Saturday, August 15, 2009

Arizona with Julie! 2009

Point Sublime 18 Dean & Julie

On August 1 I departed for a Southwest Desert Adventure with my dear friend, Julie Bennett. Yes, she is also my best friend’s wife. No, it wasn’t weird that we were traveling together. I had taken Rick through the red rocks twice and it was Julie’s turn. And she was the best travel companion ever! Mind you, Rick sets that bar very high. So Julie is truly special in her roadtrip skillz. As she matter-of-factly told some inquisitive strangers at a Grand Canyon viewpoint, “We met in Las Vegas.” Her account was true, but it might have given the wrong impression. 

We dined at the legendary Lotus of Siam. Then it was off to North Rim. But first, a side trip to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. It’s a beautifully eroded red rock landscape that falls just short of federal protection. And it’s where Captain Kirk dies in Star Trek: Generations. After a quick recon tour, we were back on track to North Rim. I scored my very first speeding ticket in a  little speed trap outside Valley of Fire, but then we were off to North Rim. We stopped at the Zion border town of Springdale to dine at Oscar’s (a bistro that Rick and I discovered in 2005), then it was off to North Rim. 

We got as far as Fredonia before encountering a roadblock (literally). The road into North Rim from the west was closed due to fire activity. The final 60 miles of a full day of driving became over 160 miles so that we could access North Rim from the east. Nontrivial. Made more interesting by the herds of deer that frequent the Park’s roadway after dark. Julie was a crack deer-spotter while I drove (think Helen Hunt/Bill Paxton Twister). We got to the Grand Canyon Lodge without killing anything. But we did arrive late. 

Fire activity closed off the Walhalla Plateau (and with it most of the North Rim’s scenic viewpoints). So we improvised and eventually 4-wheeled it out to Point Sublime (a 17-mile, 2-hr “technical” drive each way). The pinstriping sustained by the Nismo as it impinged on hearty desert flora was worth it: Point Sublime lived up to its billing. And the solitude! 

On our last day at North Rim, the Walhalla Plateau was partially opened. We squeezed in a quick tour of Cape Royal and hoofed it out to Cape Final. Then it was off to Page. There we took in the dizzying beauty of Horse Shoe Bend. And floated down the Glen Canyon. And crawled through the little-known and largely unvisited Lower Antelope Canyon slot. 

Next we spent a night in quiet Kanab. And it was time to gird the loins and venture out to Toroweap: a rarely-visited viewpoint 2000 feet straight up from the Colorado River. I knew this would be a difficult trip. Sixty miles of unpaved road. And the last 10 miles held a modicum of challenge. A six-hour detour. We were nearly swallowed by a dust bog one mile short of our goal. I navigated it poorly, but the Nismo came through, and Julie found out what the gear “4-Lo” was good for. Toroweap was stunning and very much worth the effort. We collected memories and photographs (and dust—a lot of dust) before heading back to Vegas and parting company. What a week!