Grand Canyon – North Rim

The grand canyon was an amazing site to see, it almost looked fake standing at the top of the rim and looking around. It was also a complete surprise for me, when I thought grand Canyon I did not think Canadian Forrest. When I thought grand Canyon I thought desert, but driving into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon you drive through grassy fields surrounded Forrest and then not long after you go through the entrance gate you are completely surrounded by it. It was a welcome change in scenery.

Drive in to Grand Canyon North Rim

I headed straight for the information centre, I knew that I had to get a permit to do an overnight hike into the Canyon so I wanted to know about that as I was hoping to hike down to the river the next day and stay the night then hike back. Turns out the permits were organised by the back-country office which I had driven straight passed on the way in and I would be pushed to get back to in time before they shut, so I would have to see them in the morning when they opened. While I was there I checked out the canyon viewing area, a short walk from the Visitor center.

Roaring springs Canyon
Roaring Springs Canyon, which I would be hiking down.
looking across at the south rim

Afterwards I headed back outside of the park to the National Forest to find a campsite for the night (you can camp for free in dispersed camping in a NF) the ranger had given me a map of the National forest dispersed camping. Heading out of the National park when you get an intersection with forest road 22 to left and forest road 611 to the right, you can take either of these and find camping, I took the right as suggested by the ranger and followed 611 to forest road 610 which I followed all the way to the end. I’m not sure if I took a wrong turn somewhere, because I was under the impression that I would come out on the edge of the canyon from what the ranger had said, but the road finished still in the forest. The sun was getting low now so I found myself a park and set up camp, there was a fire-pit set-up from a previous camper and being a little cooler here I decided to start a fire. I collected some branches and logs from around the area then used some pine-cones and a clump of the dry ground coverings as kindling. I was amazed and a little bit alarmed at how well the ground coverings lit and started the fire… I had a nice roaring fire, but now was concerned I might start a wildfire so I sat and watched the fire whilst editing photos till it burned down a bit and I then doused it with water and retired to the warmth of the van, it was too stressful with the fire going.

The next morning I woke had breakfast and headed to the Back-country office. The ranger there was extremely helpful, the hikes were actually allot longer than I had expected. He suggested I do the hike I wanted  over 3 days, on the first day hike to the Cottonwood campsite, then use the next day to hike to the river and back, stay the night again at the cottonwood campsite and then hike back to the top on the third, but I wouldn’t be able to start that until the following day as I couldn’t get a permit for that night. So I considered it for a while, but decided to just do a day hike, stay the night again in the forest then check out the other part of the park tomorrow. The ranger also point me in the right direction for the dispersed camping on the rim.

I headed back up to the North Kiabab Trailhead to begin the hike. The Kiabab trail follows the roaring springs canyon in from the north and I believe you can follow it all the way to the south rim.

The first part of the hike is a bunch of sandy switchbacks in the trees, I didn’t really enjoy this part, I hate hiking in sand and there is an overwhelming stench of Mule droppings. Luckily there were amazing views down the valley to distract you a little.

The next section, i like to call the red section, the switchbacks became shorter and steeper, with very little cover form the sun. There wee quite a few people turning around here, I think the ranger who was warning/discouraging people at the spring earlier had got to them. Not me I had only been hiking for about an hour and hadn’t even broken a sweat (figuratively, not literally it was f’n hot down there haha) .

After that the trail flattens out a little more and winds along the edge of the canyon, there are still odd steep parts.

It took me about 2h to get to the roaring springs rest area, here there was a chemical toilet and tapped spring where you could fill up you bottle, the roaring spring itself was pretty amazing. It was roaring out of somewhere in the rocks above and flowing down the rocks to the valley below. I stayed here for a little bit, filled up with water, ate some food and dipped my legs in the spring for a bit. I then continued on down the trail for a bit longer, but decided to turn around as it was getting into the afternoon and I knew the trip up would take a few hours.

Roaring Springs
Roaring Springs
The trail continuing down into the canyon
Looking up Bright Angel Canyon, Roaring springs Canyon to the left
Not that far back….
Another furry friend

 

I didn’t find the hike back too bad, the first part where your winding along the canyon wall you get plenty of relief from the sun which is nice. Once you hit the Red section though you are completely exposed to the sun and all its glory, there are a few small trees/shrubs that you can get a little bit of relief, but not many and they are usually already occupied. I just put my head down and powered through, taking small sips of water along the way, but I knew that there was shade a few k’s up and the trail. I passed quite a few people, including a group I had gone past on the way down who hadn’t made it much further along the trail at all (it had been a few hours) then a little further up the trail nearly at the first spring of the trail I ran into a couple more guys from that group who recognised me, they told me that they had run out of water so were going to get more for the group ( a bit unnerving). Once I got to the spring I waited in the shade for the guys to get there and chatted to an older lady who’s husband had gone back down to take water to another guy who was struggling. When the two guys arrived a few of us donated some water bottles to them, I had my camlebak so just refilled that and gave them my 3 other half liter backup bottles. The rest of the trail went pretty quick, I ended up finishing with the older couple who I had been chatting, so we talked the rest of the way up. Provided a little bit of a distraction from the damn stench of the Mule droppings.

The hike took about 5.5hours, I think my watch said something like 20ks. I really enjoyed it and didn’t find it too hard, but could see how it would catch people out. For one it’s reverse to most hikes, you start at the top and hike to the bottom then have to work your way back up, you also climb up in altitude at the end which combined with exhaustion wouldn’t be a good mix. It is also mostly a very exposed trail so the heat of the sun can easily get to you.

After I got back to my car I headed to the North Rim Campsite to use the showers and buy a Gatorade to get some fluids and electrolytes back into me, before heading back out of the park to find another campsite for the night. Again I went left along forest road 611 but this time I kept right and stayed on 611, heading for saddle mountain overlook. Along the way I ran into a group of you guys who had gotten a flat, so I pulled over and offered some help (I know what it’s like haha), so I helped them change the tyre and they invited me to stay with them, we were both headed to the same place, so I followed them. Not much further along I see some movement in front of their car then bursting out of the forest onto the road comes a herd of bison, they charged across the road into the forest on the other side, it was pretty amazing to see, I never really thought of bison being in a forest. I had seen signs on the grassy plains to watch for bison but hadn’t thought they would be deep into the forest.


After they had cleared out we continued on to the campsite and what a spit, a little further on the forest opened up and we were in a small clearing on the edge of the canyon. There were a few other cars and RV’s around, the best drive up spot was taken, but I found a spot then went and joined my new friends. I couldn’t get my car into where they had set up camp but it was a pretty damn good spot. We had dinner and then played some cards, but some rain came through and ruined that pretty quickly so we retired to accommodation for the night.

Not a bad place to camp and completely free
New friends

The next day I headed back into the national park to check out the other side. There were a few short little walks to some different viewpoints looking over different parts of the grand canyon.

Looking across at Angels Window
View from Angels Window, Colorado River in the distance
Colorado River
To think this little river is mostly responsible for this massive Canyon
Cape Royal Point
View from Cape Royal Point

 

Next Stop Zion National Park.

Page and Kanab

In the morning I checked out Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. Unfortunately the lift was broken so I couldn’t go down into the power plant, but it was still amazing to see and learn about. Such an engineering feat considering it was built in the 1950’s. I will also be hitting up Hoover Dam so hopefully I can go down into the power plant then.

Glen Canyon Dam

Lake Powell
Lake Powell

The next stop I planned on hiking into The Wave just out of Kanab in Utah after about an hour of driving on red, wash-boarded dirt roads I arrived at the trail-head. There wasn’t allot of information about the wave trail and it was later in the day so I went and asked a couple who had just come out of the trail. They informed me that you had to enter a ballot to hike to the wave, at this point the Ranger turned up. I had a chat to her for a bit, and apparently only 20 people a day can do the wave hike, 10 passes are allocated online months in advance and the other 10 are drawn the day before at 9am bingo ball style. Oops my research, which involved seeing a photo of the wave and its location and thinking that looks cool ill do that, didn’t tell me this, so I headed into Kanab.

On the road to The Wave
View on the Way back out
This little Coyote ran across the road in front of me

As I had a Skype interview in a couple of days and being the biggest town in the area I stayed two nights, it was also the location of the Wave ticket office, so each morning I put my name down but was unlucky :-(.

On the second day I visited Best Friends Animal Society a massive animal sanctuary just outside of Kanab where they rescue animals, mostly dogs and cats. I was hoping to get a bit of a Dog fix, but on the tour you only got to spend time with one dog. The tour was interesting though and inspiring to see what they were doing. They are working with shelters all over the country to try to help reduce the amount of animals going into shelters, as well as leading a no-kill initiative. After that I headed to the Coral pink sand dunes which were these amazing orange-red dunes, I wandered around there for a while before heading back to kanab.

While I waited for my tour at Best Friends I managed to finally snap a hummingbird in action



After my interview the next day I headed to the Grand canyon.

Moab to Page AZ

What a day, in the morning I got up and headed to the Mill Canyon Dinosaur trails. A short drive out of town on 191 you turn off onto Mill Canyon Rd and follow the signs. It was only a short walk from the Car Park to the viewing area where they’ve installed some boardwalks and information boards that highlight some of the prints and what they belonged to. I was surprised at just how many prints there were, it was amazing and pretty surreal to see footprints from Dinosaurs perfectly preserved in what used to be the bed of a spring, it really felt like I was walking with giants.

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Next up was Monument Valley, I didn’t actually go into Monument Valley National Park but stopped off for lunch. Driving in was pretty amazing seeing the massive sandstone buttes rising up from the desert floor.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Finally before heading into Page for the night I visited Horseshoe Bend. Wow, what an amazing sight; you take a short hike from the car park over a hill until you come to the outside rim of a massive canyon where the Colorado river wraps around on its self some 300m below making this massive horseshoe, it was an awesome sight to see.

Horseshoe Bend

Me Horseshoe Bend

I then headed into Page to get some stuff and stayed the night on some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land just outside of Page. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet, but you can camp on BLM land for free, there’s a few rules which you can look up and no facilities, but I’ve stayed on it a few times now and it works well. I’ve been using this website to find most of my camping freecampsites.net.

Colorado – Mesa Verde Day 1

My first stop on my way to Colorado was actually an unplanned stop in a small town called Chama, NM. Don’t worry it wasn’t for any car troubles, but for a friend, Tegan, She is obsessed with trains (might have something to do with her job at Queensland rail, but I worked for an AC company…. I don’t have an obsession with AC’s). I had seen all these signs for the Cumbres & Toltec scenic steam train so I decided to have a look. It was only 3-4km’s off track so no big deal. As I pulled up in the train station car park I saw a steam engine puffing along towing another behind, I found a park got my camera and went for a look. I watched for a while as they ‘fueled up’ (added coal to the Tender), and moved around the tracks. It was pretty interesting to, they also didn’t seem to care if you walked around the tracks to have a closer look, I followed others.

Cambres & Toltec Steam Train

Cambres & Toltec Steam Train
‘Fueling Up’

Back on the Road I hit Colorado. Although my stay in Colorado was short it was beautiful and amazing from the moment I crossed the state line. As I entered Colorado The sun was shining and in front of me rose these amazing mountains. My first stop was for lunch in a pretty little town called Pagosa Springs (yes they are hot springs). I found the town park which was a cute like park with some nice green grass, picnic tables and playground set on the banks of the San Juan River. After my chicken, Avocado and Mayo wrap I sat and enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air for a little bit, then wet for a short stroll along the river. It was a pretty active river, people wise that is; there were some people floating down the river from up stream in inflatable tubes; a few fly fisherman; and down stream a bit further I could see a watering whole where people were swimming and sunbathing on the rocks, It was a very Nice town and I was tempted to stay the night, but decided to keep moving.

I arrived at my final destination, Mesa Verde National, at about 3:30-4pm. I stopped at the visitor centre to get some information on the sights in the park; Mesa Verde is home to Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings. A few of the Dwellings were only accessible on tours and I thought It would be good to get some more insight into the fascinating structures. At only $5 a tour I decided to do 3; Balcony House, Long House and Cliff Palace. Balcony house was that evening at 5 so I got moving as it was an hour drive through the park to where the tour took place. I was lucky enough to arrive at the park on it’s birthday so entry was free (usually USD$25/car I believe), the road twists and turns its way up and along the cliffs, until you get on-top to the Mesa (Plateau, Mesa verde translates to Green Plateau) then its relatively straight. The drive is quite scenic with lots of views over the valley way down bellow.

Valley View
The Balcony house tour stars with a short walk to some steps that take you down onto the side of the cliff, then along a path to a 9 meter or so wooden rung ladder to get you up and into the balcony house. Here we learned that all of the cliff dwellings are built on or near seep springs, a point in the sandstone where the more porous sandstone meets harder rock and the water that has filtered down from the Mesa above is forced out, this was their water source. Balcony house is from the 13th Century so approximately 700 years old and was built around the time they were transitioning from a hunter gatherer nomadic society to a Sedentary society farming on Mesa above. It was amazing how intact and well preserved it was considering its age, with original decorative paintings still visible.

Cliff Dwelling across the Canyon

Balcony House

Balcony
Here you can see the different layering they used in the balconies
Original wall decorations

The tour was excellent a informative, afterwards I headed back to the Campground. One of the more expensive ones at $30 or so, but pretty with free wifi throughout (projected from the restrooms) and showers available. I also didn’t have to pay entry so evens it out.

Taos to Heron Lake

The drive from Taos to Heron Lake was full of surprises. First was the Rio Grande gorge Bridge an arch bridge that spans across the Rio Grande Gorge, I stopped here for a little bit and went for a wander, it was pretty sweet standing on the bridge and looking down into the gorge.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge NM

Next not long after leaving the bridge I stumbled across Earthship Biotecture community, these crazily designed houses are made from natural and up-cycled materials, the main one being rammed tyres which a friend of mine had told me about a few years ago. I stopped and had a gander, unfortunately the visitor center was shut so I couldn’t take a look inside, but I believe some of the buildings can be rented. They were very intriguing indeed, some looking like they had greenhouses inside them and lots of hatches and windows that opened I assume to make the most of natural ventilation instead of AC. I would’ve loved to take a look inside.

Earthship BIotecture Taos
Earthship BIotecture Taos
Earthship BIotecture Taos
Earthship BIotecture Taos

for the next few miles there were more and more of these crazy houses.
Next I entered the Carson National Forrest which was a beautiful drive, then I came round one corner and had this amazing view of the valley bellow, sun beaming through rain on the mountains in the distance.

Sun Through the rain

Then I left the Carson national park… and the road turned to shit easily the worst kept road I have been on so far, but I made it to Heron lake (which was my stop for the night) without a flat haha. I stopped at the Blanco Campground.


Location:Blanco Campground Heron Lake NM
Address: NM-95, Los Ojos, NM 87551
GPS: 36.692402, -106.656725
Cost: $15 ( for non hookup I think)
Facilities: Restroom with shower, picnic tables, camp BBQ’s, full RV hookup, hiking


The campsite was pretty nice, nestled in among the trees. Another self pay, but they do take reservations. It seemed pretty popular with lots of RV’s there was also lake access with a boat ramp just down the road at the Marina. The next morning I got up and going pretty early, first stop the Heron Dam also down the road. It wasn’t a very exciting Dam but the lake looked spectacular, sun was out and nearly a millpond it made me really wish I had a boat so I could go water skiing.

Blanco Campsite
Campsite – Blanco Campground
Heron Lake
Heron Lake