24.09.16 Mexican Hat, Utah to Grand Canyon, Arizona
After the grandeur of the last two days, we thought it was impossible to top that. However, we left Mexican Hat in brilliant sunshine, after a Navajo breakfast (Burrito for Paul, strange omelette for me), and after 10 miles or so, we turned the corner to see the magnificent Monument Valley up ahead.
To see something that you have only ever seen in photos or on tv before suddenly before your eyes can feel very overwhelming, and I felt I had to pinch myself just to be sure I was there. Mind you, when we were chugging up the hill to the monument behind a Minnie Winne (Bago), you soon bump back to reality.
The plan for the day was going to take us to within 18 miles of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where we had at cabin booked at Kaibab Lodge.
We were unsure during the day if we would try riding straight on to the canyon to try and catch sunset, or get up early and visit to see sunrise.
It was to be a long ride today, 250 miles starting off chilly, but after we left the city of Page and turned towards Vermillion Cliffs on road 89a, the heat soared to 24 degrees very quickly. We were back into desert and Navajo country. Vermillion Cliffs soared into the sky above us, a deep red, and lined our route for many miles.
Eventually on the 89a we reached Jacob’s Lake, with only another 25 miles to go to Kaibab Lodge. Jacob’s Lake stands at 7925 feet above sea level, and the weather was still warm and bright. Because of this we decided to go quickly along the last part, check in to the cabin and then head up to the North Rim.
We did this, and set off. We rose still steadily higher, and the temperature began to drop further to 7.5 degrees, getting pretty chilly. We rode up to the entrance, and were chuffed to see it was a ‘Fee Free Day’, meaning that we didn’t have to pay anything to get in. We rode another 13 miles to the North Rim Lodge, and parked in the very busy car park, before heading off along a trail, which took us up over and above the Canyon.
The Canyon itself took our breaths away, the sheer scale of it, heading off in both directions as far as the eye can see, and the height at which we were above the bottom (so far down you could not see it). We tried out various places just to drink it all in.
We had decided to wait as close as we could to sunset before leaving again, but did not want to risk riding in complete darkness, because there were so many deer and buffalo, plus it’s not something we normally do.
As I went off to find a drink, Paul stood in the lodge and spotted a statue, Barney the Donkey, whom it is apparently lucky to touch. Sitting by Barney was a guy that Paul chatted to called Wayne, who was interested in our story. It turned out, he told us very humbly that since September 2015, he had been walking across the United States. The job he had lined up had not worked out, so he said, he had time and thought why not? Although he had never intended to walk so far, he has walked from Chicago to Florida, and had walked to the Grand Canyon across the deserts of Utah. He pushes along a bicycle beside him, which is his mule carrying his worldly goods.
After chatting Paul and I thought that there had seen something very different about Wayne, perhaps a calmness or stillness to him that most people don’t have- and his soul seemed to shine out of his eyes. The day had turned out to be fantastic in more ways than one.