Monument Point - North Rim, Grand Canyon 

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(At the moment I'm in Kanab, Utah, just 7 miles north of Fredonia,AZ)

After leaving for my trip on Thurs., 8/9/12, I filled up the fuel tank, stopped at The Scramble for breakfast and was on my way by 8:30 a.m. A short pit stop in Flagstaff about 11 and off again up US 89 toward the North Rim. After crossing the Colorado River over Navajo Bridge, near Lee's Ferry (this area is also named Marble Canyon) and is the first very narrow vestiges of the Grand Canyon.

I continued along 89A, past the Vermillion Cliffs, past Cliff Dwellers Lodge (a good motel and restaurant, by the way), and then climbed up to the Kaibob Plateau to Jacobs Lake. This is the entry to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Pulling in to re-fuel, I noted it was exactly 300 miles from home and 1: 45 p.m. A quick check of a map inside the store there confirmed I would be taking the very first forest road past Jacobs Lake. From then on it was all gravel, dirt roads. As I had been approaching the higher plateau, I could see  dark rain clouds and feared I may be running into that rain. Luckily, the rain had ceased before I arrived, but those back roads were wet, not anything hazardous, just water standing in many low spots. Those forest roads are actually pretty well hard packed, so it was not difficult to maneuver over them. However, the driving on the roads is slow going. At times I was climbing up, up and up, then down, down, down, up to higher ground, then down to valleys, all winding through gorgeous Ponderosa Pine forest. Meadows interspersed, here and there, opened up the views and wild flowers were quite abundant. Apparently they have had sufficient rains this year, as everything green - pines, grasses, oaks, aspens and other vegetation, were vibrant. 

Driving up the plateau and then into the North Rim area, I could see evidence of past forest fires that had ravaged some areas. Passing along steep mountain and hillsides, were hundreds and hundreds of fallen timbers, like bodies of fallen soldiers that had been felled by an overpowering, marauding foe - FIRE. Though some major, destructive fires there have bared hundreds, maybe thousands of acres, thankfully, not all the forested areas were so devastated. And, even as the old timber was destroyed, new growth is also visible on those steep hillsides. Aspens naturally spring up in burned pine forests, as well as scrub oaks and other plant life.

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                                                                                       In my projected itinerary, I had planned to go directly to Indian Hollow viewpoint and camp. However, remembering that I did stay there once many years ago and left after two nights because of how forlorn and depressing it felt, I changed my mind and decided to, instead, go to Monument Point. I also happened to have printed driving directions inserted in my road atlas, so I changed course and drove on the adjacent road to my changed destination. Another advantage of changing to Monument Point was that it offers one of the shortest routes down to the Colorado River in the inner canyon.

Having driven 34 miles from Jacobs Lake, I parked my Santa Fe and walked to a view point and monument to former park ranger Bill Hall, who was a dedicated devotee and friend of the Grand Canyon. Apparently he died in the Canyon in 1979. A major trail leading into the canyon bears his name, the trail I would take if I were to venture over the edge and into the depths.

But, as I ventured up to the top the the ridge there, a storm to the west was threatening to head in my direction. With black clouds above, lightening flashing through that storm and long, nearly transparent, lacey tentacles of the storm clouds, tangling into the canyon, I decided to hastily retreat so that I could set up camp before chancing a drenching. Luckily, the storm diverted itself and headed northwesterly instead. Whew, I dodged that one and was able to set up my dry camp. One other car was parked out there, with a note on the dash that they were IN the canyon and would  be coming out on the 15th. I had no idea when they began their hike, but that note reminded me to do the same if I decided to hike down into the canyon depths. 

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After setting up my camp I returned to the trail and hike a bit further along the ridge above. A fire had also swept through that ridge some time ago, but this area was composed of mostly Pinion Pines and Junipers, so the skeletons I saw were of such. Not wanting to go too far as it was getting late in the afternoon, I returned and had supper, then started to read one of the books I had brought with me, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". I don't know how I missed reading it as a boy, but, from the first words, I was hooked. I read by lantern light until well after sunset, lit a small fire and then let it fade out as I then stood in the blackness of a moonless night sky. The stars are amazing here! Larger than how I usually see them, and BRIGHT, and twinkling and seemingly dancing in place as I stared up into the heavens.              And QUIET!                                       Except for the night chirpers in the trees, the aloneness surrounded me. But that was not in a fearful or desperately lonely way. It just was. Here was I, alone with the millions of stars, the vastness of the night sky, such a speck of humanity in the cosmos. It can humble a person to stand in such a place and be in such awe of the creation of our universe. That night I slept in my uncovered tent, looking up at the stars, and the heavens, mindful of all the beauty my eyes had beheld that day and what wonders would greet me with the dawn. © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments