Stop #22: Grand Canyon North Rim / Kaibab National Forest
As I drove my dad to the airport for his flight to Houston (to visit his sister), I reflected on the past month traveling with him. I am super glad he decided to come with me on this part of the trip and that he got to see a lot of neat things along the way. I had overheard him telling his high school friend that if I wasn’t doing this trip, he would have never looked up him up for a visit. I’m glad he had some new experiences that he would otherwise not have had. Now he’s talking about getting a (much bigger) tent and maybe even buying a small RV. 😂
After I said goodbye to my dad, I headed northeast again, this time to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I was going to meet my college friend Steve and his girlfriend Jenna at Jacob Lake, which is in the Kaibab National Forest. I arrived Thursday night and set up camp. They weren’t due to arrive until Friday evening so I decided to check out the Visitor Center at the North Rim. It was about an hour drive from the campground to the North Rim and I drove through woods and huge meadows that featured lakes that were actually sink holes. (Water percolates through the limestone bedrock dissolving the limestone over time. Water collects here and eventually the limestone collapses, creating a sink hole lake.)
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is about 1000 feet higher in elevation and has more side canyons than the South Rim. The North Rim has less buildings and development as the South Rim, making it much quieter and calmer. (The North Rim also closed in the winter due to heavy snowfall.) The view from the Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim is astounding. The Lodge is pretty much set on the edge of the Canyon.
I couldn’t resist signing up for a 3 hour trail ride that takes you down into the canyon. The ride doesn’t go all the way to the bottom, since that would requrie a multi-day trip. We were split into groups and assigned horses. I had a tall mule named Bobby, who is a female. Fun fact: Mules are a cross between a horse and a donkey and cannot reproduce even though they have all the parts. They have been used for years in the canyon because they are calm and sure-footed.
During our descent into the canyon, Bobby tried to eat at every chance she could get. They told us not to let the mules eat anything, and she must’ve known to try to break that rule. She would slyly lower her head and try to sneak a bite as she walked past a bush. 😂 I liked her spirit. We stopped 2 miles down the trail and let the horses rest as we checked out the view, including the Supai Tunnel. They had pit toilets and a water fountain. (I wonder how they installed all that?! Maybe using mules to carry it all down. 🤔) Our wrangler said she had some candy treats for the mules. I had a few Mentos in my pocket and gave one to Bobby.
We hopped back in the saddles and started our way back up to the top. The views from the trail were amazing and we passed quite a few hikers along the way. (I felt a little lazy not actually hiking myself, but could tell some of the hikers were jealous of us on mules.) When we got back to the corral, I slipped Bobby my last Mentos and said good-bye.
Steve and Jenna arrived in the evening. We started a fire and caught up around it’s warmth. Steve and Jenna live in Tucson and are big into mountain biking. Jenna is a bike mechanic! They were nice enough to bring an extra bike for me. (It also happened to be Friday the 13th with a full moon! We heard coyotes calling to each other. We wondered, maybe they had made a kill? Or were just checking in with each other.)
The plan was to bike part of the Rainbow Rim trail, in the Kaibab National Forest. It was about an hour drive from our campsite. We got a little lost on the gravel roads but eventually found our way.
The start of the ride was great, there was an amazing look out point from the start, but then we hit the hills. Oh man, was I out of cardio shape. Being over 7000 feet elevation did not help either. I had to take a couple breaks, at one point I thought I was going to puke. Steve and Jenna were awesome and waited with me as I caught my breath. There a few hills I had to walk the bike up. And the downhills are scary, going high speed around corners and sometimes there were boulders in the trail, which either you’d go around or just fly off of. Grasshoppers and butterflies scattered as we flew through grasses on the single track trail. At one point, we were riding downhill and a tight switchback came up. As I made the turn, my front wheel skidded out and I went flying over the handlebars. Surprisingly, the landing was soft and I got back up quickly. That was fun! We continued the ride and I made it back to the start in one piece. Whew, that was terrifying but exhilarating! I could definitely do this again.
We headed back to camp and started on dinner and a fire. The moon was again super bright and I’m pretty sure we heard Elk bugling late into the night. We were headed out the next morning but I knew I’d have to come back again, there’s just too much to explore!