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  1. #1

    Default Grand Canyon NP, Mojave Nat'l Preserve & Death Valley NP - January 2014

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    Start: Tucson, AZ
    Finish: South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

    Today was the beginning of a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, then continuing the road trip to Death Valley with my husband. I joined a group of 21 people to hike and stay at Phantom Ranch for 3 nights. The group has been doing this trip in January for the last 20 plus years. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join the group this year, the first year I could make it in January since retiring from teaching last May.

    The adventure begins!

    That's me on the left.

    We made a quick stop in Phoenix for supplies, then continued north on I-17. Lots of AZ Highway Patrol between Tucson and Phoenix on I-10. (This was also noted by my husband on his drive up several days later.) Lunch was in Black Canyon City at Rock Springs Cafe. This is a landmark along the route north of Phoenix. It is well known as a restaurant and bar, especially known for pie- many kinds available daily. The building is historic and furnished with antiques.

    Rock Springs Cafe

    Next stop was for gas in Flagstaff then on to the Grand Canyon. The snow cover on the San Francisco was scant, the least I have ever seen at this time of year. I believe I have seen more snow on them in June and July.

    San Francisco Peaks

    We arrived by 4 PM, met up with most of the crowd before checking into rooms at the Maswik Lodge. The group met for dinner at the Bright Angel Lodge. It was a time for old friends to get caught up and for us 'newbies' to meet the group we would be with for the next several days. Based on this first meeting it appeared to be a very congenial group, easy to mix in with.

    Wildlife Sightings

    Gila Woodpecker
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Golden Eagle
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Mourning Dove
    Cactus Wren
    Northern Flicker
    Mountain Bluebird
    House Finch
    House Sparrow
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-05-2014 at 06:32 PM. Reason: typos

  2. #2

    Default Phantom Ranch -Grand Canyon National,Park

    Wednesday - Friday: January 22-24, 2014
    Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
    Start: South Rim
    Finish: Phantom Ranch

    As this part of the trip does not qualify as a true road trip I will report the three days at the bottom of the canyon as one post.

    The group met at Maswik Lodge cafeteria at 7 AM for breakfast. Many times we grumble about the cost of things in the National Parks, the breakfast I had was an exception. For $6.25 I had 2 eggs, potatoes, chicken fried steak with gravy and 2 slices of thick rye toast! After breakfast everyone made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the trip down and someone provided oatmeal, coconut with chocolate chip cookies - yum!

    The weather was amazing - 32 degrees on the rim when we started out, a heat wave! I started hiking with three layers instead of the anticipated four layers. In the past the group has started out hiking at 9 degrees below zero. Also for the first time ice crampons on our boots would not be needed for the first part of the trail. Some ice was reported on the Bright Angel, but able to walk around most patches. No ice was reported on the South Kaibab trail.

    Adventure continues

    The group broke into smaller groups and set their own routes. Five of us left Maswik Lodge at 8:15 and headed down Bright Angel Trail - 10 miles to Phantom Ranch and 4,500 ft of down. The scenery was spectacular, much more interesting and diverse than I was expecting. At 5 miles you reach Indian Gardens. At great place to rest, refill with water and a passport stamp opportunity.

    Indian Garden
    Passport Stamp box


    The trail out of Indian Garden was wonderful, through a canyon. Along the way you reach a special spot - the Great Unconformity. A gap of over 1 billion years in geological history.

    Great Unconformity

    More down until you finally reach the Colorado River at 8 1/2 miles. You walk east along the River until you reach the Silver Bridge, then another 1/2 mile before you arrive at Phantom Ranch. The area contains a NPS campground and lodge, which is managed by Xanterra, the park's concessionaire. A brief stop in the dorm (10 women in a small space) to claim beds. By the time I got there only upper bunks were available. As I was putting my stuff up on the bunk the young lady, only one not in our group in the dorm, arrived to say she would gladly take the upper bunk. Did I look that bad? I gladly took her up on her offer! She was a guide for a national adventure company who guided 3 young men from Chicago to Phantom Ranch.

    Inside the dorm

    This hiking group has their priorities well established - Happy Hour outside at picnic table near the dorms. Adult beverages were brought down by most in platypus containers, plus wonderful snacks; gourmet cheeses, salami, crackers, dried fruit, nuts and dark chocolate!

    Happy Hour

    Meals at Phantom Ranch are provided in the canteen. Two dinner seatings; steak at 5 and stew at 6:30. The meals ordered for me for the next few days were; stew, steak and stew. Meals are served family style. The first few minutes are hectic with food being passed and requested before it settles into friendly meal chatter.

    Meal time

    Bedtime came quickly and easily - yes, even with 10 women in close quarters!

    One of the women who had been on previous trips announced in the morning that the night had been the quietest she had ever experienced in the dorm! Breakfast is served in two seatings, as well, 5:30 and 7:00. If you are staying over you have the 7 AM seating, for those leaving breakfast is at 5:30.

    Weather continued to be exceptional - highs of upper 60s!

    I spent the morning tracking down the passport stamp for Phantom Ranch at the ranger station. The office is unmanned, but open from 8 AM to 6 PM and has good displays and reference material. Besides getting impressions for my husband (who had backpacked down there - rim to rim to rim - before the passport program was established in 1988) I also stamped a handful of postcards for family and friends. While at the ranger station I picked up the Phantom Ranch Junior Ranger booklet. I went back to the canteen, which is open from 8:30 until 4:00 PM, then from 8:00 to 10:00 PM for anyone; campers and lodge guests. There is a gift shop, snacks and beer and wine for purchase. A small lending library and board games are available for use, or you can just sit around.

    Passport and bonus stamps

    I walked back down to the river and around the ranch area to work on the booklet. After lunch I hiked up the canyon to a side trail to work on a sketch for the booklet. The weather was spectacular. Lunch can be purchased from the lodge, but it basically packaged snacks, not served in the canteen. The group I was with recommended to bring your own snacks which worked well.

    The afternoon ritual of Happy Hour, dinner, the bedtime was repeated - just as enjoyable.

    Another breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes and peach halves. Plenty of food, just not a lot of variety. I spent the morning hiking back to the river, across the Black Bridge then back across the Silver Bridge with two others from the group, about a two mile hike.
    After lunch a small group of us hiked up the North Kaibab trail into the box canyon along the Bright Angel Creek. Another beautiful day. Along the way we were fortunate to spot a bobcat across the creek. It is the largest bobcat I have ever seen, easily four feet from front to back. This was latter confirmed by a park ranger who agreed it was a very large bobcat.


    The highlight of time spent in the canyon bottom was earning my Grand Canyon Junior Ranger badge at Phantom Ranch. Simple things for simple people, or little things make me happy! Park rangers in January at Phantom Ranch are sparse. Luckily on Friday afternoon, about 3:30 I saw a ranger hike in from the North Kaibab trail. She gladly walked to the ranger station with me to review my booklet and award the badge. A unique patch featuring the pink rattlesnake is available for true Junior Rangers, I was able to get a picture of it. Ranger Betsy was very interested in Senior Ranger programs that are offered by some parks. She had me write down names of sites that offer this program for the older crowd. One of the reasons I do complete the junior ranger programs is to promote the senior ranger option. Lots of rangers have been interested and hopefully will have the resources to develop more options for seniors.

    Junior Ranger - Phantom Ranch

    Junior Ranger - Phantom Rattler patch

    Afternoon ritual repeated; Happy Hour the dinner. Tonight I did join the after hours crowd in the canteen for a game of hearts. They were glad for my attendance, I garnered the most points!

    Passport stamps
    Grand Canyon NP
    - Indian Gardens
    - Phantom Ranch
    Bonus stamps
    - Scorpion, 3 live scorpions were found in and around while we were there.
    - Mailed by Mule at Phantom Ranch - available in the canteen where a mailbag collects mail to be carried back up to the rim.

    Wildlife Sightings

    Mule Deer

    Gray Jay
    Stellar Jay
    Canyon Wren - heard
    American Dipper
    American Robin
    Ruby-crowned Kinglet
    Last edited by Pmount; 02-05-2014 at 12:04 PM. Reason: Add photo, spelling correction

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A super Grand Time in the Grand!


    Fabulous field report. Brings back lovely memories. One October, years ago (1980) I spent the entire month below the rim... great hiking, lots of adventures.


  4. #4

    Default Up and out of the Canyon

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

    Start: Grand Canyon NP - Phantom Ranch
    Finish: Williams, AZ

    Breakfast at 5 and on the South Kaibab trail by 6 AM. The first hour of hiking was in the dark which allowed for some early light in the canyon.


    Trail Up

    Lunch buddy

    Not much to report along the trail. This trail provides nice views of the canyon. It is an 8 mile hike straight up from Phantom Ranch. I was surprised at how much easier it was going up than down. The temperate weather continued to make hiking delightful. I had expected to be more out of breath as I climbed up and up, however the slow, steady pace kept the oxygen level in balance. Left at 6 AM and reached the trailhead on the rim at 12:30 and the temperature on the rim was mid-50s! Usual temperatures in January on the South Rim are in the 30s.


    Arrangements had been for my husband to park the van at the Visitor Center and text me the location so he could go to the village for passport stamps and smashed pennies. We had no idea when I would arrive. We met back up and were on the road by 1:30. A quick stop for a hamburger and fries on the way through Tusayan. We continued down US 180 to AZ 64 to Williams, AZ. We decided to call it a day there, I needed a good soak in a tub!

    We enjoyed dinner at Route 66 Italian Bistro. They had two IPAs on tap; British IPA and Rye IPA. We go for the hops, so we enjoyed a pint of Rye IPA. Their wood-fired pizza was excellent, along with a tasty kale salad.

    Then back to the room for a good night's sleep!

    Smashed pennies
    Grand Canyon NP - Bright Angel Lodge gift shop

    Passport Stamps
    Desert View, AZ
    Tusayan Ruins, AZ
    Grand Canyon, AZ
    Grand Canyon Visitor Center
    Kolb Studio
    Yavapai Geology Museum
    Yavapai Point, AZ

    Wildlife Sightings

    Common Raven
    Great-tailed grackle
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Gray Jay
    Stellar Jay
    (too tired to look!)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Nice job on the photos


    Thanks for posting the great photos.

    Enjoying the report

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default One day !

    Yep, nice report Pat, I'm really enjoying the read and the photo's.

    One day I would love to go back and hike into the canyon, and hopefully I will !


  7. #7

    Default Mojave National Preserve

    I live in the state and it has taken me years to achieve this goal. Hang in there!

    Sunday, January 26, 2014
    Start: Williams, AZ
    Finish: Mojave National Preserve- Hole In The Wall campground

    Breakfast in Williams, then headed West on I-40. Part way along we realized we hadn't thought through our route to and from Death Valley. We stopped in Kingman for gas, groceries and to pow-wow. It was decided we would stay on I-40 and head to Mohave National Preserve for the night, then head north into Death Valley on Monday.

    Before reaching the AZ- CA border we stopped at Franconia Road, exit 13. There are two Letterboxes off this exit; one commemorating the townsite and cemetery for the ghost town of Franconia and another quite a ways along a dirt road to an old Aeromotor windmill. Fun finds along the way.


    Crossed the Colorado River into California. Quick stop in Needles for afternoon refreshments. Continuing along I-40 we exited into Mojave National Preserve on Essex Road. Twenty miles up the road is Hole In The Wall, Visitor Center and campground. This center is open Wednesday though Sunday. Besides having several passport stamps they had one of the best selections of postcards with animals. As we travel I send postcards to the family, mainly the under 10 crowd. They prefer animal cards to scenic, as I have been told by them and their parents.

    We always enjoy spending time at Mojave NP, one of the more 'unknown' NPS sites. When living in S. CA years ago this was a favorite place to hike and camp, also a place where my husband did paleontogical research. We were glad when it was preserved within the system.

    We set up camp and immediately got the grill going and a campfire. The wind was fairly strong, but the campfire ring was well surrounded by sand. We enjoyed our dinner and campfire. With the wind it cooled off quickly making for an early night to climb in and read. It never got as cool as predicted, a nice night for sleeping.

    Hole In The Wall campground

    Hole In The Wall campground

    Passport Stamps
    Mojave National Preserve
    -Hole in the Wall, CA
    Old Spanish NHT
    - Mojave National Preserve

    Wildlife Sightings

    Common Raven

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Mojave Preserve

    Pat, With your frequent trips to Mojave National Preserve did you ever climb to the top of the primary Kelso dune for sunset? That's an awesome walk (exhausting) but awesome. The "singing" sand crystals are pretty amazing to hear too.

    Yeah, it's very cool that the area is more protected than it used to be.

    What kinds of paleontogical research did your husband do?


  9. #9


    No hike to the top of the dunes - too much effort! Evenings are always nice there.
    Husband's research - invertebrate paleo, trilobites. First at Cal State -LA, UCLA, then UC-Riverside.

  10. #10

    Default Off to Death Valley

    Monday, January 27, 2014

    Start: Mojave National Preserve
    Finish: Death Valley National Park

    Breezy all night long, but clear sky. Woke up to sunshine and continued breezy. After breakfast we went over to the picnic area at Hole In The Wall to check out the hole and the unique rock formations. As we left the area heading for Kelso Depot I worked on the Junior Ranger booklet.

    Much warmer and no wind/breeze at Kelso Depot. This Visitor Center is open Friday through Tuesday. The exhibits have been extended to the upstairs since our last visit several years ago. All of the exhibits are well done giving extensive historical information about the area. The depot is along an active train line, with frequent trains throughout the day. Hearing the trains go by while looking at the exhibits inside brings the railroad history to life.

    Kelso Depot

    The volunteer at the Information Desk reviewed my completed Junior Ranger booklet and issued me the certificate, badge and pledge. It was an interesting booklet to complete. I got to do several sketches of observations I made. It also taught me some important facts about Desert Tortoises.

    On to Baker for gas and lunch. What, no Bun Boy! Life happens. Our son found a link to the drama recently surrounding Baker.

    Leaving Baker

    Left Baker on CA 127 north to Death Valley. Detoured in Tecopa for the postal cancellation, then out to China Ranch for a hidden treasure. Very interesting place, well worth the drive out there. Besides the palm trees, dates and gift shop there are several hiking trails. The road in is very interesting, a real taste for the unique desert environment in the area.

    China Ranch

    Hiking at China Ranch

    Road out of China Ranch

    Our next stop was Shosone for another postal cancellation and hidden treasure. This took us up Dublin Gulch, alongside their cemetery. Very unusual placement of headstones along the drive up the gulch. We left there heading for Death Valley Junction and the turn on CA 190 into Death Valley National Park. We arrived around 4 PM as the sun was low in the sky and providing beautiful colors.

    For the first time we camped at Furnace Creek Campground and took advantage of the electric hookups. For winter camping having the extended lighting in the evening for reading is a plus. We were surprised at how big the sites are, plenty of space in between campers. Each hook up site has electric, water and sewer. $30 full fee, $21 with Senior or disabled pass.

    The weather was incredible when we arrived; clear, warm and no breeze. After dinner it was still nice for a walk around the campground and then some stargazing.

    Death Valley Sunset

    Passport Stamps
    Mohave National Preserve - Kelso Depot
    Old Spanish NHT - Mojave National Preserve, CA

    3 along the way, mainly drive bys.

    Wildlife Sightings
    Common Raven
    Feral Rock Dove
    Red-tailed Hawk


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