October 2, 2018.
It rained on and off throughout the night - not too bad, actually when it comes right down to it. The rain stopped by early morning, though a cloud cover remained, allowing me a second reprieve from an early-morning to capture sunrise. It was 8:00am by the time I pulled myself out of the tent, Mike @Digiratus also up, getting his coffee started.
A bowl of Cheerios in my hand, I ventured to the edge of the canyon - it's reds and oranges now deeper from the overnight rain. The dramatic clouds causing a flat-if-not-a-bit-ominous light.
We poked around for a while, knowing that the tents would go away wet, but hoping we could change that to "damp" if we let them air out a while. But, we had a long day of driving ahead, so it wasn't long before we dried out the best we could and folded the tents up, hoping the evening would be warm and the rain would be gone so that everything would dry out by the time we crawled into bed.
Oh, and with no chance to refuel the previous day, and another overlook to hit before heading to town, we'd need our spare fuel - 10 gallons each - so before heading out, we transferred it from our jerry can's to our fuel tanks, Monte @Blackdawg and Mike racing with their spouts; both teasing me about the (slow) speed of my siphon. But, I'm still a fan of the siphon, even if this time I did manage to pull it out of the neck of the gas tank, spilling gas all over the side of my truck! Doh!
Tanks replenished, we were ready to go. Out of camp and back on the curvy road we'd sped down the night before, we had a blast, stopping only once along the finger that is SB point to capture the canyon as we headed onto the plateau.
Away from the canyon and back on the flat, the sky may have been dreary, but the landscape was as vibrant as ever - the water having scrubbed the dust from foliage, and pollution from the air. As we made our way east toward Kanab Point, we took it all in - reveling in the nearly dustless roads as we went.
We made good time, and it was only 11:00am when we reached Kanab Point - really, a series of four points with views of the Grand Canyon. As usual, we couldn't explore just one and so it was that we got out of the trucks to see just what the first overlook had to offer. Photos can never really capture something as large as the canyon in any way that convey's it's magnitude, but we were all once again stunned as we tried to make out which of the deep ravines was the main channel and marveled at the erosive forces of water all around us.
And then we were off to what turned out to be the main overlook at Kanab Point. Mike was the first to roll up, and over the CB he let us know that it was a "Top-of-the-World" situation. Excited as ever to lean out over nothingness, Monte and I headed over. It wasn't quite as we'd expected, but we lined up anyway and took it all in once again - definitely no complaints from us!
The views of the Grand Canyon here were great too - helped by a few breaks in the clouds that let a bit more sunlight down into the crevices. But still, there was no way to capture the vastness.
And with that, we checked out the remaining overlooks. One of them was right on a finger - a cool view to see the rim of the canyon and it's crumbling boulders just a few steps ahead - for now, but not forever. And in the distance, the layers of rock, eroded over millions of years.
Kanab Point explored as much as we could in the overcast weather, we piled back into the trucks for the 60-mile run into town. We'd been nearly three days without a re-fuel, and it was time to get everything filled up again - Mike's Redhead especially thirsty. A few parting shots and we were off!
The drive was one that we were now becoming accustomed to - north up the finger of the Canyon, and then across the plateau to the next road east - along the entire north rim by the time we were done, we hoped. In and out of the National Park and Monument, private land and fences (for cattle) also crossed the landscape. And here, in the middle of nowhere, when possible, roads were straight.
Straight for very long distances.
Eventually as we neared town, the trees gave way to plains of grass and scrub, the road widening and the impact of civilization becoming more clear. Still, the shadows of the trucks trying to come out, it was a beautiful day to be out of a drive.
We fueled up in Fredonia - not the cheapest gas in the world as Monte seemed to constantly remind us throughout the trip - this time made worse due to our need to also refill our additional 10 gallon reserves. It was a bit after noon, and as we pulled out of the gas station, I suggested that we eat lunch once we got out of town and back on dirt.
Everyone agreed (though there was some disagreement on how far away dirt was - for some reason, Mike and Monte thought it was much closer than I did) and we carried on. Then, as we headed southeast, rain. Not just a little rain either - this was serious, truck-washing rain.
"And so it begins." said Monte over the CB, followed shortly by "F*ck you rain." It wouldn't be the last time.
Eventually we got to dirt, and being hungry, we decided to make sandwiches as quickly as we could in the downpour. Two of us at least - Mike got all his supplies out in the cab and made his sandwich there, dry. As we ate, a USFS (Forest Service) truck passed us - leaving us to wonder where it was headed.
It wasn't long before we left ourselves - no leisurely lunch for us given the rain - up the trail towards Jump Up Point.
The rain still falling hard, the road was in significantly worse shape than any other we'd traveled so far, it's steepness likely contribution to the erosion. And then, a problem.
The road was closed. We weren't sure if it was the USFS truck that had passed us just moments ago, or if the road had been closed for weeks, but we were kicking ourselves for taking the lunch break - we might have made it if we hadn't dallied for those few minutes. In the end, we headed back down and consulted our maps - hoping that we'd find another way to the point that wouldn't take us too far out of our way, since we knew our fuel situation was again going to be tight.
As we headed toward the single road we'd found - up and over "Little Mountain" - the road surface starting to show signs of saturation, our alternate climbed up into the trees, and we hoped this route wouldn't share the same fate as the last.
As we neared the top of Little Mountain, the path forward became way less clear. Monte'd head one way, only to have me call out over the CB, "I think the trail went this (other) direction." In fact, parts of the trail clearly hadn't been driven for years - dead-fall and regrowth blocking the path.
As we headed back down the other side - our confidence growing that our reroute would be successful, we wound our way through low tree branches, trying to avoid the ham radio antenna's as much as possible. Unfortunately, that meant that Monte missed a branch coming in from the side, which nailed his driver door pretty good.
And then, we reached the other end of our reroute - we were now back on track to Jump Up Point, now just hoping that there'd be a break in the downpour where we could setup (and climb into) our tents.
It was during this time that - with the roads saturated - the mud started. Now, a little dirt on the trucks is pretty normal, and we didn't think much of it - little did we know that it was just the beginning.
And then, miraculously, as we made our way out this next finger of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the sun started to break through the clouds. The constant rain became intermittent, and then - a rainbow between the canyon and our trucks!
All this just as we got our first real glimpses of the rim of the canyon and the views beyond. The first "sunny" views we'd seen in a while - a welcome sight to our eyes after such a wet afternoon. Despite "the look" from Mike (you know, the one that says "We need to get to camp before dark"), we stopped to take it in.
It was as though every few hundred feet we drove, there was another amazing view. Of course, they were all of the same thing, just from different angles and with different light. It's my hope that such minorly different sights continue to amaze me for years to come, because it's so fun to get to the edge and know, "I already have this shot, but I need to take it again."
Only a little after 5:00pm, we ran out of road - we'd reached Jump Up Point after a slog through rain and mud. Now this was a view. I mean sure, there were still some clouds - but they seemed to be clearing and the ground was drying out. There was plenty of room at the edge of the rim for two trucks, and a fire ring a little ways back.
We got ourselves situated.
We made dinner and started the camp fire. The clouds continued to clear. The breeze- especially on the edge of the rim where Monte and I had parked - picked up; a good thing in my mind to dry out the tent. In all, it was shaping up to be a really nice evening.
We wondered - would the sun ever poke through the clouds on the horizon? If it did, we'd get a good show, we were sure. Regardless, we hoped that the next morning would bring an amazing sunrise over the canyon.
In the end, the sun did poke through the clouds just a bit that night. It was short and fleeting, and the colors were splashes here and there as opposed to paintings across the sky, but we enjoyed them all!
Eventually, a purple hue, and then it was done.
The light gone, I made tacos with fresh guacamole (as though the guacamole Mike had made with his salsa wasn't enough) and ate them around the camp fire. Monte and Mike had their dinners as well - steak and corn for Mike, and sausage with green onions for Monte.
As the temperature dropped, we stoked the fire and kept the conversation going as long as we could - not as late as the first night, but later than the previous - finally calling it a night at midnight. As we climbed up into our tents and the wind picked up, we all hoped the next day would bring back the sun and warmth, and maybe - fingers crossed - a grand sunrise over the Grand Canyon.
But for now, I put in my earplugs and fell fast asleep, the wind rocking the tent, hanging out on the edge of the canyon.