Vermilion Wonder

Sometimes an unexpected change of plans turns out to be a great thing after all. Such has been the case for the time we’ve spent in Arizona because of covid. Gorgeous weather, massive open spaces with beautiful scenery and lots to explore. We’ve had a lot of days recently that have been “10’s” on the rating scale.

Prescott kept us busy for a few days but the best part of it was the little privately funded zoo which was open- Heritage Park Zoo. They had 2 full grown black bears and one of them, Shash, had been accidentally orphaned as a 3 month old cub by a hunter. Having lived at the zoo since 1994, he was comfortable with his space and entertaining visitors, looking us in the eye whenever he paused from eating his whole watermelon and cantaloupe. He doesn’t eat the rind, so funny to watch. He is also a testicular cancer survivor.

Its really nice to be greeted on a trail by a rattling snake.

We haven’t seen a ton of wildlife in Arizona but we always look. We’ve pretty much given up on seeing a mountain lion and have placed them in the category with fairies and unicorns. But there’s always lots of snakes, not all poisonous. One day we were out with the motorbike going down a dirt road when we heard this very loud ZZZZZTTTTT! right as we passed a shrub. I nearly fell off the bike. That’s the second time one has been sprawled out in a shrub as we passed. Then in Sedona, we had a day hike planned and this rattlesnake was in the path not budging and when it saw us it started rattling, lunged toward us and then struck a pose that it didn’t break till after we were gone- gone back the way we came that is, hike aborted. You just want to say, “if you move aside for just a sec we’ll be by in a jiffy”!

The red rock formations of Sedona from a trail on Schnebly Hill Rd

After Prescott we moved to Sedona to the official start of the red rock area with dust that gets everywhere and reminds me of the Sahara, but beautiful. Years ago, we took a rental car up Schnebly Hill Rd and bumped our way along it viewing the sights so this time we wanted to camp up there in the Vermonster- fit for the terrain. So we did, finding a nice campsite near to the viewpoint and the hikes we wanted to do. I had 4 trails lined up to see the best formations and so Jon made them all happen- in one long day! I am always amazed at where our legs can take us. We have started noticing the remnants of old running injuries that we carry around with us so we threw in some biking for time off our feet.

It’s taken some time, but we are slowly figuring out the hierarchy of the various public lands. National Parks, monuments, national recreation areas, wilderness, then National Forest & BLM land. And it seems like there is just heaps of all of it here.

Sometimes the slot canyon was very narrow
Other times it was very wide

From Sedona we headed to Flagstaff and walked the downtown (really quiet). We had a hike planned on the slopes of the highest peak in Arizona- Humphries that we had read was open but when we got to the road it was closed. Feeling a little irritated, we set off late in the day toward Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, up near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I had read that you could hike the longest slot canyon in the world there and that is exactly what we did. Backpacking in for a multiday hike in the canyon is only for the chosen few (20 per day), and there is a competitive lottery for some special formations that attracts worldwide interest. If you do the length of it, its 38 miles. We’d like to do that someday. But you can day hike with a permit purchased at the trailhead so we did a long day covering as much as we could. Ambling along through constantly changing cliff walls, the curves, light and textures were so beautiful and we were alone most of the day. Sometimes the slot was barely wider than us and others it was very open with huge, towering walls. Well worth a visit if you like this sort of the thing and the color red.

This really is a good visual for the size of the condor

The California condor lives & soars at Vermilion Cliffs thanks to a successful reintrodcution program to improve their numbers because they were practically extinct. But they’ve been around for 1.65 million years. North America’s largest bird, they have an impressive 9 1/2 foot wingspan. Their main killer is lead poisoning from spent ammunition. The only way to really see them though was through the binocs.

Our campspot was literally right on the N rim cliff edge. You didn’t want to leave your chair there for fear it would blow away forever.

After 20 miles back out a rough road from Vermilian Cliffs, we went another 28 dirt road miles to the north rim of the Grand Canyon to find a perfect campspot within a boatlength of the drop off. It was in the Saddle Mountain wilderness just as the Grand Canyon is widening up and getting going and there was practically no one else around. You can’t buy campsites like this. In the many places we’ve traveled to we have never met a match for the US public lands and the treasures that we have here. It was disappointing, but since anything below the rim is controlled by the Park Service and Grand Canyon is currently closed, we couldn’t do the trail we had planned down into the canyon. But the solitude was amazing and we really enjoy pretty views out the window of the RV.

Then it was off to Glen Canyon Recreation area which is massive. The history of the whole Glen Canyon area is very interesting and there is tons to do. After having done the slot canyon formed by the Paria River, Jon wanted to hike up the endpoint of it where it joins the Colorado River. So we did that on a scorcher of a day but it was great to see and there was some historical info at Lee’s Ferry. Because you literally are walking up the river at times, our feet were at least cool and our shoes got a good dose of river mud. After the hike, we collapsed in a grove of fruit trees at the historic dell that the park service still maintains much the way it was in the late 1800’s although none of the fruit is ripe this time of year. The Colorado River is a gorgeous shade of green and 48 degrees but I had to get in. It takes your breath away- literally!

Because there aren’t a lot of trucks around that look like ours, a lot of conversations are struck up around it and that leads to meeting new people some of whom become friends which is great and just what we’d hoped for. And so it was that we made a few new well traveled friends in 2 overland RV’s at Marble Canyon right where the Grand Canyon starts to form and got to spend a couple of days together camped out. Ian had a drone and got some shots of us.

We made some new friends- Ian, Josie, Mackey and Steen
Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon

Today we explored Lake Powell some. The famous Horseshoe Bend lookout is a crazy beautiful sight. We met a Brazilian overlander and took a hike and a swim in the lake together. Its been good to follow the Colorado River some and actually get in it. When we crossed to the Baja peninsula and first laid eyes on the head of the Sea of Cortez, we were surprised at the seemingly endless delta and no water around. Then I learned that since the 1960’s, the Colorado River no longer has any water left to pour into the sea. It ends about 100 miles up after supplying water to 7 states.

Lake Powell swim

Tomorrow we’re headed in to Utah to see the Valley of the Gods. I read something that said it was some of the most remote area in the US. It is home to the Shash Jaa- Bears Ears- a pair of buttes that look like them. Now I see how Shash the bear got his name. Made a national monument by Obama and gutted by trump. Controversial. Hopefully reason will prevail rather than spite and it will stay remote and beautiful.

Cathedral Was.h, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Leaving Marble Canyon with Vermilion Cliffs in the foreground

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