Sunday, July 18, 2010

Southwest Trip-Part 4-North Rim

We arrived at the North Rim late in the day, so we had just enough time to hike the short trail out to Bright Angel Point and then catch the sunset from the outdoor patio at the lodge.
Our first impression of the North Rim was that it was crowded, because we had a tough time finding a parking place, but it was nothing like the crowds and the shuttle bus system of the South Rim. They had also decided to repave the area right in front of the lodge the days we were there, so we just couldn't seem to escape construction, even at the Grand Canyon.
The views from the North Rim were even more spectacular..perhaps the lighting was more interesting. Max was bored watching another sunset, so we again occupied ourselves with finding shapes in the rock shadows. Max found an alligator. I found Whistler's mother. Though I couldn't seem to really capture those shapes in a photo, so don't bother looking for them in these views.

We were most excited to try a half-day mule trip into the Canyon. I attempted to book the trip when we first arrived, and yet we still found ourselves on standby for the afternoon ride the next day. As it happened, it worked out in our favor. Perhaps it is due to a bit of good luck acquired through rubbing Brighty's nose in the Grand Canyon Lodge. (There is a bronze statue of Brighty, with a very shiny, well rubbed nose.)
We were shuttled to the North Kaibab trailhead, and assigned to our mules. "Slim", "Big Mac" and "Gus". They divided us into groups of about eight per mule wrangler, and we headed down. It is a steep trail, and much more tiring to go down than up. I will never understand why people do this ride wearing shorts. None of us were particularly bothered by the mules' tendency to hug the edge of the trail. We trusted them to carry us safely down. At the stopping point, there is a water fountain, a restroom, and hitching posts for the mules, so everyone gets off to stretch their legs.
The red dust is everywhere. And by the time the ride is over, it is embedded into your boots, jeans and socks. We inhaled quite a bit of it, too.

The view between Slim's ears.
Michael looking relaxed in the saddle.
Try shooting straight when you're twisted around in the saddle, on a moving mule.

The next morning, we decided to explore a couple more points on the North Rim, which involved a 20 mile drive out to the end of the Walhalla plateau. From here we viewed Angel's window. Then we took our last look at the canyon before heading north to our next stop, Bryce Canyon.