Friday, May 21, 2010

Scootering Around the Grand Canyon North Rim

It was sometime yesterday evening when I made a remark about not getting too settled in because we would be packing up in the morning to drive the Trek to the North Rim. And Lynda said, “Why don’t we take the scooter?” Hmmm… why not? I checked with Davy Crockett and he said the scooter would be fine on the road into the park, and that the speed limit varied between 35 and 45 MPH. No problem! We were pleased at the prospect of just jumping on the scooter and heading out first thing in the morning. 

The only fly in the ointment was that the dogs would be left in their crates in the Trek for 8-9 hours. Well, we reasoned, we’ve left them at house-home that long before. The weather was forecasted for a high of 74 degrees and we could leave windows and the roof vent open so they would get plenty of fresh air. And so it was.

We got on the scooter just before 9 AM this morning to ride to the Grand Canyon… and what an adventure that proved to be!  About 10 miles into the ride, the wind started gusting like crazy. Lynda was holding on for dear life and so was I!  We still had 30 miles to go just to get to the park entrance and then another 6 or so miles to the Lodge, where we were scheduled to meet the mule riding people at 12 noon. Also, before heading to the lodge, I wanted to ride up to Point Imperial, a famous overlook spot for the North Rim. So I knew we would be on that little scooter for at least another 50 miles.

And it was cold! Although it was the middle of May, it was downright chilly - between the gusting wind and the frigid weather, scooter riding conditions were definitely not ideal. But the ride was grrrreat anyway!  'Lil scooter was also having trouble going fast enough for other vehicles, so I would sometimes pull over to let the occasional car or motorcycle go past.

We rode through the Kaibab National Forest which had burned in some areas. Perhaps controlled burns? Whatever the cause of the fires, the scorched ground and warped trees formed a peculiar landscape that was both striking and creepy. I noticed altitude signs - we were at around 8,000 feet.

And then the scooter starting acting up. Yessir, that little booger decided she was not going to run properly.  She would be going along just fine and then bog down, as though she was not getting any fuel.  We would pull over, the engine would die, we would wait a few minutes, and then the scooter would start back up again.  After this happened two or three times, I realized we could pretty much rely on the bike starting back up and so I stopped worrying about getting stranded. Yes, it would take longer to get where we needed to go, but we had plenty of time. And even if she did quit for good, cars were coming along every so often and so we could make our way into the park one way or another.  Lynda was very good-natured about the whole thing and we agreed to keep going.

I thought the high altitude might be impacting the carburetor, which is tuned for sea level, or that we had a pinched vacuum line or some other fuel flow problem.  I could see gas was pooled at the fuel filter and so I knew fuel was flowing from the tank. I will work on this issue while I'm waiting at Lemoore NAS for Lynda to rejoin me.

Finally, we reached the park entrance. Using my America the Beautiful annual pass (a must-have if you are going to visit more than 3 national parks within a year), we made our way into the Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim.

By now, the forested area was behind us and we found ourselves riding through mountain meadows. There was still snow on the ground in shaded areas, providing wonderful contrast to the spring greens of new foliage and grass.

What a gorgeous sight it all was!  We really did not care about the wind or the scooter issue; we were just happy to be there.

We checked the time and discovered that, despite all the unplanned stops, we still had time to ride up to Imperial Point.

And so we did.  And when you look at the photos, you’ll see that this little side trip was more than worth it! 

We made it to the lodge area with minutes to spare and left the scooter and helmets in the Visitors parking lot. After checking in with the mule riding people, we got some lunch and relaxed for a bit before going on the mule ride. That mule ride is another story… I’ll just say here that it was most excellent, although a bit scary at times!

I have to say I think the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is even better than the South Rim. It is more rustic and the canyon itself is more intimate. That is probably not the right word, but I can’t think of a better way to put it. At the North Rim, the canyon is more narrow and, although still hugely spectacular,  I could wrap my mind around it better. If you’re planning to visit the Grand Canyon, I highly recommend the North Rim!  From there, you can easily visit other noteworthy attractions, such Zion national Park in Utah.

During our ride back out of the park, we spotted a coyote in one of the meadows. This was the only wildlife we saw that day, aside from a cute little momma chipmunk we met by the Lodge, and some hawks and other birds.

Our 50 mile trip back to Jacob Lake Campground was a repeat of our ride in: the wind was still gusting, the air was still chilly, and that darn scooter quit on us more times than I kept count! But we didn’t care… we had just spent a great day at the North Rim!  We rolled in to the campground just before 6 PM and Barley and Sydney were just fine, although glad to see us and very happy to get out of their crates.


RognCath said...

Incredible photos. I bet you slept well that night after all the adventures of the day.

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Brian Head said...

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is absolutely beautiful.

Brian Head

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