I stumbled on a saying this morning as we are now back from Toroweap: "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass… it is about learning how to dance in the rain." How appropriate. Our dance partner for a couple days was "calachi". And who is "calachi"? Part of a large family with members such as "bentonite", "Georgia red clay"… parents? "mud"… slippery, sticky mud, when mixed with rain with flashing message from Mother Nature… "stop"… "stop now!". Of course, due to circumstances beyond our control, human nature wanting to defy what has been established for millions of years, we learned how to dance with it while caught in the middle of the storm. It was unavoidable, mixed with a couple mechanical "obstacles" at the end of one of the most desolate 90 miles of primitive unpaved road. Alone, we each would have still been there, Michael and I, together, we surmounted the days and the repairs.
Being on three wheels definitely saved Old Faithful from a mud bath, a bath Michael’s ride was not spared from. And this is how it all started.
Costco! Wow… a retail store large enough to probably feed Escalante for years, where lost in mind and soul I dragged my feet long enough to wonder what would I do with 10lbs of cheese and packages of multiple gallons of milk? Where would I strap that twin quart pack of toothpaste or that 5lbs of shampoo? Obviously this was a destination for large families and large wallets. The idea was, besides shopping for Michael and Sandra, to prepare some food to take with us. We had settled on a potato salad and a chicken~pasta to avoid cooking while camping at Toroweap.
Of course it was too much food since Sandra bailed out at the last minute, as it would turn out to be a wise decision on her part. We left bright and early on Friday morning with a quick ride to St George to get on the 90 miles of dirt road toward Toroweap. Not considering the decision to leave that day as a mistake due to weather sites announcing bad weather for Sunday, I had however personally read about bad weather for Saturday afternoon on one of the sites and it was stored in the back of my mind. There is always two ways to approach such situation. One is to believe the average forecast and anticipate being ahead of the weather, the later is to firmly believe the lowest percentage and schedule for another time when such forecast is ahead of them all by 24 hours. I have always opted for the better and safer option, lessons learned living on a sailboat where the grounds are far from being solid and shelter in the forms of trees are non existent. But… well… excuses and excuses… blaming it on "human nature", I guess that little background voice of mine was just not loud enough to hold us back. There was also the option in mind to actually return Saturday, a shame to go that far for a one nighter, however would have been doable "if" mechanical failures would have not shown their faces.
The ride is of a fine one. Isolation and deserted roads is what we found. Five million tourists a year visit the South Rim, less than a thousand a year get a chance to see Toroweap. We passed a sign letting us know that we had entered "The Arizona Strip, where the West stays wild", no joke. 53 miles into our Journey we stopped at a Schoolhouse built in 1922, a structure also used as a Church, dance hall and town meeting house before the local population drifted away in the mid 1960’s. Destroyed by arsons in 2000, it has been rebuilt and was rededicated in October of 2001.
A left turn at the School took us up Mount Trumbull, where the steep grade of white calachi, still dormant that day, took us to an elevation of 6500 feet, we could even see the road we where on including the Schoolhouse.
Ninety miles never seemed like much on black top, it felt as a bit longer on the dirt, a nice dirt road, dry for the time being with only a bit of washboard in minor areas. Michael had described it to me and it truly is one grand ma’s Buick could drive on… only however to the entrance as I was going to find out. A minor detail omitted in the road’s description! After passing diverse land jurisdictions such as Bureau of Land Management, State, National Monument, National Park and private, we arrived to the "gates" of Toroweap, feeling a bit as we had arrived at the Gates of Heaven.
Yet, there was no sign of the Grand Canyon and we went on for another seven or so miles to the free campground only a mile off the Rim. 1200lbs going down the road, one wheel drive, trying to go up this road, we did not make it and fortunately my timing was right as a four wheel drive SUV had enough room to pass by us and tow Old Faithful up a few feet. This was the worse part of the road, a 10% rocky grade, and the rest was really not that much better. I think that Buick will have to stay home! I am always a bit frustrated by such roads, wishing often for a two wheel drive which would have helped us a lot. It is just the nature of the beast, turns into a challenge only because this time of the destination, otherwise a U Turn would have been the decision. We had come too far to turn around even though we would pay a greater price for it the next day. The campground was a welcome sight, Michael had arrived a bit earlier already unpacked, taking a road with more slick rock shelves and trying to entice me to join him… the previous patch was enough rough stuff for me! Spirit and I took "site #1", shaded by a nice tree, there was not even the need to put up the tent, the Bivi bag would do for the night.
We were home! A bit warm as it would be till the recent cool front today, and time to go the extra mile to check the North Rim. I had been at the South Rim before, I thought I knew what to expect, this was the first sight of it…
And as I got closer, vertigo not helping but not being the main reason, there was this overwhelming sense of seeing suddenly this incredible grandiose natural wonder. No guard rails, no chains to hang on to, just this wide open space and 3000 feet of cliffs and me. Not an intimate space, it is just too much to grasp, it is too big, it is unlike anything seen before, not even remotely close to the experience gone through at the South Rim.
We walked around a bit till I decided to put Spirit in his car, it was just a bit too much close to the edge with him and the camera and… myself. He did want to have his picture taken however, sun in his eyes or not! (I think…).
I then walked back and forth the rim, and it was more admiration than anything else with a constant sense of my stomach floating down the river 3000 feet below. It is a hard sight to grasp, it is one of those natural wonder one can sit and look without ever lifting their eyes constantly finding a new ridge, a new water fall, dry for now but plainly visible, it is a hard time to describe. One needs to experience it, there are no words, no photos that can even remotely relate.
Just thinking about the ground I was walking on being that day, itself at some point covered by an Ocean, and down there, carved by time and more water, now transformed into a river which was flowing, showing so neatly and beautifully the layers of this Earth I was standing on. Dizzy was the feeling! Pictures where hard to take. Too many different surfaces with different lighting intensities and haze. I waited for the sunrise hoping it would be a spectacular one, after all, the end of a day is always spectacular.
Slowly the cliffs where getting their last rays, the river already dark, as I walked around a bit more, finding so many strange footprints carved by time or?
Too busy with my findings I almost missed the sunset, a sunset on Toroweap, a sunset to remember in parallel with an adventure to remember, a great one, a test of survival in the wilderness, a test of the gear and the list. It was a good one, Spirit is my Hero, quietly accepting all circumstances, Michael proved himself to be more than a reliable rider and Friend to be with. "Its all Good". There will be an end to the story.
Two years of Photography is finally in order on SmugMug… In "Your Favorites", organized also in "States", some even labeled "first year" and second year". Feel free to browse, you can even use the slide show mode and have fun.
I still have 14 T shirts that need to be sold at cost, $20 including shipping… I do! Some day they will be "collector’s items". You don’t believe me? These are the sizes left and the white background designs are the ones available at cost. E mail me first.
With the "ADV" (Adventure Rider") logo: 1 XXL ~ 4 XL ~ 1 L
Plain: 3 XXL ~ 3XL ~ 2L ~
Your participation toward the site is always welcomes and accepted through the "contribution" button above… 328 colorful Chapters with many destinations for $1 a month?… now more than ever. Help the site stay alive.
Be well, always. Ara & Spirit