Grand Canyon North Rim, Arizona
6/21/2018 to 6/23/2018
More beautiful views from the other side and a mule ride into the canyon.
Thursday 6/21/2018 We saw everything we wanted to see at the South Rim of The Grand Canyon so today we headed to the North Rim. The North Rim is a worthwhile trip for those who enjoy the road less traveled. The North Rim or "other side" of the Grand Canyon is visited by only 10% of all Grand Canyon visitors. The hike across the canyon from South Rim to North Rim is 21 miles. However, driving from the South Rim to the North Rim by car requires a five-hour drive of 220 miles. The drive itself is mainly on a long two-way road which seems to run through a great deal of American Indian land. There were several roadside Indian crafts and souvenir stands. A lot of them were deserted and falling apart. We are staying in Jacob Lake, Arizona which is still an hour away from the North Rim. There are closer RV parks but they are mainly for smaller trailers and tent campers with minimal or no hook-ups.
After we set the trailer up, we drove a short distance into an area that houses a lodge, a gift shop, a gas station and a Kaibab Plateau Visitors Center. We filled up the truck with fuel and visited the gift shop and visitors center. This area is very different from the South Rim, it's 1000 feet higher in elevation so it's cooler and greener. Here there are trees. Pine trees, aspen trees, all kinds of trees – how I’ve missed them.
Friday 6/22/2018 We left for our hour drive into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon this morning. It was a very scenic drive and once we entered through the gates it opened into a flat grass filled meadow. And it was full of buffalo! We had to stop and let the herd cross the road and while we did we took plenty of photos. We really enjoyed watching the baby buffaloes leap in the air and try to get their mothers to play with them.
Our first stop was the visitors center and then the lodge which has about 100 rustic cabins situated on the grounds. We walked into the lodge and out through the back where there is a large patio with wooden chairs that you can relax on and view the canyon. We walked down and out to a viewing platform right from that patio. Then we walked the Bright Angel Trail for about a quarter of a mile to another viewing platform which had beautiful views. This side of the canyon is not as hectic as the south side. Because it’s so remote there are no tour buses or trains dropping off hundreds of people.
We drove to another trail, called the North Kaibab Trail, which was less than two miles away. This is another trail that goes down into the canyon so we only walked down for 15 minutes and then we turned around and hiked back up. It probably took us 45 minutes to walk back up – as we took a lot of rest and shade breaks. This is also the trail that the mules trek down with riders twice a day. They are held in a corral near the parking lot.
Saturday 6/23/2018 Yesterday we hiked a while on the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim and we began the hike at the spot where they corral the mules that they use on the mule trips. We took several pictures and then we began walking. On the way back, we had to move over for a few mules and riders that were coming our way. We’ve always toyed with the idea of riding a mule down into the canyon but were a little bit leery as the trail is so narrow and winding. We were also of the belief that you had to make reservations for the mule trips months or a year in advance. Maybe that’s true on the more popular South Rim but when on a whim we decided to go to the lodge desk where they make the reservations and were told that they had openings for the next morning at 7:25 am. So, we made a quick decision to give it a try.
We had to get up early and leave by 6 am and begin the hour trip to the lodge to meet a shuttle bus that would take us from the lodge to the North Kaibab Trailhead. There were a total of 19 people, young and old going on the mule ride. When we arrived at the corral, the head wrangler split us into groups of about six and assigned us the mules he thought would be the best fit. I rode Moonshine and Rose rode Lydia. Then we saddled up and each group took off with their own guide (our guide’s name was Kitty) and began the trek down into the canyon. We rode about two miles on the trail, much of it rocky, steep with a lot of sharp switchbacks. It was a little unnerving at first, but we soon began to trust our mules knew what they were doing. We dismounted at a spot called the Supai Tunnel where we could get a drink of water, use the pit toilets and then take a short walk through a tunnel to a beautiful spot to view the Grand Canyon. We took pictures and roamed around for about a half hour and then we had to saddle up once again and begin the long climb up. The round trip took about three hours. We really do feel for the mules as it had become quite hot and it is a steep climb. The mules aren’t given any water, our guide said they don’t need it. We’re not sure we agree but hope they’re right. They seem to spend a lot of time already saddled up and tied to the fence in the corral and there’s no shade. We debated whether to even take the mule ride because we worried about the mule’s safety and comfort. But they’ve been doing it for 40 years here and they say the mules actually work for 25 years. Doesn’t seem possible that a mule could walk up and down that canyon for 25 years. We appreciated their hard work and enjoyed our guide so it was a great experience. We know it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and had to take it so we wouldn’t have any regrets.
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