2019 Fall Trip to Grand Canyon

Status
Not open for further replies.

swalker

Very helpful member
Joined
Dec 11, 2014
Messages
1,481
Reason
DX MND
Diagnosis
07/2014
Country
US
State
CO
City
Vail
I am finally getting around to starting a thread about our trip to Grand Canyon National Park last fall.

As always, it was a wonderful trip in a magnificent park. It was a bit more exciting because of our new-to-us motorhome and the weather.

The Grand Canyon is a very popular place and it is necessary to book well in advance. Some of the more popular places require entering a lottery.

Early last year my wife entered the lottery for a space a Phantom Ranch, a rustic camp at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. She "won" the lottery and was able to secure accomodations for three people. She invited two good friends to accompany her. Unfortunately, that meant we would also need to coordinate a place for me and the motorhome while I stayed on the canyon rim. The trip to Phantom Ranch requires hiking down to the bottom of the canyon on one of several trails. You can also take a mule ride down for a fee. Obviously, I was not going to hike or ride a mule to Phantom Ranch. This was a trip for Lori and her friends.

In the past, we had camped at the Mather campground on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I first stayed at that campground in 1978 and have been there many times since. Unfortunately, our motorhome is too large to fit into any site in that campground, so we had to make other arrangements.

Not far from Mather Campground is Trailer Village. Trailer Village is setup up to handle motorhomes like ours. By scheduling the trip well in advance we were able to reserve a week in Trailer Village that covered the 3 days that Lori would be hiking with her friends in the canyon.

So, with that preliminary, you will see that our timeframe was pretty well fixed. We could not change it without giving up the reservation at Phantom Ranch and probably at Trailer Village as well.

The only reservations we could get would force us to have the Grand Canyon trip one week after we concluded our trip to Yellowstone. We rationalized that one week was enough. One week is not enough, but I am willing to talk myself into just about anything for a good cause!

If you have read about our Yellowstone trip, you already know that returning home from that trip was delayed by issues with the weather and motorhome. But we did make it home finally. Unfortunately, we had to leave for the Grand Canyon 5 days after returning home from Yellowstone. I really need a week or more to recover from that kind of trip.

I thought very seriously about staying home and just having Lori go without me (she would have stayed in a hotel, probably 75 miles away from the Grand Canyon in Flagstaff, Arizona). In the end, I decided that I would try it and see what happend.

So, "we" got home from Yellowstone, unloaded the motorhome, got it prepped for the trip to Arizona, and headed out.

We usually take 2 days to do the 10 hour drive to the Grand Canyon. We decided to spend the night at an RV park in Moab, Utah. Moab is a spectacular place worth a week long trip itself. We are very new to staying in RV parks, having only done so once before. We managed to get there and get set up. I went to bed early!

The next day, we both slept in late. We packed up (which was more exciting than it sounds because we are new to packing a motorhome) and drove to the Grand Canyon. We had an hour delay for road construction, but the trip was otherwise uneventful. We drove through Monument Valley on a narrow road, but the views were worth the hassles of driving the motorhome over a narrow road.

We arrived at Trailer Village in the Grand Canyon and were assigned our spot. When we pulled into it, we found that it was too steep to level the motorhome! So, Lori went back to the office and asked (pleaded) for a more level spot. It was late in the day and there was only one other suitable spot that had not yet been occupied (the folks had not yet arrived). They gave it to us and fortunately we were able to level the motorhome there OK.

I slept very well that night -- and for a very long time!

I was so excited about being there I did not think to take any pictures of our campsite. So you will just have to trust me that it was a lot like being in a mobile home park. There was a herringbone pattern of parking spots with 100% occupancy.

I will close off this post with a picture of the canyon from Pima Point. It is one of my favorite places to spend watching the sunset. I will post more a bit later.

Steve
 

Attachments

  • 20191026_175309.jpg
    20191026_175309.jpg
    2.9 MB · Views: 414
Last edited:

swalker

Very helpful member
Joined
Dec 11, 2014
Messages
1,481
Reason
DX MND
Diagnosis
07/2014
Country
US
State
CO
City
Vail
This trip to the Grand Canyon was a bit different from our past trips. We had the motorhome, which contributed a lot of complexity, but sure was comfortable. We also had very cold weather.

I think this was the coldest weather I have ever experienced at the Grand Canyon (though, I have experienced MUCH colder weather in northern Arizona when we lived in Flagstaff).

We also had plans for two of Lori's friends to meet us at the RV park, spend the night there, and then leave for a three-day trip hiking from the south rim of the canyon to the north rim. That is a 21 mile hike, with a lot of down and then up!

After arriving at Trailer Village and after getting the motorhome set up, we went to bed early and slept late! The next day was mostly spent getting stuff ready for Lori's backpacking trip. Her friends arrived that evening and stayed up late packing. I went to bed quite early.

They got up very early the next morning and took a shuttle bus to the trail head. I slept in pretty late. When I got up, I spent the afternoon riding the rim trail, which is a 13 mile long, mostly-asphalt trail along the south rim of the canyon. I could peer down over the edge and occasionally catch a glimpse of Lori and her two friends as they made their way down. I spent a lot of time reflecting on all the hikes I had done in the canyon years ago.

They spent the first night at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. I had no chance to see them again until the arrived back at the motorhome 3 days later, after taking a shuttle from the north rim to the south rim (a very long ride).

I enjoyed my time alone and was able to ride at maximum wheelchair speed (as crowds allowed) since Lori was not walking with me. I spent the evening at Maricopa point, which is a wonderful place to watch the sunset. I took a few pictures and will attach a couple to give you an idea of what it was like.

I ran the battery completely down on the wheelchair and headed back to the motorhome to recharge the wheelchair.

An advantage of staying at Trailer Village is that we had full hookups. That means that we had 50 amp power service, so there was no issue charging the wheelchair. We also had water and sewer service available, but could not hook up to them because the temperatures were substantially below freezing. Fortunately, the motorhome has a temperature-controlled, 100-gallon fresh water tank, so we had plenty of water for the week we were there and no issues of pipes freezing.

Our last morning of the trip we woke up to a neighboring rental RV that did connect to water. They had burst the pipes in the RV and water was spewing everywhere. That was quite a mess. I sure hope they opted for the insurance package.

The next day, I spent more time riding the the rim trail. I enjoyed myself and took a few excursions on side trails that lead back away from the rim through the stands of towering Ponderosa pines (my favorite tree). It was a very pleasant day, though certainly a bit chilly.

I was able to make my way to Pima point, which is probably my favorite point to watch a sunset at the Grand Canyon. It is pretty accessible and the views are amazing. After sunset, I returned to the motorhome for some much-needed rest.

The weather turned much colder that night (as predicted) and there was much excitement over the next few days. I will save those stories for future installments.

For now, here are some sunset pictures. The first two images were taken at Maricopa Point. The third image was taken at Pima Point. The fourth image, which you will likely need to click on to see was also taken at Pima point.

Steve
201910_22_GCNP_00516_17_18_19_20_21_22_easyHDR_stitch.jpg
201910_22_GCNP_00523_4_5_6_7_8_9_easyHDR.jpg

201910_22_GCNP_00968_69_70_71_72_easyHDR_stitch.jpg
 

Attachments

  • 201910_22_GCNP_01223_4_5_6_7_easyHDR_stitch.jpg
    12.2 MB · Views: 246

blitzc

Distinguished member
Joined
Apr 20, 2018
Messages
455
Reason
PALS
Diagnosis
01/2018
Country
US
State
OH
City
Massillon
Thank you so much for sharing these adventures! You are able to do what so many of us cannot or will not experience.
 

Clearwater AL

Very helpful member
Forum Supporter
Joined
Aug 28, 2013
Messages
2,480
Reason
PALS
Diagnosis
12/2016
Country
US
State
NC
City
Get Real
Steve, I believe I once read the canyon was cut out by water from when the ice age retreated, melted.

Is that true? If so, that is amazing.... 10X.

Thanks for the beautiful pictures.
 

swalker

Very helpful member
Joined
Dec 11, 2014
Messages
1,481
Reason
DX MND
Diagnosis
07/2014
Country
US
State
CO
City
Vail
Al, there are many theories about how the canyon was formed. Some of those theories have a significant religious foundation. I won't get into those.

Among the scientifically-backed theories, the most generally accepted explanation is that the vast Colorado Plateau underwent a period of uplift as the Colorado river carved the canyon. The layers were deposited in seas and uplift raised the Colorado Plateau to its current height of 7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level.

A relatively recent theory is that the excavation of the canyon was greatly accelerated by the collapse of one or more ice dams holding back vast quantities (perhaps as large as the Great Lakes) of melt water from ice ages. The sudden surge of water is conjectured to have scoured the canyon much more rapidly than the relatively steady flow of the Colorado River alone.

There are quite a few variations on the theme of periodic surges of high water flow. There is evidence of a variety of smaller natural dams caused by volcanic activity as well as mud slides. These natural dams are conjectured to have eventually eroded away, allowing the lake's worth of water behind each to be suddenly released into the canyon.

There are numerous faults at play and there has been some volcanic activity as well (more than just what caused the dams described above).

The geology of northern Arizona is absolutely amazing. I feel very fortunate to have done my undergraduate degree there (at NAU in Flagstaff) and to have been compelled to take a geology course there. What a place to study geology.

There is a cinder cone called Sunset Crater (about 50 miles from the south rim of the Grand Canyon as the crow flies) that was formed less than 1,000 years ago. Not very long ago at all in geologic time. The whole northern Arizona landscape is dotted with cinder cones and volcanic peaks.

There are flows of both basalt and rhyolite in northern Arizona that are absolutely fascinating. I always enjoy going to the indian ruins at Wupatki National Monument and visiting the adjacent Sunset Crater National Monument.

It is truly an amazing place.

Steve
 

swalker

Very helpful member
Joined
Dec 11, 2014
Messages
1,481
Reason
DX MND
Diagnosis
07/2014
Country
US
State
CO
City
Vail
It has been a month and a half since my last post in this thread. I had intended to post sooner, but life got kind of out of control for awhile. Anyway, here is the next installment.

In my previous post, I mentioned that things got pretty exciting for the last part of our trip. Most of this had to do with the combination of unseasonably cold weather and our new-to-us motorhome that was not quite sorted out.

The day my wife was due to return from her backpacking trip to the north rim of the canyon, there was a very slight forecast of snow. Our motorhome has two slide outs and the front slide out had a known leak. So, I needed to retract that slide out before there was any chance of snow happening. It should be easy to do, simply requiring the press of a button.

Unfortunately, when I pressed the button, the slideout did not come all the way in. Hmmmm. That meant we could not drive the motorhome back to Colorado at the conclusion of our trip. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what the problem could be.

The slideouts are moved by a hydraulic system. There was no obvious binding, so the only thing I could figure was that there was something wrong with the hydraulic system. There was no obvious hydraulic fluid leak and the hydraulic pump seemed to be functioning as expected.

I pondered this for quite a while before figuring out what was wrong. It turns out that the hydraulic rams that move the front slide retract to extend the slide and extend to retract the slide. This is quite unusual.

The hydraulic fluid should be at the full mark when all the hydraulic rams are in their retracted position, which for our motorhome would be with the rear slide retracted and the front slide extended. This is a highly unusual arrangement and opposite of the normal configuration. The last folks who worked on the coach's hydraulic system were apparently unaware of this fact. They had adjusted the hydraulic fluid incorrectly (it registered full with both slides in) and the system was effectively low on hydraulic fluid.

This was obvious in hindsight, but not at all clear to me as I was working my way though that puzzle. It turns out that if the rear slide was retracted first (putting its hydraulic rams in the retracted position), there would be enough hydraulic fluid in the system for the front slide's hydraulic rams to extend enough to fully retract the front slide. Once I figured this out, I was able to fully retract both slides. Whew!

This took most of the day to figure out! When my wife and her friends returned that evening, they wondered why the slides were retracted, because the chances of snow were pretty slim. It did snow that night and we were all glad the slides were retracted and we avoided having water leak into the motorhome!

It got very cold that night (well below freezing). I went to bed very early after a hard day. Everyone else stayed up very late!

The next day was very cold. At that time, we were still having issues with the motorhome's heater working well enough to keep some of the pipes near the exterior of the coach from freezing. It was not nearly as cold as we had experienced in Yellowstone, but way too cold for us to participate in any outdoor activities.

One of the motorhomes near us (a rental) did have their water pipes freeze. My wife walked outside and saw a fountain of frozen water emanating from it!

With even colder temperatures forecast, we decided to cut our trip short and leave a day early. We decided to drive to Moab, Utah (another spectacularly beautiful place) and spend a couple of days there. We packed up and drove to Moab without too much excitement. Fortunately, the temperatures in Moab were more moderate, though still unseasonably cold (below freezing).

We were able to drive through Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, both of which are absolutely beautiful. We usually just drive through Moab on our way to and from Arizona. It was great to be able to spend time in that wonderful place.

After Moab, we packed up and headed home. We stopped in Grand Junction to have the motorhome winterized and then drove it to the lot where we store it. Finally, we made our way home and I spent the next week recovering so that we could head out on our Thanksgiving trip to Texas. That is another story!

Overall, our trip to the Grand Canyon was wonderful. I really enjoyed being able to ride along the rim in my wheelchair and my wife really enjoyed her backpacking trip. It is great that we are still able to do this! While we had some issues with the motorhome, it did convince us that buying it was a good decision. Once we have it fully sorted out, it will help us keep "camping".

For a final image of the trip, here is a picture of Canyonlands National Park. The famous White Rim trail is the track you can see curving around the white rim in the right of the picture.

Steve
 

Attachments

  • 201910_22_GCNP_01250.jpg
    201910_22_GCNP_01250.jpg
    8.4 MB · Views: 360
Last edited:

KevinM

Senior member
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
534
Reason
PALS
Diagnosis
06/2019
Country
US
State
FL
City
Tallahassee
Hi Steve. I have read your travel posts (and your amazing wheelchair posts) for about a year now, and I am in awe of your adventurous spirit, determination, and abilities.

From 2012 until last June when I was diagnosed, my wife and I owned a 40’ 2004 Monaco Dynasty tag axle that served as our second home for 2-3 months every summer in some of the country’s most beautiful places. We count those years and adventures as among the best of our lives. From a glance at your coach, it looks like a 2003-4 Country Coach. Nice choice!

We sold our coach soon after my diagnosis because we wanted to bank a good amount of cash for what lay ahead, but in hindsight I would have held on to it. My progression has been slower than we thought and we could have made good use this summer, especially with COVID.

May you and your wife have many more wonderful experiences, Steve. You already know the best places in your home state (Ouray, Silverton, Crested Butte, and Pagosa Springs were some our less well-known favorites), but let me humbly suggest three must-visit areas, if you haven’t already been there: the Sawtooth Mountain Range in Idaho (Stanley); Red Lodge, Montana, which you probably know is the northern gateway to Yellowstone and the amazing Beartooth Scenic Byway; and the Black Hills, especially Custer State Park. I doubt you would be disappointed.

Custer SP in particular has miles and miles of trails, both natural and paved, and the Bison herds and other wildlife are incredible. If you can’t get a site in the park (we liked the Game Lodge campground the best), Custers Gulch campground right outside the entrance is very nice and convenient.

Keep it going, for all of us here reading with great interest and living those experiences through you. All the best, Kevin.
 

swalker

Very helpful member
Joined
Dec 11, 2014
Messages
1,481
Reason
DX MND
Diagnosis
07/2014
Country
US
State
CO
City
Vail
Kevin, you have a good eye for motorhomes. Ours is a 2003 Country Coach Intrigue First Avenue Edition. What all that means is that it is a 38 foot long tag axle diesel pusher with extra large window on the passenger side, no ladder in the back, and a few cosmetic tweaks from the base edition.

I really struggled with the wisdom of buying a motorhome. Even well-used they are expensive to purchase, expensive to operate, and expensive to maintain! I understand why you made the decision to sell.

I don't know how long I will be able to use the motorhome, but I am an optimist. Currently, I am still able to make it into the motorhome on my own and walk around in it. The next step will be to disassemble a wheelchair and carry it piece by piece into the motorhome. Once it is reassembled, I will be able to use it to get around inside the motorhome (will need something like a transport chair or hoyer lift to get me to the bedroom and bathroom). The step after that will be to have a wheelchair lift installed in the passenger side of the motorhome. We have checked with a couple of places that say they can do it, but it is very expensive.

We knew that buying used would mean that we would spend a bit of time and money addressing issues with the coach. In hindsight, I think we made the right choice. A newer coach would have cost much more. While we have spent time, energy, and money discovering and addressing the issues, I think all that is part of the adventure we signed up for. I like to have reasonable challenges in life to keep me on my toes (metaphorically speaking, of course:)! I have learned a lot and think I still have a lot left to learn about all the systems in this complex beast.

Your 40' Dynasty is one kind we considered, along with Foretravel and Bluebird. Any of those would have been fine motorhomes for our needs. We needed a 38' or smaller motorhome so that it will fit on the campsite we use at Yellowstone. That is the only truly accessible site at the campground we like. Our motorhome just barely fit, but it did fit. A 40 ft motorhome would not have fit due to the arrangement of trees. Fortunately, there was room for our wheelchair van on that site as well. We knew that site well because we had camped there with our travel trailer for several trips. We had carefully measured the site and worked with the campground operators to give us some assurance it would fit. The site is rated for a total of a 30 foot vehicle/trailer combination, which would be something like a Mini hauling a Tab:).

I have had the fortune of visiting many amazing places in Colorado and across the western US. We have been to the Sawtooth Mountain Range (spectacular), but not yet made the trip out of Yellowstone's northeast Entrance to Red Lodge. I can't wait to do the beartooth highway.

I also know the Black Hills of South Dakota pretty well. In the summer of 1978 I worked for the US Forest Service out of Deadwood, South Dakota. I lived in Spearfish and we commuted to Deadwood. From there, the crew would drive south for a couple of hours to do field work. We spent every weekend climbing in the needles. The rock climbing there is absolutely spectacular. You are right, Custer is an amazing place.

I am glad you are able to follow along on our adventures. I wish you still had your motorhome and could meet us somewhere!

Steve
 

KevinM

Senior member
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
534
Reason
PALS
Diagnosis
06/2019
Country
US
State
FL
City
Tallahassee
Me too, Steve, me too, but I’ll be content reading about your trips and reminiscing.

And yes, they are incredibly complex. It took me all seven years of owning ours to know the nuances, and I was still learning when we sold it. We were very fortunate in that after a number of investments the first year (new tires alone for a tag will hit your wallet!) our coach performed incredibly well for the time we owned it. I miss it terribly.

I spoke with many long time techs and pros in the business before buying, and most said that the golden age of higher end mass production coaches was from the late 90’s through about 2006, before the industry collapse. The competition was intense, and those companies were fully staffed with really talented woodworkers, electricians, etc.

All the best on your future journeys. You are an inspiration.
 

vltsra

Senior member
Forum Supporter
Joined
Nov 12, 2015
Messages
630
Reason
CALS
Diagnosis
11/2015
Country
US
State
CA
City
San Diego
Steve, I am always inspired by your travel posts. What wonderful adventures! Thank you for sharing these posts and photos with us.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top