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Roaming the rim

We left a few easy things for Saturday so we could have a relaxing day with Daisy and Don.   For the most part, our plan was simply to drive out to the east end of the developed part of the North Rim and peer over the edge.   We walked no more than a mile all day, and spent most of the time talking with Don, Daisy, and people we met along the paths.

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This part of the park has a couple of paved roads that wind out to fancifully-named points and overlooks: Cape Royal, Cape Final, Point Imperial, Vista Encantada, Walhalla Overlook, etc.   To me, the names evoke the early days of the canyon’s development in the 1920s and 30s when Union Pacific’s subsidiaries were busy trying to make the canyon into a world-class tourist destination.   Each overlook has its own distinct view, sometimes canyons, sometimes the Colorado River, sometimes the lower plateau of the Navajo nation to the east.

grca-n-rim-emma-corn.jpgOf course we dropped in on a ranger talk along the way.   Emma got put to work, grinding blue Navajo corn the old-fashioned way.

grca-n-rim-blanket.jpgWhen we went by the Visitor Center in the late afternoon to get Emma’s Junior Ranger badge, we spotted a Grand Canyon Pendleton blanket hanging on the wall, and loved it.   Ever since Fred Coldwell wrote an article about Pendleton’s national park blankets in the Spring 2007 issue of Airstream Life, I’ve been looking for one.   So we bought it as a late anniversary present to each other (we had our 15th anniversary earlier this month).   This one will keep us a bit warmer while at high elevation, but mostly I am looking forward to having it on our couch back at home base this winter.

Don and Daisy are work-camping here in the park, but mostly because they want to spend a lot of time on the north rim.   With employment by the park’s concessionaire, they can stay six weeks or more in the employee campground with full hookups for a mere $5.50 per day.   Usually they just volunteer; this is the first paying work-camping job they’ve accepted this season.   With weekends off, they’ll have lots of time to explore before the north rim shuts down on October 15.

The north rim shuts down because of the heavy snows that blanket the Kaibab Plateau.   The road coming into the park goes above 9000 feet, and keeping it open requires massive equipment.   As far as I know, it has been closed each season since the lodge was built.   The campground and lodge are about 8200 feet and I was told that last winter 14 feet of snow fell here.

Even now the chill is starting to creep in.   The campground’s checkout time is 10 a.m., but at 6:30 the tenters are all up and pacing around, or making fires for breakfast.   They start packing up early, and by 8 a.m. the campground is mostly empty.   But still the campground fills every day, and it seems it will do that until sometime in October.

We have to leave today.   No spaces are available to extend our stay, and I’ve got work to do on Monday anyway.   Our plan is to drop into Page, AZ for a couple of days to get things done before heading into the Navajo Nation, and over to Canyon de Chelly.

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