Sunday 25th.We rustle up some of Ronnie’s chicken eggs for breakfast. For someone who is ‘up with the sun and in bed with the dark’, she is a late riser. It is Sunday after all. We leave her sorting through her cowgirl dresses and frilled suede tops as she is getting ready to ‘hang out with the Mormons ‘ in church for the next few hours.
We are on the road early and get a chance to see Fredonia before we blink. There is a garage come store that sort of sums up this area. Guns and booze for sale in the same place! Seems like a recipe for disaster in a town run on testosterone.
We are soon back at Jacob Lake where we have to try another Mormon cookie and coffee before heading down the scenic route that takes us into the North Rim National Park.
Route 87 is another stunning drive. It rises steadily to over 8000 feet. Here clusters of bright yellow quaking Aspens break through the burnt out pines. In the bright sun and breeze their leaves quiver and shimmer and quake in colours that range from gold through to bronze and russet and seem to be on fire.
Our first experience of the North Rim at the visitor centre highlights the how different the North Rim is to the much more popular South Rim. We are told that over five million people visited the South Rim this year as opposed to about six hundred thousand in the North Rim. It is over a thousand feet higher on this rim and noticeably chillier. The park closes from October through to May as the snow is so heavy it blocks off the windy road.
We take a short hike from the Visitor Centre to Bright Angel Point. This is possibly the busiest little trek as the majority of visitors don’t venture far from their cars. Immediately we are hit by the enormous drops on both sides and the panoramic vistas. We can see the South Rim some twelve miles away and we are looking down nearly a mile. At some points on this little walk that takes us along a ridge we have drops on both sides. Not great with heights, it takes some deep breaths to get near the edge.
The road rises through forest initially before reaching the higher plateau of this section of the Rim. The views open up as we make the stops. Each one is different but one thing in common today is the clarity in the atmosphere. We are told by a ranger that it is a ‘ hundred and fifty mile day’. The mountains in the distance are in Southern Arizona where we were staying in Flagstaff.
Marilyn and I are often lost for words as the vista opens up. We can see the ribbon of the Colarado a mile down in the Canyon and although not the best light because the sun is actually too bright, the contrasting and subtle changes in the rock strata against a consistent cobalt blue sky are wonderful. It is hard to get our heads around the enormous scale of what we are seeing and to realise that this epic canvas has been created by the power of water, wind, cold and heat over millions of years.
It is difficult to compare the experiences of South over North Rim. Both provide heart stopping moments of wonder. However, the relative quiet of the North Rim and the enormous distances that can be seen from the elevated plateau make it a more enjoyable experience in my book and one that it will be hard ever to beat in terms of ‘ wow’ factor.
We return to Fredonia to a quiet house. In the middle of supper ( Marilyn musters up a vegetarian masterpiece) a spluttering Cowgirl exits her room to apologise for hiding away but she is very poorly with cold and doesn’t want to spread her germs. She disappears coughing and spluttering and that is the last we will see of her as we leave next morning after the sun has risen but before Cowgirl Ronnie sees the light of day.,