Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Colorado River Through Grand Canyon

Hermit. Crystal. Lava. To anyone who has had the pleasure of taking a river trip through the Grand Canyon, these names should sound familiar as they are just a few of the exciting and challenging rapids encountered along the way. If you haven't been able to take the trip, I strongly encourage you to consider it if the opportunity arises. For most folks it's a once in a lifetime experience, but regardless of whether you do it once or many times, what you gain in outlook and perception of what really matters in life is priceless.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that most people who visit the natural wonder of Grand Canyon only scratch the surface of what there is to see and do. Day hiking or backpacking will allow the fit and hardy adventurer to experience a small part of the otherwise enormous Canyon, but you really have to work at earning the rite of passage.

Alternatively many river trips travel the entire 277 miles of the river through the Canyon and can last anywhere from 3 to 18 days while transporting the passenger in relative comfort along the flowing waters. The hardest thing about taking this trip is deciding what and how much of your favorite beverage to bring for the inevitable happy hour on the beach at day's end.

Guided Vs. Private

All river trips in Grand Canyon require a permit, either with a commercial outfitter or as a private party. Until recently private trips were subject to a waiting list as long as 10 years or more, but changes have been made so that individuals can now secure permits in a weighted lottery. Check out the National Park Service website here for more information on the different types of river trips available.

A journey on the river with licensed guides can be expensive, and requires reservations as much as a year in advance. You do get what you pay for however as commercial outfitters supply knowledgable guides, all equipment including tents, sleeping bags, and life jackets, as well as fully catered meals. The guides are professional and well educated, and many of them specialize in biology, geology, and natural history. They provide a wealth of information about the incredible environment of the Canyon, and they know the best places to hike and explore along the way. Most guides love their jobs with a passion and do their best to teach and entertain while sharing a much beloved place with their guests.

If you're into doing it yourself and have extensive whitewater experience or know someone who does, private trips can be organized and outfitted locally. Private (non-commercial) trips have the advantage of lasting as long as 25 days, and offer the maximum opportunity for off-river hiking and exploration as well as moving along at your own pace. The potential downsides to a private trip are not knowing the hazards of the river as well as a professional guide, and the logistics for organizing and feeding a group over several weeks without resupply can be challenging.

Either way you do it, the experience is one you'll never forget.

Trip Options

For the purpose of this blog I am focusing on the commercial (guided) trip, since that is the type of trip most people will participate in. As mentioned earlier, commercial trips allow novice passengers to relax and let the boatmen/women do the work, while requiring only the ability to ooh and ahh at the everchanging but always spectacular scenery. There are several considerations to making your selection, primarily having to do with the amount of time and energy you can commit to - and let's not forget the economic cost. In general you can expect to pay anywhere from $175.00 to $300.00 per day/per person for the experience.

Motorized Vs. Oar/Paddle

Time is always a factor when you're on vacation, and many folks have a hard time getting away from work or life's other necessities for more than a week at a time. If you have your heart set on running the entire length of the river through Grand Canyon, you should consider a motorized trip.
Motor rigs like the one pictured here hold upwards of 20 passengers, and ride the roughest of holes and standing waves with ease while still giving riders a huge whitewater thrill. These boats typically cover the entire trip in 8 days, and they offer nearly as much off river exploration as longer trips since they can cover a lot of ground (so to speak) in a shorter time frame. The only real downsides are having outboard engines that can sometimes disrupt the natural peace and quiet of the Inner Canyon, and the inability to experience the calmer stretches while spending as much time as possible taking in the majestic sights.

If you are philosophically opposed to manmade intrusions spoiling the serene surroundings, consider an oar/paddle trip that covers either the upper or lower sections of the Canyon. Full non-motorized trips take at least 14 days, but selecting either the first half or second half allows for a shorter duration (typically 6 - 9 days) while giving passengers a generous taste of the river through the Canyon. The real challenge in doing this type of trip is that people who do the upper half will need to hike out of Grand Canyon at Phantom Ranch, a 9.5 mile trek uphill to the rim. If the lower half is selected, the reverse is true - a hike into the Ranch from the rim. Either way, there is a substantial physical challenge involved and this should be a consideration when booking the trip.

The best option if your time and finances allow is the full oar/paddle trip. This typically lasts 14+ days, and you can experience the sounds and sights of the Inner Canyon undisturbed by outside distractions. Some river companies offer trips where guides exclusively row the 6 - 8 person rafts, while others offer the option of passengers participating by using paddles to power the boats. There are also combinations available where paddle boats and oar boats are included on the trip so that passengers can elect to take a more active or passive role as they choose.

Oar/paddle trips tend to be more intimate, and the pace is often much slower than motorized rigs, especially since the boats are subject to slow river currents and upstream winds. In the rapids they are skillfully managed by the guides to avoid the worst of the turbulence while providing the most wild ride possible. It's even possible that a guide will allow passengers a turn at the oars in the calmer sections if someone wants a taste of the river runner life - be careful though, it can be very addictive!

Life On The River

Once you enter the realm of the Grand Canyon on the River, the outside world literally ceases to exist. Though the rim and civilization as we know it can sometimes be glimpsed from below, you might as well be on the Moon. Cell phones, internet, and the everyday hassles of your daily routine cannot reach you here. As the journey unfolds, you find yourself relaxing more and more each day as the cares of your life slip away. This is not a cliche - being down here without anything but the majesty and sublime beauty of the Canyon forces the mind to sharpen and focus on what is real. Over time pretensions and perceptions melt away until only the bedrock of your life remains. Many river trip participants find themselves looking at things in a new way after their trip, and for some it truly becomes a life changing experience.

Besides the opportunity to experience a world few get to see, you'll explore some of the many otherwise hidden and inaccessible side canyons that make up the overall Grand Canyon. You will see firsthand how water in a harsh and unforgiving landscape shapes life at the river's edge and on the dry and seemingly barren desert slopes just feet away. You will marvel at the complexity and variety of water and wind carved shapes and forms on display at every turn in the river's path, and be astounded as massive walls of granite and sandstone rise above you everywhere you look - for days on end. And while everyone begins the trip as strangers, by the time it's over you'll probably develop some life-long friendships as you share this incredible journey.

But don't take my word for it. Get on the river and see what happens - I promise you won't regret it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Burr Trail

In the previous post I discussed the Notom - Bullfrog Road from Highway 24 to the intersection of the Burr Trail. Here travelers can decide to either climb up and over the Waterpocket Fold to the west, or continue south to Lake Powell. For those who choose the latter option, it's another 30 miles of dirt road before reaching the junction with State Route 276.

At the end of the Burr Trail and the north end of the lake you'll find Bullfrog Marina. On the opposite side is the Hall's Crossing Marina. If your plans have you traveling south and you want to avoid driving back the way you came, you can take the Halls' Crossing ferry across the lake to continue the journey. If you want to spend time exploring the lake itself, both marinas offer food, lodging, boat rentals, and tours of the surrounding area.

The Notom - Bullfrog road can also be made part of a great loop through some spectacular scenery by choosing to turn west where the Burr Trail ascends the Waterpocket Fold. The road here is steep with tight switchbacks that are unsuitable for vehicles with trailers or any large RV. Once you reach the summit at around 5700 feet, you can stop to admire great views to the east of Strike Valley and the Henry Mountains.

Nearby is the turnoff to Strike Valley Overlook and the trailhead to Upper Muley Twist Canyon, where hikers can experience a great narrows section, as well as arches and natural bridges carved out of the Navajo and Wingate sandstone. Muley Twist Canyon was so named because parts are so narrow a mule would have to "twist" to get through. Be careful though - the road to the overlook requires a minimum of a high clearance vehicle and possibly 4 wheel drive.

As you continue on, look to the east to spot Peek-A-Boo rock, carved out of the distinctive white Navajo formation. To the west and south the country is a broken jumble of canyons and ridges covered in pinon and juniper.

3 miles after cresting the top, the road becomes paved as it leaves Capitol Reef National Park. The land here is part of the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument managed by the BLM. For those looking for a place to spend the night dispersed camping away from the road is a possibility.

The western edge of the Waterpocket Fold rises as steep bluffs composed of Wingate sandstone, colored in vivid reds and orange. Called the Circle Cliffs, these steep and rugged walls form the boundary of the National Park.

The Burr Trail was named for an early settler and cattleman - John Atlantic Burr. His family settled here in 1876, and Burr used the area to graze livestock. With elevations ranging from around 4000 feet in Strike Valley to 6500 feet near Boulder, he drove his cattle to the lower deserts in winter and into the high country in summer. Cows can still be found throughout the region today - much of the country is open range which means no fences, and visitors should exercise caution while driving the road from this point west.

1.6 miles after the Park boundary is the eastern leg of the Wolverine Loop Road, leading south to the Wolverine Petrified Wood Natural Area. This side trip is just over 27 miles in length, and is passable to most vehicles except in wet weather. A short hike leads to some excellent examples of fossilized wood, and along the way there are many small canyons and gullies to explore.

After winding through the juniper covered hills in this area, the road makes for what looks like an impenetrable line of cliffs to the west. Here begins a long climb out of White Flats to the upper end of Long Canyon. At the top the view to the east reveals the Henry Mountains looming over the Circle Cliffs and Waterpocket Fold, with a rugged no man's land in between.

Cut into the Wingate sandstone, Long Canyon winds its way towards Boulder in the west. The upper end of the road has some fantastic rock sculptures where remnants of the Navajo formation have weathered into pillars of stone resembling guards or sentinels.

For nearly 8 miles the road travels the bottom of the canyon while soaring walls of sandstone rise majestically above. While not the deepest or narrowest canyon to be found in the southwest, it is easily one of the most scenic. The walls are sheer nearly to the top, and the red Wingate formation is beautifully streaked with long trails of desert varnish. The streambed is usually dry, but water surfaces periodically through the canyon providing sustenance for riparian plants and trees.

At the lower end of Long Canyon the road once again climbs up and out to emerge in the cross-bedded sandstone formations found in the Escalante Canyons. The Burr Trail ends at Highway 12 near Boulder, where travelers can choose to go north over Boulder Mountain and eventually reach Highway 24, thus completing the loop through Capitol Reef, or head left (south) and venture into even more spectacular scenery along Highway 12. Whichever route you choose be sure to have the camera ready - you'll need it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Capitol Reef, Waterpocket Fold, and the Notom - Bullfrog Road

The Grand Staircase region encompasses everything that makes the Colorado Plateau such a geologically diverse place, ranging from high mountains to deeply incised canyons. Another very interesting formation is the reef - not the ocean variety, but the kind found in southern Utah amidst the all the other geographic wonders. One of the best examples is found at Capitol Reef National Park where the Waterpocket Fold stretches over 100 miles along the edge of the Park.

This monocline is essentially a "warp" or fold of nearly horizontal sedimentary deposits found throughout most of the region, where layers of rock that lie buried elsewhere are elevated, tilted, and exposed to erosion. Their elevation above the surrounding area sets the stage for the creation of deep chasms with often impressive "narrows", where canyon walls are sometimes barely wider than a hiker's outstretched arms. Early settlers named these formations"reefs" for their similarity to the barriers faced by seafarers as they attempted to navigate the seas. The Fold also contains a wide variety of domes, fins, and buttes including one that resembles the nation's Capitol building - hence the name of the Park.

The upper layers of the 60 million year-old Fold are composed mostly of Navajo sandstone, which weathers into pockets or depressions. These "pockets" hold water from rain or snow and give the reef its name. Several factors make the Fold unique in geological terms - first, the east side is offset nearly 60% from the horizontal, and the steep slopes accelerate erosion. Secondly the sheer size of the formation is impressive - nearly 100 miles long, stretching from Thousand Lake Mountain in the north to Lake Powell in the south.

While technically outside the defined borders of the GSENM, Waterpocket Fold and the associated formations constitute the eastern edge of the region, and should be included on any visitor's list of things to see in the area. Even as much of the heart of Capitol Reef is inaccessible by vehicle, there are several excellent roads that permit exploration of the area, with many hiking trails leading into more remote locations along the way.

Highway 24

The easiest access to the Waterpocket Fold is off Utah Highway 24 which runs roughly east and west from I-70 near Green River to Highway 89 in the southcentral part of the state. While not quite as spectacular as the better known Highway 12, there is much to see and appreciate on this route. Along its midsection the highway cuts across the northern part of Capitol Reef for 16 miles, surrounded entirely by inspiring and massive sandstone walls as it follows the path of the Fremont River. Stop at Fruita near Park headquarters to visit the orchards planted by LDS settlers, and see historic buildings these hardy souls lived and worked in. And if your timing is right, you can pick different kinds of fruit in season - for free.

Notom - Bullfrog Road

If driving Highway 24 has inspired you to see more of the Waterpocket Fold, the absolute best thing to do next is plan a trip on the Notom - Bullfrog Road. This north-south route parallels the reef for nearly 80 miles, and provides access to many of the Park's hiking trails. Located off highway 24 approximately 9 miles east of the Park Visitor Center or 30 miles west of Hanksville, this reasonably well maintained route is paved to the once community of Notom, and is then dirt for the next 40 miles or so. Like most roads in the area, caution is advised when wet weather is in the forecast - slick roads and washouts are common during sudden thunderstorms, and even 4wd vehicles will have difficulty until the road dries out.

As the road heads south from the highway junction the scenery begins to unfold with views to the east of the Henry Mountains. These laccolithic peaks are remote and isolated from much of the area, and are seldom visited by outsiders although locals know them well. The Henrys were named by explorer John Wesley Powell to honor Joseph Henry, the first curator of the Smithsonian. They are the last mountain range to be explored and added to topographic maps of the lower 48 states. The highest peak, Mt. Ellen rises over 11,500 feet above sea level and dominates the skyline from all directions.

Once the road passes what used to be the community of Notom, the pavement disappears. Looking south the profile of the Waterpocket Fold gradually rises above the western horizon, and the road begins the descent to Strike Valley. At mile 14, the first of many hikes that penetrate the reef can be reached at the Oak Creek access road.

At the 20 mile mark, the road enters the National Park. From this point on until reaching BLM land at the Burr Trail, there is no dispersed camping allowed. Those visitors prepared to "rough it" will enjoy the primitive campground 2 miles along at Cedar Mesa, which has no facilities other than tables and pit toilets, as well as a trailhead to Red Canyon. The country here is primarily a pinon-juniper woodland, with fine views of Strike Valley, the Waterpocket Fold, and Henry Mountains.

34 miles in, the Notom - Bullfrog road meets the beginning of the Burr Trail. This road turns west and quickly begins a steep ascent over the Fold: the only one to do so in the Park. The switchbacks are tight and not recommended for RVs or vehicles towing trailers. After reaching the top, the reward is a panorama to the east with breathtaking views of Strike Valley and the Henry Mountains.

The Notom - Bullfrog road does not end at the Burr Trail intersection - it continues south for another 35 miles to Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell. There are several worthwhile hikes along this leg that adventure seekers should consider, including Lower Muley Twist Canyon and the Halls Creek Narrows. Up next: The Burr Trail

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Smoky Mountain Road - Solitude At Its Finest

I began my journey on the rugged and wild 78 mile dirt road that crosses the central heart of the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument the previous afternoon. Because of a relatively late start, I had managed to crest the Kaiparowits Plateau at the top of the Kelly Grade before making camp, and I resumed the trip early the next morning.

The plateau resides at an average elevation of around 6000 feet above sea level, where sagebrush, pinyon, and juniper dominate the plant community. This time of year temperatures should be pushing the mid- to upper 90's during the day, and it can be very dry. Fortunately the last two weeks of May and the first part of June have been unusually wet and cool, making for ideal traveling weather. In addition the extra moisture has resulted in somewhat greener vegetation and a fair number of wildflower and cactus species are in bloom, making a colorful palette of the desert.

The road takes a direct path to the north, heading for what some folks have called "standing up country", where upper layers of overlying formations have eroded into mesas, ridges, benches, and canyons that break the topography into a jumbled puzzle. I already knew from spending time on the Colorado Plateau that there is no such thing as the shortest distance between two points being a straight line. Before the journey was over Smoky Mountain Road made that very clear to me.

In a relatively flat stretch before reaching broken land ahead the road is easy to travel when dry. During thunderstorms or in winter, the road surface can become treacherous. Anyone traveling in the area will probably become mired in the muck until things dry out. If storms produce heavy rain, all bets are off in getting through as flash floods frequently wash out sections of the road, and road crews no longer arrive to repair the damage. This road is primitive, and visitors need to be completely self-sufficient when making this trek.

The road was first constructed in the 1960's to allow for exploration of the area by mineral interests, and to give ranchers access to the cattle that graze the Monument. At one time there was maintenance done to the worst sections of the road by Kane County, but after a dispute with the BLM over access, they suspended all work in 2006 and today road conditions are subject to the forces of nature.

For the most part the road contours around the base of the benches and ridges that dominate the western region. There is much exposed rock, and in many cases the road bed consists entirely of cross-bedded sandstone ledges. There are also hundreds of ravines and drainages that cut across the road - as the route stays fairly high along the slope they are reasonably small and easy to traverse, and the challenge is simply negotiating them at a speed where you don't bottom out the suspension on your vehicle.

About halfway through the most rugged area I came to a place called Last Chance Draw. During very heavy rains in October of 2006 the crossing of the draw was washed out and never repaired. When I descended into the shallow canyon I was dismayed to see that the road no longer existed, and at first I thought I would have to turn around and go back the way I came. But after closer examination I could see where others had traveled a short distance downstream and dropped into the streambed off a steep and sandy bank.

Not wanting to talk myself out of trying it, I went ahead and nosed my truck over what looked like the edge of Grand Canyon. The angle made me think the front end was going to be damaged before my front tires reached level ground, and it was very close. I did bang the receiver hitch in the back pretty hard as the rear end hit bottom, but no damage was done. Afterwards I got out to look things over and I realized at that moment there was no going back. The bank was composed entirely of soft sand, and the angle was such that I knew I would not be able to get enough traction to climb it, even with 4-wheel drive. At that point I felt a little like John Wesley Powell who wrote these words in his journal just before entering the Inner Gorge of the Grand Canyon for the first time:

“We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! we may conjecture many things.”

I continued on, hoping I would not encounter any other obstacles or challenges that would prevent me from reaching the other end.

Despite the rugged terrain and the snail-like pace required to keep from shaking my teeth out, I paused often to admire the beautiful and sublime country around me. So far I had yet to see another human being, and there were no signs that anyone had been in the area for quite some time. The sky was filled with a patchwork of cumulus clouds that looked like the promise of rain, although only scattered showers developed.

I saw that many of the prickly pear cactus were sporting bouquets of blossoms, some yellow, some pink, and a few had rich orange arrangement.

Weird and wonderful rock formations were everywhere to see, and the skyline was serrated with craggy sandstone pinnacles and angular ledges. The road wound into and out of many side pockets and canyons, undulating up and down over the varied landscape. Every turn provided a new vista into some secluded valley or a peek into the depths of a small canyon that emptied into an ever growing network of channels. On the scale of human time the place might look timeless, but evidence is everywhere for constant and sometimes rapid change, especially where infrequent but heavy rain carves the rock with an abrasive load of sediment.

After many hours of slowly negotiating the difficult terrain, the road begins to move away from the benches and into broad valleys, all the while gradually descending to the eventual exit off the plateau. The final stage of the journey enters Alvey Canyon, which has been a conduit for people into and out of the region for as long as humans have lived here. The canyon bottom holds a broad and sandy wash which would be difficult to negotiate during a flash flood, and I'm sure the road bed has to be repaired several times a year.

After nearly 8 hours of travel, the road nears Escalante, Utah on beautiful Highway 12. The country I've just journeyed through is unparalleled for it's rugged beauty and unforgiving terrain. Nearly 80 miles of unspoiled and seldom visited land awaits the adventurous soul who is looking for the heart of the wild. Just a word of caution - Smoky Mountain Road is not a place for the casual tourist. If you go be prepared for anything, including not seeing a soul for days. And from my perspective, that's not a bad thing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument

Until the late 1990s one of the most incredible places in the Southwest used to be a random collection of public and state lands just north of the Arizona-Utah border. Then President Bill Clinton took the bold step of creating The Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument by decree, thus preserving a vast swath of territory that contains some of the finest and most unspoiled landscapes the Colorado Plateau has to offer.

To be sure, the action was not unanimously applauded, and some local residents throughout the affected area are still angry about the Federal "land grab", but for the most part people have come to accept and understand the value of protecting such an incredible place. And as more and more visitors come to the region to learn about the array of fascinating geography, cultural and natural history, and priceless solitude found through much of the region, nearby residents are finding ways to profit from the would-be explorers.

The next series in my blog will explore the many different faces of the Grand Staircase.

What is the Grand Staircase?

The term Grand Staircase refers to a series of ever higher plateaus that begin with the Kaibab in Northern Arizona and culminate with the Aquarius Plateau in south-central Utah. Like risers on stairs, this succession of high and relatively flat land has been eroded and carved into some of the most spectacular canyon country on Earth. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to fully describe the dazzling array of shapes, colors, and formations found throughout the area, and only by visiting the Monument can you begin to understand and appreciate the amazing landscape.

The monument itself contains 1.9 million acres, and is set amongst several other incredible parks and recreation areas. Zion borders the GSENM to the west, Bryce Canyon is to the north, Capitol Reef NP to the northeast, Glen Canyon and Lake Powell to the east, and the newly created Vermilion Cliffs National Monument flanks the southern edge. Just south of all of it is the grandaddy of them all, the Grand Canyon. Another reason that makes GSENM unique is that it is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, and they continue to allow more use of the land than would be possible had the new monument been turned over to the Park Service.

Since the area is so big and access is fairly limited, I'll cover it over time using the three main regions. The westernmost section is called the Grand Staircase and roads here are a little less difficult from a terrain standpoint. The central section is referred to the as the Kaiparowits, and offers fewer roads and less forgiving landscapes. The eastern or Escalante region of GSENM is truly canyon country, and the roads and terrain are difficult at best. We'll begin by exploring in the Kaiparowits area.

Smoky Mountain Road - Day One

I recently took a 2 day trip into Utah to revisit a place I had not seen in 10 years. My goal was Smoky Mountain Road, a 78 mile long route that climbs up and over the remote and rugged Kaiparowits Plateau.

The road is one of three "main" routes that bisect the Monument, and it takes you through seldom visited and difficult terrain as it journeys north to Escalante. The memories I had of my previous trip were of a challenging and tortured backcountry road, along with complete and total solitude. I was curious about how accurately I remembered the place, so with some time off and very favorable weather, I decided to give it a shot.

I arrived at the BLM Visitor center in Big Water about mid-afternoon. They are one of several offices located around the edges of GSENM, where visitors can inquire about road conditions and get local weather forecasts. After checking out the status of the road and securing a permit, I was on my way.
To get here, travel west on Highway 89 about 10 miles west of Page, Arizona. Conveniently, the departure point for Smoky Mountain Road is directly across the highway from the building.

The trip begins as the road contours eastward around the base of Nipple Bench Cliffs. Here the soil is composed of silts and clays eroded from the layers above, and it contains high levels of minerals that are toxic to most plant life. The result is starkly beautiful but barren landscapes that resemble those of the Moon rather than Earth.

Without plant life to stabilize the soil, any rain carves and cuts deeply into the soft layers, resulting in weirdly eroded buttes and spires. Even though the environment is alien in appearance, it is very appealing in a visual way. The roadbed here is marked by evidence of heavy runoff and deep ruts of vehicles unfortunate enough to be driving in the area when the rains came.

Eventually the road leaves the base of the mesa behind, and begins to journey north towards the Kaiparowits itself. The name is of Paiute origin, and originally referred to a much smaller geographic area, but early settlers adopted the term to describe the entire region. Loosely translated it means "little brother of big mountain", where the big mountain is the Aquarius Plateau to the north.

As the road approaches the base of the plateau, it can be seen snaking its way up the sheer cliffs. This section of the road is called the "Kelly Grade", and it is steep and narrow with long drop offs down vertical slopes. Click on the photo below and look very hard to see where the road clings to the face of the cliff.

There is no room for two vehicles to pass, and literally no place to turn around. As I traveled up I kept hoping I would not meet any traffic on the way down. I needn't have worried - I saw no one else at all for the entire journey, and I'm sure that is normal out here.

The trail snakes it way across the face of the plateau, winding higher and higher until eventually it reaches the summit.

Looking out from the lofty heights you get a great view to the south of Page and Lake Powell

To the east Navajo Mountain rises over 10,000 feet to tower over the canyons of the San Juan arm of the lake.

I took advantage of the spectacular overlook to make camp for the night.

The air was cool and a slight breeze kept the cedar gnats at bay.... for the most part. The rain on the horizon made me wonder if the roads would be a challenge the following day. Next up: Into the heart of the Kaiparowits.