Changing Views

We awakened this morning to a thousand ball-peen hammers rapping on Howie’s roof. Hail, thunder, and lightning (sometimes really close!) continued on and off through the early morning. Ralph was adorned by an icy necklace, the sky ran back and forth a variable bright-to-dull grey, and the outside temperature hovered around mid-30F.DSC_1062

“These are the times that try men’s souls” – if you’re in a tent or pop-up camper. But in our totally self-contained Howie, we were simply delighted. The cold and wet circumstances just outside our door were held in stern abeyance, and we snuggled inside our modest rig with power, water, heat, lights, toilet, shower, bed, and kitchen all at the ready for whatever our hearts desired. If we were to become bored (Hah!), there’s always the TV or stereo.

Karin and I have both done a LOT of tent camping (out of the luggage compartment of an airplane), and I have spent an additional 20 years or so camping out of a 4×4 in the deserts and mountains of the western US and Canada. So we’ve truly “paid our dues”, and we feel not a single pang of guilt at our particular flavor of “roughing it”. In the middle of the forest in the middle of nowhere, warm-and-cozy is really quite a bit more enjoyable than chilled-to-the-bone. Next to nature, but not battered by it.

Internet is an issue. Internet is how we get the weather, do trip planning, research where we want to go next, and check on status at parks and destinations. We communicate with friends and family, share our experiences, and get a bit of news if we can stand it. The last couple of weeks have really spoiled us, because we lucked into reliable connections wherever we stayed.

But here, we are really remote. Internet here is at the “teaser” level. Mostly there’s zero to one bar of phone-only, which does NOT work for calls at all. Occasionally, some cosmic air current pokes up 2-3 bars of 1X, and some email headers and texts sneak through. That’s it. The nearest semi-reliable connection is about 30 miles away, either down south at the North Rim visitor center, or up north at AZ89A at Jacob Lake. Fortunately, I have a great tool to do off-line blogs. I write these whenever and wherever I can, and then post them all at once when I get a solid 3G/4G or wifi connection.

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Click on the map for the large version. The white star on the map shows our camp site. Just to the east you can see the Cockscombs formation note. The purplish area to the south is the Grand Canyon National Park area, and the golden areas are Indian lands.

See the area to the west of our camp, west of AZ67 on the rim of the Canyon – – this region has miles-long single-track mountain biking, some of it precariously threaded along the precipices of the Canyon rim. It requires about 25 miles of dirt road to get there, but Howie has done it.

The day continued with on-and-off rain, patches of sun here and there. Even in dull overcast light, our solar system was busily re-charging batteries, a comfy feeling. Our catbird’s seat on the edge of the Canyon allows us to watch the weather come at us, driven by the East winds of the storm system.

Through Howie’s rain-streaked windshield, we are spectators on the day’s weather. Far across the plateau below, beyond the Cockscombs, rain showers descend from the bases of the storm cells. As the clouds approach us, they’re forced upward by the steep rise of the Kaibab Plateau, and rain (or hail) falls again, this time on our heads.DSC_1064

After the storms (mostly) went through, we took Ralph exploring around a bit. The big meadow over by AZ67 looked a lot different.

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This cottontail seemed content to just sit and try to be warm. It’s 42F.

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Just down FS611 from us, a large group of mountain bikers were stopping for the day and setting up camp. Pretty skanky weather for these folks, but they seemed in okay spirits.

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All along FS611, there are multiple places to camp, and many of them have similar Canyon-edge views. Here is another one like ours, with the picture taken from the same place you’d put your tent or camp chair. Remarkable.

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Tracks of the hapless cyclists going down the storm-muddied road to their camp. Hard to stay upright in this stuff. Some of the stragglers were coming in as we drove around; they were not in as good spirits as the early arrivers.

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By the end of the day, Ralph had developed a strange “clunk” in the front suspension, and our nice efficient little propane heater quit due to the pilot not staying lit. I’ve also found that my laptop charger jams DC noise back into the supply line, which makes our LED lighting blink and flicker like crazy. Small potatoes all.

So we are now listening carefully to whatever Ralph is going to tell us, and we’re keeping warm off the noisy, inefficient forced-air cabin heater in Howie. I’ll charge the laptop during the daytime. “Into each life a little rain must fall.”

Tomorrow, more rain is due. We are planning to explore some way-back dirt roads, but if they get too muddy we’ll have to re-think that one.

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