This is the Grand Canyon Adventure: Keeping it Real Part 2! This installment is even more epic than the first! Join member @cjones in the forums to share the journey!
Leg 2: Sedona and the Grand Canyon
We awoke on the morning of our third day exhausted. The goal of getting a good night’s sleep had not been reached, but we intended to make the best of it. We quickly dressed and left for the nearest coffee shop. There was a quaint little cafe in uptown Sedona that, not only served coffee, but had a decent breakfast menu. After placing our orders we could do nothing but gaze tiredly in each others general direction, occasionally mumbling incoherent things. I still can’t figure out what we were saying to each other. I hope none of it was important.
Halfway through my breakfast I perked up a bit and was finally capable of continuing our conversation from the night before. We settled on a few key attractions that we wanted to see while in Sedona and left the bulk of the day open. When planning this trip I had purposely left some time for Sedona since it would be one of the only places where we would be in civilization. This trip is the first of its kind for Kayla and I together, and we wanted to keep our expectations in check, and try different things to see what worked for us. Personally, I wanted to camp every night and be nowhere near other people. But Kayla isn’t quite as hermit like as I am and I was ok with doing a mix of things on this journey. Sedona turned out to be one of the more relaxing parts of the trip.
After breakfast we headed west to the Palatki Heritage Site. Our first and only cliff dwelling site. We wound our way up Boynton Pass, a smooth dirt road which dead ends at the site. There is no fee, but reservations are required to hike up to the ruins and the petroglyphs. This was one of my favorite sites. The volunteers were very knowledgeable.
Feeling overheated from the intense sun, we decided to eat our lunch on Oak Creek. What a beautiful spot to sit and swim. After hiking the trail down to the creek, we dipped our feet in the cool water and ate while admiring the view of Cathedral Rock. This was really a lovely spot, and we stayed through much of the heat of the day. When we had our fill, we hiked back to the Trooper and drove to a few other sites that didn’t involve too much physical exertion, including a drive on Soldier Pass. We got to the trailhead and were about to start our mini adventure when Kayla noticed an odor. I stopped the truck and got out. There was a strong fuel smell coming from the fuel tank region. I couldn’t see any leaking, but in that kind of heat I figured it could be vaporizing immediately if it were a slow enough leak. That is when I remembered another item I forgot to put in the Trooper. A fire extinguisher. We decided not to hit the trail until we could figure out what was wrong, and drove back into town.
Defeated and tired we pulled into an Italian restaurant that advertised “amazing” gluten free pizza. It <i>was</i> pretty amazing. Not wanting to drive into the National Forest and potentially light it on fire, we stopped at another hotel for the night and made a few calls to local mechanics, who were all closed for the day. The next morning we drove down the road to a shop to have the Trooper looked at. The shop owner put it up on the lift and found nothing wrong. He went on to say that he gets a lot of vehicles in the summer with that issue. “Just the tank venting. You should be alright if you keep the filler cap tight.” Well that was good news.
We had planned to get an early start and be at the Grand Canyon with some time to wander around before making camp for the night. It was now afternoon and the plan to leave early was long past due. We jumped back in the Trooper and headed north. The drive out of Sedona was just as gorgeous as the drive in. We took 89A which is a mountain pass that winds north to Flagstaff. The views were incredible.
While driving through Flagstaff we hit a pretty good hail storm which slowed us down a bit. My rush wasn’t so much because I don’t like setting up camp in the dark, but more for the fact that we still needed to get a permit from the backcountry office before they closed. Looking back, I should have applied for the permit via fax so I would have had it ahead of time. What we had failed to realize is that we needed to enter the park in order to get to the permit office. We reached the Grand Canyon entrance and glanced at each other with exasperation. It would cost thirty dollars to go buy an eighteen dollar permit and then leave the park to go to our campsite. We paid the fee and got to the office in time to purchase our permit and get some extra info and a paper topo of the area. After topping off our water can we headed back out of the park to pick up FR328 and begin our Grand Canyon adventure.
Neither Kayla nor I had ever seen the Grand Canyon before. So we were in a bit of a hurry to get out there and catch the sunset. We were told to allow two to two and a half hours on the trail before reaching the rim and eventually the campsites. The road was smooth at first but quickly deteriorated. We were able to maintain 30-40 mph pretty comfortably after airing down. When we reached the Havasupai land the road conditions diminished even further. The road became more of a trail than a road. The gate was open and nobody was around so we passed through knowing we would be able to pay the twenty five dollar tribal land use fee on our way back. We were glad to have purchased the paper map as the route I planned on google had quite a few roads that don’t exist anymore. Aided by our map now, we crossed back onto National Forest land and continued toward the rim. At this point, we were driving on a trail and moving pretty slowly. It was dry and four wheel drive wasn’t necessary, but the rocky terrain kept us at a crawl. Rounding our final corner, the rim approached steadily on our right. Glimpses of the canyon appeared through the trees and we stopped to get out and take our first look. We jumped out and ran through the trees like children and stopped suddenly when the canyon lay mere feet in front of us.
To say we were in awe would be a gross understatement. We expected it would be big, but we had no idea. The joke is often thrown around, “well, it’s just a big hole in the ground.” Though that is true, I have come to the conclusion that how you experience the Grand Canyon informs your opinion of it. We spent the second day of our Grand Canyon visit doing the “tourist thing” at the South Rim Visitor Center. I’m not saying that the park isn’t beautiful. It is. But there are a hundred different languages being shouted by several thousand other people who are herding through the paths and cramming onto the platforms to get a good view. It is a sensory overload and for us, it really took away from the sheer vastness and beauty of the canyon. I am very grateful that our first experience of the Grand Canyon was Havasupai Point. To get to Havasupai Point, we had been driving for hours without seeing a single vehicle. We were alone. The only sounds were from the wind and the Cliff Swallows swooping and diving for insects. The quiet was overwhelming and made the expansive feature in front of us even bigger. Astonished, we simply stood and stared. Wiping a tear from my eye I turned back to the truck and we headed up the trail to our campsite. We set up camp and started preparing our dinner. Sunset would be in an hour and we were happy to have a few moments to get settled in before the show.
The sun rose early, but not as early as we did. Being our only night at the Grand Canyon we got up before the sun to be sure we didn’t miss anything. The canyon was smokey. Very smokey, in fact. It was difficult to make out the formations we were able to see so clearly the night before. It had a certain mysterious beauty to it though. We sat in our chairs and watched for hours as the sun rose opposite us and filled the foggy canyon before us with golden rays. Breaking camp was difficult. We wanted to sit and admire for the rest of the day but we had nine hours of driving before we would reach our entry point into the New Mexico wilds, and the second half of our adventure.
Campsite on the rim – https://youtu.be/vLKEYP7sgeY