Another Cape Royal View

Grand Canyon & Logandale Bluegrass 2003
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September 30, 2003 : As a recent retiree, after “What do you do?” the second most-asked question is “Are you planning (have you been on) any trips soon (recently)?”

Breaking with the tradition of trying to capture the first two or three days' events after the fact, I am giving fair warning that I will be heading for the north rim of the Grand Canyon about 6 a.m. Friday, then going to a bluegrass festival in Nevada (the same one I attended last year at this time).

It was warm in Logandale last year (it’s 60 miles from Las Vegas), but the North Rim ranges from 7,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation, so any kind of weather is possible, including snow. The visitor center there closes October 15, although the road is open all year, weather permitting. Although it’s cooling off in Fresno, I’m hoping for relatively warm weather over the southern Colorado Plateau.

I will be making a long run the first day, to North Las Vegas, since there’s no place to stop sooner that’s not too soon. This will give me a fairly short second day of driving to my destination, Jacob Lake, about 30 miles from the park.

The return trip will start with an even shorter drive from there to Logandale.

It’s been a hectic time leading up to this trip, with more stuff scheduled on my return. My father was ill and in the hospital at the beginning of September, and I have made a number of trips to my parents' home in Mariposa. He’s feeling pretty much normal, at least as normal as you can be at age 89.

I have a doctor’s appointment the day before I leave, and the retired employee association lunch the day after I return.


October 2: Everything is ready except for the last-minute items. The trailer cupboards, refrigerator and water tank are full, and the holding tanks are empty. I plan to get up at 5 a.m. since the first day’s drive is over 400 miles.


October 3, 2003: The trip was smooth until I got to Las Vegas, which is not to say the roads are smooth. California Highway 99 from Fresno to Bakersfield is atrocious, and Interstate 15 from Barstow to Las Vegas leaves a lot to be desired in many places. So the smooth pavement was limited to CA Highway 58 from Bakersfield to Barstow.

I left about 6:45, and made good time until I got to the first off-ramp for the Las Vegas Strip. For about a mile traffic moved at five miles and hour or less; then for the remaining 15 miles of my trip, it was like driving on surface streets – 30 to 45 miles per hour.

I got to the Hitchin’ Post RV Park about 4:30, got set up, had a drink and dinner, and now it’s time to work on this report. I’ve covered this route before, last October, but the thing I had forgotten was the three steep grades between Baker and the Nevada border. The first one runs about twelve miles, and rises from around 1,000 feet in elevation to above 4,000. There is a drop, another climb, another drop, another climb, and a final drop into the Primm Valley on the California-Nevada border. The second climb goes up to 4,700 feet at Mountain Pass, and the road drops down to between 2,000 and 3,000 at Primm. Then it’s just a little up and down into Las Vegas, about 30 miles from the border.

The park is actually in North Las Vegas, so I am right on the edge of town and will be out of the city within a few miles when I leave tomorrow. It’s a big park, with quite a few long-term residents, quite a few vacancies, and very nice overall.

I did have a brief noise pollution problem when five or six jets came in and landed at Nellis Air Force Base, which is nearby. They came in low over the park, so I grabbed my camera, and got a couple of photos that look pretty good.

The weather was mostly warm, dropping to 65 in Tehachapi and about 70 at Mountain Pass. It was a little below 90 when I got here, but there has been a nice breeze all the time. There are a few clouds, but I have done my sun dance so they will not rain on me. The official weather map in the Fresno Bee looks good for northern Arizona. An Internet weather site gave the high as 75 and the low as 37, but that is for “Grand Canyon, AZ,” and may not be accurate for the north rim.

Today’s drive was way too long, over 400 miles. I like to limit my daily mileage to about 250 miles, which gives me time to sleep late, stop and rest as needed, and arrive at my destination in mid-afternoon. Tomorrow won’t be so bad, only 222 miles according to my Rand McNally trip planning program. However, there will be a significant elevation gain to around 7,000 feet, and I don’t know what the road is like.

Apparently there was a storm that closed the road into Grand Canyon, but it was supposed to re-open yesterday. The North Rim is subject to cold and stormy conditions any time after the beginning of fall. I’m expecting to make use of my long sleeve flannel shirts.

October 4, 2003 Jacob Lake AZ: It was 52 degrees when I got here at 3:30, and it’s 43 now at 6:20. With no wind, it was comfortable to sit outside, read, and enjoy the cocktail hour – with four layers of clothing. I could have stayed out longer if I added my down jacket, but it’s getting too dark to read.

It rained here yesterday, but the RV park hosts said today started out clear. It was quite cloudy when I arrived, but most of the clouds are gone. I’m hoping it stays storm-free and not lower than the 50s. That’s a good hiking temperature, but I wouldn’t mind if it warmed up just a bit. I don’t know what the temperature in the trailer is, but it usually registers about 10 degrees warmer than outside. I haven’t taken off any layers yet, so it’s best not to know.

Today’s trip was smooth in all ways. A few miles past Las Vegas I-15 becomes a nice smooth highway, and the various state highways I traveled on were also good. I-15 goes across Arizona for about 30 miles before entering Utah. Just after you enter Arizona, you realize the road is heading for some mountains; it’s not going around and there’s no way it could go over. Then you enter the Virgin River gorge, barely noticeable till you’re in it, but a deep, dramatic gash through the mountains. Although the river comes out of Zion National Park, the gorge is a fairly short section, then you go over the hill and drop down into St. George, Utah.

For the record, I left I-15 a few miles past St. George, on Utah 9, then climbed up a steep grade on Utah 59 out of Hurricane. The highway changed to 389 at Colorado City, which marks the Arizona border. From this point I went quite a ways through mostly level country at about 5,000 feet. The vegetation was sage brush for the most part, with a few scattered junipers.

At the town of Fredonia I turned southeast on US 89, and soon entered the Kaibab National Forest. Here the road began to climb, and for a moment I thought I was in the Sierra foothills, with blue oaks, live oaks, and dry grass. A closer look revealed that I was looking at juniper and piñon pines, with a ground cover of dry grass and light soil. A few more miles took me up higher and I saw a few ponderosa pines, which soon completely replaced the other trees. The typical ponderosa forest in the mountains east of Fresno includes cedar and fir, but this area is pure ponderosa with few other trees or shrubs of any kinds. The campground, at 7900 feet elevation, is surrounded by forest, and is very nice.

About half way between Fredonia and Jacob Lake is the LeFevre Overlook, which offers a view of the Grand Staircase, a huge sequence of sedimentary rock layers that appear as ever higher cliffs on the Colorado Plateau. Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are both part of this dramatic land mass.

When I registered, the park hosts informed me that a ranger would be giving a talk on the area at 4 p.m., so I got parked but not set up and walked over to the old historic Jacob Lake Ranger Station (built in 1910). The ranger was dressed in the uniform of the 1920s, and made his presentation set in that time. He stayed in character throughout. When someone said, I see you’ve got electricity, pointing to a bare bulb overhead, he didn’t even look up, saying “I don’t see no bulb, ma’m.” He even pretended to be amazed and mystified when some ATVs went by. He said he was getting the handsome sum of $100 a month, in addition to free rent in the station, which doubled as home for him, his wife and two children. He discussed his duties, which included monitoring the miners at the canyon rim, the cattlemen, and the timber cutters. Although there are some cattle in the area, in reality most of the other commercial activity of those days has ended.

It’s now 7:30. The heater is on, the sweatshirt is off, and the outside temperature is 40. By the way, today’s travel included temperatures up to 90, but most of the time it was in the mid 80s.

Tomorrow it’s on to the Grand Canyon, about 30 miles from here, with no trailer to slow me down.

October 5, 2003 : Today I exercised and went on my morning walk, just as I do most days at home. It’s a nice walking area – I followed the forest service road that goes by the camp back about a half mile or so. It has up and down, which is ideal for good walking, but the uphill reminded me quickly how high the altitude is here.

After breakfast I headed south toward the Grand Canyon. The road climbed up toward 8800 feet, and soon there were aspens among the ponderosas. Shortly after that the ponderosas began to give way to other evergreens, primarily spruce and fir. It is a spectacular drive, with golden-yellow aspens against the dark green of the evergreens, and lots of big meadows filled with dry grass. The road has been recently paved and is smooth as glass (but I suspect a few high country winters will take their toll). 

The entrance station is about 30 miles from Jacob Lake, but it’s nearly another 15 miles to the actual rim. I stopped at the visitor center, then walked out to Bright Angel Point. The views are amazing, although there is a lot of haze, apparently from air pollution, so the distant views are not as clear as they could be. From this side there are few views of the river (none where I went today), but there are plenty of canyons, gorges, buttes, spires and other features to enjoy.

After a return to the visitor center to buy some books, I headed for Point Imperial, about 15 miles away, the highest point on the north rim. I thought the view here was more impressive. You can look northeast toward the Vermillion Cliffs and see the gash in the earth that is Marble Canyon, which the river runs through before the canyon opens up and becomes “Grand.” To the south and southwest you can see a wide expanse of the canyon and its multi-colored layers and striking features.

At the lookout point, a man was taking a picture of his wife, and I offered to take a picture of them; then he took a picture of me. We got to talking, and it turned out he is Chuck Hoover, a cameraman for Channel 30 in Fresno. They are exploring possible retirement locations as well as enjoying the scenery.

The weather was everything you could ask for – if you asked for sun, clouds and rain. It was clear this morning and is clear at camp now, but there were scattered clouds over the canyon area. Driving home, I had a few tiny drops from one big cloud that looked like it could produce rain. However, throughout the day it was nice enough for shorts and a T-shirt, although when a cloud went over the sun late in the day, it felt like it dropped about ten degrees. Most of the time while driving, the thermometer in my truck registered in the 50s, but I think it was warmer at the rim. It is more open, and subject to warm air rising from the canyon.

Coming out of the park I had to stop while a flock of wild turkeys crossed the road, and I saw another bunch later outside the park. They are native to one side of the canyon (I forget which), but did not cross the canyon to the other side. However, they have now been “planted” on the other side too.

I also saw a deer on my way home. They are reported to be quite thick in this area. In the nineteen teens, the government began killing off the predators, primarily mountain lions, to “help” the deer. The predictable result was overpopulation and massive winter deaths of deer. After various equally foolish attempts to fix the problem, including flying the excess deer to another location, nature was allowed to take over again.

After I got back to the trailer I sat outside and read for a while. With a T-shirt, flannel shirt, and quilted flannel shirt, it was quite comfortable at 50 degrees. It began to feel cooler and cooler, and when it hit 45 I headed inside and started the heater.

Tomorrow I plan to hike on the Kaibab Trail, which goes down into the canyon. There is a destination about two miles in, which will be as far as I will go. I suspect there will be lots of uphill hiking on the return trip.

Monday, October 06, 2003 : The North Kaibab Trail goes down 14 miles to the Colorado River, where it meets the South Kaibab Trail. Only fools try to hike down and back in a day, and those who do often end up sick, injured or dead. The recommended maximum round-trip day hike is to Roaring Springs, 9.4 miles and 7 hours round trip. Needless to say, I did not intend to attempt this either, but there are a couple of intermediate destinations, at 1.5 miles and 4 miles down the trail.

However, a few hundred yards down the trail (and down means steep uncomfortable walking), I decided I did not want to dodge and smell mule shit for four miles, and face a two-hour uphill hike after I was tired. So I turned back, got into my truck, and headed down the road to Cape Royal, which offers spectacular views and a number of good stopping points along a 20 mile stretch from the main road.

The road drops down through pure ponderosa forest; at the rim it turns to juniper and piñon. The trail at the end of the road leads out to several viewpoints, all of which I thought were more impressive than yesterday’s stops. The point is on a peninsula of land that runs out into the canyon, so there are views on both sides. A particularly good stopping point is Vista Encantada, which I went to on the way back. Later in the afternoon the lighting is better and the colors are deeper, and this was my favorite spot of the entire trip. It might not look as good in the morning when the section of canyon it overlooks is in shadow.

Walhalla Overlook provides the first view of the Colorado River and a wide creek delta where the Anasazi Indians lived and cultivated crops a thousand or so years ago. The view from parts of Cape Royal includes Angels Window, an opening in the rock through which you can also see the river.

In addition to scenery, I saw: one deer and one flock of wild turkeys on the way in; and four deer and four flocks of wild turkeys on the way out.

Yesterday I mentioned driving through meadows. These are long narrow stretches – one runs three miles and another six miles. The road runs along the edge with gentle curves and gentle hills, and you can easily drive 60 MPH during these sections. Other parts of the road are winding and marked by hairpin turns, but there is little elevation change.

Tomorrow I plan to stay in camp. There is more to see at the Canyon, but I went to the major points, it is a hundred mile round trip from my camp, and I would like to check out the Jacob Lake area. There is a visitor center nearby for the Kaibab National Forest, and some shopping to be done in the campground store, which is offering 20% off on everything. They will close for the winter on October 15. In fact, everything will close then, in anticipation of the annual snowfall that totals around ten feet. The road into the park is open weather permitting, but no services are available.

By the way, Jacob "Lake" is really a pond less than 100 feet across. The rocky soil of the Kaibab Plateau does not retain water, and there are no significant streams here. All water for domestic use is trucked in. There are a few "lakes," where there is a section of impervious soil that keeps the water from draining away.

Tuesday I will be heading for Logandale, the Clark County Fairgrounds, and the Southern Nevada Bluegrass Festival.


October 7, 2003: Although the day started out cloudy and cold, it turned out to be the warmest so far – a little above 60. There were some dark clouds and it was cool to sit outside and read this morning at 10, and of course it’s cool again now at 6 p.m. with the sun down and the temperature at 50 and falling.

After I got up at 8:30, I went on a nice mile and a half walk down one of the forest service roads out of camp, read a while, then fixed breakfast. I went to the Kaibab National Forest Visitor Center and then to the Jacob Lake Lodge/Store/Restaurant. I like to get T-shirts for my daughters, sons-in-laws and grandsons (as well as myself), and I found some I liked at the visitor center gift shop. Then I went to the campground office, which also has T-shirts and stuff, to get the rest. Their stock was pretty much depleted, and I was able to find only one there, so I went back to the Jacob Lake store for the rest. Both places had end-of-season 20% discounts.

I did some things around camp to get ready for tomorrow’s departure, and will do a few more later. I hope to get up at 7:30 tomorrow, and be on the road by 9, although experience tells me I won’t get out of here quite that soon. The trip is only 177 miles, and as I recall, last year they did not let people into the fairgrounds till about 2 p.m., so there is no big rush. The people I met last year from Salt Lake are planning to be there, so I am hoping we can get together for some picking and talk about old times (meaning last year, the only old times we share).


October 9, 2003 : I got started about 9:30 Wednesday, and arrived in Logandale at 2 p.m. Dropping down from nearly 8,000 feet to under 2,000 was a big change, and I haven’t been cool since. Actually, last night was quite pleasant, and it’s not bad in the shade when the breeze is blowing.

Danny and Sherry from Salt Lake were here, so we chatted and played a little, and listened to some other people picking. Another couple I met last year, Lonnie and Halene, arrived today.

Since Thursday is a “dead day” (no performances), like last year, I made a trip to the Valley of Fire State Park. I went on a 1.5 mile loop trail that goes out from the entrance station, past a lot of dramatic rock formations, including several that look like animals or faces. For the first time in my life I saw a horned toad (actually a lizard). I saw something that looked like a big bug zipping across the trail, and when I knelt down it took me a while to find him. He sat completely still while I studied him and took a picture. He was quite round, about the size of a quarter, with a tail that seemed more like a turtle than a lizard. He had spines on the side of his body and across his brow.

It was about 93 degrees, so after I finished my walk I spent some time at the visitor center, ate lunch, and came back. I’m writing this in the trailer with the air conditioner on, but I still have not cooled off.

October 13, 2003 : The festival is over and I’m on my way home. There was no time or energy to write during the event. As always, I had a great time. I played and sang a little with the people from Salt Lake, with several different groups.

The on-stage line-up was one of the best aside from the Huck Finn Jubilee. Each festival I see new groups and usually find one that I really like. This time both of my new favorites were bands from Colorado Open Road and High Plains Tradition. The latter was especially good, and I bought one of their CDs. Often a CD does not capture the band’s energy and sound that you experience live, but this collection is good from start to finish. Open Road is a very young band. The lead singer has a nice voice, but it will probably be a really good voice when he gets to be 35 or 40. I hope to get to the Laughlin-Bullhead festival in February, so I can see this group again.

Old favorites included Lost Highway, who I’ve seen a number of times, starting with some of my first festivals in Mariposa. Another group that was here last year, the Liberty Bluegrass Boys from Texas, also proved to be as good as I thought they were. They have a twelve-year old bass player, the son of one of the band members. He’s been with them since he was eight and a half, but didn’t make the trip out here last year.

I also heard a bunch of songs I had never heard before, both on stage and in the parking lot jams (if I had heard them before, they hadn’t registered). It always amazes me how people come up with great, unfamiliar songs that have been done by well-known artists such as Flatt & Scruggs, Hank Williams or Waylon Jennings, as well as obscure great songs by obscure artists (Examples: Waylon’s “Wrong,” Hank’s “I Told My Heart a Lie,” and in the double obscure category, “Roseville Fair” by Bill Staines (of course, I know that some of you out there reading this are very familiar with Bill).

It’s about 440 miles from Logandale to Fresno, more than I like to drive in a day with the trailer, so I am staying in Mojave. It’s only about 160 miles home, so I should get back fairly early tomorrow, but I figured if I kept going today, it would take me till 9 p.m., and then there could be someone in my parking space. This way I can empty the holding tanks here, get home early, and have plenty of time to unpack and do laundry tomorrow.

They have built a freeway bypass around Mojave on Highway 58, but the off ramps are not all finished yet. There are supposed to be three ramps, but only the north one is open, so I had to bypass the town and double back. The merchants here are furious with CalTrans, who closed both ends of the old road, then didn’t do any work on the new ramps for two weeks. Even the one ramp that is open has cones and barricades and is confusing and dangerous.

For me, the end result, getting to the RV park in “downtown” Mojave, was not worth the effort. If it’s not the worst park I’ve stayed in, it’s in the bottom five. I had considered going on to Tehachapi, only another 20 miles, and now I wish I had. There are planes, trains, barking dogs, and until I removed it, there was something left behind by a dog right in front of my door.

Another traveler’s note: If you’re in this area and want to eat, skip the Denny’s and McDonald’s in Mojave and Barstow, and try the Roadhouse Café at Kramer Junction (where US 395 crosses California 58). It has good food and good service, and while you’re at it, you can buy gas on all four corners.

I will end this report here, since there is not much to say about driving from Mojave to Fresno. It was a great trip, and I hope to repeat it next year, Bluegrass in Nevada, and a visit to a couple of Utah’s nearby national parks.


Silver City Pink Lost Highway Liberty Bluegrass Boys
Lampkins Family Open Road Stormy Mountain Boys
High Plains Tradition Aspen-lined meadow on road to North Rim  View at Bright Angel Point,
near Grand Canyon Lodge
View from Point Imperial area Another Point Imperial view View from Roosevelt Point
View from Walhalla Overlook Angel's Window at Cape Royal View from Cape Royal
Another Cape Royal View Wild Grass at LeFevre Overlook,
on the road north of Jacob Lake
Grand Staircase from LeFevre Overlook
Meadow at Jacob Lake Jet at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas Weathered sandstone in Valley of Fire State Park
Horned Lizard A common weathering pattern in the park Dick at Elephant Arch

Web Sites

Recommended CDs, DVDs, Books

Grand Canyon

High Plains Tradition Liberty Bluegrass Boys
Lampkins Family Logandale Festival Lost Highway
Open Road Moapa Valley Southern Nevada Bluegrass Society
Valley of Fire Dick's Bluegrass Links Dick's Travel Links
Grand Staircase Dick's Bluegrass T-Shirt Photos LeFevre Overlook


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