Tuesday, October 1, 2013

They Can't Close the Grand Canyon

While the big children in Washington are still learning how to behave in the sand box, the National Parks have been taken hostage in a spiteful battle against a national health care system. Despite what the Federal Government would have you believe, they don't own and can't close the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon's borders are shared by the Havasupai, Hualapai, and Navajo tribes, as well as the Kaibab National Forest. Those lands are still open and can be visited, though not as convenient as the Park itself.  Hiking, backpacking and camping are permitted on the Havasupai Indian reservation.  Reservations are required, but this time of year you have a good chance at getting in.  Though not recommended, you can hike down there without a reservation, pay a little more, and not be turned away. Just so long as you can find a place to put your tent. I know from experience, as I did that a few years ago.   The Hualapai has the famed, and oft criticized Grand Canyon Skywalk.  This new attraction was built with the partnership between Steve Winn and the tribe.  They installed a giant glass horseshoe walkway that cantilevers over their portion of the Grand Canyon. 
If that thing isn't your style the Kaibab National Forest maintains a large portion of the north rim.  Called the Rainbow rim you can follow forest service roads to five unique 'points.' Parissawampitts, Fence, Locust, Timp and North Timp points offer grand views of  features such as Powell Plateau, Steamboat Mountain, Tapeats Amphitheater and Great Thumb Mesas. The best part of the rainbow rim is the trail that was constructed to connect each point.  At eighteen miles long you can't possibly see the whole thing in a day, so plan your visit over at least a few days.  I've parked in the middle and biked each half in a couple of days.  Be warned, though there is no water, restrooms or any services for about 22 miles to the Kaibab Lodge. Fire Point is one of those epic sunset points that's popular and if you are really lucky you can pitch a tent in one of only two spots right there on the rim. To get to Parissawampitts view point from Hwy 67 turn right on FR 22 for 10.5 miles to FR 206. Turn left and continue on FR 206 for 3.5 miles and turn right on FR 214 and follow it for 8 miles.  Its pretty easy to figure out the rest of the view points, but if there were a fallen tree in the road and you don't have a chain saw you'd be much happier if you had a forest service map, available at most local sporting goods stores. I know by experience on that one as well.   
There is one point inside the park that can be accessed via a forest service road and a short hike, and probably one of the most iconic formations, Imperial Point.  Again, get the forest service map. The road ends at the park boundary, that's where you hike through the ponderosa pine forest, through a burn area, to the parking area of Imperial Point.  Be careful to stay away from any buzzing logs.  It's probably got a nest of Africanized honey bees.  Yes I know that from experience, too. (Run!)   If you are at the south rim and just can't find the extra days to get to the north rim (yes 5 hours) you can still get your Grand Canyon fix at the east rim.  Take Hwy 89a north out of Flagstaff, and follow the signs from Cameron to the Canyon.  Shortly before the park entrance to Desert View you can catch some unimproved roads. This area lies in the Navajo Reservation, and as a general rule, more adventurous.   I can't guarantee you'll be able to make it to the rim, but don't worry they'll be plenty of view to see.  Hopefully by the time you are reading this the jack wagons that we put in  the ivory tower will have had some sense knocked into them and end this petty bickering at the expense of their constituents.  Especially because I'll be around Yosemite at the end of the month. But I'm not going hold my breath.  For more information, and personal accounts of all the once in a lifetime vacations that have been ruined see the Arizona Daily Sun article :Park Visitors, businesses most affected by government shutdown.

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