Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monsoon Season on the North Rim!

I've been trying to finish this for couple days now and I just get interrupted. Therefore, I'll just describe the pictures because otherwise, I'll never get this posted. 

I realize I talk about my sheer hatred of summertime, but let me be clear. I don't hate Summer everywhere. I just hate it down in the desert. I hate it in places that are regularly triple digits for months on end. 

However, on the Kaibab Plateau, Summer is beautiful.  Below in this post I have some more weather pics. It was a fantastic day!
Kaibab Lodge Sign on the drive between Jacob Lake and the North Rim
Kaibab Lodge on the drive between Jacob Lake and the North Rim
There is a little General Store across the highway from the Kaibab Lodge and these Connecticut Tourists were asking if the rain was going to stop. I wanted to cringe.

What they didn't get is Summer Monsoon rains aren't an all day cloudy drizzle. It's part of the season. I know they were from a different part of the country, but they really needed to accumlate of how nice it is at 8000ft+ in July in Northern Arizona. After they left the General Store, I had a nice conversation about it with the nice store owner. 

We also shared a love for Target and a hatred for Wal-Mart.  (even though both of those were hours away!)

And Monsoon Season isn't just something in Northern Arizona. One of the saving graces of Summer down in the desert is the Monsoon storm season. Sure, we end up with more humidity as a result, but a good Monsoon season yields more clouds blocking the sun, some rain and thunderstorms. And lower temperatures. 

Chris's postcard from the bottom of the Grand Canyon in September 2007
So far, this year's Monsoon season and last year's were pretty good. And Monsoon Season up north is unpredictable, adventurous and beautiful. 
At the Entrance of the Grand Canyon! Chris has been down to Phantom Ranch in September! Hot it is!

"Beefalo" just before the Canyon's entrance

The North Rim Entrance
Mikelle looking out at the Canyon

See the people on the cliff?
A "down" view from Cape Royal
More beautiful clouds and rain the distance!
We wanted to go down to this viewpoint, but Christian was having trouble with the "height" factor.
Views from the Safety of Indoors. Yes, the Monkey Leash was a MUST!

Some Storm Action over on the South Rim, as seen from the North Rim

After the Visitor Center and a picnic lunch (but we went over by the Grand Canyon General Store/Campground area for a picnic table - no way doing a lunch near the edges with Alexander in our clutches!), we took a drive to the Walhalla Plateau and the end which is Cape Royal. Beautiful areas and crazy cliffs. And these cliffs did not have fences. Let's just say if it wasn't for the family reunion in Jacob Lake, I would not have taken Alexander to the Grand Canyon yet with him being so young and "adventurous". I'm glad everything went okay!

The drive to Cape Royal in Orange.

Rainbow in the Canyon on the Walhalla Plateau at Vista Encantada
Down the road from there, we got pounded on. And look at the temperature! Perfection!

 Pine cones were falling out of the tree above us and also hitting the car. Crazy storm action!

A few more miles down the road, at the end of the route is Cape Royal. So gorgeous. The rain had tapered off and the clouds gave the perfect diffused light. I could have stayed there all day. 

There's even a "Wedding Spot" there for anyone to get married right there on the cliff. There's a cute little seating area too. But word to the wise: If you want to have your wedding there, make sure no children are invited. Too close to the cliffs! Our monkey harness AND hand holding was on overdrive!

Cape Royal Cliffs:

One of the most beautiful "Man-Made" Views. If you have to camp, this is the way to do it!

And leaving the Canyon, more Rainbows!

One of my favorite shots!

Earlier that day, back at the Campground, Alexander commandeering the Forest Worker's golf cart. He did this the day before too.

And the view driving off the Kaibab Plateau as we left on July 15

So what is the update on the car in Flagstaff? Well, as I write this on the last day of July, and the car has been there since July 11th,  it's still there. There is potentially good news about this ordeal ending soon, but I don't want to jinx it by saying anything until it's definite. Sure, it sounds negative and cynical on my part, but I think "cautious optimism" is a good idea, considering everything that has happened.

And it's hard to believe, but last week was the first day of school for Mikelle and Christian. I have an EIGHTH GRADER. How did that happen? And Christian is in FOURTH grade? And don't they look just so excited?

Our X-man giving Mikelle "First Day of School" Advice

Farewell, July! Thanks for the Monsoons both up north and down here! Bring some more! Summer still has a good 2 months! 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Home to Jacob Lake in 27 Hours...

Jacob Lake is about 45 miles north of Grand Canyon. And hey, Kanab is nearby!
Okay, I've put it off long enough. Here is our recent car drama along with some beautiful sites from our Kaibab Plateau/Jacob Lake/North Rim trip. 

I say "recent" regarding the car drama, but it's still ongoing. As I type, our car is still in Flagstaff.

On Thursday July 11th we set off for Jacob's Lake, Arizona for a family reunion including Chris's Dad and his wife, Grandma Georgia.

 It's in far-northern Arizona and quite a drive from down here in the desert, since there's a big hole in the way that we have to drive around  (The Grand Canyon).  However, it's about a 7 hour drive, not 27. 

Well, it took us 27. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was looking forward to the trip because it involved going to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I've been to the South Rim twice and Havasu Canyon (a part of the Grand Canyon) also twice. But I always wanted to go to the North Rim. It just isn't easy to reach - especially from Phoenix. And it's less populated than the South Rim. Only about 10% of Grand Canyon visitors make it to the North Rim. It's also 1000 feet higher than the South Rim.

Anyway, so we had only made it up I-17 and approached Cordes Junction when an "AT" light went on in the car and the car wouldn't automatically go up to 4th gear. It wasn't doing very well in 2nd gear either. It's an Automatic. We prefer Manual Transmissions, but when it came time to upgrade the size of our car when Alexander came into our lives, we weren't able to get what we needed in a Manual.
"B" is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
So we managed to get the car to Flagstaff, albeit in slow "third gear" speeds and with the hazards lights on the whole time. We were hoping for a Mazda Dealership in Flagstaff to take it to, but the only one there was no longer in business.  However, Flagstaff was still welcoming. It was evening when we arrived and the hot summer air of the desert was well behind us. In fact, when we got out of the car, Christian exclaimed, "Whoah!!!! This is NICE!!!" 

I would love to live where there are four seasons, and a summer that can involve being outside. :sigh:

Anyway, by then it was too late in the evening to do much else for the car, so we had dinner and got a motel in Flagstaff.  Friday morning we would hope to take the car in. 

The motel room experience itself was a challenge. And I use that term lightly considering I try to keep my blog at a PG rating. 

I don't want to throw my kids under the bus, but when one kid is upset that the switches on the little AC Cooling unit by the window aren't doing what they should (the unit worked - just not the way that particular child thought it should), and another kid is insistent on playing with the aforementioned AC unit to the frustration of the kid that is frustrated with the AC's working modus operandi, and the third kid is upset and complaining about the experience as a whole (the drive, the car, the waiting, the camping to come later, etc), your patience is tried before there is a KNOCK on the door because there is too much noise coming from our room. 

Seriously, if we can't even deal with a motel room for the night in Flagstaff (and it's not the first time we've been in a motel room together...but you'd think these children were never taken out of their natural habitat before), how can we camp with other humans at Jacob Lake AND visit the Grand Canyon without it becoming an International Incident? Other people can take their kids on road trips that involve beautiful sights, camping, motel rooms, visiting with other family members and long hours on the road. Why can't we? 

There is a reason I haven't written about this yet. It's still very raw to me.
Our now crippled Mazda 5 - pictured June 2013

The next morning Chris took the car to a local shop that only deals with transmissions. At the time, I should have checked online reviews about this particular shop. Turns out, there is a better one in Flagstaff.  Hindsight and regret like this are running high as our Mazda is STILL up in Flagstaff.

The diagnosis on the car wasn't good. Let's just say we soon got a rental - a large Toyota Sequoia because of all our camping equipment. We considered just getting the rental and heading back home.  However, if the car was going to be stuck in Flagstaff and they wouldn't even be able to do anything until after the weekend, we might as well stay in the nice cool temperatures and go to Jacob Lake like we planned. We were going to go back home through Flagstaff the following Monday anyway - whether this situation happened or not.

Therefore, on Friday July 12th we continued up towards Page, but turning off at Bitter Springs towards Jacob Lake. Right now people that want to go to Page can't take 89 up there anyway. Some months ago there was a huge landslide/sinkhole thing that, for lack of better words, killed that road. It's been closed ever since and there is serious time involved before that is fixed. There is currently no ETA on when the road will be repaired and re-opened. The detour that drivers have to take to Page is crazy. 

This has nothing to do with our route to Jacob Lake, but seeing the detour that those en route to Page have to take, I know this situation could've been much worse!
The Page Detour in Green is over 150 miles.

Road Damage on  US-89, South of Page

Anyway, so we turned off at Bitter Springs (those headed to Utah would also use this route to bypass the closure) and stopped briefly in Marble Canyon, which is an offshoot of the Grand Canyon. After Marble Canyon, you can see the Kaibab Plateau in the distance and begin the climb up the Plateau in about 10 miles.
Lone Plane Chilling in Marble Canyon

Close-Up of Marble Canyon Plane
I don't know what it is about the Chevron in Marble Canyon, but I had fun both times we stopped there (on the way there and the way back the following Monday). They have only Pepsi products in the fountain and all kinds of fun trinkets. This sounds strange, but I can see doing gift shopping in there! It has an array of some funky things. If I had some disposable cash laying around, I would have had a ball in there! But after our dire transmission diagnosis, we were lucky to be continuing on this trip at all.

Sometimes the elevation climb and changes of flora and fauna is gradual (such as the road from Phoenix to Flagstaff, for example). But not the road to Jacob Lake from Marble Canyon. The Kaibab Plateau is abrupt and the elevation change is immediate. 
Kaibab Plateau in the Distance
Jacob Lake Inn near our Campsite. I liked how close everything was to our campground. I like camping with civilization evident.
Jacob Lake Highways  89A and 67 Fork. 67 goes to the North Rim
A deer  that ran across the road just moments before. The mini-van in front of us were the ones who had the close call!
A Kaibab Squrrel near our campsite! (and an overexposed flash! Grrrrrrr)
Alexander at the Visitor Center...also near our campsite!

My next posting includes our time visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and then our drive back to 'visit' our car in Flagstaff.