Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim

Saturday, September 27th 2002

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Photograph of North Rim Grand Canyon in the early morning.The sun was not yet up but we were. We bundled up in sweaters, vests, winter coats and stocking caps. Grabbed our cameras and binoculars and headed out to watch the sun rise from Bright Angel Point. The air was cold and biting and the wind was blowing. It was a 1/4 mile walk to the point "Piece of cake," you think? WRONG!!!! At 8000+ feet, the slightest exertion makes your legs ache even a walk across the parking lot. The deep breath that was easy to take at sea level or even 4000' does not come easy up here. We headed out to join the large crowd that was waiting for the sun to rise. Tripods and cameras were every where.

Photgraph of Grand Canyon North Rim drive out to Point Imperial.The first signs were pink in the clouds - pink and grey everywhere in the sky. The coral light grew brighter in the east as the sun slowly rose. The light hit the top of the south rim across the canyon then started to spread. Then the clouds hid it and the light off the canyon walls was no more. We watched the light play on the rocks as the sun and clouds played games with each other. It was truly beautiful. Back to our room for HOT coffee and breakfast. We tried to make a little order, then headed out for the drive to Cape Royal and Point Imperial (the highest point on either rim. We were looking for the beautiful golden quaking aspens and we found them. Not as far along in their color change as we had hoped but pretty nonetheless. We spied a flock of wild turkeys and stopped to watch and take pictures. We stopped at the many overlooks for different views of the canyon and the different looks as the lighting changed. We could see beautiful while fluffy clouds but large dark storm clouds were also there. The forecast had been for a beautiful sunny day but the day before, the winds were howling and we knew it must be blowing something in.

Photograph of drive out to Point Imperial.The white barked aspens with their pale green, brilliant yellow and orange leaves make quite a contrast to the dark green of the evergreens - cinnamon barked ponderosa pines, Engelmann and blue spruce and white firs. Large stands of black skeletons reaching towards the sky interspersed with the skeletal remains of the white barked aspens were the signs of previous fires. Yet under the skeletons on the forest floor were the new growth of the aspens and the small ponderosa pines and occasionally the pink of the fireweed showing us that the fires opened the understory to the new growth. One particularly large area was caused by a controlled burn that got out of hand when a 55 mph wind sprung up. Three fires last year (caused by lighting) were also responsible for some of the burned areas.

Photograph of storm over North Rim of the Grand Canyon.When we reached the end of the road, we started to hike out to the overlook but the dark storm clouds were rolling in and we could hear the thunder boomers getting closer and closer. We decided to go back and eat our lunch in the car and wait to see what would happen. Later, we headed out again with me carrying an umbrella, we didn't get too far before the rain started and Jim headed back. The temperature had dropped and the rain became harder mixed with sleet. I waited under a tree for a while and then headed back. The view had been worth the trip. We then headed over to Point Imperial which was partially covered with fog. It was an eerie sight, as if there was a giant fog machine at the bottom of the canyon blowing heavy fog up to the top. We headed back down to our cabin and the heater and a much needed nap. It rained off and on all afternoon and heavy hail fell coating the ground with white. It pays to get up early and get your hiking and whatever done before the weather changes!!

Photograph of hike on Widfoss trail. Sunday, September 29th -

Slept later this morning but were on the road by eight for the Widforss hike we had planned for the morning. The air was crisp and cold and the wind was blowing again. We bundled up and headed out. The hike was 10 miles round trip but the brochure indicated that any part of it was worth taking. The first 2 1/2 miles were marked by numbered posts that corresponded to the narrative brochure. We had water and our cameras and started walking steadily upwards through a heavily forested area. Again the beautiful quaking aspens contrasted with the various evergreens. The sky was blue in areas with beautiful puffy white clouds and other parts had the same dark storm clouds of yesterday. We at times were hiking along the canyon rim then would return to the forested area. More pictures. More signs of forest fires from the past. The trail leveled off then climbed and dropped. Before we knew it, we had hiked the first 2 1/2 miles of the trail! Of course, that meant we had 2 1/2 miles to hike back to our car. I did fine but it proved to be a little much for Jim. Back to our room then lunch in the dining room in front of one of the big windows looking down in to the canyon. Sure enough, the rains and hail were back again but the sun would come out, then rain again. Strange weather. Winter will arrive here soon. The facilities close on the 14th of October except for day use and close altogether with the first heavy snow around mid November.

We head out tomorrow for the South Rim but not before another early morning rise to watch the sun rise on this very special place.

Photograph of Jim in front of our cabin at North Rim.
Jim in front of our cabin at North Rim.