Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 12.30.15
Just Outside Washington

All photos by author and Kathy Cavanaugh

American Desert Days Part 3

After breakfast on Wednesday,we left Zion Nation Park by coach -- piloted by our trusty diver, John. We were headed to the Pipe Spring National Monument almost two hours away in Arizona. (A distinction: a National Park must be created by an act of Congress; a National Monument can be created by an executive order of the President.)

This small facility, 40 acres, is administered by the Park Service and has a long history, which includes the Paiutes Indians, Spanish explorers, and Mormon pioneers. We had a tour by a park ranger, which provided an informative and interesting history; -- some I remember. The attraction for all was the spring, which was a plentiful, year-around source of clean water -- and it was on the Old Spanish Trail. Water was scarce in the high desert of the Arizona Strip.

The Mormons settled in the area in 1863 to farm and fought with the Indians. In 1868 Mormon militiamen built a stone building, Windsor Castle, right on top of the spring and defended it against all comers.



The economy of the area was based on raising cattle and producing dairy products. To connect this outpost with Salt Lake City, the Mormons built the first telegraph system in Arizona.

The Park Service had a project at Pipe Spring to restore the native grasses that had covered this high plateau before grazing by sheep and cattle. There is a marked contrast between the restored grass (top image) and the unrestored area with sagebrush, blackbrush and shadscale (bottom images).



After our tour we were herded back onto the coach for Jacob Lake, AZ, about an hour away. (We had to reset our watches because Arizona does not do Daylight Savings time.) Jacob Lake is situated at about 8,000 feet in a large ponderosa pine forest, which is part of the Kaibab National Forest.

The town consists of the Jacob Lake Inn, which maintains motel rooms and cabins, a restaurant, lunch counter, gift shop, bakery, and general store; a gas station/garage; campground; and the U.S. Forest Service's visitors center. We had a nice lunch in the restaurant. Jacob Lake is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon and that is where we were headed once we re-boarded the coach.

We had about an hour's ride to Point Imperial where we had time for a short walk and a snack supplied by Paul and John. They were not kidding when they named Point Imperial.



At 8,803 feet, it is the highest point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and about 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim. We were grateful to be out of the coach, walk around and take many pictures of scenery. We then traveled to the Grand Canyon Lodge -- North Rim.

Kathy and I had visited the South Rim a few years ago but neither of us had been to the North Rim before; it is less developed and more natural. Most of the 4.5 million annual visitors to the Grand Canyon visit the South Rim -- a four and a half hour drive away. We arrived at the Lodge and checked into our individual cabins, which were rustic, comfortable, and with updated baths.



After stowing our luggage, we had to see the Lodge, which was built of local stone in 1927 by the Union Pacific Railroad. It burned and was rebuilt in 1937 and hangs right on the edge of the cliff. We also surveyed our environs and took a short hike.



We also checked out our fellow lodgers, a number of whom chose to soak up the sun on the terraces on the cliff edge and some early diners were already in the dining room having dinner. Scheduling was tight for dinner later on, so the four of us did not get seated until after seven. However, we had a great sunset and a nice dinner; and the wine was good.

After our brief survey, Kathy, Julie and Jon decided on a hike the trail to Bright Angle Point, which went along the cliff providing spectacular views. I had picked up a cold and decided that a bit of rest before dinner would be a good thing. Even though I could not sleep, I had my Kindle and The True Believer by Eric Hoffer was up for discussion at the great books group immediately upon our return. It was just past six and the sun was setting; the scene was terrific.


After a filling meal, some wine, and a good night's sleep, we four were up early and ready to go. Julie had scheduled a mule ride down into the canyon; Kathy and Jon headed out on the Transept Trail to the General Store, about three miles, round trip. I was still taking it easy, so I attended a talk by Mary Ott, the former supervisor of Zion National Park, who provided an insider's view of the parks and the Park Service. We regrouped at lunchtime and got sandwiches from the snack bar, which we ate on the terrace; the sun felt good. Kathy and I read for a while then took a short hike before dinner. The scenery and the light changes minute to minute as we walked the trail/



Here we are out on a point of rocks that jutted out into the canyon, which can be reached only by a narrow trail. The drop off is straight down and hence the guard rail. Fortunately, there was sufficient room for the fellow hiker who took our picture. At the time of our visit, the Grand Canyon Park had experienced twenty_ffour deaths, including multiple suicides. I was happy for the guard rail.

After a leisurely breakfast and some free time, we loaded back on the coach. We had about an hour's ride to the Municipal Airport in Kanab, Utah. Along the way we got a good view of the damage that the fires in the west can do -- top image, before a fire; bottom image two years later.



At the airport we boarded the nine-passenger Cessnas; they were from a different flying company. We were headed for Las Vegas, our final stop and the end of the Tauck tour. The scenery, as was our previous flight, was spectacular. After a while one gets a bit jaded: "Another spectacular canyon view."



We could see the layering of the rock that had been laid down over millions of years. As I noted before, we had had a number of talks on the formations, starting at the top: Kaibab, Coconino, Supai, Tonto, Grand Canyon Supergroup and Vishnu. Vishnu, at the bottom is the oldest; about 1.7 million years old.

Just before arrival in Las Vegas, the planes circled over the Hoover Dam, which was originally known as Boulder Dam. It dams the Colorado River at Black Canyon. Construction was started in 1931, the last year in the administration of President Herbert Hoover. It took five years and a massive effort involving thousands of workers; 112 of whom died during construction.


The dam was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The dam was controversially named after President Herbert Hoover in 1947. The powerhouse, which can be seen at the foot of the dam, has a maximum capacity of 2080 megawatts and supplies power to twelve cities and the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada. The highway bypass bridge, just in front of the dam, was completed in 2010. The dam creates Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in North America.The drought has lowered the water level markedly as shown by the light colored rock above the water -- the water used to be up to where the rock darkens.


After all the spectacular scenery, natural habitat and clean air in the wild, wild West, Las Vegas was just another town.