The Breakfast Club

An Affiliate of the Arizona Pilots Assn

The Knife & Fork


Breakfast Club Grand Canyon, North Rim Adventure



26 Sep 2003
by Warren McIlvoy

I believe that I could safely speak for a vast majority of people, and certainly many of the Breakfast Club membership, that most of us have visited the south rim of the Grand Canyon on more than one occasion. I would guess that in my lifetime, that I have been to the south rim on at least a dozen occasions and this does not include another dozen or so trips over the Canyon. So when the Breakfast Club crack(ed) event committee chose the north rim as an alternate overnight event, I felt that this would be a great opportunity to visit and view the Grand Canyon from a totally different perspective. To state that this would offer a different perspective, would be a gross understatement. But let's start from the beginning.

My wife and I loaded-up 44X early on Friday morning to make our proposed 0745 departure time. The weather was absolutely beautiful and everything was right with the World again. I made radio contact with BC-201 just about the time that we entered the Verde Valley. Paul Fortune had passed just to the west of Sedona as we passed about 3 miles to the east. I informed Paul that we would be contacting Flagstaff Tower as we would be about 4 miles to the southeast as we flew through their airspace. Paul opted to bypass Flagstaff to the west and we would be to the east.

As we rounded the east side of Humphry's Peak, I half expected to see evidence of the changing seasons in the north country with the transformation of the normally green mountain side, into a vibrant splash of red and gold. Much to our chagrin, it did not happen. We must have been a bit early but I did notice a very small patch of Aspens high up on the northeast side that had some golden yellow to them. When we cleared the mountain, we were once again able to converse with one another. We joined-up again about 25 miles north of the peak and about 15 miles south of the Echo Cliffs. The Echo Cliffs look a little bit like a miniature Mogollon Rim. They run from southeast to the northwest and rise, eventually, to an elevation of about 2,000' above the valley floor as they meet the Vermillion Cliffs at Marble Canyon. Since Paul's turbo-Arrow is a bit faster than our Warrior, we soon lost him in the distance as we continued on to Page, or mornings destination.
There was supposed to be a third aircraft making the trip with us this morning but we never heard them on the radio. Since they would be in a twin, we thought that maybe that would have scheduled a later start and that any communications with them would be blocked-out by the mountains. At Page, there are two FBO's listed in the AOPA airport guide, American Aviation and Classic Aviation. As we parked on the ramp, a cart arrived with two ramp hands aboard with one from each of the FBO's. Fuel was $2.52 a gallon from both places and, since I had traded with Classic on a previous occasion, I selected them for my refueling and Paul, to be fair, choose American. We suggested that when the twin shows-up that they could each take a side to keep things even. I went into Classic Aviation to pay for the fuel and to arrange for a ride to the Ranchhouse Grille. We waited about a half hour for the other aircraft and then decided that we would head for the restaurant and when they showed-up, the van would take them there. The Ranchhouse Grille is only about a mile from the airport and is located in a very small "L" shaped shopping center. The restaurant was typical small town with very ample portions and the food was good enough to warrant consideration for a future event.

Couple #3 never made their appearance so after breakfast, the restaurant make a call to the airport and in short order, the van appeared for our ride back. As it was now almost 1100, we decided that we would wait until 1200 and then head for the north rim lodge. Avis Rent-a-car was in the main terminal building area and their weekend rate began at 1200 so we felt that another hour would not be to unreasonable. At precisely 1200 we did the paperwork at Avis and they gave us the keys to a Mitsubishi Diamonte with 400 free miles, all for $29.95 a day, not a bad deal.

I did not know exactly how far or how long it would take to get to the lodge. I knew that we needed to head south on Route 89 and look for the junction of 89 & 89A. Route 89 will take you down the face of the Echo Cliffs for a decent of 2000' to the junction with 89A. Make a right on 89A and you reverse course to the north until you get to Marble Canyon and Navajo Bridge. After crossing this familiar landmark, we reversed course again and headed generally south along the eastern face of the Vermillion Cliffs. Eventually the highway turns in a westerly direction and in a little while, we started ascending the Kaibab Plateau to an altitude of just under 8,000'.
The first sign of civilization was Jacob Lake at the turn-off to Route 67. Since we had been on the road for about an 1:45, we elected to make a rest stop and to reconnoiter what was here. I went into the Kaibab Visitor's Center first and then walked over to the Jacob Lake Inn. There was the traditional gift shop, a small general store, and a fairly good sized restaurant with a sit-down counter area along with a typical dinning room. In the general store, I purchased a 2 liter bottle of water for only $1.67, not bad for an out of the way place as this would cost $4.00 at the ballpark. These people obviously are not aware of big city pricing on these little necessities.

We climbed back into the car and it was now Paul's turn to drive the last 45 miles to the north rim lodge. By this time, my eyes stopped their twisting and turning while following highways that switched back and forth more often than a politician pandering for votes in an election year. We were now into the tall timber. There was significantly more fall colors here and the Aspens were in their fall glory. The small circular leaves would twitch in the slightest breeze giving the appearance that the entire tree was quaking. Thus the name, Quaking Aspen. This road too, had its curving and twisting moments but then it would straighten-out into mile long stretches that were bordered by wide meadows that were surrounded on three sides by tall, dense forests. We were quite obviously in a totally different environment than what we desert dwellers have become accustomed to.

The North Rim Entrance Station marked the beginning of our North Rim adventure. The highway took-on the familiar undulations and the now vertigo causing twisting and turning as we were now at 8800'. About 2-3 miles out from the Lodge, we noticed a few mules in a roped-off pen and a sign that indicated that this was the beginning of the Kaibab Trail. The first indication that we had reached the Lodge area was the camp ground site that was just north of, what we later learned, was the two, two story motel units that was to become our home away from home for the next two days. We passed a number of small, duplex log cabins on our right with a long parking area on our left. The road abruptly came to an end with barricades and signs that stated that, from there on, was for "service vehicles only". We have now reached the North Rim Lodge. After parking the car, we walked into the "no drive area" towards what we believed was the Lodge. The large, "U" shaped building was (as I learned later) constructed entirely of Kaibab Limestone. On our left was the traditional gift shop, a "local" saloon, a VERY small post office (not much larger that a dinning room table", and then the main part of the lodge that comprised the "bottom" portion of the U. On the other leg of the Lodge was a deli like store and at the far end of that leg, public restrooms.
We entered the high, cathedral beamed ceiling, lobby area of the Lodge that formed the center section of the building. On our left was a six riser stairway to a moderate sized meeting or conference room. On our right and down about 6 steps, was the huge, beamed ceiling, dinning room. The dinning room's south and west walls were dominated with huge windows that afforded an unparalleled vista of the Grand Canyon. The Lodge registration desk was at the south end of the lobby but adjacent to this office area, were another set of stairs that led down to a large, again high ceiling, sitting area with about 10 leather sofas that faced the panoramic sized windows. To the left was a pair of doors that lead to a sizable patio area that overlooked the Canyon. To the right was another pair of doors that lead to a smaller patio but it also had steps that went down to a short trail that ended at a "point" that yielded a most spectacular view of the Canyon wonders.

After registering at the Lodge, we walked back to our car and drove down to the north end of the parking lot that ended across the highway from the motel units. I believe that it is interesting to note here that, there are no accommodations in the Lodge. ALL accommodations are meted-out to the cabins, motel units, and the camp ground. The motel rooms were somewhat spartan as there was no TV, and no clocks, however, there was a real telephone. There was one queen sized bed and the bathroom was only about 4' X 4'. The commode was squeezed between the shower stall and as you sat on the "porcelain thrown" your shoulders were wedged between the shower and the adjoining wall. You could literally fall asleep on the commode and have no fear of falling off. The shower was so small that if you accidently dropped the soap, your head or you rear end (depending on which way you stooped) would protrude out through the shower curtain as you picked it up. The rooms appeared to be quite clean and there was evidence that they had been remodeled within the last 5 years or so. I called Paul and we made arrangements to meet at the Lodge at about 1800 as sunset was slated to be at about 1820.

The concrete sidewalk from the motel units to the Lodge was a good solid, two blocks in length as it meandered through the woods and the cabin units. When we got to the Lodge, we wandered out to the west patio. There were already a good number of people there with their cameras mounted on tripods in hopes of getting that world class sunset photo. I chose to hike down the short trail to the overlook to get an unobstructed view of this daily ritual. About 4 or 5 days prior to our arrival, there was a lightening caused fire about 15 to 20 miles to the northwest of the Lodge and the smoke had drifted-out over, and into the Canyon. Though not yet dense at this time, it did however, offer muted tones to the Canyon's countless array of colors. About a 1000' above the Canyon, the smoke formed a long, cloud like, layer that turned the sun into a brilliant red fireball. As the sun got lower in the west, the Canyon adorned itself in eerie shades of red. These are the pictures that you have seen in a multitude of publications and one could only stand there in awe as the Canyon and nature played-out this surreal scene.

Our dinner reservations (booked in mid July) were for 1830 but when I check-in, I was informed that they were running about 20 minutes late. OK, more time to enjoy the sunset show that was being played-out before our eyes. The tables were adorned with multiple glasses for water and wines of your choosing and linen napkins. Of course, by now the scene outside the windows, was shrouded in darkness. The dinning room almost seemed like it was out of place when you consider the remoteness of its location. The menu featured sea foods, several cuts of beef and pork, and, last but not least, pasta. Some of the selections included a bit of the southwestern touch. All of our selections were delivered in a timely manor and, without exception, very pleasing in both appearance and taste. Another interesting note about the dinning room was that the vast majority of the service people, were exchange students. We meet young folks from Bulgaria, Spain, California, and Florida (both foreign places as far as I am concerned).

After our very fine evening repast, we trod over to the schedule board for the meeting room and noted that the volunteer ranger would be talking about a recent canyon hike. Since we had nothing else on our schedule, we thought that this might be a worthy endeavor. His talk centered on the dramatic change in the climate during their four day hike. The day prior to their departure in mid April of this year, the north rim received 10" of snow and on the day of the hike, the temperature hovered around 35 degrees. In a matter of four days, they experienced climate changes from snow and near freezing temperatures, to balmy like warmth and near desert-like conditions at the bottom of the Canyon and then back to more milder spring conditions on the south rim. He also made note of the hiked as it proceeded down through eons of geologic changes that are documented in the countless layers of strata that are exposed in the Canyon walls.

Saturday Morning

It was our most fervent intention to get-up early on Saturday morning and walk down to the Lodge and get a first hand experience of the most famous sunrises on the face of the planet. But, the "iron maiden" of a bed did not afford us the most comfortable night's sleep. I did wake-up before sunrise as I leaned over to the night stand to gaze at me watch (remember, no clocks) through foggy eyes. It was 0550; way to early to get up after a restless night's sleep and hike to the Lodge. Paul called about 0610 and said that he was walking to the Lodge for the morning's sunrise ritual and I said that we would meet him down there a little  later. I believe that we showed-up about an hour later and I dually noted that the sun was able to make it into the low eastern sky without my presents. A layer of smoke from the nearby fire, formed sort of a "lid" on the Canyon most likely caused by a temperature inversion with cooler air above trapping it over the warmer air below. The dinning room was only about 1/3 full at this early hour and it sure looked inviting. My wife and I choose the breakfast buffet while Paul ordered from the menu.

After a very generous breakfast, we started to walk back towards our accommodations when we got side tracked by the gift shop and information center. A sign by the front door alerted everyone that a 2 hour "Nature hike" was scheduled for 0830. As it was now about 0800, Paul and I thought that this would be a great beginning for our days adventures. We went back to our rooms and donned attire that would be more appropriate for the occasion. The hike began out behind the information center with the volunteer ranger introducing himself and by asking where everyone was from. As I recall, there was one couple form Canada and another from Australia. This couple said that a very unusual thing happened to them. They said that while they were loading there rental car, some one added their baggage to theirs. They had no clue as to who it was or where it came form. For the next 1:45, the ranger articulated on the flora and fauna of the Kaibab Plateau. At one point he stated that after a devastating forest fire, the Aspens are the first trees to begin repopulating the area. He said that was because the Aspen "lives" in its root system and even though everything may have been burned-off in the fire, the root still lives. He said that they have found a 35 acre section (not sure where) that was regenerated entirely by a single root system. At one point, we stopped at an overlook on Transept Canyon where we witnessed a raven was using wind currents and updrafts to soar with very little movement of it's wings. On the east side of the peninsula where we were located, is what is called Roaring Springs Canyon. The ranger said that about 3,000' below our point, there is a natural spring that provides all of the domestic water for both the north and south rims. He said that there was a pumping station at the springs that pumps water up to the north rim and, with natural hydro-static pressure, pushes was up the Indian Gardens on the south side. There is another pumping station there that pushes it up the village area on the south rim. He further stated that, if conditions are right, you should be able to hear the water's roar is you stand out on Bright Angle Point that is only a couple hundred yards from the Lodge.

Following the nature hike, Paul and I made good use of the large leather sofas that were in the lower level of the Lodge. While we stretched-out on the sofas, we relished the cool breeze that wafted through the west pair of doors, across the room, and exited the east doors. With a spectacular view of the canyon from our position, it just seems like life could not get any better than this. But this was just a sneak preview of events to come. We decided to get some sub sandwiches from the near-by deli, put them in our cooler, and have a picnic at Point Imperial. With the sandwiches in hand, we hiked back to our rooms to prepare for the rest of the days events. We loaded the cooler with the food and drink into the back of the car and then it was my turn to get us to Point Imperial. We back-tracked up state rout 67 for about 5 miles passed the Kaibab Trail head and turned east on Fuller Canyon Rd. We came upon an area that had been devastate by fire some time in the past and, like the range said, the Aspens were regenerating the area. The road twisted and turned for a distance of about 10 miles when we came to a fork in the road, so we took it, that is, the fork that would get us to Point Imperial. It was only a matter of about 3 miles on the Walhalla Plateau before we came to the Point Imperial overlook. I immediately headed for one of the short trails that takes you to one of the "points" that affords unrestricted vistas of the grandest of all canyons.

As I stood on the rail guarded point, the magnificent panorama unfolded in front of me. I just stood there wondering how I would I be able to describe the amazing vista in a way that would capture the imagination of the readers of this story. Distant formations like Kwagunt Butte, Nankoweap Creek, Siegfried Pyre, and Palisades of the Desert, capture and numb the senses as your eyes continue their circular sweep of this captivating landscape. Closer by stood Mt.Hayden, a thumb like monolith that rises majestically from a tree lined, curving ridge that projects from the canyon floor. On the north horizon stood the Vermillion Cliffs that we drove passed just yesterday. From this vantage point that is over 8800' in elevation, I could clearly see Humphry's Peak, Sitgraves Peak, and Bill Williams Mountain that were 60 miles south of this point. Chewing the scenery can sure whet one's appetite and with this much exercise, it was time to hit the cooler and sample our sub sandwiches while enjoying the shade of the nearby trees. We were joined by two other couples at a table about 30' away and they had a dog that was as big around as it was long. It sort of looked like a beer keg with stubby legs.

Following our very enjoyable picnic in the woods, we hopped into the car to continue our journey to Cape Royal about 22 miles further south. The road twisted and meandered in the tall timber and was almost always in shade. The rare rays of sunlight that penetrated the dense forest canapé would dance ever so briefly on the windshield. We eventually arrived at the parking area that was well back from the Cape Royal overlook. The paved foot path from the parking lot to the first overlook provided a series of informational signs that described the flora and fauna (a lot for flora but no fauna) that inhabited the trail side. The first overlook was called "Angel's Window" and it was aptly named. In front of us was a large slab like rock projection with a large rectangular hole in it that afforded a breathtaking view of the Colorado River that was, maybe, 6 miles to the south. From this overlook, the rock outcropping was about 200 yards distant but one could clearly see sightseers congregating behind the guardrail fence that lined its perimeter. I took a picture of Angel's Window hoping that it would show the river in the background but as I prepared to take more photos, to my dismay, I ran out of film. I was devastated. How could this happen? Here we are at one of the most spectacular sights on the face of the planet and we are out of film. Unbelievable!

I walked back to the main path and took the fork that went to the Angel's Window outcropping. This overlook was big enough to accommodate a pretty good size crowd of people but it was not very crowded today. I made my way out to the very end of the rock projection to get an unobstructed view of this most remarkable vista. I was just imagining the photo op that could be afforded if someone were back at the first overlook with a telephoto lens taking a picture of a person standing at this very place with their finger pointing to some distant marvel. With everything else hidden from the lens, it would seem to appear this person was standing on the edge of the world with the wonders of the Grand Canyon forming the background. As mind boggling as this scene was, we have not yet seen it all. I got back on the main path that would take me to the southernmost point of Cape Royal. The path suddenly emerges from the shade to an overlook that produces and unobstructed, 270 degree view of the Canyon. A vista that is almost indescribable. The information board list some of the formations as: Vishnu Temple, Coronado Butte, Horseshoe Mesa, and Wotans Throne. Without the sign I would not have had a clue as to the names of these spectacular formations. Many having alternate risers and plateaus of vibrant earth-tone colors mingled with deep purples caused by adjoining towering formations casting shadows on their neighbors. While viewing this panorama, I could not help but feel somewhat insignificant when compared to the grandeur of what was before my eyes. I thought back to the many times that I have flown over the Grand Canyon, though not necessarily this location, and fell silent as I passed over this wonder of wonders. I have also visited the south rim village on numerous occasions but never have I had the feeling of awe that I experienced at this moment. I remember how the Breakfast Club group would talk to one another over the airwaves with some occasional banter thrown in, but when each of us passes over the south rim, the airwaves become strangely silent for that ten minute ride to the north rim. With much reluctance, it was time to withdraw from this most wondrous of places but I will never forget it even if I did not have a camera. While walking back to the parking lot, I met a park ranger and jokingly asked him if he know of anyone that a had a camera for sale. His response was that they had them at the gift shop (yeah, 30 miles away).

It was Paul's turn drive so I could sit back and enjoy the scenery as we returned to the Lodge. The Aspens, some with red leaves near their crests with golden yellow leaves nearer the bottom, shimmered and "quaked" in the light afternoon breeze. This really is a different world up here on the north rim. We are a bit more distant from the Colorado River but that area is filled with the eons of work of wind and water as they contoured the formations. The south rim is more the result of uplifting and tilting with only trace amounts of erosion. Yes, the north rim is very different, the accommodations a bit more rustic (or austere), and a bit less crowded than the south rim.

We arrived back at our lodging in plenty of time to allow for us to take a refreshing shower and to rest a bit before hiking down to the Lodge for dinner. I would guess that about 200 people had gathered on both patios, most on the smaller west patio, to participate in the ritual of watching the world famous sunset. However, the smoke from the forest fire and become denser and made the distant canyon formations along with their colors, a bit less distinct. While sitting on one of the wooden benches that lined the east patio, I struck-up a conversation with a younger couple sitting next to me. I discovered that they, along with a larger group, had jogged across the Canyon that day, in 10 hours and that they were scheduled to make a return trip on Sunday morning. I sat there with my jaw agape as I always understood that this journey was a four day event, NOT TEN HOURS!

After a very fine dinner, we checked the information board at the foot of the stair that lead to the lecture/meeting hall, to see what the program was for this evening. This evening's program would be about our space program and was being presented by another of the volunteer rangers. I am not sure if he was an astronomer by vocation or avocation but he surely impressed me with the multi media show. He did point out that there are currently five space vehicles heading for Mars. I wonder who is directing traffic? After the one hour program, he preceded to set-up his 12" refractor telescope on the east patio. His first item of interest was........Mars. Everyone who was interested got an opportunity to view the Red Planet and actually see the shrinking polar ice cap. I guess that was due to the "summer" season on Mars, the ice cap was a bit small but none the less, it was distinguishable. Also quite visible was the Milky Way, our own galaxy. I have lived in urban locations for most of 40 years and the view was incredible. A wide band of star stretched from the northeastern skies to the southwestern horizon. The view brought back memories of my younger days when this was easily visible from our then suburban home. The ranger had a hand held laser pen that projected a red beam of light, several hundred feet into the dark night sky as he pointed-out various star clusters along with their names. I mentioned to him that when I was in school, I had seen pictures of our nearest neighboring galaxy of Andromeda and was wondering if he could focus his telescope in that direction. No problem! When he was finished with the adjustments, he gave each of us an opportunity to view this starry marvel. When it was my turn to look through the telescope, I saw for the first time, actually in real time, the galaxy that I only had seen in pictures over 45 years ago. He said that the light that we were now viewing, was actually emitted about 250 million years ago. He asked us if we could imagine what the Grand Canyon looked like when that light was first emitted. All-in-all a most enjoyable and awe inspiring evening and sleep would come a lot easier tonight.

Sunday Morning

We had made a promise to ourselves the evening before, that we would arise early enough to get a view of the magnificent sunrises that the Canyon is famous for. With due diligence, we got up, showered and shaved (at least I did) and headed down the tree lined sidewalk towards the Lodge. There was maybe a couple dozen folks on hand to witness the morning spectacle but alas, the smoke has almost completely filled the Canyon and even the nearest of the monoliths was only faintly visible. Oh well, maybe next time. We decided to have only a light breakfast at the Lodge as we were interested in sampling the fare at Jacob Lake Inn; sort of a "progressive breakfast". We loaded-up the car, made last minute checks (read pit stops), and headed down, or actually up the road, to Jacob Lake with Paul at the wheel. We had only gotten about 6 miles north of the Lodge when we noticed a mule deer along the left side of the road. Paul slowed almost to a stop as the lead animal started across the highway with two juvenile deer right behind with another adult bringing-up the rear. Quite a sight for us desert folk. Kind of a "parting shot" for a visit that is almost beyond description.

It took about an hour to reach the Inn and we exited the car into the cool morning air. There was only one other table in the dining room that was occupied so service was not an issue. We enjoyed an ample and tasty breakfast before we undertook the mandatory visit to the gift shop. Many interesting things but the one that caught my attention, was the variety of hand crafted Indian rugs that were available. The starting price was in $750.00 range for the smaller pieces and the $1,500.00 range for the larger rugs. All a bit out of my range and there was an ample supply to choose form. Hmmmmmm, must be a message there. One more pit stop and it was my turn to hit the road again. Heading east, it wasn't long before we started our descent from the forested Kaibab Plateau to the high desert plateau with it's scrub vegetation.

We arrived back at the Page Airport a little past noon and we off-loaded our bags into the aircraft before returning the car to the rental agency. Pit stops done, pre-flight checks done, and it was off Page runway 33 with a wide sweeping turn to take us over Glen Canyon Dam for a little bit of sightseeing. We had decided to stop in Flagstaff and Wiseman's for refueling as it would be a bit less expensive than at SDL. Visibility to the south was terrible due to the smoke from the Grand Canyon fires being blown in a southerly direction. At a distance of about 30 miles north of the San Francisco Peaks, we still could not see the mountain. Eventually the mountains came into view and we took the eastern route into FLG. The wind on the south side of the mountain was essentially form the southwest so we received instructions for a straight-in to runway 21.
After refueling at the self-serve pump, we went into Wiseman Aviation to sample the coffee and cookies that are always there for the weary traveler. This was to be our next to the last stop on our progressive breakfast not to mention that the time was about 1400. We departed on runway 21 and turned south for our last leg to Scottsdale. As we crossed the eastern edge of the Verde Valley, I could head what seemed like a group of aircraft that were, I think, a bit east of Williams and heading towards GCN. They had remarked about how bad the visibility was. I told them that there a large fire on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the smoke was being blown to the south. It seems that they were going to the Grand Canyon for some sightseeing but I informed them visibility in the Canyon was nil. I hope that I did not spoil their plans.

So, with our trip now history, I began contemplating about how I would write about our experiences on the north rim. The accommodations--a bit rustic and maybe a little crude, the Lodge is spectacular, the food was very good, the Grand Canyon, well what can one say about that? The views are almost beyond description. The visit was a "life" experience. Would we do it again? You betcha! I have tried to put into words what we saw and experienced but, I feel, I have only scratched the surface of the visions that are now in our mind's eye. The Grand Canyon is something that one must experience first hand and it affects everyone in a slightly different way.


I have asked Paul to forward his impressions of our Grand Canyon visit. You will note from his story, that, like I just said in the previous paragraph, that the Canyon affected him in a slightly different way. Enjoy.

           The Avgas Guys

 There was two FBO’s operating on the north ramp at Page that weekend. As I taxied in to a tie down, I was met by two hospitable service personnel riding together in a company golf cart.  Nothing new here, I thought to myself. Turns out they were from different FBO’s – one from each business. They both thrust a business card at me as soon as I popped open my hatch and waited for me to choose between them. It was a bit awkward at first, but eventually, I just said to them, “Look, one of you take the left wing; the other take the right.”  (Talk about cooperative competition!)

 The Towering Biscuits

 There appears to be no shortage of leavening in Page restaurants.  As we dined in the family eatery, just a stone’s throw away from the airport, we noticed that the wait staff was frequently carrying trays throughout the eatery with plates full of strange brown and white cylinders.  Upon closer inspection, we discovered that they were biscuits – They had to be some three inches tall! We dubbed them Towering Cumulus Biscuits.

 The Red Sun

There was a considerable amount of smoke over and in the canyon during the weekend due to the fire. On Saturday evening at about 1830 local time, the evening sun was setting behind the smoke layer.  I heard people on the east veranda gasp and hurry over toward the west side. Curious to find out what they had discovered, I made my way over to that side too. From inside the Sun Room you could see the setting sun penetrating through the smoke. It was a translucent red color - not orange, not even reddish orange; it was distinctly red in color for about a half hour. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

The Pug Dog

 We stopped at Point Imperial for lunch on Saturday afternoon after our trail walk. There we found a picnic table where we enjoyed the unique ambiance and polished off our subs from the Rim Café deli. Another party moved in at a nearby table. They had two dogs in tow, one was a rather corpulent male pug dog. The usually gregarious BC-1 soon found his way over to their table for a greeting and a short visit. Striking up a conversation, he commented that their pug reminded him of a beer keg with legs and a tail.  Amused and courteous, the owner laughed along with the rest of us. But I can’t help believing that that porcine pug (now called “Kegger” by one of their own group) was summarily put on a diet starting that evening.

 The Nature Walk

 Our guided nature walk around the compound through the woods and along the rim’s edge was led by a resident of Prescott, who made frequent trips to the North Rim to serve as a volunteer.  He told us that he not only aspired to become a full time ranger at the park, but that he intended to become one. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like living at the Grand Canyon, at the North Rim… all season long. How does one maintain one’s sanity living in the National Forest unabated?  He explained to us that the North Rim was a place where you ought to cease, for a time, striving with all of the busy activities of life.  He urged us to sit quietly and listen to the canyon, to absorb the unfathomable Mysteries of the Ages that the canyon had to offer its visitors, to spend time as a human being, rather than as a human doing.  I tried it for a while and was attracted to the pensive and profound awareness’s that slowly filled me.  Like a mantra I did it and drank in the timeless auras and impressions, until I felt dangerously close to Nirvana. Like a mantra I did it - for about ten minute’s maybe.  Then I got up and headed over to the Lodge compound to see what else you were supposed to do in this place.  But how does one cope with months of this being?  I couldn’t grasp it apparently. After two days I was ready to head home.

The International Staff

 Our wait staffs at the (incredible) Lodge restaurant were from all over the world:  Poland, Florida, Austria, California, Bulgaria, and who knows where else.  Mostly they were university students on one kind of an exchange consortium or another. They all spoke English impeccably (except for the Californian, of course). What impressed me most:  how courteous they were while all the patrons endlessly asked them the same stupid questions:  “Where are you from?”  “Where do you stay?” “Do you think you will return for another exchange program at the Natural Parks next year?”  “What part of South America is Bulgaria in?” It’s so nice to see how “normal” young people from eastern and western Europe can be.

 The Rental Car

 What was it, a Mitzubishi something or other.  It was great!  It was from Avis, cost us only $29.95 a day, and had 293 buttons and switches on the control panel… er, I mean the dashboard.  It steered better than my Honda in the tight S-turns around the plateau and even made BC -1 pause and stop calling it a Sake Scooter… for a while anyway.  Nice car!

 The Treeless Reaches

I may be wrong, since I was focused on pattern entry and landing at Page Friday morning, but it struck me how little vegetation there is along the Lake Powell southern shore.  Contrasted with the verdant Kaibab Plateau, the rocky topography in and around Page, Arizona, devoid of flora, is almost spooky.  Another thing that impressed me:  you wouldn’t want to make a VFR descent down into Page at night without good advance planning.  Pattern altitude at Page Muni is 5100 feet, but you wouldn’t want to descend lower that about 6000 feet until 5 miles or so away from the airport.  The terrain rises to better that 5000 feet only a short distance south of town.
The Sum of It All

 I have always wanted to do this trip:  fly to Page, take a rental car to the North Rim Lodge, and spend a couple nights under the Milky Way.  Late September apparently is an ideal time to go too.  The park only sees one tenth of the visitors that the South Rim sees, so the crowds are minimal.  There are plenty of shows and itinerant rangers giving presentations to keep your interest.  And the Canyon!  The North Rim has a fascination and drama all its own, not unlike the South Rim, but clearly unique.  The formations are more interesting because they are less known, perhaps less photographed that the South. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can plan an afternoon road trip to Point Imperial and Cape Royal.  All in all, the North Rim is a must see for those who have never been, and a must do again for those who have.


Click on the Grand Canyon North Rim link to view photos of this fly-in event.