Kevin's Utah and Arizona trip, 2011
Friday - Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Grand Canyon
next: Saturday

For my final full day, there were a few things I wanted to see. I still wanted to see Paria Town Site, and Grand Canyon was still down there. I was thinking about Coral Pink Sand Dunes, since I discovered how close it was to Kanab, where I was staying. I looked it up, and discovered they had Native American pictographs. I had been wanting to see pictographs or petroglyphs all trip. I decided I would go there, and if there was time before going to Grand Canyon, I would swing by Paria and then take House Rock Road south to the Big Ditch.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a little way west of Kanab (the opposite direction from the other places). Actually, eight miles north, and then another 15 miles southwest. It's not a huge park, like Zion (nor enormous, like GS-E), but it's still pretty good sized by our midwestern standards. I got to the visitor's center, and there was nobody there. This wasn't good, since I had no idea how to get to the pictographs. Finally a ranger showed up. It looked like he'd gotten held up somehow. He gave me a map and I bought my pass, and I went back up the road.

I stopped at a little parking lot and walked up a sand dune to an overlook. When I got out of the car, I saw an older man standing up there. When I got up there, there were some ATV's racing across the dunes. Quiet hours had only just ended, so there weren't too many of them. I would have preferred to get some pics of some pristine dunes, but a few tracks aren't a big deal, and may even add some interest. I found the noise a bit irritating, though - those things don't have mufflers. But this other guy... as soon as I got up there, he let loose about how horrible these people were. He called them just about every name in the book. I was like, "uh huh." Somewhere near the middle of his rant he said, "they just have to find something pristine and put their fingerprints all over it!" And then he decided that wasn't strong enough, and added, "they have to wipe their anal glands on it!" I didn't stick around too long.

In looking at the map more closely, I see that the place I was going is not in the state park. Interesting. It's on BLM Wilderness Study Area land. Odd, since there were a lot of off-road vehicles. I left the pavement down one of those sandy 4WD roads. "CAUTION: Most Unimproved Routes require Four Wheel Drive (4 WD) and High Clearance due to deep sand and exposed rock ledges !!!" I had my rented Jeep Cherokee, with its not-exactly-high-clearance and its not-exactly-four-wheel-drive. As you might expect from a place named for its sand, there was a lot of sand. And also more of those rocky patches. The difference between here and Coyote Buttes is that these "roads" saw a lot of ATV use, so they were formed a little differently. There were a lot of "moguls" and banked turns. It was kinda fun in places. "The last leg of the driving journey about 1.8 miles and is narrower than the previous route and may damage your vehicle's paint." All the leafy and pine branches left marks in the paint, which would probably disappear after a few wash and wax cycles, but there was one heavy branch I hit that left a deeper scrape. Still not through the paint, though. I eventually made it to the end, and fortunately, I didn't meet anyone coming towards me, because I saw few places wide enough to pull over and let even an ATV by.

When I got to the end of the road, I parked and loaded up my pack. There, up high on the canyon, it was desert. Rock, sand, cacti, gnarled pine trees.

But I could hear water running down in the bottom where it was very green. The trail went out to a point, and then wound down into a forested valley. Shortly thereafer, the trail ended at a large alcove in the sandstone, and there were many figures painted on the wall. I stood there for quite a while looking and absorbing. Then I set up my tripod a took a lot of photos.

On my way back up, I passed a few people, and more were waiting in the parking area. They had all come in ATV's and other such off-road vehicles. They were surprised to see my Jeep Grand Cherokee. *grin* By the time I got back out of there, it was well past noon, and there was no way I was going to have time to see Paria Town Site, so I went down to Grand Canyon.

The weather was a little better than the previous day. There was no snow and there was some sun peeking through the clouds.

I first went out to Walhalla Overlook and Cape Royal. By the time I got out there, there was some real sun. Out at the farthest point is a paved path that leads to Angel's Window, a large window in a rock wall. You can see it from one point, and later, the path goes out onto it.

The trail continues to a point where you can see the eastern side of the canyon, including the Colorado River in the distance. When I got back to the car, the rain had come, but it wasn't very hard. I stopped at another vista where they had info about the natives that lived in the area several hundred years ago. There's an area on the river where they've identified several hundred archeological sites.

Since I was there, I drove back down to the Visitor's Center and wandered around the lodge a bit. I talked to the rangers about condors for a bit. I was out looking into the canyon when some guys were wondering where Bright Angel Trail was, on the far rim. I had recently read about it, so I knew exactly where it was. It's on a fault line that runs straight across the canyon, so it's easy to pick out. I didn't tell them about the fault, so I'm not sure they believed me about the trail's location. Turns out the guys were going to be running the trail the next day. There's a page of warnings in the park brochure about the North Kaibab Trail, which leads from the North Rim to the River. Most commonly, they mention not to attempt the full trip across in a single day. It's 14.2 miles and drops 5600 feet in elevation. Bright Angel Trail, on the other side, is 9.3 miles long and ascents 4400 feet. Does that sound like a fun trip?

By the time I left the area, it was raining pretty hard. Probably around fifty degrees. I had no desire to hang around. Shortly after I left, the sky cleared up. There were still clouds behind me, but none ahead. It was a nice drive through the forest. The rain was steaming off the road, and sparkling in the trees. I stopped in Jacob Lake for a souvenir and some gas. A friendly kid came out and offered to pump my gas for me. I guess he was bored. I asked him how he got the job, and he said it was from a job fair. Turns out he was from Guam. He didn't really care for the weather.

From there, I was racing the sun, trying to make a particular vista point before the sun was too far gone.

From there, it was back to Kanab. It was probably my earliest night home on the whole trip, so I went back out. I drove half an hour north, and shot some photos of theThunderbird Restaurant's fabulous sign in Mt. Carmel Junction (finally!). Then I went in and got a bowl of chili and some toast.

Home of the ho-made pies!

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