Nature nailed it. The Grand Canyon is not just a beautiful view; the canyon entices and tempts. In the Grand Canyon our limits of human sight are tested; look deeper and further. This may lead you to want to feel each layer below your feet; to get down to the roots…to the river; to walk the entire length; to see what lies in the shadows; to know what you are capable of. The rim of the Grand Canyon is euphoric and you may end up with a terrifying desire to learn everything you can.
Our experience on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon varied so much from the South Rim that we felt we were at a new canyon all together. The differences went well beyond simply facing a new horizon, though this too was striking. The canyon had a new look and appeared far more vegetated and less steep. With a rim separation of 2 miles and an elevation delta of around 1000 feet (the North Rim wins the contest) it makes sense that there would be great differences.
Again we camped outside of the park within the Kaibab National Forest and were treated to more campfires, stars and a great fireside companion, Bob, who was traveling alone and offered great tips for the continuation of our trip. Additionally, as we made our way into the park on our first day we were greeted by a herd of buffalo, one of North America’s great icons living within North America’s most treasured land.
Since we noticed the differences in the rims so quickly I will go through them quickly. The North Rim Village is small and quaint, making it seem more appropriate in the grand natural setting of the Grand Canyon. There we far fewer services which likely led to the next big difference. It was not crowded. This was fabulous and we enjoyed this fact for our whole stay.
As I talked about in our piece on the South Rim, we were determined to explore further below the rim than we had with the South Kaibab Trail. After talking to the park rangers on our first day we decided to hike the North Kaibab trail down to the Roaring Springs.
We weren’t sure if there would be a similar rush at the trail-head so we decided to head down earlier around 6:30 am. With our layers on and our backpacks equipped with 2 liters of water each, lots of Lara Bars and fruit sauce packets, we headed down into the canyon. The best thing about the time we have spent on the road is all the things we have learned. When it comes to hiking, we now have down what works best for us to get the most out of our time.
To get to our destination we hiked down through six geologic layers, distinguished finely in color, and down 3,240 vertical feet. The trail was marked by its shear sidewalls, that plummeted and surged on either side, a vertical limbo that left us with a marvelous slight vertigo whether looking up or down. It was just the right width to know you had enough room for safe passage but beyond your comfort zone that frequent thoughts of 300 foot falls were inescapable.
With each layer, came new changes and views of the canyon. With very few people on the trail we felt as though we could feel the canyon in our own space and time. It was such a profound difference from the South Rim that I will easily say, this is the side that we prefer. If you have limited time and can’t do both rims we highly recommend it.
After a few hours and a challenging steep trail we made it to our destination at the Roaring Springs which feeds Bright Angel Creek. It was definitely a site to behold and a good reminder of the power within the canyon. Water seeps through several thousand feet of earth and rock and makes its way out of the canyon wall gushing out and flowing down, making its way to the river.
The way back up was as expected. It kicked our butts. Yet the whole way, in between heavy breaths, we made plans to return and do some longer treks. The Grand Canyon surprised us both in how it lured us down further. We were happy when we reached the top though and had just enough energy to head back into the village, where we brought 2 beers to relax while looking out over the Canyon.
The next day and the last for our time in the Grand Canyon we headed out to Point Sublime. To get there we drove out on a rough 4 X 4 road and gave our 4Runner some much needed adventure. The route took about an hour to navigate and included striking scenery of the forest, changing fall colors and small fern groves.
We arrived at Point Sublime with the overlook completely to ourselves. Above all other places we had visited, this one seemed to capture all the elements of the canyon that make it so memorable. From this point we could see down to the Colorado River, green and grand, the force that carved the canyon. Both rims stood out in their uniqueness from each other with their own set of color variations and slope grades. Point Sublime juts out from the canyon wall to offer a well over 180-degree view of the canyon. The view is so expansive that even the clouds change attitudes from one end to the other.
Sitting out on the rim, we knew that this, this moment right here was the life of our trip. It was fuel, it was affirmation and so simply sweet. I know on this trip, from time to time, the light, the fire or whatever it is that sent us on our way, could dim. Fortunately, we know exactly what it takes to get reignited.