Wednesday, July 18, 2007

July 15, 2007

Sunday July 15th - St. George, Utah to Flagstaff, Arizona

The last morning for Elderhostel. I was in the lobby after breakfast and the big group from the Colorado River float arrived. The coordinator asked me to take their group photo, so I did, and also photos from about 12 other cameras. It was interesting using all the different cameras! After that the people thought I was part of the staff and thanked me for taking the photos, some came to me with questions and problems :-)

We had a big day of travel planned so we left about 9:30 a.m. -- we don't seem to get a move on any earlier, and traveled back through Hurricane and along 89Alt. I decided to drive through Colorado City, Arizona, to see more of the town. Many of the three-story homes looked very nice, but there was not a sole on the streets, except one teenage boy. But he smiled and waved to us. It being Sunday and already a sizzling temperature contributed to the lack of people outside, I imagine.

We had passed a place called Pipe Spring National Monument yesterday, so I thought it would be a good place to stop and visit today. And it was a very interesting place. It has quite a wild west fort history, protecting the settlers from the Navaho who would raid the Paiutes and settlers in the Arizona Strip. A fort built with thick stone walls and an interior safe area, and called the Windsor Castle, after the builder. It became a Mormon tithing cattle ranch outpost of the region in 1870, gathering cattle from the area Mormons, making tons of cheese at the Castle, and taking them all to St. George twice a month. We got our National Park passport book stamped here, and at every place we could think of. The old fort is nicely maintained and they have a big garden and guided tours through the "castle." A fresh water spring runs into the house and provides a cool place to make and store cheese. The spring then flows into two large ponds. A vital and much appreciated innovation at Windsor Castle was a telegraph system that was constantly monitored for word of any approaching Indian raiders. Although there were gunports in the castle, the inhabitants never had to fire from them as in 1872 peace was made with the Navaho.

Our goal was to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, so we pushed on into the Kaibab National Forest to Jacob Lake and turned south on Hwy 67 towards the North Rim Lodge. It looked like hundreds of acres of pine were destroyed in the lightening set fire from last year. The tall ponderosa pine trees were burned black for miles as we drove along the plateau. There was a beautiful long strip of meadow land as we got into the park, and we saw a hungry looking coyote loping across the meadow into the aspen and pine trees. There were also limestone sinkholes turned into round ponds here and there. But at last we arrived at the Lodge on the North Rim and got our first look at the Grand Canyon. How awesome and immense it is.

We got our passport stamps then entered the lodge and it's observation sites. It was windy but not hot, as it is about 7000 feet in elevation. Not wanting to be without food we went to the deli and got some pizza slices to fill us up - oh yes, and soft serve ice cream. We walked down Bright Angel trail a ways, the trail that is connected with "Brighty" of the Grand Canyon, a smart little burro that was a true character of the canyon. The thunder and lightening was off in the distance and was creeping towards us with warning sprinkles. We took the hint and sadly moved on in the truck away from the Canyon. We stopped at a Ranger Station around Jacob Lake and got another passport stamp, then stopped by the place next door for more ice cream.

The route back on 89 Alt was stunning! I didn't know that the drive was going to be so magnificent! The highway is called the "Vermillion Cliffs Highway" as it descends down the plateau and skirts the Vermillion Cliffs over to the Colorado River on the south side of the Glenn Canyon. Much to my surprise there was a walking bridge over the River so after crossing on the vehicle bridge, we stopped and walked back, taking photos and peering way way down at the River.

We were in Navajo Tribal lands now and barren land it was. There was not much but desert scrub land and some cattle for many miles. At last we connected with the Highway that took us to Flagstaff and checked into the Super 8 Motel. Unfortunately - or fortunately - we were right next door to a "Cracker Barrel" restaurant, so Braden reminded me that he hadn't had dinner yet... it was 8pm. So we went to dinner.

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