Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Last Look At The North Rim

Highway 67 at DeMotte Park on a snowy November morning, Kaibab National Forest.
Early November, and the North Rim of Grand Canyon was still open. It wouldn't be for long. Once the first big snow hits up there on the Kaibab Plateau, the Arizona Department of Transportation closes the entrance to Highway 67, the North Rim Parkway, for the winter. At Jacob Lake, 45 miles from the North Rim's village.

North Rim Country Store outside the North Rim entrance - closed for the winter.

In fact I'd been a little surprised that it was still open, but it's all weather dependent. If there's no big snow, it closes on December 1st, regardless. 

But while Highway 67 is open after the Visitor Center, lodge, and General Store close for the winter, it's day use only. No services. None. Top off your gas tank at Jacob Lake Lodge before driving in. Bring your food.
North Rim Entrance Station - Grand Canyon National Park
Adding a big slice of enticement, the weather forecast was for snow up there. My photographic mind imagined one last trip to the Rim, getting rare photos of snowy rock layers fading off into the abyss of the Canyon, then getting out before the highway became clogged with deep snow. Oh, sure, they will plow the highway and let you out if you're already in. But if you have to stay an extra day because of it and miss work....

I drove across the Arizona Strip from Marble Canyon, across the Marble Platform and paralleling the fantastic Vermilion Cliffs. One of my favorite drives. Then up onto the Kaibab Plateau.

Jacob Lake Inn, on Hwy. 89A and 67 - entrance to the North Rim Parkway.

Jacob Lake Inn was snowy already. I tried to top off my tank, but the gas pump wouldn't accept my card and there was no attendant to reset the pump. So I drove on fairly confident that I had enough. 
Arizona Hwy. 67 at Jacob Lake - 45 miles to the North Rim.

I camped for the night on the Kaibab National Forest near DeMotte Park after about five hours driving. It was a campsite that I knew well, and it was as much a pleasure to see what seemed like an old friend as it was a relief to be nestled in for the night below the spire shaped spruce and fir trees, and the snow.

In the morning I drove into Grand Canyon National Park. The entrance station was closed, of course. No Services, it warned. None. 

The highway was slippery with snow. The county had plowed the highway from Jacob Lake to the park entrance, but beyond that it was the responsibility of the National Park Service. And they hadn't been out yet. 
North Rim Grand Canyon Village
But I made it into the North Rim Village. Parked near the Visitor Center, noting that three port-potties had been unloaded at the edge of the parking lot to take the place of the flush toilet restrooms that operate during the tourist season. 

Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim.
Grand Canyon Lodge was closed, of course, with just a dusting of snow on the roof. The North Rim is somewhat lower in elevation than the higher points of the Kaibab Plateau on the drive in, so I was disappointed to be able to walk around on bare sidewalks. But glad to be there nonetheless. I'd never been there that late in the season, and being a naturalist is being curious about all seasons, all conditions.
Aspen very late fall colors, Grand Canyon North Rim Village.
I was surprised to see that a few aspen trees still had their fall colors adorning them.
Aspen leaves and snow, North Rim Grand Canyon.
This was a special place to me, having worked at the Visitor Center here in 2014. I knew the area so well, even some of the ins and outs of the employees, how the flow of visitors and those that took care of them went about. 
Low cloud ceiling at North Rim.
So, when I got back into my truck to leave, I knew it would be for the last time of the year. I wouldn't have time to be back before the highway was closed. And why would I want to, anyway? My curiosity had been satisfied.
Roaring Springs Canyon overlook, Grand Canyon North Rim Village.
Cabin at edge of North Rim, last of the fall colors.

Photo location: Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Kaibab National Forest - North Kaibab Ranger District, Coconino County, Arizona.

© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Locust Point, Grand Canyon North Rim West

View from Locust Point down into Grand Canyon.
The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park receives only ten percent of the park's total visitors. Why? Because it's so much more remote than the South Rim. Which in itself makes it immensely attractive to the real admirers. Those turned off by crowds and lines and buses of loud tourists. 

And the Kaibab Plateau, out of which the North Rim is carved, is a thousand feet higher than the South Rim. Lots more moisture, lush forests of aspen and old growth Ponderosa Pine and mountain meadows. So much more snow in the winter that this portion of the park closes then. It hibernates. 

Locust Point, panoramic view. Oh yeah.
But then there's the rest of the North Rim. Seen only by a few of the North Rim's admiring visitors. 

Like this spot. Locust Point on the Kaibab National Forest. On the edge of Grand Canyon National Park, looking down into it. Below this rim you would need a Park backcountry permit to camp. But up here on the National Forest, you don't.

The Coconino Sandstone layer (lower left) and the Redwall Limestone layer (center). My favorite layers in Grand Canyon. Together in one photo.
It's a bit over 20 miles of dirt forest road to get here. A hour's drive off the paved highway. So if North Rim Village in the park only gets ten percent, then places like this get infinitely less. 

Photo location: Kaibab National Forest and Grand Canyon National Park, Coconino County, Arizona.

Copyright © 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Standing On The Edge

Standing on the edge, Cape Royal, Grand Canyon North Rim.
I was back at Cape Royal on Grand Canyon's North Rim. As always it felt great to return. To see what the early season, and the weather, held in store this time. 

I have often listened to the comment that no photograph can capture what it's like to be there. Which only challenges me to prove that wrong. Along with a select few (thousand special) images that I enjoy seeing from other photographers. And reading the exploits of some great writers. It all adds to the experience, the circling around toward some kind of better understanding. 

Uh, back to the story at hand. In this case, at foot. Some visitors on the edge at Cape Royal Point. Getting that memory into the camera. Hopefully without becoming one of many casualties at such a world heritage site. 

Upon seeing these gentlemen, I had to shoot quickly, through the trees at the edge. Shoot first, examine later. When I did, I loved the light, the scale. It was I who had been surprised in this instance. Thanks, gentlemen. Even though you didn't know I was making a photo of you making a picture. I love how the sunlight through the clouds spotlighted them on the rock point. Set them off, visually, from the shadowed depths of the Canyon. 

Photo location: Cape Royal, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lee's Ferry Springtime Scenic

[Photo: Lees Ferry Boat Landing, Colorado River.] 

A brilliant May morning at Lee's Ferry. The Grand Canyon commercial river season was in full swing. 

I paused once more to admire one of my favorite scenes in the West. Those rugged orange cliffs, the cold water. The people visiting, along with those making their living there. The river guides. 

I like to touch a stream. Any stream I visit, any river. To feel how it feels to my hand. Wearing flip-flop sandals, I waded in, too. When it's hot here in the summer--and it gets very hot--wading means cooling down from the feet up. Taking off my shirt and soaking it in the Colorado river, then putting it on, gasping for a few seconds. 

Not this time, though. Too early in the season to do that. That will come later. I look forward to it. 

Photo location: Lees Ferry, Colorado River, Marble Canyon, Coconino County, Arizona.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Point Imperial Panorama

Mount Hayden from Point Imperial, Grand Canyon North Rim.

The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park opens for the season on May 15 of each year. That side of the park gets just 10% of the park's visitors, making it a much more relaxed experience than the bustling South Rim.

Meanwhile, mid-May had rolled around once again, and I was able to visit the North Rim again in its first days after opening. 

And with stellar weather, too: sunny, cool, with cumulus clouds to accent the deep blue northern Arizona sky. Yes, cool, even chilly. Point Imperial is at 8,800 feet in elevation, and mid May is still early spring up there. 

Photo location: Point Imperial, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Coconino County, Arizona.

© 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Shining Summer Light, Lees Ferry River Put-in

Greg Reiff pulls the Sandra to shore at Lees Ferry, to rig up for another Grand Canyon river trip.
I've told numerous people that Grand Canyon starts at Lees Ferry. 

How can that be? The Ferry's historical location is far upstream from the 'real' Grand Canyon part of the Colorado River, the Inner Gorge. Lees Ferry is in Marble Canyon, the upriver addition to Grand Canyon National Park.

Names are just that. When you come to know a place as deep, wide, mysterious and incredible as Grand Canyon, you have to take in the big picture. 

So here is one of my favorite photos of Lees Ferry. Where all boats get to put into the river, meaning this is where they launch to run the Canyon. From here the nearest place to drive a vehicle down to the river to take the equipment back out is Diamond Creek on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. Over 200 miles down. Yes, even today. May it always be so, too.

In this photo, third generation Grand Canyon river runner Greg Reiff anchors his wooden boat at Lees Ferry. It's not any boat. It's the Sandra, the historic last boat built by his legendary grandfather Normal Nevills, then of Mexican Hat, Utah. Upriver. 

I love this photograph because it portrays so much: river, sky Colorado Plateau high desert scenery, river running, history. 

Long may the Sandra continue to ride the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. Long may she ride the currents and the "broken waters" of the rapids. The dangerous and beautiful rapids.

Lees Ferry panorama, Arizona Strip.
 Photo location: Lees Ferry, Colorado River, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area/Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Click on an image for a much larger version.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Until Next Season, North Rim...

Sun Room, Grand Canyon Lodge, North Rim.
Having spent an entire season (mid May through mid October) at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, it is time to look back upon the experience. 

Maybe I should say begin looking back at it. After all, Edward Abbey only got around to writing Desert Solitaire ten years after his experiences as a seasonal Ranger at Arches National Park in southeast Utah. Interestingly, he wrote that enduring classic while working (still) as a seasonal Park Service employee in a fire watch tower at the North Rim, near the entrance station. The fire tower is no longer in service, his cabin at its foot falling in on itself. So it goes.

But to the present North Rim. For all the photos I took while there this time, from the Rim at every point imaginable, down the North Kaibab Trail, this one (above) could epitomize the experience as well as any. Even though it's inside a building, Grand Canyon Lodge. 

Because the lodge was, is the heart of the tiny community on the North Rim. When the weather is tough, or the visitors are tired from traveling, it's the place to hang out. The massive tall windows, the overstuffed leather couches. It's the hub.

In this photo, the late summer monsoon thunderstorm clouds were building. I love that. They add so much to skies that are even so awesome when they're merely their trademark Arizona blue. The contrast was extreme, searing afternoon sunlight to deep shadow inside. Well, then I'll have to see what I can do. Using the power of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom I was able to bring out detail in the shadow while holding on to the bright values in the skies outside.

I post this one to all North Rim visitors who love the place as much as I do.

© Copyright 2014 Stephen J. Krieg.