We don’t know if it was the horse riding that cured Franks leg but all swelling and pain is gone! Ready to see if the 89A is as terrible as predicted by the bike shop owner in Hurricane. During the first 10km climb up 89A we encounter a small shoulder, but as it is a very windy road most people drive slow and wait for oncoming traffic.
We can take a dirt road for the next 10km but then we are forced back to bike A89.
And it is the most terrible road we ever had during our journey so far. Narrow, no shoulder, very fast-moving traffic from both sides and nobody holds, but just pass you with less than 30 cm between you and them. At the first gas station we have a break and decide for the first time in almost 6.000km to arrange a hitch hike. Franks first try is successful, happened so fast we even did not take a photo of Jake and his border collie Sally. Bikes, Sally and I in the back of the covered pick-up, Frank with Jake in front, as he would first only take us for 10km but at finally it was almost 40km. Saviour! He drops us 20 km from Fredonia and we are now already in Arizona! Fredonia is a small, underdeveloped, poor town where we find an official, very basic campground and a sweet cat.
I must be much more relaxed than in the past as he comes to me and sits on my lap. Next day is not so far but the whole day up-hill and headwind. Still no decent shoulders but way less traffic as this part of the road goes to Jacob lake and you only go there if you want to take the scenic road to Grand Canyon and possibility to veer off to the North Rim.
We camp at Jacob Lake but as it is 1 hour earlier here (Arizona does not have daylight saving scheme), it will be dark at 18:00 and it will be cold again, we shelter and chill at Jacobs Inn restaurant with a lovely dinner and a great wine.
We already decide that we will take a room here once we return from the North Rim as by then the campground will be closed. We don’t make a reservation as we don’t know how long we will stay at the rim. HW 67 to the North Rim has even less traffic, understandable as everything except the campground is already closed for the season at the North Rim. We almost did not go as we need to bike 70 km and come back the same way (no through traffic in the Canyon 😊) to see it and we expect even colder weather. It seems that they keep the campground still open till end of the month as this is the best time of the year to hike Rim to Rim. Most people will do this with 1 to 3 nights in the canyon and there are only a very limited amount of permits available per day, to be arranged months in advance.
A beautiful ride through vast meadows, pine tree forest and prescribed forest fires (had no problems with smoke) brings us to the North Entrance where we are welcomed by a herd of buffalos.
Wrong side of the road.
To ensure as much distance between the buffalos and ourselves we bike at the wrong side of the road. Some of the drivers find this ridiculous, but you cannot outride a bison on your bike…. From then on the last 16km is cruising downhill and we pass our 6.000km milestone. As we have to take the same road back to Jacob Lake we already know the warming-up we will have going back. At the entrance we are a bit concerned because of the sign: campground full, but North Rim has a very open policy towards hikers and bikers. They have a separated field where you are always welcome even if the campground is full for all other visitors. All parks should have this because going back is no option and wild camping is not allowed in National Parks. What is also great of a separate area is that you don’t have any disturbance of cars leaving early in the morning or generators of RVs starting at 6:00 in the morning for all their batteries. This campground is a little gem, very quiet and with a great view on The Transept, one of the side canyons of the Grand Canyon. Laundry and showers are closed for the season but as long as we have potable water and a toilet in this amazing nature, we are more than happy. What a canyons, with sheer drops up to 1.000 meter! Fun, interesting South/North Rim statistics are available at https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/management/statistics.htm. Check it out! One thing for sure, South has way more visitors than North.
First evening we are treated by Jacob & Morgans to stew and rice Crispy cookies. Thanks again for this nice surprise! To try at home: 3 tablespoons butter, 1 package (10 oz., about 40) JET-PUFFED Marshmallows, 6 cups Rice Krispies® cereal. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add KELLOGG’S RICE KRISPIES cereal. Stir until well coated. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day. They were awesome!Morgan & friends will hike the 24 miles from North to South Rim in 4 days while Jacob with mother in-law and the kids will drive the 320 km to the South Rim and will welcome them there with a ready camp. On our first day we take it slowly, first rest a bit,
enjoy the amazing view from the bench a few meters from our campsite and study which hikes we want to do. We decide that we will not bike another 37 km to some other sites but will only hike what is accessible by foot from the Campground. Transept trail to Bright Angel and the (closed) lodge is our first and only hike for today which allows us to soak in the view.
Luckily the gift shop is still open which carries a very limited food supply but enough so we can stay for another day.
Seems that the spring water from the North Rim is only a few 1.000 years old (used to supply North and South Rim facilities) but that the water from springs from the South Rim is millions of years old and that you even would be able to taste the difference.
The book “The Secret Knowledge of Water” by Craig Childs gives some greats insights in the creation of canyons and the force of water.
Again a night under a vast milky way. During the night Kay and Frank arrived from a two-day hike from the South Rim, 10 miles down, 14 miles up. After a very strenuous day they decided to not hike back today but instead take the shuttle.
Still what an amazing achievement to hike 24 miles, + 2.000 elevation meters and going from alpine cold forest climate to scalding hot desert and up again with full backpacks in two days at the age of 77!
Enjoying the talk and the stories of their repetitive hikes in Grand Canyon we postpone our own hike and share lunch. Thanks Frank and Kay for giving us the extra food, we have enjoyed it and you are an inspiration for us! At 14:00 we start with our hike of the North Kaibab trail, as it will get dark before 18.00 we decide to turn around when it is 15:45, almost at the bridge, as we want to be back before dark.
Fun to hike the trail (no mules as muletrips stopped on the 15th of October!) and being at the campground because it is so quiet, we only met maybe 10 people in total of which two crazy guys on a hike: in one day running from Rim to Rim and back. Started at 4 in the morning and at 15:00 just started their descend from North heading South, will be running at night.
We were just back at the campground at sunset.
Today early start as we want to get a room at Jacob Lake Inn, so 71km back with tail and side wind. Bursting, gusty wind which is fun when from behind but a struggle when coming sideways unexpectedly.
Still we make it by 15:00 to the lodge ready for a cold beer and a real bed. Oops, we did not have the possibility to make a reservation, the campground is closed for the season, this is the only shelter within a radius of 55km and now there is No Vacancy. Bummer. We stock-up with water for if we have to do wild camping but after charging the phone we have access to internet and can still book a room, yes, 55km away. Again the app MAPOUT helped tremendously as we know it is 98% downhill so we should not be biking too much during darkness. Road runners (or 2 new records in one day).
Then the fastest ride during the 6.000 km starts. We cover the 55km in exactly 2 hours and 1 minute with 95% heavy, stormy tailwind on top of the descent. Last curve in the road confirmed we would not have made it with a headwind, it was like hitting a wall. No shoulders but also almost no traffic and as we go so fast they don’t mind waiting until there is a possibility to pass.
Second record is the longest distance in a day, 122 km!
Cliff Dwellers is a restaurant and motel in the middle of nowhere but we are happy with the juicy hamburger, clean bed and shower (after 5 days camping!). Water and electricity, but no GSM reception or WIFI. As we can’t search anything we are pleased with the information in the room, which is very positive about Lees Ferry, Cathedral Wash and the Navajo Bridge close by.
We also decide to buy a new 15-45mm lens as ours does not work anymore and want to have it before we are at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, we do miss the quality for landscape photo’s when only using phone or our compact camera. Biking out of Cliff Dwellers we visit houses of the first settlers who used big boulders as base for their houses.
A short bike ride along the Vermilion Cliffs to Lees Ferry with a cake and ice cream stop at Lees Lodge (at 10:00 in the morning 😊), really friendly people who also recommend Lees Ferry and the local campground where you have the possibility to camp near the Colorado river! At the gas station we have GSM reception and can order the lens. Frank has a hilarious communication with Amazon when he tried to get the lens to be delivered to Cameron and needs to add a credit card. When indicated that the country where the card is register is The Netherlands the sales person at the other side of the lines says: oh that is the land of Peter Pan 😊. But after 2 hours on the phone we get the confirmation that the lens will be delivered to Cameron but in 4-5 work days. Lucky at the gas station there is also a laundromat where we meet Hannah and Natan who are biking from Anchorage to Panama. Also already 5 months on the road. By 15:00 we are finally ready to discover Lees Ferry and see what we will do the next days. Up to the campground through a red dessert, too late for walking the Cathedral Wash but welcomed at the campground by Wendy and Ed and homemade cupcakes, warm welcome guys and great cupcakes! We do a short walk to the Colorado river and meet some very friendly locals who are having a fishing outing.
Bill (57) has been with the army to Germany, and travelled all over Europe when he was there 30 years ago. They are having a mens fishing party with a few beers.