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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri

    Default 2019 Grand Staircase Tour - No. AZ and Utah

    This road trip was titled, The Grand Staircase Tour, because we were completing the national monuments and parks that make up the geological region called the Grand Staircase. Since we live in Southern California, this phenomena isn't all that far from us, so this being a "short vacation summer", we decided to make this the one to finish up the Utah parks.

    In the week before departure, first thing we did to prepare for this trip, besides getting the truck serviced, packing and the like, was to take ourselves down to Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma. There, we did two things: we bought our America the Beautiful Annual Pass, and went for a hike. We aren't *quite* old enough for the senior passes, but this will be the one and only regular pass we buy. (In past years, we haven't gone to enough parks to warrant the $80 expense.) We didn't want to get to the first monument and find out they were out of the annual passes, so we bought ours at the local monument. We called out there ahead of time, since we were about a half hour drive away, to ensure that they had them in stock. Yes, so off we went.

    We've been hiking locally, same places posted in other Road Trip Field Reports, and this was a new one we hadn't hiked yet: Cabrillo NM's Bayside Trail. It's not particularly strenuous, and not really right at the bay's edge, either. But there were some marvelous views, and we had a lovely day weather-wise for the hike.



    While we were hiking, our mechanic was giving our truck a good going-over. We knew we'd be on some remote roads, probably without cell service, so he ensured that the General was in good mechanical shape for a 20 year old truck! By the time we got back, it was only a couple more hours before the General could be back in our driveway.

    We also made sure that we packed an arsenal of paper maps. One map I highly recommend is the AAA Indian Country map, if you are going to be traveling anywhere in northern Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. This is a very detailed map! If you're camping, there are a lot of campgrounds marked on this map. The individual AAA state maps are good, too, but this one also has forest service roads marked on it. They continually update it, according to an article that I read in Westways magazine (the AAA of Southern California publication).

    For this trip, we were completely going with reservations. In the areas of national parks, reservations are usually necessary.

    So set back, and here we go....

    Last edited by DonnaR57; 07-18-2019 at 03:47 PM. Reason: added links; corrected typo; added 2 pictures

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri

    Default Day 1: A driving day

    Day 1 - Sunday, July 7 - Driving, Home to Flagstaff, AZ, 485 miles

    Much of Day 1 was spent driving, most of it on roads that we knew well. With Flagstaff as a destination, there were two main routes that we could choose from: Either up and over Cajon Pass on I-15 to Barstow, then east on I-40, or the Through-Phoenix route. Since we wanted to avoid Cajon Pass, we chose the latter. One heads east on I-8 through El Centro and Yuma to Gila Bend, then picks up AZ-85 north. It dead-ends at I-10, which one then takes for less than 10 miles east to Loop 303.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map

    Loop 303 north has been completed, though many maps still show 4-lane divided on the north end of it. It's a freeway-quality, 35 mile (or so) stretch of road that at the times we used it, was not very busy. It is a Phoenix-by pass that begins/ends in Goodyear and Anthem. At Anthem, we caught I-17 north all the way to Flagstaff.

    Since this travel was at the end of the 4th of July weekend, we were headed north on I-17 watching traffic almost crawl southbound on the other side of the freeway. There were a lot of RV's and boats, and RV's towing boats, so we figured that the ones with boats were probably heading home from Lake Powell.

    Our night's stay was at the Sleep Inn in Flagstaff, right there at the intersection of I-17 and I-40. It was a decent place, with an indoor pool and hot tub, and close to WalMart, Bashas (groceries) and a few different restaurants. What we did NOT like about it was that the rooms were small. But they do give you a few places to stash things, if you're not a light traveler. (And we are NOT light travelers.)

    No photos from this leg of the trip, because it is too familiar to us.

    Last edited by Tom_H007; 07-24-2019 at 04:25 AM. Reason: Added map

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri

    Default Day 2 - Flagstaff to Grand Canyon North Rim

    Day 2 - Monday, July 8 - Flagstaff to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    We got up leisurely, readied ourselves for departure from Flagstaff. We weren't in a super big hurry since we knew we had about 240 miles to drive. So we had decided, in advance, that we would include a few stops between Flagstaff and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map

    After making a couple of last minute stops for fuel and similar, we headed out. We turned off at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, then stopped at the Visitor Center. We stopped at some of the viewpoints, then found the Lava Flow Trail and hiked that. It was about a mile long or so. It's interesting to see the different type of lava! The views in the park were very, very pretty.




    (Click on the image link if you'd like to see more pictures)

    The loop drive takes you next to Wupatki National Monument, which is Indian ruins. We stopped at a few of those, hiked up to them, and at the Visitor Center. There was a strange knocking in the engine at the Visitor Center, but we never heard it again after that. We made one more stop at a ruin then decided it was high time to head for the GC – we still had a good 175 miles to drive.


    Some of those miles were pretty warm, and some were darned pleasant. We stopped at Lee's Ferry and were able to walk down to Paria Beach, to touch our hands in the Colorado River. We were a bit late in the day to watch people shoving off on a rafting trip down the river into the GC.


    Up until The Gap, where we turned onto US-89A, we were driving along some “folds” that looked a little like I remember of Capitol Reef. Then we crossed Marble Canyon, and that's where we turned down to Lee's Ferry. We then were following the Vermillion Cliffs for a long while, until we began to climb out of them and into the ponderosa pine forest. It seemed like Jacob Lake would never get there, for our turnoff down to the Canyon, and then 45 miles later we were finally at the GC.

    We had decided to stay at the Grand Canyon Lodge, because anything else is a pretty far drive. There aren't a whole lot of services available that are closer than Jacob Lake (45 miles from the Rim). The motel room is “just okay” for the price, but there's more room in it than we had last night, to put our stuff. Deciding about food – well, that's just darned expensive. Dinner tonight was a buffet that wasn't worth the price ($33 each), with very dry prime-rib and pork. I was trying not to eat much pasta or any other carb, and they had a lot of those, even though that shouldn't be a problem after 18000 steps on my feet today! We sat in the “Sun Room” of the Lodge's main building, and looked out at the canyon while having a Sangria.

    Came back to the motel room (in the North Motel Building). We just relaxed, read, and readied ourselves for tomorrow's adventure, actually seeing the Grand Canyon from the North Rim!

    Last edited by Tom_H007; 07-26-2019 at 12:12 AM. Reason: Corrected map

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Pretty clear water

    Nice photos.

    Were those two sand chairs -- in the river yours?


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri


    Thank you, but no, the sand chairs were not ours. The people that owned them were out walking on the rivers edge (in the water) out of sight. Both my husband and I aimed our cameras because the chairs looked inviting.

    On the photos -- any images in the 1000's are my husband's (he hasn't had his camera as long as I've had mine). The 7000's are mine. He got a better photo of Wukoki Ruin, while I did better with the chairs in the river photo.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri

    Default Day 3 - Grand Canyon North Rim

    Day 3 - Tuesday, July 9th - Grand Canyon North Rim

    Both of us slept very well this morning. This place is rather “quaint”, but the bed is comfortable. There was no A/C but here at 8500 ft elevation, you only need a ceiling fan (which it had). Our room is on the corner, so we had the capability of opening both windows and getting a cross-breeze. The weather was lovely, the whole time we were up there. What we didn't like about the room is that it was in serious need of updating. It looked "70s". The bathroom was tiny -- barely enough room to turn around in. The vanity was outside of the bathroom or I would have felt like I was in an 18' travel trailer. There were few electrical outlets, so to charge anything we had to use one of the electrical strips we brought along. There was a refrigerator, the one concession to today's traveler.

    Off we went, first down to the GC Lodge area to stop at Rough Riders' Saloon and get some pastries and coffee, that was about 7:50. Twenty minutes later we were on our way, with our next stop for lunch stuff at the general store. Later, we wished we'd stopped and bought sandwiches at the Deli in the Pines, because the General Store didn't have a lot of choices. (And the sandwiches weren't all that good, either.) That's a word to the wise: bring your own sandwich makings.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map

    Third stop was our hike of the day: North Kaibab Trail as far as the Coconino Overlook – about 0.75 miles one way. It's harder going down into the Canyon because you're not as sure footed and it's really hard on your knees. We found the overlook, spent some time looking and taking a few pictures, and then started the trudge UP. We'd stop under the shade if at all possible, to catch our breaths, because we were going up about 900 ft elevation in that less than a mile. Lots of switchbacks made that not so bad as it could have been, though. We were out about an hour and 40 minutes, I think. Using a trail to go down into the Grand Canyon, at least a little bit, has been something I've wanted to do the last two or three times we went to the South Rim. It didn't have to be very far. Just far enough to be able to say I'd walked into the Grand Canyon. My brother has been down to Phantom Ranch and back up, but I don't think I could do that.




    After resting, pit stops, water, we took off on the driving portion of our sightseeing day. Drove up to Cape Royal Road and took that, stopping at Imperial Point and a couple of smaller places on the way out. On the way back, we stopped at the ones that were on our side of the road. That's the way to do this road. Cape Royal Road is about 20 some miles from GC Lodge and is narrow and winding. They don't allow rigs longer than 30' and I can sure understand why. Even in the North Kaibab Trailhead parking lot, they said 22' was the maximum length allowed in the parking lot – and I believe our truck just barely made that requirement! (I think it's 21'8” or something like that.)





    It's hard to see the Colorado River from viewpoints on the North Rim. Here's one place where you can:


    On the way back in, we stopped once again at the General Store. Supposedly they have Free WiFi there but I sure couldn't get it to work for me to send a photo.

    We came to the conclusion about North Rim is that it is a lovely place to visit, BUT....stay someplace else unless you can camp or have an RV. Bring your own food, because the dining hall, buffet and even the general store is expensive. The Saloon was about the cheapest place to get coffee and a sweet roll (which we shared; it was huge). Wish we'd ordered dinner from the Veranda but didn't know it existed until we'd eaten that overpriced buffet last night.

    You also have to get your dining reservation in early -- because by the time we'd gotten there at 4 pm on Monday, they only had 4:30 pm and 8:45 pm reservations. No thanks, we weren't hungry yet and the other was too late. So we took a 6:45 on Tuesday. The food was very good, but expensive. Still, the service was great and the setting couldn't have been much better, a window seat looking over the Grand Canyon.

    Last edited by Tom_H007; 07-26-2019 at 12:40 AM. Reason: Added map

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri

    Default Day 4 - Grand Canyon North Rim to Bryce Canyon Nat'l Park

    Day 4 - Wednesday, July 10th - Grand Canyon North Rim to Bryce Canyon, 176 miles

    Hubby had a horrible night last night. He woke up around midnight, coughing up a storm and saying that his stomach hurt, he didn't know if he was going to throw up or what. He spent a good hour or so trying to get rid of it, saying that he kept tasting the food that he ate for dinner. Neither of us slept well after that. My head was buzzing as well, as I'd eaten far too much too and should have done some exercises after I ate, despite 80 minutes on the trail that day.

    So when we got up, we weren't sure what was going to happen. We knew we couldn't stay, and didn't want to do so. But finally we started to get ready to go by making a couple of trips up to the truck with our stuff, then calling for a porter when we were completely ready. A quick stop for a couple of bags of ice for the coolers, and we were off. Once on the road for a half hour or so, we both started to feel better.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map

    Leaving the Grand Canyon North Rim:

    The drive was beautiful. We saw some bison on the meadow on AZ-67, the road between the North Rim and Jacob Lake, where we turned onto US-89A. Before we knew it, we were in Kanab, we had lost an hour and we only had 77 miles left to go to Bryce Canyon. After fuel, we turned onto US-89.

    We started killing time. First stop was at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Ho-hum, nothing really more than slightly pinker sand than the stuff on the beach or on the Imperial Sand Dunes. I ate a bit, then went for a walk while Warren dozed off in the driver's seat of the truck. It cost us $10 to sit there for an hour, and also 20 minutes drive each way. I'm glad we went, though, as it got us into another remote area where it was fairly quiet and I got to inspect a little bit of the campground that I'd mapped when I did the campgrounds along US-89 for RTA.





    Next stop was at a beautiful rest area nestled in the forest and rock, at MM95 on US-89. We sat there for 20 minutes or so. The last few stops were short ones in scenic areas along UT-12, in the Red Canyon area. Beautiful! We knew we'd be in for a treat on UT-12 if this was the way it started!



    Note on these two photos: taken with an iPhone.

    We pulled into Best Western Plus Ruby's Inn at Bryce Canyon City. This had been the recommended place to stay by several, for Bryce Canyon, and it was fairly easy to get reservations. We were 90 minutes earlier than the check-in time, but within 10 minutes they had a room ready for us. For some odd thing, they had us down for two rooms (they quickly canceled one), one was a double queen and the other was a king. (We wanted the king room). We're in room 7155, in the “Ponderosa” Building. The room is huge and comfortable. We went for a swim after putting everything away and hubby helping out a trailerist who had found himself trying to get out of a parking lot with no outlet the way he was facing. (He is an ex-commercial driver and has driven a 5W about the length of the one he was helping. The couple was new at the RV stuff and very grateful for the assistance.) The pool is indoors and was comfortable.

    We ate dinner far more reasonably tonight at the Cowboy Steakhouse. Hubby had grilled shrimp on skewers and I had half-chicken. This time neither of us ate too much! No one wanted a repeat of the night before.

    Came back to the room and there was actually space to do a workout, and working on my last college course for the early childhood credential. The course dates were June 17 to July 27, and I got most of it done (online) before we left. But I still had to work on my final paper.

    Last edited by Tom_H007; 07-27-2019 at 03:07 AM. Reason: Added map

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Default It's the Altitude!


    Great report so far; love your pictures, and all those little details that make your posts so informative!

    Your horrible night and rough morning at the North Rim is almost undoubtedly a result of the altitude. You guys live at sea level, and the North Rim is almost 8300 feet. That's a huge difference--3,000 feet higher than Denver--and it takes time for the body to acclimate. It's possible that you've never had a problem with altitude in the past, but (speaking from experience), the closer one gets to qualifying for that Lifetime Senior Pass, the harder such adjustment becomes.

    Here's a little info on altitude sickness; see if it doesn't sound familiar!

    Altitude Sickness: What to Know

    Sometimes called “mountain sickness,” altitude sickness is a group of symptoms that can strike if you walk or climb to a higher elevation, or altitude, too quickly.

    Why It Happens:

    The pressure of the air that surrounds you is called barometric pressure. When you go to higher altitudes, this pressure drops and there is less oxygen available.

    If you live in a place that’s located at a moderately high altitude, you get used to the air pressure. But if you travel to a place at a higher altitude than you’re used to, your body will need time to adjust to the change in pressure.

    Any time you go above 8,000 feet, you can be at risk for altitude sickness.

    Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the mildest form and it’s very common. The symptoms can feel like a hangover – dizziness, headache, muscle aches, nausea.

    Symptoms usually come on within 12 to 24 hours of reaching a higher elevation and then get better within a day or two as your body adjusts to the change in altitude.

    If you have a more moderate case of altitude sickness, your symptoms might feel more intense and not improve with over-the-counter medications. Instead of feeling better as time goes on, you��ll start to feel worse. You’ll have more shortness of breath and fatigue, and trouble sleeping.

    Who Gets It?

    Anyone can develop altitude sickness, no matter how fit, young, or healthy they are -- even Olympic athletes can get it. In fact, being physically active at a high elevation makes you more likely to get it.

    Your chance of getting altitude sickness depends on a few other things: how quickly you move to a higher elevation, how high you go up, the altitude where you sleep, and other factors.

    Your risk also depends on where you live and the altitude there, your age (young people are more likely to get it), and whether you’ve had altitude sickness before.

    Having certain illnesses like diabetes or lung disease doesn’t automatically make you more likely to develop altitude sickness. But your genes could play a role in your body’s ability to handle higher elevations.


    If you get a headache and at least one other symptom associated with altitude sickness within a day or two of changing your elevation, you might have altitude sickness. If your symptoms are more severe, you’ll need medical attention.

    Knowing the symptoms of altitude sickness will help you seek treatment early, while the condition is still mild. The most important treatment for any level of altitude sickness is to go down to a lower elevation as soon as possible while remaining safe.

    If you have severe altitude sickness, you’ll need to be taken down to a lower elevation right away -- and it must be lower than 4,000 feet. You’ll have to see a doctor as soon as possible and you may need to go to the hospital!

    This is a good cautionary tale. Acute Mountain Sickness is indeed extremely common, and it can sneak up on the best of us!

    Keep your story coming! We're all looking forward to hearing the rest of your adventures!

    Last edited by Rick Quinn; 07-19-2019 at 01:09 PM. Reason: Added information about altitude sickness

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Central Missouri

    Default Day 5 - Seeing Bryce Canyon National Park

    Day 5 - Thursday, July 11 - Bryce Canyon National Park

    We started out this morning with coffee in the room then went over to try the breakfast buffet, which was included in our overnight, at the Cowboy Buffet. It was crowded though, and the food was lukewarm at best despite sitting on steam trays.

    We got ready and walked over to the Bryce Canyon Shuttle, whose main stop is right across the main drag from our motel room. We rode that to one stop, got out and looked around, then decided that the parking lots were NOT jammed as we'd been warned that they would be.




    So we rode back to the shuttle main stop, walked over to the room, grabbed a few things and threw them into the truck, and took off on our own. We drove all the way out to the Rainbow Point parking lot, got out, and saw Yavimpa point and did the Bristlecone Trail (about a mile). These ancient trees have fascinated us for years! The rule of thumb is that if they have bark, they're still alive. We also loved the Ponderosa pines, which smell like butterscotch if you catch them early enough in the morning, or go right up to one and stick your nose in the bark.

    Click here for this RTA Library Map




    Old tree (dead) and new one:


    Then we made our way back, stopping at the viewpoints which were mostly on our side of the road going back anyway.

    Natural Bridge:

    Ponderosa Point:

    Inspiration Point is the name of the one that is shown on my national park laptop slideshow wallpaper. Beautiful! Our cameras were constantly snapping, and we switched over to our phones to take pictures once in awhile, too.

    Inspiration Point:

    We arrived back at the room shortly before 1 pm – we were tired. Changed into swimsuits and went for a dip in the pool. Came back, dried off, and changed clothes. Walked over to the Ruby's Inn Gift Shop and store. Then it was recharging time for us, our phones, our camera batteries and my FitBit! We made the decision to go back into the park early the next morning, before departing for our next destination, and do some viewpoints that we'd missed. The park was getting crowded and we didn't want people in so many of our photos!

    We made another decision, not to eat at the Ruby's Inn choices for dinner, but to drive back to UT-12 and try Bryce Canyon Pines for dinner. It's about 5 miles away, but the food was decent. The best was the piece of coconut crème pie that we shared at the end. It was huge enough for two.

    Then back to the motel for another "recharging" time for us and our electronics!

    Last edited by Tom_H007; 07-27-2019 at 03:30 AM. Reason: Corrected map

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default This is good !

    Loving the report and photo's Donna and it's bringing back some fond road trip memories of the area. Looking forward to the next instalment !


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