Mountains and Canyons. Day 9: Down the Staircase

(Editor’s note: more words for now…photos as and when Wi-fi gets them there…)

Got up when the alarm went off. This is quite remarkable because for the first time this trip, we both slept right through the night. Made coffee. Organised the suitcases and put out what we wanted. Made more coffee. Showered and got ready.

After checking out, we ran a few errands – got fuel, bought new cycling water bottles (because I need unscratched ones that match my bike, of course..), bought sandwiches for lunch and some snack bars to top up our supplies, then finally went to Cafe Soleil for breakfast. A leisurely affair, whilst we maximised use of their Wi-fi to get the blog photos and videos uploaded.

We set off on an approximately 5 hour trip, to find the satnav saying we would arrive in 4 hours time. The clocks went back in the UK last weekend, and here in the US next weekend. I had temporarily forgotten that Arizona, today’s destination, doesn’t observe daylight saving time in any case, so for us, the clocks went back today. By the time we go to Utah, their clocks will have gone back, so there won’t be any further time change. Of course, because I forgot, Andrew has now missed claiming an extra hour’s lie in one day…!

Andrew drove the first part through Zion Tunnel, then through the Park (east side) along Highway 9, while I snapped away with the camera. Sometime I must hike down the dry river bed, because it is really beautiful.

We pulled in briefly at the services at Mount Carmel Junction, and then again 16 miles further down the road (US 89) at the Willow Canyon bookstore, gear and coffee shop in Kanab. Kanab has certainly grown since we last drove this way, but it has probably been 7 years or so since we passed this way. After a browse, we bought vanilla lattes and set off, choosing to take the scenic route 89-A.

This soon climbed up and we stopped at Le Havre viewpoint, where there was a fantastic panorama of the Vermilion Cliffs, Zion cliffs and Bryce cliffs…the Grand Staircase. We took photos, but it is hard to capture something so vast.

Back on the road and into the Kaibab National Forest. They had a controlled burn under way, which apart from creating smoke was quite fascinating. And a little spooky. They appeared to have set fire to tree stumps to thin out the combustible undergrowth, and very few trees were alight. Despite this, there was a lot of smoke, even though it was mostly blowing away from the road. It is easy to understand how bad the smoke must be in a wildfire situation, even if the flames haven’t reached you.

Past the fire, we descended again towards the plateau and back along the base of the cliffs. As we approached Marble Canyon, we took the turn for Lee’s Ferry National Recreation Area, the site of the original crossing of the Colorado River and the only location in hundreds of miles where the canyon walls are gradual enough to permit access in both sides. We parked by the river for lunch and then walked down to the water. It was 24C. I couldn’t resist a paddle when I saw the ‘beach’! This is also the official start of the Grand Canyon National Park.

My turn then to drive, and a far less interesting section, although still with some nice rocks, along the busier route 89 south to the turn off towards Grand Canyon at Cameron. As we crossed the Little Colorado River we noticed that it was completely dry.

We arrived at the Desert View in time for sunset. It was cold. My eclectic clothing comprised a puffa coat, fleecy hat, shorts and sandals… The actual temperature was about 13C, but the wind was very chilling. After a few photos, noting the amount of smoke both on the horizon and making the canyon even hazier than usual, we drove on to Lipan Point.

A few more photos here, but by now the sunlight was sliding upwards out of the canyon.

We completed the drive to the Village and checked in at Maswik Lodge. Our room is an upstairs one, which I requested (but can’t be guaranteed) and it has a balcony! Now, if it could just be warm enough to use it…

After a bit of time sorting things out and finding places to stash the cases, rucksacks, bags of hiking boots and trekking poles in a way that we won’t fall over it all, we headed to the canteen for dinner. We had discovered that we can just about get (very slow) Wi-fi in the room, but it should be better in the dining hall. Should be… Actually, whilst it is slightly more reliable it is just as slow. So don’t expect too much for the next few days. And that’s it. The relaxing 250 mile drive! When I said it was a day off…I just meant there was not a hike in sight! That’s for tomorrow…!

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