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  • Road Trip: Day 36

    Posted on October 3rd, 2012 tcorzett No comments

    Due to the funky Arizona time zone today was spent in a perpetual “fog” of not knowing what time it was. It started when I woke-up… at 6am, but that’s 7am in Utah (where I’m staying tonight). Well, whatever time it was I was still tired so rolled-over for another half-hour. I eventually hit the road, but needed to get gas and breakfast before going off into the middle of the desert.

    I found a gas station and filled-up the G8 with a tank of 91 octane. I then drove across the street to a Subway for breakfast. For the past month I’ve been surviving almost entirely on “$5 footlong” sandwiches, but the special ended a few days ago. The new special is “buy one 6-inch sub, get one free, before 9am”. In Arizona it was still before 9am, but since all my clocks said it was after 9am I didn’t take advantage of it (and paid full price for my footlong).

    By the time I got back on the road the sun was climbing in the sky. I had several hours of driving to reach the Grand Canon, and knew the light was going to suck for photos, but I reminded myself this is a driving trip.

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    On my way towards the Grand Canyon I found myself in a unique situation… there was a slow moving vehicle in my lane and a broken center-line. When I pulled-out to pass I noticed the rest of the road was empty, straight, and begging for me to put the hammer down. Well, my G8 has a new official top speed… even if I had to end the run early due to on-coming traffic. I can only imagine where things will top-out when I’m back at sea level…

    The first interesting place I encountered was the Navajo Bridge. I had no idea it was out there, but I’m really glad I stopped… the view was awesome.

    There were also four (California) Condors hanging out under the bridge. I was tempted to get a long lens, but since they were just camped-out I passed. Oh yeah, for anyone stopping by this area… they have an interesting composting toilet system.

    On route to the Grand Canyon the road passed through the Kaibab National Forest, which was absolutely ideal for a mid-morning drive. Not only was there no traffic, but there was no enforcement of the just slightly too slow speed limit. The road climbed just enough to allow gravity to slow you down into the tighter corners, and with the longer curves at constant speeds, I got into a real rhythm… it was fun.

    I spent most of the day at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Unlike my visit to Arches, I did my homework last night… and I liked what I was reading:

    Averaging 8000 feet above sea level, the North Rim rises 1000 feet higher than the South Rim, and is much less accessible. Even in good weather the North Rim harder to get to.

    While the North Rim is pretty remote, Cape Royal is a good half-hour’s drive (or more, depending on your curvy road skills) from the main entrance road. The narrow, winding pavement carries you out to the end of a long peninsula, the Walhalla Plateau, that juts out into the middle of the world’s biggest hole.

    “Harder to get to”, as long as it’s still paved, means lots of fun for me… and I have decent “curvy road skills”.

    The “cautions” were spot on, and the 15 mile drive out to Cape Royal was awesome! The trees/brush run right up to the side of the road and there were no shoulders. The speed limit was fast enough to make a few corners difficult, despite most of them being heavily banked. I actually forgot that I was driving around the Grand Canyon, I could have easily been on any road in The Sierras, until I came around the last corner to see the view.

    At the end of the Walhalla Plateau I made the short hike to Cape Royal Point and Angels Window to take in the view. Being at the top of a cliff was a little unnerving, but I was able to take a few photos.

    After hiking back to the G8 I enjoyed the return-drive on Cape Royal Road; stopping-off at Roosevelt Point, the Vista Encantada, and Point Imperial. I also made the drive to the main North Rim visitor center/lodge area, but wasn’t feeling like dealing with all the people (or doing another hike).

    The remainder of my drive was mostly uneventful, but I did need to find a place to take my daily photo of the G8. I tried several times to find someplace at the Grand Canyon, but there were no locations where I could drive that the canyons were clearly visible. I eventually found a nice place for a photo in a little town on the border of Arizona and Utah.

    There was a freshly paved road (it had to be at least 5 lanes wide) with a clear view of a nice rock wall. I stopped briefly and took some photos.

    While stopped, with the G8 idling, I was receiving quite a few strange looks. With the keys in the ignition and me standing on the other side of the road, I was a little unsettled… to make matters worse a gang of people was heading in my direction! I wrapped-up my photos and quickly went back to the G8. Curiosity got the better of me and I drove in the direction of the group of people… only to find out later that it was a group of polygamists!

    After a few more miles I reached my hotel for the night and checked-in. I got the best parking spot in the lot (an end spot closest to the front door), so walked down the street for some dinner. I’m still trying to figure out what time it is here, but I think it’s late enough that I need some sleep.

    Tomorrow I’ll be driving past Zion National Park on my way towards Bryce. It should be a short day, depending on how long I spend at Zion, but that’s a good thing… as I need to be up before sunrise the next day.

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