Part 12 - Adventuring with Don 2018

Smoky and me at Fredonia, AZ Ranger Station

Part 12 – An Alternate Plan

After my jaunt out to the remote north rim of the Grand Canyon, and nearly having to scrap that whole adventure due to the road conditions, I was confident that whatever lie ahead would go without any further setbacks. My desire to go far off the beaten track, of course, might take me into situations that could be unpredictable.

Since the Native rock art was on my mind and having visited some of those places in past adventures, the rock art in Snake Gulch was the most convenient place to go from my location in the Kanab/Fredonia area. Snake Gulch, a narrow canyon where I had visited in 2012, is a veritable rock art gallery that continues for many miles into the canyon’s reaches. It is about 30+ miles south of Fredonia, AZ on the north side of Grand Canyon National Park, a long drive into some rough backcountry on unpaved two-track forest roads.

So, with great expectations I headed out on Forest Road 22, a good gravel road, into the wilderness of the northern boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park. It extends over 50 miles further into the park. On this adventure, however, the first side forest road off of FS 22 would take me to the gulch.

Snake Gulch trail (photo taken 2012 on a previous hike)

I looked forward to again hike into that isolated place to see the quite prolific Native Indian rock art that decorates many of its’ canyon’s walls, a veritable gallery of mysterious images, some dating back over1000 years. 

Two different art forms are evident, that which is etched (petroglyphs) into the rock face while others are painted (pictographs) on the walls. Petroglyphs are images that are chiseled, scratched or chipped from (or into) the rock face. Pictographs, on the other hand are painted images. Native peoples used rock walls as their canvases to display images depicting common daily activities, hunting scenes, animals and symbolic and unknown likenesses.


Petroglyphs - etched images

Pictographs - painted images

Some of those images are otherworldly with colors that have retained their intensity even over many hundreds of years. Since I had the time, it would be a great day to explore. Nothing was deterring me on my quest.

Initially the drive into the area was relatively easy, the heavy rains having left only slight alterations in the roadway.


Several miles in, there had been a small rockslide that only slightly covered the road. A road barricade intended to prevent vehicles from entering that part of the road had been moved aside and tire tracks showed at least one vehicle had entered. So, I did the same.

Elated, I was on my way to a day of discovery!

That elation lasted less than a mile on the narrow two-track road, for there before me, the road was barricaded, totally blocking further passage - and for good reason.

I had reached a place where a two to three foot gully was carved across the road. The sharp drop off was simply too deep. I got out to survey the situation, and could easily see the rain caused washout was impossible to cross in my Terrain. It appeared that another vehicle had gone down, through and over the chasm, but it had to have had high clearance and 4-wheel drive (perhaps that young couple in the Jeep from the day before). 

Well, bummer again!

I knew it was several more miles back into Snake Gulch, further than I cared to walk. What to do now?

Backing up and getting turned around on the narrow road, I headed back to the main, gravel road. Pondering the possibilities, I decided to drive 40 or more miles further south into the park to a viewpoint into the Grand Canyon.

There are several distant, remote viewpoints looking out into the Grand Canyon, but one area in this wilderness that I have frequented is the Rainbow Rim trail, used by hikers, bicyclists and horse riders; this trail connects Timp, North Timp, Locust, Fence and Parissawampitts Points. There are many other viewpoints on other side roads, but the Rainbow Rim area has been my preference when camping and hiking on the North Rim which now became my alternate plan for the rest of the day.

Digressing here, I should explain some of the topography of the canyon. The viewpoints are not on a continuous trail that skirts the actual rim of the canyon. Scores of tributaries, side canyons, and other “cuts” make up the rim. Think of your hand and the fingertips being the points with roads along your fingers leading out to the ends. Hiking trails do not run directly from one point to another, but cut back into and away from the points where the trails vary in elevations, going up and down side canyons, in and out along the trails. Occasionally, from those “inner” trails, you may get some glimpses into the canyon through the pine forests, often giving false hope that you are close to an actual point where the views are most unobstructed and spectacular. Looking out from some of the points you can see directly over to the next one, perhaps a mile or so away as the crow flies, but in reality, it actually is 5 miles or more as you hike away from and then back out to the various points.

It is no easy task to hike along the rim trails, but most times when I have hiked there it has been in peaceful solitude. That is a primary reason I enjoy visiting the North Rim. On this trip I opted to check out Parissawampitts and perhaps hike on the Rainbow Rim trail. There was no traffic out on the forest road leading out to the viewpoint, but at the trailhead there was a couple camping. Gathering what I needed for a hike, water and snacks, I set off immediately on the trail. Having no time schedule or other limitations, I followed the trail in complete solitude. Views into the Grand Canyon were best at the beginning of the hike but thereafter I passed through tall Ponderosa Pines, pinecones and pine needles scattered about on and off the trail. 

I felt in my element there, alone in Nature weaving in and out of the tributaries that fed into the canyon, my path, at times, led through grassy meadows and then back into old growth pine forest. The day was warm but not hot, the scent of the pines was refreshing as time slowly passed throughout the afternoon. I was unaware of how far the next viewpoint was, but it made no difference as I savored just being out where my connection to nature was at its pinnacle.

There came a time, after several hours, that I did begin feeling some fatigue, but I forged on thinking (hoping) that the next viewpoint would be just around the next bend.

I’ll hike just a little longer. It can’t be much further.

Several times I allowed myself 15 minutes increments to decide whether to continue or begin to return. After about 3 of those 15 minutes segments, tiring quickly, getting late in the day and the end not in sight, my better judgment prevailed. I turned around and headed back. All along the way, I kept hydrated and nibbled on snacks to maintain my energy.

Noticeably, my pace became slower, even as I still was relishing my surroundings in peace and serenity.

Maybe it was dehydration delirium, but tiring on the return hike, I conceived an idea to relieve some monotony. Along the trail where the pinecones were especially prolific, I took that much deserved rest, sat down and created a whimsical art piece of my own resulting in “happy pinecones”. There along the trail, the next hikers that pass were sure to see my masterpiece, bringing a smile or downright laughter to brighten their day. 

Having entertained myself with some artistic expression, that respite from the hike revived my energy but then it was time to complete the last leg of this hike.

I had a long drive out having gone about 50 miles or more south of Fredonia. The unpaved, gravel road prevented driving at higher speeds, but I still made it back to Kanab well before nightfall.

Even though my initial plan for the day ran into an insurmountable roadblock, the alternative plan was soul satisfying for me.

A very good night’s rest re-energized me for one last day of exploring in the Red Rock Country where another type canyon called me into its narrow corridors.

Resting with happy pinecones

u © Donald E. Kline 2012