If one lives in the desert, one cannot complain about the rain. Sometimes it is there and sometimes it is not. It now seems to be here… but not in its normal monsoon pattern – cloud up in the afternoon, dump for 30 minutes, clear up, sunny. We are now in the heart of the Navajo Nation and it started raining around 6 am and three hours later, it is only intensifying. After leaving Bluewater Lake we headed towards Flagstaff and spent a few days in the mountains southeast of town. Quite nice and the rain for the most part followed the monsoon patterns. We were able to do our hiking, birdwatching and sightseeing with minimal rain interruption. On to Wapatki and Sunset Crater National Monument and another day of good, cool (low 80’s) weather. Perfect!
The only piece of the trip that was planned was to spend 3-days on the south rim of the Grand Canyon – neither Jim or I had been to the south rim since we were kids. Mostly avoiding it as we’d heard it was so crowded. We were still half afraid to go… We straightened our spines and headed into the park and to our, God forbid, reserved campsite. Jim picked well and, all in all, the campground was pretty nice. Lots of car traffic during the evening, but things quieted down by 10. Interestingly, the campground was full of rental RV’s piloted by Europeans. It is a “primitive” campground – no hookups for water, electric or sewer, but paved roads… and there were lots of tents as well (with lots of Europeans). I guess it is the “American” adventure.
The first day we did a 8-mile bike trip along the rim to Hermit Point. Great ride as the road is closed to car traffic and the views… well, you can imagine. Shortly after we got to Hermits Point, the deluge started.
Luckily we took the bus back but not after getting pretty wet. It continued raining for 3 or 4 hours and on and off during the night. A cozy afternoon of playing games in the camper. Day 2 – a 6-mile round trip hike down the Kiabab Trail to Skeleton Point. “Only” a 2100 foot decent and return starting at 7200 feet. Should not be too hard… I had my heart set on Skeleton Point but Jim’s goal was not quite as ambitious. I won. We started sort of early – 8:30 – to try and beat the heat and afternoon storms. They suggest twice as long to hike up as down and to allow 4 – 6 hours in total. We set a brisk pace down to provide plenty of return time. An hour and 20 minutes down with stops at Ooo Ah Point, Cedar Flat and then Skeleton Point.
Jim was anxious to get going on the return – always ready to complete the task at hand – the 2100 foot climb in 3 miles (that’s only 700 feet a mile which does not sound too bad…) I set a brutal pace from Skeleton Point back to Cedar Flat – return time the same as the time down – 40 minutes from Cedar Flat to Skeleton Point and the same time back. Do I say now that this was a dumb idea? I cannot believe how many snacks we were eating and how beat we were on arrival at Cedar Flat. Long break here and lots of food and water. A more gentle pace the remaining 1.5 miles to the top – completing our return from bottom to top in just at 2 hours and 40 minutes – just out of water and almost out of food. And we beat the rain which was less torrential. Getting long on the Grand Canyon, although I could talk more about it. All in all, a good visit there.
To wrap up this post, back to Flagstaff for a really informative lecture and mushroom foray (what they call group mushroom hunts) put on by the Arboretum at Flagstaff in the mountains north of town (finished just as the deluge started) and a wonderful dinner in the camper (now in Navajo country) consisting of Bolita Barrowsii (names after a New Mexico mycologist who discovered it) in a cream sauce with linguini and (believe it or not a week and a half in the camper) fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden made into a caprese.
And back to the rain… it is still raining at nearly 11 am. Where shall we go???