Coconino Forest to the Grand Canyon – Part 2

Continued from Part 1

It’s always a bit easier to sleep-in when it’s cool outside. The last couple of trips to our local deserts have turned the RTT into a sauna in the morning hours, making it nearly impossible to sleep to a decent hour. Thankfully the higher elevation here helped with that and we managed to get some solid shut eye.

After enjoying the view out of the tent while waking up, I started to pack while Candace made her signature breakfast; Peppers, onions, potatoes, sausage, eggs and cheese all scrambled together. Good way to start the day on a brisk morning!

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Last view looking into Sedona before departing for the Grand Canyon

 

FR153A is rough and slow going. Sharp rocks, ledges and not many line options isn’t much fun, but it’s what keeps places like this isolated.

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Once back on Schnebly Road, it felt good to up the pace. After being amazed with the views in and around Sedona, we couldn’t wait until the Grand Canyon. Originally, the plans were to explore a bit more of the forest area around Oak Creek and try to take trails as far north as possible, but limited time forced us to hop on the 17 to Flagstaff.

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It was as fun as it looks…

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Lucy livin’ that dog life.

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After exploring, refueling and getting a few things in Flagstaff, we made way for the 64/180. As the drive went on, the clouds became darker, followed by sprinkles, then rain. The forecast showed a 70% chance of thunderstorms throughout the region, which changed dramatically from the 20% that was predicted earlier in the day. We pressed on, and it wasn’t until I saw a Jeep going the opposite direction covered in mud that I began to second question the idea of heading out to such a remote location alone. Figured I could get on the trail, and if it got too nasty I could always turn around and fall back to plan B. Once in Tusayan, it’s what you would expect on a holiday weekend. Coffee shops, gas stations and info centers were packed to capacity, crowds of people all racing towards Grand Canyon Village. Vehicle traffic was backed up from the town, all the way to the parks entrance. Took almost 30 minutes of stop and go to get to our exit.

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Was surprised at our elevation when I got around to checking it.

 

Then, just like that, a simple turn and it was all behind us. It got a bit muddy from time to time, but the truck didn’t have any issues with just the rear locker engaged.

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A few miles in you pass over the Grand Canyon Railway. We waited around for a short time to hopefully catch one of the trains but no luck.

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The trail offered amazing and diverse views.

 

We eventually reached a point where it’d be safest to switch and keep it in 4wd. Puddles were growing larger and the mud was starting to fling off the tires. All of the easy-to-access campsites have been passed and the numerous tracks in the soggy dirt narrowed down to what appeared to be just one vehicle ahead of us.

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Stopped for a quick break and was very happy to see that the new BFGoodrich AT KO2’s do a great job of not packing with mud! But seriously, these tires have been amazing and have performed excellent through everything I’ve put them through.

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This kills the uniball…

 

Our destination was Havasupai Point, located on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. In order to get there, you must travel across the Havasupai Tribal Lands for a few miles. You eventually arrive at a gate and a small building where you are required to fill out a permit, pay a fee and get an authorized signature from whomever is staffing the outpost. Only then will you be allowed to proceed onto the Tribal Lands legally. We had everything in order prior to pulling up, so getting our permit was hassle free.

We were greeted by Clayton, who very kindly asked what our agenda was and when we’d be leaving. Gave him the info he needed and I asked if anyone had been through the last couple of days. He said only one, and that was in the morning. We thanked him kindly and continued on our way.

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Clayton closing the gate behind us.

 

A few miles in, the trail begins to gain some elevation and the mud becomes slimy. The Tacoma would slide and lose traction with any abrupt input, so keeping a slow and steady pace was key to making safe progress. That worked out well until the road was blocked…

As we approached closer and closer, they stood their ground, looking at us as if they’ve never seen a vehicle and/or a human before. I could feel that the ground here wasn’t the best place to stop, it was slick and would be a horrible place to get stuck or slide into the small trench on the right. I goosed it a bit which seemed to startle them, but they stayed put until what seemed like the last second. Eventually, they ran off into the bush. The “soul keeper” on the left, didn’t budge, and stared us down with hatred as we passed.

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Past the hoofed road block, we were back in a maze of trees and bushes, but I knew at this point we were getting close.  This is when we got REALLY excited. Neither of us had scene the Grand Canyon before, other then pictures. We never spoiled our first view by visiting any of the park’s view points, the first time we were going to set eyes on it was here. Out here in the back-country, preserved just the way it’s been for thousands of years.

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And that’s when we got our first glimpse. A small clearing in the bush revealed we were driving near the rims edge. We didn’t stop, just slowed down enough to snap a picture and let out childish giggles and remarks. “OH MY GOD, DID YOU SEE THAT!?!?”.

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Our first ever view of the Grand Canyon

 

According to the GPS, we had about another 1/4 mile to go before we reached the point. With our second wind, we picked up the pace just a bit. Rounding a corner, we finally caught up to the vehicle that Clayton had mentioned earlier in the day. They were stopped in the middle of the trail looking at the left rear tire, but once they spotted us, they hurried back into the cab and took off towards the point. We gave them distance to not rush them since they were the first ones at the site, and parked out of their way, giving them plenty of room to claim their camp.

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We cracked open a couple colder then ice beers from the fridge and stood there in awe. This is it. And it’s grander then grand. I must have took over 200 pictures to try and capture what you see when you’re standing there at the edge, but failed. It’s more then what you see, it’s what you feel as well. The Grand Canyon takes over you. It’s an experience.

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After a few minutes, we walked over and introduced ourselves and let them know that’d we’d be more then happy to move down a ways so they could have the point all to themselves. They insisted we stay, and even have a drink over dinner a bit later. Hate to admit that I can’t remember their names, but they were very nice and amazed at our story when we told them this was our first time seeing the Grand Canyon. The older gentleman has been coming here for over 50 years, and was friends with the Bass family that used to frequent the area, and a local trail is named after. He told us the history about the point, how it was formed, landmarks and the different “streets” (layers) and it’s relation with different spots in North America. An incredible wealth of knowledge. It was a remarkable way to experience our first visit here, and they made it extremely welcoming.

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No information kiosks here.

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After a bit, we all decided it was a good time to setup our camps while it was still light outside, and we’d meet up afterwards for dinner and a few drinks. We found a great spot on the North East portion of the rim and got ourselves situated. Not a minute later, it began to rain.

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Can’t get much closer then this

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LUC-E PHONE HOME

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After a brief rain shower, we could hear another vehicle approaching in the distance. Given it was a holiday weekend, we expected that there could be a few people here. Soon, a early 90’s Toyota 4Runner arrived and parked beside us. An older gentleman in a vest, sweat pants with shorts over them, white socks and sandals comes running up, “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ALL ABOUT?!? I HAD THIS WHOLE PLACE RESERVED AND THERE SHOULDN’T BE ANYONE HERE. I BOOKED THIS MONTHS AGO!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!!!”. Candace and I look at each other in shock. For all the research I’ve done, you can’t “reserve” Havasupai Point. I could be wrong, but nothing on the parks website indicated so. There are special permits needed for hiking back-country and staying overnight, and certain campgrounds, but not here. I expressed this to him, and he was still the rudest and most short tempered man I’ve ever come across. We ask to see his permit, and the 2 gentlemen we were with earlier came to see what the commotion was about. The guy just wouldn’t listen, being irrational and a total downer. Turns out, his permit wasn’t even for here, but rather another spot that did require a reservation. Even with that brought to his attention, he was still off his rocker. It really, really ruined the special moment we had when we arrived and relaxed to our awesome camp spot.

After a while, the older gentleman talked him down and convinced him he either needs to go to his reserved spot, or he could stay with us. Let’s call him Mr. Downer, finally agrees to stay. Candace and I don’t really feel comfortable or relaxed at this point, when suddenly he comes barging into our camp with the most unsympathetic apology, if you’d call it that, about his misunderstanding. We tell him not to worry about it, and explain that we’re leaving. You could almost see the smirk come across his face. We went over to shake hands and give our thanks to the 2 gentlemen we met earlier, and explained that we were going to head up a ways to grab our own spot.

Closed the roof top tent, packed the bed with our unorganized mess and took off.

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Last view of our camp here, before moving down to another spot on the rim.

 

We drove about 10 minutes back on the trail that led us to the point and pulled into a spot we found along the way. As soon as we parked, it felt better without Mr. Downer being around. We setup, Candace finished cooking our dinner and we sat down and looked over the canyon with the best seats in the house.

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These aren’t the mountains you’re looking for…

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Our alternative spot was perfect and life couldn’t get better after a few cold beers, warm dinner and endless views. The clouds worked their way back over us and began to drizzle enough to not want to stay outside. Worked out, as we were tired after so much driving and adventure. Crawled up in the tent and played some cards and listened to music before calling it a night.

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It was a short nights sleep. Awoke to the sound of pouring rain. Opened the front of the Tepui and saw how soaked the ground and surroundings were. The Canyon wasn’t even visible through all the moisture in the air. Darn! The plans of cooking breakfast and enjoying one last view went out the window. But in the end, we still had a long drive home ahead of us today so it was a good reason to get a jump start.

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The same area that we saw the Grand Canyon for the first time the day prior, was now not even visible.

 

The damp trail in, now left with muddy tracks. 4-low and rear locker for most of the drive back into Tusayan.

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About half way to the town, and many mud puddles later, I was curious what the truck looked like. Was not surprised.

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4 mug bogs, 3 massive puddles, 2 hours and 1 muddy truck later, we hit pavement.

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Thankfully it poured rain to help clean the truck along the way!

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Warm coffee was magical after being soaked in mud and water.

 

The pavement and realization we were heading home was bittersweet.

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We stopped in Needles to make lunch and to stretch our legs. Said goodbye to Arizona for the hospitality and got a sneak peak of our next adventure next month…

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Until next time.

By | 2017-01-19T15:41:37+00:00 May 27th, 2015|Trip Reports|2 Comments

About the Author:

Desert explorer. Photographer. Vehicle enthusiast. In constant pursuit to find something new. Mining history buff.

2 Comments

  1. Tane June 4, 2015 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    AWESOMENESS. I’ve been there twice and did the helicopter thing, but your adventure was the BEST! The grandness is something that you can only feel while viewing. Thanks for sharing Kyle and Candace!

  2. Zac November 4, 2016 at 10:07 am - Reply

    I’ve taken the GC Railroad Train up to the rim which was a great trip. Next time I definitely plan to do something more adventurous like yours. Question: what “app” are you using on your tablet?

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