SnowBird Diaries
North Rim
Wed, 25 May 2005
Dear John,

You may have heard the southwest has been experiencing a record heat wave. To escape the heat we went to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We discovered that between Flagstaff and the rim there are jillions of free parking areas because of all the forest and BLM lands. One night we stayed between Sunset Crater Nat'l Monument and the Wupatki Ruins (REALLY interesting stuff to explore). The forest road ran thru miles of cinders dotted with one-seeded juniper and an occasional live pinyon pine - almost half died in the last drought, which ended this winter. Apparently they are not as resistant as the juniper.

The road north from there (#89) goes past spectacular red cliffs on the Navajo Reservation with pull-offs to view the canyons of the Little Colorado. I read one can obtain permits to stay overnight in some of the parking areas (they are quite large and include covered stalls run by local Navajo families who depend on them for income and sell hand-made curios and some good stuff, too.) But because of the heat we headed for the higher elevations.

After following the spectacular red Echo Hills for a ways you cross the Colorado at Navajo Bridge where there is a Nat'l Pk Service Visitor Center with a very good bookshop that stocked some great authors, such as E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond, beside the usual guidebooks to the area. We couldn't resist, altho our camper is so overloaded with books now. Got some great reference works on lizards (with emphasis on evolution in general) some geological stuff for Brice and Zion, and most exciting of all Diamond's book Gun's, Germs and Steel - a fabulous history of the whole world since the ice age that is hard to put down, really well-written!

Biggest thrill at Navajo bridge, a California condor flying really low around the parking area! Talked with a young man who is monitoring them. He is hired by the Peregrine Society, which preserves raptors all over the world. There are 50 condors now established in Arizona and they have just released 11 more. Very thrilling to see the bird so close - it is soooo large.

After crossing the Colorado you are soon back in free camping areas with many forest roads all the way to the rim. There are inexpensive fee campgrounds at Jacob Lake and the North Rim. As a senior it is $7 a night, so we are taking advantage of it because of the dump, water, and access to the Rim. The closest forest road still had a lot of snow all around with melt water on the dirt road and we decided not to risk getting our camper stuck. It is Ponderosa pine here, with Engleman spruce, some Douglas fir and true firs (white and Alpine - I can't tell them apart), Gambel oak, mountain mahogany, Utah juniper which is bluish in color and has an open canopy, and beautiful aspen just leafing out. They had seven feet of snow here just recently and the campground just opened six days ago.

Well, maybe I'm just telling you stuff you already know about, but for us it is an exciting new experience to be here (I last saw the Grand Canyon in the early 1960's - no problem pulling off anywhere to sleep in those days, now the south rim is like a circus - so many people).

But we've decided we want to avoid traveling around Memorial Day, so are now heading back to the coast. Will stop briefly in Santa Barbara to drop off our southwest stuff and pick up our northwest coast stuff and hope to be back in Mendocino by next week.

What have you been up to?

Love, Helga