Friday, January 29, 2016

Point Imperial

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah and Northern Arizona...)

Are you tired of Grand Canyon photos yet?  Hopefully not 'cause I have one more post to share.

After our rainy hike into the canyon on the North Kaibab Trail, my hubby and I returned to our campsite to change into dry clothes.  It was still early afternoon though, and we weren't ready to be done for the day.

Colorful ground patterns

Our map indicated another viewpoint, Point Imperial, on a plateau 11 miles away.  Although low, rain-spitting clouds obscured the skies, we decided to check it out anyway.

Hello there deer!

On the way out of the campground, I spotted a lovely grove of golden aspens.  Convincing my hubby to pull over for a few photos, I discovered we weren't alone.

Large herd near the campground

A large herd of deer was hanging out nearby.  They were too busy grazing to even notice as I approached, camera in hand.  Even when one finally looked up, he just gave me a quick stare and went back to his lunch.

More wonderful aspens

Then it was back down a narrow, winding forest service road to reach Point Imperial.  Heavy rain pelted our car the entire journey, briefly turning to sleet at one point.  Our car thermometer was registering a few degrees above freezing.  Hmmm.....was this really such a good idea?

Point Imperial viewpoint

But as Point Imperial's sign came into view, the rain miraculously tapered off.  Roger and I walked down to the viewpoint and - yahoo - discovered the clouds were starting to part.  A man standing nearby told us this area been completely socked in with fog only a few minutes ago.

Foggy skies

At 8,800 feet, Point Imperial is the highest viewpoint on either rim.  With the clouds clearing away, I could catch glimpses of canyon walls on the opposite side.  Narrow, winding side canyons and beautifully banded rock formations spread out from all sides.  Another impressive Grand Canyon vista!

Surprise rainbow!

Although breathtaking, the air was cold!  My hands started to freeze.  After spending five minutes snapping images, I had to retreat back to the car.  Roger followed, and we huddled inside with the heater blasting.

Such brilliant colors

I was just about to suggest leaving when Roger exclaimed: "I see a rainbow!"  Sure enough, a brilliant band of color was arching over the canyon.  Forgetting all about the cold temperatures, I grabbed my camera and hustled back to the viewpoint.

Roger enjoys the show

Oh what a spectacular sight!  The clouds parted and let in just enough light to illuminate a nearby rocky spine.  The rainbow hovered over this ridge, showing off its lovely colors.  So unexpected on this overcast, rainy day. 

Mount Hayden

Seeing that rainbow more than made up for our miserable wet morning.  As a matter of fact, it was the highlight of my Grand Canyon visit.  As the clouds cleared even more, the distant canyon walls came into view.  I even got a good shot of Mount Hayden's rocky pinnacle jutting up from a nearby red ridge.

Only in the Grand Canyon!

Driving back to camp, the rain started up again, and we passed by an area of sleety snow on the road.  Temps hovered close to freezing.  I thought about our soaking wet tent, drenched by the morning's deluge.  It had rained so hard water had penetrated the seams, dampening our sleeping bags.  I dreaded spending another cold night in a wet, leaky tent.

Sunset at Bright Angel Point

Remembering the large resort I'd seen at Jacob Lake, 40 miles down the road, I suggested getting a room for the night.  It took some convincing (all right - more like outright whining) but my hubby finally gave in.

Some clouds hanging on

One quick phone call and credit card number secured a small cabin for the night.  Happily, I packed up our wet gear and bid the slanting campsite goodbye.

Last light on the mountaintops

Before departing, Roger insisted we take in one last Grand Canyon sunset.  Returning to Bright Angel Point, I set up my tripod and joined a small group of other visitors waiting for the sun to drop.

The clouds returned and blotted out most of the sky causing the night's sunset to be woefully underwhelming.   But I did get a few stunning final images of this magnificent place.

Goodbye Grand Canyon!

Despite the disappointing weather, I'd had a marvelous two days.  The Grand Canyon was everything I'd hoped it to be - gorgeous, breathtaking, unique, jaw-dropping.  There's truly nothing else like it.  Next time, I'm planning to visit the South Rim....and maybe, just maybe I'll hike all the way to the very bottom. 

But tomorrow my hubby and I were heading to the final National Park in our trip - Bryce Canyon.

Sharing with:  Saturday's Critters and Through My Lens

Friday, January 22, 2016

North Kaibab Trail (In the Rain!)

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah and Northern Arizona...)

Although I'd awoke to another rainy day at the Grand Canyon's North Rim, my hubby and I were determined to make the best of it.  Despite heavy precip, we agreed to stick to our plans and hike the North Kaibab Trail down into the canyon.

Not everyday you see trailhead signs like these

The North Kaibab Trail is the only maintained path into the canyon from the North Rim.  It's 14 miles and 6000 feet down to the Colorado River at Phantom Ranch.  However, Roger and I didn't plan on traveling this entire distance.  Our goal was much more modest.  After Roger's knee acted up on our descent from Angels Landing, we decided to hike down only 2.5 to 3 miles, and then turn around and climb back.

Last of the fall colors

The rain seemed to taper off as we arrived at the trailhead.  It took a bit of time for us to don raingear and decide what else to bring.  Anticipating the shower's return, I wisely protected my "big girl" DSLR camera by putting inside a drybag and burying it in my backpack.  At the last minute I threw my GoPro into a jacket pocket.

Fog masked most of the views

Finally we were ready!  And so was the rain.  It started up in full force the minute we stepped onto the path.  Oh well, at least we wouldn't have to worry about scorching hot weather today.

Starting down the canyon

I was amused by a large sign at the trailhead advising hikers what to do if passed by a mule train.  Not the sort of sign you'd normally see anywhere else!  However, with the lodge area closed up I suspected mule tours were also done for the season.

Rock pillars

Although the day's precip pattered on our heads, the first mile down was kind of fun.  Roger and I splashed through puddles and admired the tall rock walls soaring above us.  Although visibility was greatly reduced, instead we took in the nearby sights.

Red rocks

Boy was I glad I'd brought my GoPro!  The rainfall was so heavy there was no way I was digging out my "big girl" camera.  But the GoPro, with it's waterproof casing, was perfect for today's wet weather. 

Things are getting really wet

The farther down we climbed, the more interesting the scenery, and the wetter my hubby and I became.  I trailed behind Roger, merrily snapping photos as I went.  After awhile I began to realize the pocket I was stowing my little camera was starting to get damp - and was causing wet smears to form across the GoPro's lens.

Squeeze between the rock walls

I was surprised by the number of people we saw on the trail.  I didn't think anybody else would be as crazy as us to be hiking in the rain!  We met a large number of backpackers, decked out in full raingear and sporting hefty pack covers, who were heading towards the canyon bottom.  I'll bet they had a cold, wet evening!

Two soggy hikers

We even got a passed by a group of trail runners, on their way up to the North Rim.  One man said they'd started from the South Rim that morning.  Not only did we see them climbing up the canyon, this same group passed us again on their way down.  I can't even begin to think how miserable their rim to rim to rim run must've been.

A bit more of the canyon is visible

At the two mile mark, we passed the Supai Tunnel and I was happy to discover not only a drinking fountain but also restrooms!  And I took advantage of both.

Muddy torrent across the trail

Although the rain had slacked off a tiny bit, all the water had begun to concentrate.  It formed muddy channels that gushed across the trail's packed dirt. 

I couldn't resist capturing a video of it.

Clearing skies on the way back up

Thus far, my rain jacket had been performing admirably.  However, I'd decided to wear my water-resistant softshell pants instead of rain pants.  Although these pants had done well in prior wet hikes, today they met their match.  Around the two-mile mark wetness began to seep through. 

Rocky path

Roger was still feeling good and wanted to continue a little further.  But my legs were fast becoming sopping wet and my attitude beginning to plummet.  It didn't take much convincing for my hubby to agree on heading back.

These rocks look like steps

Although we'd only descended about 1500 feet, I wasn't looking forward to the steep climb back up.  I'd always heard warnings about the tough climb up the Grand Canyon's trails.  But our return trip wasn't all that bad. 

Roger points out a pillar

Normally heat is the danger hikers face when climbing the Grand Canyon.  But with today's heavy rainfall and chilly temps, overheating was not a problem.  One of the few benefits of hiking in inclement weather!

The skies begin to clear a bit

As we began our trek back up, the rain slacked off, and visibility increased.  I could see a bit farther down into the canyon, and it was spectacular.  More colorful rock layers, green vegetation, and interesting rock formations.  Oh how I wished for a clear day!

Coconino Overlook

On our return trip, Roger and I stopped at the Coconino Overlook.  Although views had been obscured by thick clouds earlier, now we could actually see a bit of the scenery.  Despite the limited vistas, it was still a pretty spot. 

Low clouds fill the canyon

From this overlook, it was a quick 3/4 mile climb to the trailhead.  Although I'd enjoyed our brief canyon exploration, I was happy to be done.  Time for some hot food and dry clothes (and maybe a beer!)

We made it!

It wasn't the best of conditions, but Roger and I were glad we'd hiked a bit of the Grand Canyon's Rim trail.  Now there was one final viewpoint left to check off our list - Point Imperial.  C'mon back and I'll cover that in my next post - one final tale from my North Rim adventure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Soggy Day in the Canyon

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah and Northern Arizona...)

Well, the sunrise didn't happen.  Our fist night at the North Rim was a cold one.  I don't know exactly how low the temps dropped, but I do know they were below freezing.  I huddled in my sleeping bag, pulling it entirely over my head (a cold nose in the middle of the night is no fun!)  Smart enough to stash my down jacket inside the bag (thought it would keep my feet warm) I gratefully ended up draping it around my chilly shoulders sometime before dawn.

Foggy views

There was no way I was leaving the warmth of my sleeping bag to catch the sun coming up.  Besides, I awoke to the sound of rain pattering on our tent.  Cloudy, wet skies equaled no views.  Ugh....not again!  Why was it every time my hubby and I visited a National Park it had to rain?

Golden aspens frame vacant cabins

A full bladder finally roused me from my cozy cocoon, and I ventured out into a freezing wet morning.  Over breakfast, Roger and I discussed the day's plans in light of this new (albeit now becoming commonplace) wet weather.  We decided to drive up to the lodge area and see if there were any views to be had.

An especially bright tree

Although the canyon was cloaked in a thick foggy mist, I did enjoy exploring around the shuttered summer cabins.  A few aspen trees still sported bright, golden leaves and the muted light made their colors pop.

Standing on the lodge's wet patio

We walked around the North Rim lodge, all closed up for the winter.  Roger stood on the expansive patio trying to catch a glimpse of some scenery through the clouds.

Brief peek-a-boo canyon view

We did get lucky a couple of times when the clouds parted long enough to produce a teaser glimpse of the colorful canyon below.

These cabins had the best locations of all!

A few of the cabins were perched right on the canyon's rim.  Although we couldn't tell today, I'm sure they had some killer views.  I told Roger next time we visit the North Rim I want to stay in one of these.  (I'm sure renting one costs a fortune, but I think it would be worth the extra money)

Another misty glimpse

As we strolled along the paved rim trail, our friend the rain returned in full force.  Tucking away my camera, we beat a hasty retreat to the gift shop, where we killed time waiting for the showers to stop.  But the drops kept falling....and falling.....and falling.

The shuttered lodge building

My hubby and I had a decision to make.  We'd planned to hike down into the canyon today.  But this rainy weather wasn't exactly primo hiking conditions.  On the other hand, we'd driven all the way to visit the North Rim and didn't want a little wet weather to stop us from seeing the sights.  (We were from Oregon after all!) 

In the end, Roger and I grabbed our rain gear and headed to the North Kaibab Trailhead.  We decided no matter what happened, we were guaranteed to have an adventure. 

I'll recap our soggy hike in my next post!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sunset at Cape Royal

(Continuing the recap of my mid-October trip to southern Utah and Northern Arizona...)

I was worried my first sunset on the Grand Canyon would be a no-show.  While driving to Cape Royal, my hubby and I had the sky blotted out by a thick fog bank.  Things weren't looking good for seeing any canyon views, let alone the sunset.

Outstanding scenery!

Earlier that same day, we'd arrived at the Grand Canyon's North Rim.  After setting up camp and exploring the immediate area, we decided to drive over to Cape Royal, 20 miles away, to witness a sunset.

I'm not the only photographer!

Cape Royal is the southernmost viewpoint on the North Rim, and is reputed to have the widest panorama of any Grand Canyon overlook.

Angels Window

The road was narrow and winding.  Through the white curtain we kept climbing, higher and higher.  I kept fretting all this driving would be for naught.  Then, about three miles from Cape Royal, a miracle happened.  The fog suddenly cleared.

Narrow viewpoint on top of Angels Window

We happened to be driving by a viewpoint at the time.  Roger pulled over and we both walked over to the canyon's edge.  Oh boy was it gorgeous!

Lovely red rock formation

After spending several minutes soaking in the views we thought we wouldn't be able to see, Roger urged me back into the car and drove the final miles to Cape Royal's large gravel  parking area.  Cape Royal couldn't beat the views I'd just witnessed.....could it?

The river is far, far below

Well, I'm sure you know the answer to that question.  We parked, I packed up all my camera gear while Roger galloped ahead on the trail.  He quickly returned telling me to grab all my stuff and hurry.

Tiny bit of the sun's last rays

Oh the landscapes were even better than the previous viewpoint!  It was a half mile to the first overlook, a narrow ledge on top of Angels Window, a natural arch in the limestone that, if you looked through it at the right angle, framed a small section of the Colorado River, 5000 feet below.

Western views

As you can imagine, I kept my camera's shutter busy, capturing image after stunning image.

Taking in the panorama

While I was clicking away, Roger continued down the trail to the it's very end - a high plateau with a 270 degree canyon panorama.

Sun's final blast

While atop Angels Window, my hubby came hustling back urging me to follow him.  He said the views down the way were even better.

Storm clouds in the distance

And he was right!  Atop a small rocky peninsula I gazed upon an incredible sight.  Rumpled rocky peaks and deep wrinkled canyons spread out in all directions.

Canyons stretch out for miles

The fading sunlight occasionally broke through the clouds spotlighting a distant canyon wall, or very top of a nearby peak. 

Fabulous evening colors

But the cloudy skies produced even lighting and the low light made the colorful canyons pop.

Last light on distant canyon walls

Although we were worried about rain and thunderstorms, the clouds seemed to stay away.  Instead, they hovered in the distance, creating some dramatic skies.

Waiting for sunset

After searching the nearby area, I finally decided upon a rocky plateau for my sunset shots.  Setting up my tripod, Roger and I bundled up, and waited for the sun to drop.

Pink clouds

We weren't alone - there was a couple dozen people strolling around, and a few folks set up tripods nearby.  Then a large group of teenagers invaded.  We learned they were workers at the nearby Jacob Lake resort.  But the kids were quiet and well-behaved and didn't interfere with my photographic pursuits.

The sun is finally down

As light faded from the sky, temperatures plummeted.  I pulled on all my layers, a knit hat and gloves.  The thick cloud bank prevented any spectacular sky colors and produced only subdued light on the canyon's walls.  But I liked the even lighting and kept shooting anyway.  At least the fog had left and I could see the scenery.

Evening twilight

Finally, realizing we were the last people left on Cape Royal, Roger and I packed up, and drove the winding road in darkness, back to our campsite.  We arrived to a wet tent.  While we'd enjoyed a dry evening at Cape Royal, it had apparently rained at the campground.


After a late dinner by flashlight, I snuggled into my sleeping bag.  Driving back, our car thermometer had read 38 degrees.  It was gonna be a cold night!  But I had big plans for the next day - I was going to wake up early and catch the sunrise, and then Roger and I were hiking down into the Grand Canyon on the North Kaibab Trail.

Little did we know that the weather had other plans.....

Join me for my next post as I recap our second day on the Grand Canyon's North Rim.

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday