Having a spare week before heading to Grand Canyon’s South Rim, Andrew and I chose to scout out southeastern Utah area. One day we made the odd and out of the way journey to (the very well hidden) Hovenweep National Monument, which is famous for its rim top ancestral pueblo ruins. The next day was spent driving around the Valley of the Gods to see the magnificent red rock and balanced rock formations. Then, our final day we took the “unimproved” winding UT-261 road up the plateau edge. Below the cliffs remained evidence (old car and mining equipment) of the dangers of the road. Once at the top, we visited to Natural Bridges National Monument and a trading post in Blanding.
October is the end of the season for Mesa Verde National Park. By the end of the month, several of the cliff dwellings, including Cliff Palace and Balcony House, and Wetherill Mesa Road are closed until late spring. With a few weeks left in the month, Andrew and I thought it might be nice to stay a week in the area. This turned out to be a great plan, since the weather was the perfect combination of comfortable fall days and chilly evenings (with the added bonus of beautiful fall colored trees).
For our week in the area, we parked Rosie at Mancos State Park. This small state park is located less than 10 miles from Mesa Verde, but is secluded from the crowds. Actually, we only saw a handful of camper (over the week) in the park. We really enjoyed the luxury of a quiet campground all to ourselves.
Andrew and I spent three days enjoying the park, including several cliff dwellings: Balcony House, Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House, a few trails: Petroglyph Point and Soda Canyon Overlook trail, and many vistas along the route. On our second day in the park, we had an unusual run in with a National Park Ranger. While we were stopped to talk with him about a barking dog locked in a car, he began sniffing our vehicle and asking us if we had just smoked some marijuana. I tried to reassure him that our SUV was just smelly from the dirt and dust of off-roading. I don’t think he believe me. Regardless, he let us go and gave us material to laugh the rest of the day.
The rest of our time was spent exploring the surrounding area. One day we drove to Silverton along the Ophir Pass, a 4wd drive road that follows a winding dirty road over a 11000ft pass towards Silverton and the Million Dollar Highway. Saturday, we visited Durango’s Farmers Market. This small farmer’s market has a good selection of seasonal produce. Yet, while I was appreciate a good farmer’s market, I was disappointed by their unfriendly “No Dogs Allowed” signs. Our final stop was at Hogan Trading Post, which carries a large selection of navajo rugs, art work and curios. Andrew, who always loves a dusty, packed store, was in heaven. It was definitely worth the stop.
Last Sunday we arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon’s northern side is about 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the south, which allows for cooler temperatures…and the 5 hour ride from the south side means fewer people. Only 10% Grand Canyon visitors come to the north area.
We parked at the campground for the week (the maximum allowed). We pulled into our spot (#20) and were happy to discover that we scored the perfect place for our solar panels. Our spot was one of the few that didn’t have a multitude of pine trees overhead so we didnt have to run the generator all week.
After getting settled, Andrew and I decided to take Ame on the Bridle Trail, the only dog friendly trail in the park. This short 1.5 mile (one way) trail leads to the lodge and visitor’s center. The lodge area offers many overviews into the canyon, which make for the perfect sunset viewing location. At the tiny visitor’s center, we picked up a few maps for the Kaibab National Forest, which is located on the just outside of the Park.
On Monday, we adventured out to Point Sublime, a seclude overlook that at the end of a rocky dirt road. Point Sublime was true to its’ name, with stunning views and serene wilderness. Along our journey, we only saw two other cars and we had Point Sublime to ourselves, which is perfect for a national park that receives over 4 million visitors each year. Continuing the seclusion and adventure, we followed several forest roads to Fire Point (another superb vista).
The weather turned gray and rainy for two days, so we decided to stay close to home and Ame. We did a short hike to Bright Angel Point, which is beautiful, but not for anyone with a fear of heights. While there is a guardrail at the end, there are a few spots along the way that offer visitors an unprotected view of the canyon floor thousands of feet below.
Thursday we drove along the Cape Royal road, stopping at all the scenic overlooks. At the end of the 15 mile road, we walked along the paved Cape Royal trail, which leads out to another great vista. In the evening, we met up with two other Airstream couples for dinner at the lodge. We originally met Bob & Cecelia and Barney & Marybeth, while in Capitol Reef National Park. When we discovered we would all be in the North Rim at the same time we made plans for dinner at the lodge restaurant. It was a great night, sharing Airstream stories and watching a beautiful sunset.
For our final day in the North Rim area, we chose to check out more of the dog friendly National Forest. The Arizona Trail and Marble Viewpoint are along the East Rim, so we took Ame out to enjoy a hike. It was definitely worth the trip with great views and only one other person on the trails.
We spent the evening with another Airstream couple, Tim and Alice. Ironically, we discovered that we had already met at AlumaFlamingo in Sarasota, Florida last February. It definitely makes the world seem small when we run into others we’ve previously met in our journey.