Thursday, September 23, 2010

Road Trip 2008: Grand Canyon NP (North Rim)

[This is a long overdue report from my 2008 visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Only now that I started working on my honeymoon Grand Canyon posts I realized that I had never finished this particular post (and also a few others from my trip through Southwest with Agnieszka...) This post belongs to Grand Circle 2008 series of posts.]

After spending two days at Zion NP, Agnieszka and I drove to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon NP, where we spent the next two days and nights. For me it was already a second visit to the Grand Canyon, but first to the North Rim. I had close-to-traumatic experience during my visit to the South Rim year earlier, so I feared that this one would not be any better. Luckily, the North Rim is not as popular with tourist as the South Rim, and, thanks to that, we could enjoy the beauty of the canyon much more.

The first thing that we did upon arrival to the North Rim was to go for a scenic drive to Point Imperial and Cape Royal. Point Imperial, at 8,803 feet (2,683 meters), is the highest point on the North Rim. It overlooks the Painted Desert and the eastern end of the Grand Canyon. Cape Royal, on the other hand, offers sweeping views of the canyon and seemingly unlimited vistas in all directions. It is a perfect place to watch both sunrise and sunset. (We did watch one of the sunsets and one of the sunrises there and it was definitely unforgettable experience.)

The third viewpoint that we visited was Bright Angel Point that is accessible by a short paved (0.5 mile/0.8 km round trip) trail. It is also a popular sunset viewpoint, but not as impressive as Cape Royal. Still, from there I took the best photo of the Grand Canyon that is thus far in my collection. It is not because this viewpoint is more spectacular than others. We just got lucky to catch a storm, and a rainbow forming after it, on the South Rim!

Here is my favorite photo. If you enalarge it, you wil be able to see a storm and a rainbow on the other (southern) rim of the canyon:

On the second day of our stay at the North Rim we went for a hike to Roaring Springs. It was a fantastic hike that I absolutely loved and would like to repeat sometime soon. It was a part of the North Kaibab Trail that at the bottom of the Grand Canyon connects with the South Kaibab Trail to form a 21-mile long trail connecting both rims. Maybe, but just maybe, one day I will manage to convince my dearest husband to go on this rim-to-rim hike. Husband, if you are reading this, pretty please please please! :)

The are several reasons why I thought that this hike was amazing. First, I really loved how the colors of the canyon were changing the deeper we went. Second, only when you get below the rim you start to appreciate how full of life the canyon is. From up above it looks almost as if its walls are barren, but that's absolutely not true! There are plenty of plants and animals inhabiting the canyon. And last but not least, I liked how the perspective and scenery were changing with each turn of the trail. Hiking the South Rim is very different in this respect, but I will address this issue in a separate post.

However, before you set out for this hike, bare in mind though that this is a pretty strenuous full day hike during which you need to cover 9.4 miles/15 km with elevation loss (and then gain) of 3'050 feet/930 m.

Burnt trees on the way to the Grand Canyon:

Cape Royal:

Sunset at Point Imperial:

Suppai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail:

The North Kaibab Trail:

Bridge close to Roaring Springs:

The canyon is getting more and more red, the deeper you go:

Hiking back up is tough! Especially if there is hardly any shade...

Sunset at the Bright Angel Point:

The same place after sunset:

Early morning at the Point Imperial: