The Breakfast Club
An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn.


The Knife & Fork



Breakfast Club Visits Page, Ranch House Grille

Spends Weekend at Grand Canyon, North Rim

15 Sep 2007
by Warren McIlvoy

The September edition of the Breakfast Club event was a combination fly-in and 3-day weekend stay-over. Our last attempt at this was in May when we planned to fly into Calexico for breakfast and then fly on to Catalina Island for a 3-day/2-night stay in Avalon. Everything was fine until three days prior to our scheduled departure. Someone decided to set fire to the island that forced evacuations from Avalon and closed the island to air traffic. So much for a relaxing three day stay on the beach.

This time our combo fly-in and stay-over was to Page, Arizona and then on to the Grand Canyon, North Rim. The culprit this time was predicted foul weather during the time frame that we would be traveling home on Monday afternoon. That omen was sufficient enough to squelch the plans for the vast majority of the North Rim group but, for four intrepid
Breakfast Club people, it turned out to be a picture perfect weekend to a place unlike any other.

The breakfast fly-in portion of the weekend was favored with great Saturday weather for the trip to Page. A slight tail-wind gave our ground speed a slight increase but also contributed to the light turbulence that seems to reside over the geography that we call the Mogollon Rim. While talking to many of the
Breakfast Club group, we stayed just to the east of the Flagstaff airspace while aligning our course to essentially follow state route 89 to Page.

On the south side of the San Francisco Peaks, we fly over lush green forests and, most obviously, the City of Flagstaff. After flying through the "gap" (this is the space between Humphry’s Peak and the cinder cones to the east of route 89), the geography abruptly changes to high plateaus dotted by volcanic vents and cinder cones. The color also changes from the forest greens to vivid reds, grays, and blacks with nary a tree in sight. The Echo Cliffs now come into view as they begin just to the west of Tuba City and terminates at the junction of the Vermillion Cliffs and the Colorado River in Marble Canyon.

By this time, some of the early arrivals of the
Breakfast Club have reached Page and soon we are listening in on the arrival activity on the radio. After landing on runway 15, I taxied to the ramp just to the north of Classic Aviation, our morning host and transportation suppliers. The Ranch House Grille is about 1.5 miles from the airport so the two trips to get all of us together, did not take very long. We were all seated in a cluster of tables that kept us in relatively close proximity. During breakfast, we discussed canceling the Grand Canyon portion of the fly-in but since there was another aircraft that was due in at 1100, I said that I would stay and talk to them.

Day One

After Austin Erwin and Rob Mooers arrived, I spoke with them about possibly canceling the Grand Canyon portion of the fly-in due to the prognostication of foul weather for our Monday trip home. They were obviously disappointed since this was to be their first trip to the North Rim. Following our discussion of our options, Austin called FSS and spoke to a briefer about Monday's weather along the route from Page to Phoenix. The briefer said that the cloud bases around Flagstaff would be around 12,000' msl with some widely scattered thunderstorms. The clouds would be scattered and at about 10,000' in the Phoenix area. This information was music to our ears and we decided to make a go of the Grand Canyon, North Rim. After securing our rental car from Avis, I drove onto the ramp to get our gear from the aircraft. My wife and I had one standard size suitcase and our one, small cooler. I then drove over to Rob's and Austin's aircraft to load their gear. Between the two of them, they had enough gear to support a 2-week safari to the darkest reaches of the Amazon. What was once an ample sized trunk, was now popping rivets when we closed the trunk lid. Since neither of our late comers had eaten breakfast, we decided to try and locate a sandwich shop on our way out of town. On the southern fringes, we spotted a Subway shop and pulled-in to get them some grub. The adventure begins.

We departed the Page area heading south on state route 89A which eventually descends down the face of the Echo Cliffs until it joins with state route 89. A course reversal now has us heading north along the western face of the cliffs until we cross the Navajo Bridge at Marble Canyon. Another course reversal has us heading south along the eastern face of the
Vermillion Cliffs. This whole area is dominated by monoliths of sandstone that display vibrant ribbons of deep maroons and browns separated by layers of white limestone. Eventually we reach the southern end of this colorful geologic wonder. State route 89 now turns west with the southern horizon now framed by the eastern end of the Kaibab Plateau. After about 30-miles of non-descript plateau land, the road now begins its relentless climb up the Kaibab until we reach a neat little place called Jacob's Lake. Jacobs Lake is a remote but pleasing oasis where one can continue westward to the Arizona Strip or turn south to the north entrance of the Grand Canyon. In this location, you can buy supplies for a hunting or camping trip, stay a night in one of the motel rooms or cabins, buy a soft serve ice cream cone, or even have a good breakfast or dinner. At this same location is the Kaibab Visitors' Center. Here, one can sense a feeling that you are about to enter a very special place.

We are now heading south on state route 67 with the North Rim Lodge being a mere 45-miles away. The road twists and turns as we continue our climb up the Kaibab as we are dwarfed by tall pines, firs, and groves of Aspens, some just beginning the change to Fall colors and yet others apparently, not aware that summer is about over. There are stretches of the road that are straight as an arrow bordered by wide, flat meadows that would provide an ideal location for an airstrip to make this trek dramatically shorter. At the North Rim Gate, I learned that I could get an "old geezers" card for a mere $10 that is good for life and at any and all National Parks. It also allowed the "young-ins" in the back seat into the park for this same $10.

The road resumed its usual twisting and turning, ascending and descending, right up to the point of reaching the area of the North Rim Lodge. We had finally arrived, 2-hours and 45-minutes and 128 miles later. I parked the car as close to the Lodge as possible and we then walked the rest of the way to begin our registration process. My wife and I had booked one the "motel suites" and the more adventuresome Rob and Austin booked one of the more rustic cabins. It is also a wise move at this time to book you dinning reservations as this is the only dinning facility (save for the deli next door) within 45-miles.

Calling the North Rim Lodge, a lodge, is a bit of a misnomer. There is no lodging in the lodge. The first accommodations are the cabins. The more deluxe cabins are the closest with the more "frontier like" cabins being next in line. As such, Rob & Austin unloaded their gear and I then moved the car to the north end of the parking area to move our gear to the motel "suite". The motel rooms are reasonably well equipped for the area, but are somewhat small. The queen-sized bed that I affectionately called an "iron maiden", does not offer a comfortable nights rest. I am fully aware that we are in a remote location but there is no reason that the mattresses have replaced the coil springs with a slab of concrete. The well-equipped lavatory area is adjacent to the sleeping area and even has a coffee maker (I needed that in the early morning). The bathroom is very small with the commode being wedged between the small shower and the wall. When sitting on the "porcelain thrown" you are wedged so tight that you could fall asleep and have no fear of falling off. The shower is so small that if you were to drop the bar of soap, upon bending over, your derriere would be out in the cold. Oh well, what do you want for a mere $110 per night?

The Lodge is the hub of all activity on the North Rim. In the early evening folks are gathered around either for their evening meal or the traditional picture taking of the sunsets. The once brilliant colors of the Canyon formations and now muted by the low angle of the sun. If it isn't too windy, there is a fire in the outdoor fireplace accompanied by one of the park rangers giving a talk on some canyon subject. Today, it was windy so there was no fire or outdoor talk. Across from the dinning hall, there is large meeting room or lecture hall that is used nightly at about 7:00PM. This evening's presentation was given by a park ranger about his 3-day trek across the canyon with a small group. Their hike started from the north rim in March while this part of the Park was closed and still deep in snow. As they descended the Kaibab Trail, the climate changed to near summer conditions as they reached Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon two days later. Our first day ended as we "crashed" on the "iron maiden" and we drifted off to sleep with the window open and listening to the winds wrestling in the tops of the nearby trees.

Day Two

Rob had arisen by "O dark thirty" to get some photos of the sunrises. We had agreed to meet at the Lodge dinning room by 0730 for breakfast. The Lodge dinning room is quite large with high beamed ceilings and large picture window dominating the south and west walls. Window seats are preferred to take-in the panorama of Nature's wonder that sprawled before us. The cuisine is quite Continental with a Western flair. Fine China and glassware with linen napkins are the rule of the day. The prices are not the cheapest in town (come to think of it, they are the only prices in town) but the food is very good so you don't mind that much.

After breakfast, we had intended to partake in the 1-hour nature hike that begins at the visitors center but we found out when we arrived that the hike had started 45-minutes before we got there; Oh well. Rob and I decided to meet at the deli at about 1030 to get some sandwiches for our picnic at Point Imperial. We departed the Lodge area at about 1015 and headed for our first photo shoot at Pt. Imperial. It did not take very long to get there and, like the day before, it was quite windy. The broken layer of clouds offered the opportunity to get some photos that we rarely get to shoot. The shadows on the mesas made the colors of the unshaded formations just that much more vivid. The panorama to the north and east offered views of the
Vermillion Cliffs and the distant Painted Desert, that were all the more inspiring. After warping-up our picture taking, we concluded that it was a tad too early for our picnic lunch so we chose to have our picnic at Cape Royal instead.

When we reached to fork in the road to take us to Cape Royal, there were barricades in one lane and a camper truck with what appeared to be fire fighters manning the checkpoint. The firefighters informed us that there was an active forest fire along the highway to Cape Royal. Apparently a recent policy changes by the Forest Service to use fire to manage the forests rather than to snuff-out all fires. They warned us that there could be fallen tree trunks across the road and to exercise caution. About 5-miles down the highway, we began to notice wafts of smoke in the woods and, as we moved further south,  it became much denser. We came across portions of the highway were the asphalt showed distinct indications of fire damage. It wasn't until we were about 4-5 miles north of Cape Royal that we saw open flames in one small area on one side of the road. They were only about 4-5 feet high but none the less it was definitely open fire.

We finally reached the parking area that marked the trail head that would take us to the Angles Window overlook and then to the Cape Royal overlook. Angles Window is a narrow rocky projection that is perpendicular to the surrounding cliffs with a large, rectangular hole in it. When viewed from an opposing overlook, you can see the Colorado River in the distance. A little further down the trail, there is a side trail that will take you to the rocky projection that has the Angles Window in it. You can walk out onto the projection to get a view of the Canyon like no other. There are, of course, guard rails to keep one from just walking out into space. Backtracking on this short trail will take you back to the main trail to Cape Royal.

Cape Royal, in my humble opinion, is most likely one of the prettiest places on the face of the planet. Standing by the guard rail, you have a 180-degree, unobstructed view of the Grand Canyon. It was at this point on our last visit that I had run out of film in my disposable camera. That incident prompted the purchase of my current digital camera and this time I got plenty of pictures. The broken clouds being pushed along by the high winds provided a show of color that was absolutely unreal. The monoliths and canyons below would take on different color patterns every few moments as the shadows danced across their shapes and colors. The sight was unbelievable and awe-inspiring. I just stood their thinking about how some folks with a better grasp of the vernacular, would be inspired to write volumes about just such a scene as this. This is a portion of the Grand Canyon like no other and, due to its remoteness, is witnessed by few people. I am truly blessed as this is my second visit to this idyllic location and, though I took many pictures, the scene is forever etched in my memory banks.

By now it was about 1:00 and time for our picnic lunch. Across the parking lot was a short trail to a place that was noted on the trail head sign as a "picnic and wedding site"-how apropos. My wife and I along with Rob and Austin found a couple of tables that afforded a view of the canyon through the trees. As we sat there eating our lunch, I thought to myself of what sort of memories would be afforded to a wedding party to have your wedding take place in a place such as this. All to soon it was time to depart this magical place and head back to the Lodge. We had made our dinner reservations right after breakfast and the only open times were at 5:30 and 8:00, we took 5:30.

We arrived back at the Lodge with several hours to spare before dinner so we went to our respective rooms to rest-up. I kicked-off my shoes and laid down on the "iron maiden" for a short nap. The hard bed didn't feel so bad after all.

Our dinner, like the night before, was great and leisurely. Austin suggested that we might want to spend the evening playing Euchre. My wife and I had heard of the game but not a clue as how to play. Well, Rob and Austin volunteered to teach us. The adjoining Saloon appeared to be a great choice of venues to play cards. So, for the next three hours, we sat there sopping-up brews (in my case, coffee) and just enjoying the evening. In review, the day featured hiking, viewing the Grand Canyon from unbelievable vistas, the comradery with friends, a great dinner, and relaxing in the saloon playing cards; What a perfect way to end a perfect day.

The Monday morning plan was an 0830 departure from the Lodge and breakfast at Jacob's Lake. We did this on our last trip and found the breakfast to be well above average. Allowing an hour for breakfast would put us back at the airport at around 1130. I dropped-off Rob and Austin in front of Classic aviation so that they could get the gate opened so we could offload our gear. While I returned the car to Avis, Austin got a weather briefing that confirmed what we had heard on Saturday morning. I departed on runway 33 to make a wide left downwind departure that took us over the top of the Glen Canyon Dam. The ride to Flagstaff offered a constant 20-knot headwind out of the southwest and the mostly constant light to moderate turbulence, made use of the auto-pilot; a lost cause. As we neared Flagstaff, the headwind picked-up to about 30-knots and the ride in the "gap" was exciting at best. We were largely along for the ride for about 15-minutes. The clouds at FLG were as advertised but the stormscope did not detect any electrical activity in the area. Austin and Rob were about 20-minutes behind me so I would give them advance information on what to expect. About midway across the Verde Valley, the stormscope did pick-up some activity that appeared to be somewhat east of Payson and nothing in front of us for at least 100-miles. Other than the turbulence, the entire return trip was uneventful-just the way that I like it.

Since it was the first visit to the North Rim for both Rob and Austin, I have asked them to write a paragraph or two about their impressions of the North Rim.

Austin's Views

"What can I say that hasn't been said before about The Grand Canyon's north rim? The view was spectacular. It is so immense; To me it looked as if it was some work of art on a painter's canvas because it is just so big, deep, still, and impressive to view. Spending time exploring the area as well as sitting in one spot taking in the panorama was time well spent."

-Austin Erwin

Rob's Views

When I came to Arizona, 8 years ago, one of the first things I did was to go to the Grand Canyon south rim like almost everyone does. The canyon was one of the best sites that I have ever gone to, and I have had an annual pass ever since. It took me 8 years to make it to the north rim and it was worth the extra effort to get there.

What I noticed first was that the majority of the visitors were not rushing around trying to race thru the scenery. They took the time to get there and they were going to enjoy it.

Our group's first activity was to sit down in Adirondack chairs on the outdoor patio of the lodge and watch the sun go down. After the sun went down the group met in the lodge for dinner, and to my surprise the menu was upper class. After the waiter steered us away from some of the entrees that were being prepared with canned ingredients (because we were there late in the season) rather then the fresh that was used early in the season, we enjoyed a very nice meal. They had several nice wines at least that was what I was told by the wine aficionado of our group.

The next day (at least for me) started early when I woke up to hike the trail in front of the lodge to Bright Angels Point, to watch the sunrise (don't you just hate morning people). The winds were wicked and made me regret my choice of cargo shorts, but the view was worth the pain. After breakfast (get the buffet) we took the car and drove to Point Imperial, Angel's Window, and Cape Royal. I don't know if this is true but for me it felt like the islands in the canyon were a lot closer to the edge on the north rim, then they are on the south rim. The night ended by teaching euchre to Warren and Jeri and playing cards till bed time. Like true aviators even though we were standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon we started arguing about which rock in the distance was Zuni Bravo, of the Zuni Corridor.

All in all this was a memorable trip, the cabins were rustic but clean. They were roomier then I expected with separate rooms and a shared bathroom, great for bringing the kids. I was laughed at for bringing my laptop, but since there was plenty of free time between activities and no TV, I was glad to have it to download my pictures at the end of the day and reflect on how many wonders there are in this country, and that one of the greatest is in our own backyard.

-Rob Mooers

The Page Gang

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1 & 1.5
  • John & Pat Rynearson in 3501S
  • Trent Heidtke and Tim & Ramona ? , BC-112
  • Austin Goodwin and Gary Mayberry, BC-317
  • Jerry & Diane Kapp with Roy Coulliette and Ruth Wallace in 5658K
  • Sam Foote, Richard Spiegel, Julie Katzin, and Mike Darling in 15040, BC-3, BC-75, and BC-53
  • Larry Jensen and Glen Yoder in 14LS, BC-75 and BC-007
  • Bob Jackson and Craig Albright in 857CD


The North Rim Group

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy, BC-1 and 1.5
  • Rob Mooers and Austin Erwin

What's Next?

The October Breakfast Club event has been switched from Lake Havasu to Bisbee, Arizona.  We will be having our breakfast at the historic Copper Queen Hotel.  The folks at the Bisbee airport have agreed to supply us with vehicles so we can get into town.  In November, we will be traveling south to Nogales and the Rio Rico Resort.  That's all for now be remember, fly safe.

Click on this link Page & Grand Canyon, North Rim to view photos of this fly-in event.  Rob Mooers has graciously forwarded some of his favorites to this photo album.