Sunday, July 08, 2012

From Page to the North Rim

I stopped by River's End Cafe on my way out of town to pick up a sandwich. Where I was going was a tourist trap, so food was going to set me back a fair bit.

I headed out of Page into the glaring heat of the Sunday morning, taking a left onto 89 and heading south along a road that wound through low points between giant orange rocks.

Eventually, I turned right onto 89A, pointing my rental car at the dramatic, towering Vermillion Cliffs. The road zipped closer and closer to them, and then suddenly, I was at Navajo Bridge and Lees Ferry at Marble Canyon.

This is where you can actually drive to the Colorado River to access the Grand Canyon. That is, if your car converts into a raft.

In 1998, when I went on the rafting trip, this is where the little plane out of Vegas flew me into. It's just a few buildings along a dusty road, but it's the only place to go if you want to drive you raft up to the river and plonk it in.

But I wasn't here for the river access or for rafting. I was here for the part up top, to take a closer look at Navajo Bridge, which we'd rafted under in 2008.

The bridge is the only way over the canyon at this end. The smaller one, on the right, was the original bridge and now it's for pedestrians, so I parked my rental car and took a walk over it.

After a good long look, I headed north again, climbing in altitude. The parched landscape first lost the orange color and turned browner, and then trees started popping up.

And another thing—I was getting cold.

By the time I turned at the sign that said "Grand Canyon North Rim," rain had even kicked in. Just a little, but enough to make me shiver and wish I'd brought something—anything—with sleeves.

I ate my sandwich just outside the gate, near the US Forest Service's overflow first-come first-served campground.

Should I continue on into the park and try for a site at the rim campground, I wondered. I'd been trying to book a site for months but it had been full. But I was just one person in one little tent, and surely there were last-minute changes.

I decided to try.

I pulled up to the park entrance and bought my annual National Parks Pass.

"Do you think they campground will have any sites?" I asked the ranger, who was standing in front of the "Campground Full" sign.

"She had a few cancellations a half-hour ago. Go on down and try it."

I drove on. The ranger at the campground happily gave me a great site under the ponderosa pines, just 500 feet from the canyon rim, and a short walk from the camp general store.

Which had...wifi??? At the Grand Canyon?

Sure enough, I could get wifi in my tent.

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