Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

< Previous | List | Next > Goosenecks State Park, Navajo National Monument, Coal Mine Canyon, Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Grand Canyon

Waking up at Goosenecks State Park wasn't as impressive as I'd hoped it would be. I was up with the first rays of sun, but the light was pretty dull and the San Juan River some 1,000 feet (305m) below didn't look all that impressive. The bright parts looked washed out, the shadowy parts looked very unsaturated; and the few pictures that I ended up taking turned out to not be all that great.

I was soon on my way, driving south on Highway 163, past Monument Valley which I decided not to visit this time around. I did want to visit Navajo National Monument, however, mostly because it was one of the few National Parks or Monuments in the area which I hadn't visited before. Once I arrived, I hiked the Sandal Trail, a short half-mile trail that leads to an overlook of the Betatakin/Talastima cliff dwelling. I wasn't impressed, especially since I'd left my big lens in the car and my wide-angle couldn't zoom in enough to even make out any detail of the cliff dwelling far below. I probably should have joined a tour (which descends into the canyon, which would have taken the better part of the day), but at the time the thought didn't even occur to me.

So pretty soon, I was back in the car again, on my way to another spot I hadn't visited before: Coal Mine Canyon, near Tuba City. This is a relatively unknown area, to the extent that it doesn't seem to have any status: it's not labeled as a park or monument or anything, just a spot you need to have directions for or you'd drive past it on the highway oblivious that it even exists. The time of the day wasn't great, though - the sun was high up in the sky and there wasn't a cloud to be seen anywhere. The air quality still wasn't all that great. Since I'd read that the legal status wasn't really clear (there's a debate since this is Indian land whether entry is even allowed, if a permit is required, or if there's no restrictions) I chose to tread on the safe side and limit my stay to the canyon rim. Coal Mine Canyon was definitely worth the detour even if I didn't spend much time or took many great pictures.

I stopped in Tuba City for lunch at a Taco Bell where I was one of the only, if not the only Non-Native person; then drove down Highway 89 to Wupatki National Monument. It protects ruins of Native American pueblos - living quarters built out of stone. I walked to the Box Canyon Ruins, taking a few pictures here and there, and then headed over to Wupatki Pueblo. Here, the biggest challenge was to get a picture without people in it, or that didn't showcase the hiking trail or markers the NPS has put seemingly everywhere.

I drove on, still not really "feeling" the day. My next stop was Sunset Crater National Monument, yet another spot I hadn't really visited before. Maybe that was what's wrong with the day: I wasn't so much enjoying the scenery, but after a week and a half of many efforts and impressions I was merely checking off a list. My first stop was Cinder Hills Overlook, a spot not unlike several other volcanic areas I'd visited before. The weather was getting nicer however, and the haziness of the morning finally seemed to disappear. Along with bluer skies this also meant better colors.

Before too long, I was on my way again, towards Grand Canyon National Park, where I was hoping to create another highlight of this trip. I had been planning a Rim-Rim hike for quite some time, and decided that since I didn't have someone to shuttle me around, that I'd need to do a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim; meaning I'd walk to the North Rim, spend the night there and then walk back the next day. Traditional Grand Canyon literature frowns upon ideas like this. You're already considered pretty crazy if you intend to hike down to the river and back up to the South Rim in one day, and there's plenty of warning signs giving the impression that everyone who tried died on the way back up. Many people suggest that a South Rim or North Rim hike should be done in two or three days.

But save the crapy plans for tomorrow - first came the touristy part with stops at the usual viewpoints, along with the obligatory quiet swearing at fellow tourists who were deciding to sit down and "enjoy the scenery" in the precise spot I wanted to frame some picture with. The worst offender in this case seems to be the Overlook.

Next up, I headed to the visitor center to get a sanity check on my trip plan. While I knew that my idea would probably be frowned upon, I still wanted to check with them to see if there was anything unusual, like places that would normally have drinkable water being out of order, or whatnot. While the park ranger wasn't too thrilled hearing what I was planning to do - after all, it's their job making sure that people don't do crazy things - I seemed to pass his sanity check - he didn't try to deter me in any way.

Next, I did some more shopping in anticipation of the next day's hike. Then, with the day nearing its end, I headed out to the South Kaibab trailhead for sunset photos, then drove south past the park border, past Tusayan and then into some side road in Kaibab National Forest, where primitive camping is allowed.

Miles driven: 361mi (581km)

Campground Accommodation: Primitive camping (Kaibab National Forest): $0.00

Written 19/Feb/2011 in Esch-Alzette