country. There were a couple of wrecked cars and a covering of broken glass in this roundabout, along with the usual emergency vehicles. If I had wanted to go to Flagstaff there would have been a delay, but the way to the park was open. I was looking forward to taping the way in to the park. There are fantastic mountains, stretches of forest, and views of the Little Colorado River gorge. More on that later.
The Colorado River, running through the center of the Grand Canyon.
It was still overcast, and I was climbing in elevation into the park, reaching over seven thousand feet. It was looking like the view into the canyon was not going to be good. I asked the ranger at the fee station and she said that it had been socked in by clouds the day before, but in the late morning they had faded and left a great view. I was hoping for the same.
Viewpoint of the Grand Canyon.
The first stop was Desert View and the Watchtower. The clouds were really covering up the canyon, and I was beginning to think this was a wasted trip. When I got down to the edge I was surprised to see that the clouds had dissipated enough to offer a good view. Not great, but good enough to see the canyon in its glory, if not all of it. The desert view, miles and miles to the east, wasn’t very good. I guess you can’t have everything, and I had taken shots of that view in clear weather on the last trip. The Desert View Station has just about everything the main visitors’ center at the other end of the park has. Coffee shop, gift shop and restaurant. It wasn’t time to eat yet, but it was very cold outside, so I got a coffee before heading to the next stop. So far both the walking pole and the selfie stick I was using had proven their worth. I will have links to their sales pages at the end of this blog. I’m getting nothing for plugging them, but if I find something of great use, I want to trumpet their worth.
Grand Canyon viewpoint.
If you have never been to the Grand Canyon before, go. I really can’t say this enough. The pictures are great. It even looks awesome on an ultra-high definition wide screen TV. But until you actually stand there, looking out over miles of rock layers that were laid down in shallow seas over billions of years, you really don’t understand. So go, before you leave this Earth.
Woods at the top of the canyon.
I stopped at all of the viewpoints up to and including Grandview Point, the last before getting into the congestion of the visitor’s center. There were a lot of people out, even on a cold day. Some Chinese girls were playing a little too close to the cliff edge for my comfort, but otherwise everyone seemed to be taking it safe. At one viewpoint there was a score of so backpackers getting ready to head down the trail to the river. I was able to get some very good shots, talked to a bunch of people, and generally enjoyed myself, despite the weather.
Looking into the Little Colorado River Gorge.
I talked with one man with Georgia plates, thinking he might have driven here from my neck of the woods. Nope. He was a photographer who had rented the car in Vegas. I asked a guy in a car with Florida tags, family in tow, if he had driven from Florida. He said yes, and he came from a place I had probably never heard of called Wauchula. I let him know that my dad had grown up in that town. The guy was a sheriff’s deputy who had just retired, while his son had graduated early and was college bound. So he had gathered up the whole family and made the trip of a lifetime.
Amazing formmations of the Little Colorado Gorge.
On the way out of the park I stopped to take some shots of the Little Colorado River Gorge in the distance, and a family stopped with me to do the same. Probably thinking that if I did it then it was okay. Or if not, we would share in the guilt. I stopped next at the Navajo Park overlooking the gorge and they did the same. Talking with the dad, while his wife and daughters went shopping at the Navajo shopping stalls, I learned that his daughters had been playing too close to the edge at the canyon, something which had nearly caused him a heart attack. The Little Colorado Gorge is spectacular. Not near as wide as the one carved by the Colorado, probably less than a hundred yards across at the wide point, but with sheer walls dropping down to the small river at the bottom. A young woman was walking her dog, and the beast was pulling her toward the edge. She was having trouble controlling it until her boyfriend came along. There was a railing, but in some places it would be easy to go under without a problem, and it was a long drop.
I guess arachnds have now been moved to the reptilian order.
I stopped at the Burger King at the junction of 89 and 64, getting myself and my car filled up. Talking with the young Navajo man behind the counter, I asked about the Painted Desert. He asked me which way I was heading (Tuba city to Monument Valley) and he told me I had a spectacular drive ahead. Excited about the trip, I headed north, into the little section of the Painted Desert I had driven through that morning, and turned east onto US 160. The drive was spectacular, with vistas of multicolored pastel cliff faces all the way into Tuba City. I took lots of video and stills. That night, looking them over, I was a little bit disappointed that the colors didn’t come out the way I had remembered them. Another example of having to be there.
The Painted Desert.
From Tuba City I continued northwest on 160, then turned onto 163 north to Oljato-Monument Valley. Soon I was at Goulding’s Lodge, checking in, and signing up for a tour the next day. I had been planning to take a morning tour, then get on the road north right after, but the first tour that I wanted was at 1, so I needed to change my itinerary a bit. There was some confusion in finding the apartment I had booked, but I finally found it, got all of my stuff upstairs, and headed out to look over the Goulding’s land a bit. This included a small University outpost and an RV park. The apartment was cool, with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, really more than I needed. But when I had booked it the apartment was cheaper than the regular rooms. It would be perfect for two couples, or a pair of platonic friends, who wanted to spend a couple days out here. And after dinner I went to the theater to watch John Wayne in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, which featured many of the monuments in the valley. Afterwards it was back to the apartment to sleep the sleep of the exhausted.
Next up: Monument Valley and the Night From Hell.
The Alaska Life Selfie Stick: I love this thing. It locks in place and doesn’t budge, holding the camera perfectly steady. And I think you could knock out a bear with it.
Brown Mountain Trekking Poles: They come as a set of two, and I only use one. Much more handy than a regular cane, I use one in town. Quick release allows you to collapse and expand it in seconds. A very sturdy, well made set of poles.