Grand Canyon—The North Rim

We have done the Grand Canyon in pretty much every way you can. We have done the South Rim a number of times. (Including a time when Joyce sprained her knee when she slipped on a patch of early season ice during a partial walk done into the canyon.) On another trip, we drove around the canyon to catch a raft to take us on a three day whitewater trip down the canyon to Phantom Ranch, where we hiked the 7-mile, 4,500-foot elevation gain, Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim (in 120-degree weather nonetheless). But for all this, we had never been to the North Rim—until now.

Since we had a few extra days, after a Las Vegas trip, before we had to be back in San Francisco, we decided to make the five hour drive to the North Rim. (Although the drive is long and generally pretty boring, you do go by some lovely sandstone peaks and valleys toward three-quarters of the way through the trip, as you go through a corner of Arizona, into Utah.)

Educational Opportunities

We arrived, after a five-hour drive from Las Vegas, at 2:00 PM. After a quick lunch at the Lodge dining room—at a table with a view over the canyon, of course—and began taking advantage of some of the educational and cultural opportunities, including:

  • A quick tour of the Visitor’s Center;
  • A 45-minute lecture on the creation of the canyon (from the creation of the “Basement Vishnu Rocks during the 250 million-year old creation of the Pangaea super-continent), to the time the area was a seabed, to what is generally considered the 5-7 million year-old creation of the canyon), including tidbits such as why the North Rim is twice as far from the Colorado River as is the South Rim);
  • A 40-minute lecture on the huge (9.5-foot wingspan) condor, from its heyday in the age of the mastodons and giant sloths, through its virtual extinction in the late-1900s, the trial-and-error effort to capture and breed the birds in captivity, to their current re-release in the wild, and the challenges of training birds that learn everything from their parents, rather than instinct; and
  • A demonstration of traditional Hopi Indian crafts and especially, music and dancing (as part of the 18th-annual Heritage Day Celebration) and an evening talk on the history and current society, governance and education of Hopis.

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The Canyon from the North Rim

We also had time for a couple short walks along the Rim—about half a mile east of the Lodge to Bright Angel Point, a short distance to the west to a nearby point.

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But enough activity for first day. It was now time for a pre-dinner drink, sitting at the canyon rail, watching the continually changing colors of a Grand Canyon sunset.

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Although we planned the 10-mile round-trip, 3,000 foot elevation gain hike from the rim to Roaring Springs, Joyce had a chest cold that made breathing far too difficult for very steep hike back up to the lodge. We therefore settled for the short relatively level 3.0-mile round-trip Transept Trail along the Rim west of the Lodge and some more time at the Hopi exhibit. The views of the canyon, while nice, were less dramatic than those closer to the lodge. We did, however, have plenty of time to watch a mule deer, all but oblivious to the company of humans, munching on what must have been some delicious leaves.

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Accommodations

We also stayed and had three meals at the lodge. The cabins, although relatively basic, are pretty comfortable and, at $120 per night, quite affordable. The dining room, however, is constrained by the National Park mandate that all protein be cooked medium well. After our lunch experience with with a Navajo taco and a cheeseburger, we decided on salads for dinner. We then washed away thoughts of additional food with a couple of ales at the saloon.

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