We found our respite from the madness of Zion near Marble Canyon, AZ, nestling in as couple hundred yards on the north rim above the Colorado River. It is an area that is generally overlooked, with the Navajo Reservation to the south and people either travelling to the North Rim proper, Lee’s Ferry, Zion or some other larger attraction within the region. We ended up staying a week, enjoying the relative isolation, varied hiking and stunning vistas.
For the first few nights we did have one neighbor, who would routinely run a generator every few hours. We were puzzled for a while. What would you need that much power for in an RV? After a few days, we met and chatted with her at the laundromat. She told us she enjoyed playing virtual reality with some of her family members and the device was a power hog, hence the generator. She left to continue west and our days were filled with silence and the sound of the rapids far below once more.
We would soon discover another reason why the area was not more popular for camping. Wind. Each day was calm, but 3 of the 7 nights we were blasted by wind storms that filled the tent with sand and left us awake, staring at the billowing fabric and wondering if the poles would remain intact.
With the canyon below us to the south and the Vermillion Cliffs to the north, there were no shortage of hiking options and we took advantage, going out walking every day. The Grand Canyon is just beginning to form in this area and as such, the walls are not as tall as further west, topping out some 500 to ~1000 ft above the river. We made two attempts to get down to the water, one of which was successful. On our trips down the washes, we enjoyed scrambling over large rocks and navigating thin rock ledges over lingering pools. At the bottom, we were rewarded with the surprisingly crystal clear water of the Colorado River and thanks to the abundant sunshine, even took it upon ourselves to go for a swim.
When we weren’t hiking down to the river, we went north, going up and/or around the cliffs. A steep climb brought us to the top one day, allowing us a grand vista of the high desert and canyon below, the Kaibab National Forest to the west and the mountains to the south on the Navajo Reservation.
For all of it’s scenic splendor, the area appears to be a very harsh environment, devoid of much life. We failed to see any large wild mammals during our stay, only seeing the droppings of some deer and sheep. Even the domesticated variety, the ever present cows, proved to be scarce in this area. However, with warmer weather, we saw more insects than at any other point yet, including grasshoppers, moths, flies and even a bold tarantula who decided to test his mettle in the “cold.”
The area is known for one unique animal though and that is the California Condor. Eliminated during the early 20th century, they were reintroduced towards the end and now call this area home. Some 100+ condors live in the area and we were able to catch sight of a few when we hiked to the top of the cliffs. They soared for miles, some 20 ft above the cliff, never flapping their wings once while in our sight.
During our stay, we passed the halfway point of our trip. Only a few sites and weeks remain of our desert tour before we call it quits for this go around and head east to Chicago for Christmas. For now, we head back to Abbey’s country, Utah, where we hope to find more canyons to explore and traces of the Anasazi within them.
(I still need a southwest desert birds ID book)