Sunday, 25-May – Indian Garden (Grand Canyon NP) to Demotte Campground (North Kaibab Forest)
Trip miles: 212 miles
Route taken: AZ-64 E (aka Desert View Drive) → US-89 N → US-89A N → SR-67 S
Most of the drive had a good surface. Speeds varied from 65mph on the flat US-89 to 45mph on winding SR-67. Elevation changed from 7000 ft to 4000 ft over the desert plateau back to 8700 ft at DeMotte Campground, 25 miles north of the Grand Canyon's North Rim
Average Gas mileage: 26.7mpg
Weather: warm in the canyon (55F) increasing to about 84F and very windy across the desert
Elevation: 3800ft at Indian Garden to 8700ft at Demotte Campground
- hiking the 4.5 miles/3060 ft of elevation from Indian Garden back up to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail
- the view across the desert from the Desert View Watchtower
- the drive across the desert from the east end of the Grand Canyon South Rim to the North Rim
- stunning views of Vermillion Cliffs along the drive to the north
- terrible views of a recent fire which ravaged a huge section of the North Kaibab Forest
- discovering our reserved campsite in the Demotte Campground is nicely situated
As lovely as our Indian Garden campsite was, Hubby's sleep was disturbed by our neighbours at 2:00 AM as they prepared breakfast and broke down their campsite. They left the campground as soon as it was light enough to see the trail – about 4:00 AM. He never did drift back to sleep so was able to wake me up at 5:00 to start breakfast and pack up the tent. It was warm last night (55F?), so we had no trouble getting our fingers to function at this hour.
The hike up Bright Angel Trail is divided into three roughly 1.5 mile sections, with a toilet and water at each interval. The first section to 3-mile Resthouse gains about 948ft of elevation and is the easiest. The next section to 1.5-mile Resthouse gains about 981ft of elevation and has some more difficult switchback sections. The last section to the South Rim gains about 1131ft of elevation and is the most difficult. The general rule is to allow twice as much time to hike up as to hike down. Our hike down took about 2.5 hours so we estimated about 4-5 hours to hike up. We were hoping to go a little faster and reach the Rim by 10:00. Hubby found the uphill climb easier on his knees than the downhill and we had much less food weight than on the way down. We left Indian Garden at 6:00, keeping a steady step and breathing cadence all the way up, with short breaks at each resthouse. We reached the South Rim at 9:00. The hike up had not been as bad as we had expected.
After two days of Huggie baths our first stop was at the shower facility, closely followed by the laundry. With everything clean, we drove the 32 miles east to Desert View Visitor Center and the Watchtower. We had a long drive to reach tonight's campsite, and debated whether to even stop here. I am glad we did! The Watchtower is at the easternmost end of the Grand Canyon. The views from here are so very different than those along the other sections of the South Rim. Besides the view of the canyon to the west there is a fantastic view of the desert plateau to the east.
About the Watchtower: The Watchtower itself is an amazing piece of architecture, with beautiful details worth taking time to appreciate. In 1932 the Fred Harvey Corporation hired Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter to build a viewing and rest area for park visitors. Ms. Colter designed and supervised the building of the Watchtower and its adjacent Kiva replica, incorporating features reflecting the ancient cultures and geology of this place. Because Colter insisted that the stones could not show any tool marks, the skilled masons selected each stone individually. Colter's attention to small details was well illustrated by her demand that two courses of stone be dismantled because one stone did not look like it fit into the space properly. Be sure to read the NPS Desert View brochure to be aware of the little, but deliberate, idiosyncrasies of the Watchtower that make it unique.
The next section of the drive out of the National Park and north on US-89 was very flat, windy desert - mostly Navajo land. There are many roadside opportunities to shop for authentic Navajo crafts. To the east and north of us we had fantastic views of Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. They are undoubtedly even more colourful at sunset. Once we reached the Kaibab National Forest we started gaining elevation and seeing more trees. Lee's Ferry and Cliff Dwellings are unique stops. Lee's Ferry is where many river rafting trips start. Cliff Dwellings has strangely piled and balanced boulders scattered over the area. We pushed on until a refuel stop at Jacob's Lake. From here to DeMotte Campground we passed miles of recently burned forest (maybe 2 years old??) and then beautiful meadows bordered by aspen trees just starting to leaf out.
Finally we reached the DeMotte Campground. The campground host greeted us even before we reached #20, our reserved campsite. The sites are quite a distance apart with nice high, level tent pads. The picnic tables are the new-ish. plastic-coated metal ones we like. Even though all our neighbours had campfires tonight there was no worry of sparks landing on our tent or breathing smoke. Best of all, there is no wind and no dust!!! Even though this is a rustic campground with only vault toilets and cold water, we like it here much better than at the South Rim's Mather Campground.
With the higher elevation it was only 61F at 18:00 this evening. We expect the night temperature to be below 40F and to be nippy in the morning.