Luinil - Traveling with the Blue Star


September 2019 — Arizona Strip and Grand Canyon
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Copyright © 2015 - 2019 Larrie Easterly

Earlier this year a friend from California suggested that we do a road trip to northern Arizona in the fall. As we worked out the route we contacted several other friends until there were seven or us. Our route would take us into the Arizona Strip and to several different points that overlook the Grand Canyon from the north side.

The Arizona Strip is the area north of Grand Canyon National Park, south of Utah and east of Nevada. The area is very remote and difficult to travel through. A high clearance four wheel drive vehicle is required to get to most of the places we visited. There are only two small towns close to the Utah border and only two paved roads, also close to the border that pass through the area. All other roads are dirt, gravel or rock.

The Meandering 7 met in Mesquite, Nevada at the Virgin River Casino. The hotel has inexpensive rooms where several of us spent the night before the trip. Three of the group decided to camp at Whitney Pockets in stead of staying at the hotel. We all met there the following morning to start our adventure.

Whitney Pockets

Whitney Pockets — Photo Galley

Day 1
Whitey Pockets is an area with unique red and white sandstone rock formations. Many of the formations have shallow pockets (think caves) in them of varying sizes and depths. There are also moqui marbles being exposed in the weathering sandstone formations. The chocolate-colored marble spheres are concretions sandstone balls cemented by a hard shell of iron oxide minerals. As the sandstone erodes the marbles are exposed in the rock faces.

Leaving Whitney Pockets we headed for Grand Gulch Canyon. On the way we visited Devils Throat, a 234 foot deep sink hole in the desert. There was a chain link fence around the hole to warn people traveling across the desert that it was there. Entering the fenced area we were amazed at the size of the sink hole.

Our lunch stop was at the abandoned Gold Butte mine. The deep dark shaft was blocked off with a grate to keep people out of it. On the surface there were several artifacts left over from the when the mine was operational. There were also two grave markers at the site.

We camped at the base of the Grand Gulch Canyon as planned and watched a huge thunder and lightning storm move across the valley towards us. The rain showed up as the storm came closer. We huddled under our awnings and enjoyed a small fire while talking about what we have been doing since the time we last we got together.

Day 2
In the morning Charles, in his brand new Chevy Colorado Bison, and I headed north around the canyon while the rest of the group headed up the canyon on a very rough and difficult trail that my van would have had a very difficult time passing over. The bypass that Charles and I were taking was supposed to be a 40 mile loop on a graded road. Reality turned out to be something else. The first part of the road was slow going due to the small rocks that made for a rough ride. As we climbed in elevation we found our selves on a shelf road as it wound around a mountain. We came around a corner and were faced with several 12 to 18 inch high rock ledges that we had to climb up with our rigs. We stacked rocks in some areas so that we could make it up and over them. Once we reached the top the road smoothed out as it wound through the canyons. Eventually we we got to a nicely graded section that took us back south towards our meeting point with the rest of the group. By the time we met up with them our 40 mile easy bypass turned out to be 80 miles of challenging road.

Rough road

Road to Kelly Point — Photo Galley

After meeting up and exchanging stories about the roads we had taken we headed for the Savanic and Cunningham mines. The two mines are about two miles apart and the road to them across the mesa was in reasonable shape. The road down to the mines from the top of the mesa was narrow, steep and had not been used in many years. Bruce tried to get down the road to the Savanic but had to turn back due to the narrowness of the track. We backtracked several miles and found a sheltered spot to camp among juniper trees.

Day 3
Due the to the unknown road conditions leading out to Fort Garrett I rode with Charles out to the point. I enjoyed riding with Charles in his new Bison. It handled the rough road conditions much better than my van would have. We reached a fence with a sign that read “No vehicles beyond this point” and parked. The fence marks the boundary between Grand Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. Bruce, Charles, and Curt crossed the fence on foot to look for the fort. I hiked around taking photos of the Pearce Canyon and the surrounding area. Frenchie, Mynor and Chuck stayed at the vehicles and ate lunch. The fort turned out to be a pile of rubble that is all that remains of the 12x14 foot rock shanty that was built by two men. One of the men was named Garrett.

Pearce Canyon

Pearce Canyon — Photo Galley

The group got separated on the way to Oak Grove and our campsite for the the night. The van seemed to be struggling as we were climbed up a wash in a narrow canyon. I radioed Bruce, who was about a half a mile behind me, that I was stopping to check if anything was wrong. He radioed back that his Jeep was overheating and was stopping to let it cool down. The steep canyon walls prevented us from contacting the other members of the group to let them know what was going on. The van seemed to be fine so once Bruce was ready we continued on up the wash to Oak Grove. The rest of the group was already there with camp setup when we got to the campsite. After dinner we enjoyed popcorn cooked over the fire in a dutch oven.

Day 4
The road out to Kelly Point was was good until it turned terrible, then it got worse. For most of the way to the point we were driving on a narrow track that seemed more like a rock garden than a road. It wound its way snake like around overhanging trees that encroached onto the road. It was so narrow in spots that the branches scraped along the sides of our vehicles. Occasionally the road turned into a smooth dirt track. These were a welcome relief after climbing over the large imbedded rocks in the road. We were close to the end when it started raining. The smooth dirt sections turned into a slick muddy mess. At times it felt like I was driving on ice. It took us four hours to go the 22 miles out to the point. Several of our vehicles sustained minor damage on the way out and back. Both Bruce and I broke our HAM radio antennas and my passenger side mirror got damaged. We all had new pin striping on the sides and tops of our vehicles from the tree branches. Once we navigated the road we were met with a stunning view of the Sanup Plateau.

Sanup Plateau

Sanup Plateau — Photo Galley

Day 5
The next morning we repeated the four hour incredibly rough journey north. We found a sheltered place to camp among juniper trees and settled in. While setting up camp I noticed that one of the bolts on my spare tire carrier had come loose and fallen out. Charles carries some spare bolts and we were able to find one that fit. We were all running low on fuel and discussed the situation around the campfire and decided to make the 60 mile round trip drive to St. George, UT for fuel and supplies the next morning.

Day 6
After fueling up we all met a Walmart for last minute supplies. Frenchie was having problems shifting his Jeep in and out of four wheel drive. Rather than take a chance of a catastrophic failure in the middle of nowhere he decided to head home. We said our goodbyes and then headed back south into the Arizona Strip. Our windy campsite that night had a beautiful view of Parashant Canyon.

Parashant Canyon

Parashant Canyon — Photo Galley

Day 7
Bruce, Mynor and Curt wanted to drive down into Parashant Canyon. The road had not been used in a long time and they were not sure how far they would get. Charles, Chuck and I decided to head to the Bar 10 ranch and then down to the Colorado River overlook at Whitmore Canyon.

Bar 10 Ranch

Bar 10 Ranch — Photo Galley

The roads were in pretty good shape until we started dropping down into Whitmore Canyon where they turned a bit rocky. We were glad to get to the Bar 10 where we had our first showers in seven days. The Bar 10 ranch is a large operation with 1,200 head of cattle, Colorado River rafting expeditions, cowboy adventures and the ability to sleep in covered wagons or bunkhouses at the ranch. The ranch is the only place to buy gas on the Arizona Stip.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon — Photo Galley

It is a seven mile slow drive down Whitmore Canyon from the ranch to the overlook. The road like most of the ones in the area is rough and strewn with imbedded rocks with many tight switchbacks and shallow rock ledges as it drops about 1,000 feet to the edge of the Grand Canyon. The view of the canyon and river was worth the drive. From the overlook we could see the Colorado River make a long sweeping east to west curve through the canyon. As we were admiring the view we saw several groups of rafters float by and pull to the bank. Using binoculars we saw that they were setting up camp for the night.

It was very windy at the edge of the canyon so I parked the van to act as a windbreak. After dinner we sat in the lea of the van and watched the stars come out. It was a clear sky and the Milky Way was out in all its glory.

Day 8
At 7:00 am the next morning we heard the thump thump thump of the Bar 10 helicopter coming to pick up the rafters down on the river. It is hard to understand the scale of the Grand Canyon until you see a six passenger helicopter fly down into it and become a tiny dot as it lands on the beach to pick up its passengers. The helicopter made three trips into the canyon to pick up the rafters and take them to the ranch where they could get cleaned up before catching a plane to Boulder, NV.

Helicopter in the Canyon

Helicopter in the Canyon — Photo Galley

Later that morning we met up with the rest of our group at the Bar 10. They had spent the night on one of the mesas overlooking our campsite. After they got fuel had had showers we headed out and once again. Bruce, Mynor, and Curt took the hard route through Hells Hollow while the rest of us took the longer easier route through Potato Valley. We agreed to meet at the end of the road campsite on Mount Logan.

Top of Mt. Logan

Top of Mt. Logan — Photo Galley

We arrived shortly before the other group and were enjoying the panoramic view of the valleys below when they showed up. That evening, like others, we sat around a small campfire and swapped stories and had smokies and popcorn.

Day 9
Toroweap Point was next on the travel itinerary. Two of us had gotten permits, before leaving home, to camp at Toroweap Point campground within the Grand Canyon National Park. On the way we stopped to view the Nampaweap Petroglyphs that had been carved into the basalt rock face of a small canyon. Most of them were clustered together although others were solitary in placement. It seems like to leave some sort of mark on something so that they will be remembered long after they are gone. This applies to tombstones, buildings, graffiti, art, or rock carving.

Nampaweap Petroglyphs

Nampaweap Petroglyphs — Photo Galley

You do not need a permit to visit Toroweap Point and look down into the canyon. A permit is only required to spend the night there. The permits that we had only allowed two cars and three people at each campsite. This was sort of a problem because there were six vehicles. Mynor and Chuck decided that they would head back to the area of the petroglyphs and camp there. No fires are allowed in the park so after dinner we sat and watched the stars come out.

View from Toroweap Overlook

View from Toroweap Overlook — Photo Galley

The view into the canyon at the Toroweap overlook is much better than at the campground as the campground is setback quite a ways from the edge of the canyon. Like all the roads on the north rim a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle is required. It is a slow rough ride to get anywhere on the strip.

Day 10
It is not easy to go from one canyon overlook to another. The overlooks are at the tips of the mesas that jut out into the canyon. It takes a lot of backtracking around the canyon fingers to get to a point where the elevations allow you to cross over to the next mesa and drive out to the next overlook. For example it is about 26 miles, as the crow flies, from Toroweap to Kanab Point. The drive to get from one point to the other is 64 miles and took about six hours including a stop on the top of a hill.

As we reached the top our cell phones started downloading text messages. We stopped and made some phone calls and sent texts to check in with our loved ones. Cell phone coverage on the strip is almost non existent so you need to take advantage of it when it does shows up. The funny part was that I had service where I was standing and Mynor, who was standing right next to me, did not even though we had the same carrier. He walked about ten feet away from me and got service. Go figure.

Chamberlin Canyon

Chamberlin Canyon — Photo Galley

After we checked in we headed for the Kanab Point area. Our first stop was at Chamberlin Canyon. The location gave a wonderful view down its length to a more impressive view of the Kanab Creek Canyon. While admiring a view we got to see a tarantula and a horny toad. The tarantula was all furry and the toad was very cute.

View from Kanab Point

View from Kanab Point — Photo Galley

We had camping permits to spend the night at Kanab Point. These did not have the same restrictions as the Toroweap permits. Where Toroweap had designated camp sites Kanab point did not. We picked a spot right at the edge of the canyon where we could enjoy the view of the canyon and the river during sunset and sunrise. Once again the stars did not disappoint.

Day 11
The original plan was to leave Kanab Point and head for several other points to the East in the Kaibab National Forest. We scrapped that idea due to the lightning caused Ikes Fire that had been burning for several months. We had been watching the smoke billow into the sky since arriving at Kanab Point. In the morning we saw that the smoke from the fire had started to settle into the canyon. We could just smell it if the wind was coming from the right direction.

Grand Canyon near Kanab Creek Canyon

Grand Canyon near Kanab Creek Canyon — Photo Galley

Today turned into the day that the group began to split up. Charles and I headed for Kanab to see if we could get permits to hike into The Wave rock formation. The rest of the group were headed back west to visit some other points that we skipped.

It looks like the person that put in the road into and out of Kanab Point was given the goal of missing every tree they possibly could. The route is narrow and winds around trees in a long series of tight S turns. I was glad to get off it and back onto the plateau.

Charles and I stopped at the Bureau of Land Management office in Kanab and asked about the permits to hike into The Wave. The gentleman there said they issues 10 permits a day and usually have about 150 applications. This is not good odds. He said the best odds are in December when there are far fewer applications.

Instead of hiking into The Wave we decided to hike Wire Pass instead. Both hikes are located in the Coyote Butte area of Utah. The hike is about 1.7 miles one way. It starts in the broad Coyote Wash and then narrows into slot canyon that is just wide enough to walk through with some points requiring that you turn sideways to continue on.

Wire Pass

Wire Pass — Photo Galley

It was a beautiful and remarkably quiet place to hike. The red sandstone rose at least 100 feet above us. At the junction of Wire Pass and Buckskin Canyon there is a large amphitheater like area formed in the rock face. While we were admiring the view we heard a strange noise. We looked up and saw two crows flying above us. The noise was the sound of their wing beats and the vibration of the feathers. We got back to the vehicles about 4:00 pm and headed for the Stateline Campground a few miles south of our position. We got the last of the eight camping spot. The campground is the northern terminus of the Arizona Trail and sits directly on the border between Arizona and Utah.

Day 12
In the morning Charles headed south towards home and I headed north to Oregon. It would take me another four days before I reached home.

Before the group split up Chuck recommended I take Cottonwood Road north rather than heading back to Kanab on the highway. I took his advice and was glad that I did. It was a beautiful drive through the canyon. The road passes by Grosvenor Arch. I stopped to enjoy the view of the double arches while eating lunch.

Grosvernor Arch

Grosvernor Arch — Photo Galley

Cottonwood road changes from dirt to pavement at the entrance to Kodachrome Basin State Park. Even though all of the campsites were full the ranger let me stay in the parking lot of the group site. (At times it helps to be in a self contained vehicle.) After a shower and doing laundry I hiked up Angel’s Palace Trail up to the viewpoints and enjoyed the light of the setting sun playing on the sandstone cliffs.

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Kodachrome Basin State Park — Photo Galley

Day 13-15
Chuck also suggested I continued north and stop in South Jourdan, UT to spend the night at his house. Chuck was not home yet but his wife, Anne, welcomed me and was glad to see me again. Chuck and Anne had traveled with us in 2017 on a trip around Oregon. It was good to see them again.

The next morning I stopped at our church temple in Sandy, UT for services before continuing north. My last night was spent on the banks of the Snake River a few miles inside Oregon.

After a good nights sleep I was on the road again on the final leg of my journey. It was good to be home again with Ann and our cat Shadow.

Statistics
Total mileage: 2,878
Dirt mileage: 713
Total gallons of gas: 284

Past Travels
Hawaii

Hawaii

282 feet below sea level

Barrancas del Cobre

282 feet below sea level

282 feet below sea level

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Summer Lake Hot Springs

Twin Rocks

Twin Rocks