Grand Canyon North Rim, part 3 — Kaibab Lodge and Marble Viewpoint
Last week, my mom accompanied my kids and I up to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Ostensibly, it was to spend time with her brother & his wife, which we did, a bit. Mostly, though, it was just my mom & the rest of us, which was fine with me. My mom makes a really good travelling parter.
We arrived at the Kaibab Lodge on Tuesday evening about 5:30. The Lodge has a nice gift shop — not too pricey, and containing a lot of locally-made arts (as well as small “Navajo” rugs made in India and “Hopi” baskets made in Pakistan and the like). Our arrival date, Tuesday, May 15th was their first day being open for the summer season, so there were a few bumps in the check-in process; they had a new computer system for the restaurant which slowed everything down as staff learned how to use it. However, the staff was *wonderful* — very friendly and warm, very accomodating and eager to help. Of the smiling proprietess, Ellen, I thought, “She would make a good homeschooling mom.” Well, the next night, I found out that she is a homeschooling mom, using Oak Meadow with her two boys, aged almost-9 and 13.
The Lodge itself might best be described as “rustic.” Many of the cabins, including the one in which we stayed, are at least 50 years old. You’re paying for the location (about 20 miles north of Grand Canyon SP) and the service, not really the cabin itself. It wasn’t cheap — our duplex cabin was $114, with tax, but in my travels, I’ve paid more for worse. Our cabin had wood floors, a fair-sized main room with a double bed, desk and two chairs, (and room for the playpen, in which Audrey slept), a separate bedroom with another double and a twin, and a bathroom with a large shower and a curiously hard-to-find light switch. (Main lodge and cabin pics thanks to the Kaibab Lodge website.)
Kaibab Lodge also has a restaurant, which had fairly good, not-super-pricey meals (more extensive than the sample menu found on the website) and friendly, helpful (though not particularly efficient) waitstaff. In the main building, in addition to the restaurant and gift shop, is a TV lounge with loads of tables & chairs, a pay phone, and a spot to hook your laptop to, if you need internet access while on vacation.
After a few mishaps with the payphone, since my mobile (not surprisingly) didn’t have service, I was able to get ahold of my Uncle Kevin, who was staying within the Park. He and my Aunt Maryanne already had planned out their evening, so my mom & I decided not to drive the 20 miles to the park, but to do an off-road drive. Our hope was to view the Canyon to which we had been travelling all day.
The day previous to our departure, I had received my June copy of Arizona Highways in the mail, which was serendipitously all about the Grand Canyon. I only had time to delightedly breeze through it. Something that caught my attention was a little article about Marble Viewpoint, located only 13 unpaved miles from Kaibab Lodge. We hopped back into the truck to find the viewpoint, which we did, mostly with ease. Just outside the Lodge, we saw a group of six mule deer, grazing by the road. We travelled about a half-mile south of Kaibab Lodge to the well-marked turnoff for the Viewpoint. The first 9 miles of the trek was on really well-maintained dirt road; the last almost-four miles was much rougher, including a place where the road diverted, temporarily, around a fallen tree. When we got to the viewpoint (and undeveloped campground), I must say that I was disappointed — NOT because it didn’t have a sweeping, gorgeous view, but because, in my infamiliarity with the places and sights described in the Arizona Highways article, I didn’t realize that this viewpoint featured sights over the very place from which we’d just travelled — the Vermillion Cliffs, House Rock Valley, and Marble Canyon. Shoot. I mean, it was *so* lovely, but since we were looking for the actual Grand Canyon, it was disappointing to not find it. I should have realized by the name of the viewpoint: Marble Canyon is where the Colorado River turns northwards — kind of an almost-as-grand canyon, but not the real thing.
We spent sunset on the western edge of Marble View. During our whole trip, the air was somewhat misty/dusty/partially obscured. Still, one could see much farther, and much more colorfully than the pictures show.
Marble View to the west:
My four kids, silhouetted in the sunset (I *love* this pic):
My mom & three boys exploring the eastern edge of Marble View (Marble Viewpoint is a great place for moms to have a heart attack, as the dropoff is quick and steep, and boys do ever want to go as far to the edge as they possibly can.):
The whole ground was covered with these lichen-covered limestone rocks, as well as an unidentified yellow flower and probably-identified Desert Paintbrush:
We were quickly losing sunlight, so we started to head back after about a little more than an hour at Marble Viewpoint, which passed much-too-quickly. On the drive back, a cow elk slowly loped across the road in front of us. So, less than 24 hours into our trip, we’d seen an antelope, six deer, and an elk! But, no actual Grand Canyon.
We came back to the Lodge, arriving about 8:30, thankful that they served dinner until 9:30. Audrey, who had gone on a nursing strike and who was exhausted, would not lend her cooperation to a quiet dinner, so she and I went back to the cabin, leaving my mom & three boys to eat. Our waitress quickly packed up my dinner and coffee in to-go containers, which I ate at the cabin after Audrey (thankfully, quickly) dropped off to sleep. Well, I ate after she was asleep, and after I’d unpacked everyone’s night-things and prepared their beds.
All the boys fell asleep lickety-split. I spent a leisurely couple of nighttime hours, reading my Plants of Arizona book and taking my sweet time with a much-needed shower. If I would have known what a difficult time Audrey was going to have, and that those two hours were pretty much the only hours that she was going to sleep solidly that night, perhaps I would have gone off to bed with everyone else. But, Audrey, who, for her whole life, has refused to fall asleep in anyone’s arms, decided that she would scream unless I was holding her just so. I sat, propped against a wall, a pillow behind my back, unable to sleep, holding Audrey in a semi-upright position, which enabled her to sleep a bit, albeit sporadically and restlessly. My mom laughed, patiently and softly, remembering similar days, 25-30 years ago…
The next morning, we had plans to meet Kevin & Maryanne for breakfast at 8:30. It would turn out to be a glorious day. (Read Part 4 here.)