Topping Wayne’s only other visit to the Grand Canyon would be a tall order: landing via Black Hawk helicopter on the top of a large hoodoo. All the guys—of course, guys!—aboard disembarked to pee off the side. That was a long time back when planes and helicopters were allowed to land in the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon, North Rim entrance. Nearly 9,000-foot elevation and a nice mix of aspen and conifers.
My only trip to the Grand Canyon was far less exciting; over 35 years ago when I miraculously got a day off trade show duty in Vegas. I signed up for a tour that picked me up at the hotel, provided transport to the airport and back, flew in via Cessna to the Grand Canyon. We flew through a squall, and the bumpy ride prompted a fellow passenger—poor little tyke—to race out and barf as soon as we landed. We then got shuttled to several viewpoints, with lunch somewhere between them, then returned.
Grand Canyon, North Rim, another view from Bright Angel
Before we arrived at Grand Canyon, we took off from Bryce, headed down scenic byway 12, then across scenic highway 89A through Red Canyon. If we pass this way again, we’d skip Bryce and check out the less-well-known areas, but also spectacular spots like Red Canyon. Even still, just passing through was a thrill, particularly when we drove through the two red stone arches that encompass Hiway 89A’s lanes. Despite their location miles away from Bryce and Zion, those were the names used for the motels along the way, rather than the local state parks they were right next door to.
Grand Canyon, North Rim, viewpoint below the lodge.
As we approached the town of Kainab, on Utah’s Arizona border, we noticed theformerly clear blue skies hazed up. Our best guess was smoke from a fire drifted in, but we didn’t smell any smokiness. My biggest excitement inKainab was a near-miss. A woman driving on my right decided to cut across three lanes into a bank driveway on the opposite side of the street. By turning and braking, I narrowly avoided a sideswipe!
Harsh winters, dry summers, and brutal winds sculpted the trees on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
Wayne once again found us a campsite for free on BLM land, this time about a 45-minute drive from Grand Canyon’s North Rim entrance. The whole area is still recovering from a burn. We could’ve stayed a stone’s throw from where we camped in an RV park, packed to the gills for $50. Power, water, and pump out aren’t that important to us. We keep a low power profile and Wayne took care of water and pump out for $5 in Kainab. Anything in the park itself was booked.
The lodge at the Grand Canyon, North Rim was built in the 1920s, then burned, and was rebuilt in the 1930s. Made with local materials, it blended in well with its surroundings.
Wayne picked the North Rim to visit because it gets only 10% of the visitors compared to the South Rim, and was only a slight detour on our trip. Between $35 entrance fee at both Bryce and the Grand Canyon, plus the $5 day-use fee for Grand-staircase Escalante, we recovered the cost of out $80 annual America the Beautiful pass. Capitol Reef didn’t post anyone at their entry fee point and Grand Basin was free.
Bison herd, Grand Canyon North Rim.
Bryce Canyon’s crowds were significantly larger than Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Given Bryce’s narrow trails and the lack of mask wearers, I enjoyed Grand Canyon more, despite the haze making the views far less than stellar the day we visited. However, if you’ve never been to either park and can tolerate the crowds, I’d choose Bryce over Grand Canyon as a scenic drive or for more moderate hikes.
Lovely as Grand Canyon North Rim is in the fall, we fantasized about visiting in the snow, staying in a Western Rim view cabin—way outside our budget at $299/night. Still, that’s the point of a fantasy, right? We’re betting that time of year, we’d practically have the trails to ourselves.
Bison, posing, Grand Canyon North Rim. He seemed unperturbed by my ogling them.
As a final sweet goodbye, we saw a herd, then later a lone bison grazing in easy view off the road. Another excellent day in the Southwest.
Tomorrow we’ll arrive in New Mexico, a little outside Albuquerque.
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