Saturday, December 24, 2016

Hike 2016.029 -- Cape Final, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Hiked Saturday, June 4. I made a somewhat last minute decision to come to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for the annual star party. I didn't take any days off, although, checking my calendar, I see that I had a regular day off on Friday, the 3rd. Can't remember if I drove up to Las Vegas on the third, but it would make sense if I did. I do definitely know I had to drive all the way from the North Rim back to the LA area on Sunday, though, and that was one heck of a long drive.
I'm pretty sure this trip would have been a little bit after my computer updated itself to Windows 10, because that's when the way my picture editing software changed. It's just Windows Office Picture Manager, which came with Windows 7 or Windows 8 or what ever this computer came with. The point was that it acted a little different after Windows 10 came on board. So I started on this post months ago, but, surprisingly, never finished it. So here it is, now.
In any event, the approach from the north was new to my memory (although my father tells me I visited it before as a child). There's a large meadow -like area you pass on the way in. Unknown to me at the time, bison graze this area. That's some of them, in the first picture of this post.

After checking in with the coordinator for the star party, I headed off on the longest hike I figured I could safely finish and still get back in time to set up for the party. So I picked Cape Final.
Cape Final is given by the NPS on their "Pocket Map North Rim Services Guide" handout as 2.1 miles each way, although it's given by other sources as two miles. The drive to the trailhead appeared to be about 21 miles each way. So my rough calculation said two hours to walk, and 90 minutes to drive there and back. I had enough time for that, with a margin for error.

The trailhead was within a pine forest. It's a rather small parking area with vault toilets, but no running water. The bulk of the walk is also within this mixture of forest and and small meadows. Lots of wildflowers when I was there, in early June.
Lupine were the most common, and it formed several "carpeted" areas along the way. Smaller flowers than the ones that bloom in southern California. Another common flower I saw was this one, which, from the front, looked unfamiliar. But, from the side, it was clearly a larkspur. I'm going to go with Parish's Larkspur. Not sure about the yellow flower I've got pictured.

The whitish one is some sort of fleabane. Both the yellow and white ones looked like what I would see in Cedar Breaks, when I went there later in the summer.

After running through the forest and meadow for about a mile and a half, you finally find a peek at the canyon . . . to your north! It's just funny to have to label pictures of the canyon as "looking north, from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon."

There are a couple of points where the trail approaches that north or east facing drops, and use trails usually swing out to those points. Then, as you approach the end, there's actually a "Cape Final" sign, right near the edge.

Turns out there's also a primitive campsite, also right near the rim. As has been noted elsewhere, this would not be a good place for sleep walkers, or for those who wake up disoriented.
This butte was actually at one of those earlier cutoffs. The lizard and the juniper skeleton, however, were right there near the rim, at the end of the trail.

There's a pretty expansive view, described as 270 degrees. There are some foreground buttes that cut off some of that view, however.

After enjoying the view, I returned the way I came. Definitely less than two hours roundtrip. The route is pretty flat, so the going is fast.
It's a fairly long drive, with a slow speed limit, so the drive probably was about 90 minutes total. Still, got back to the North Rim with plenty of time to spare. So I shuttled my telescope to the rim, set up, and still had time to take a walk along the 1/2 mile trail, to another lookout.
The last two pictures of this post were from the area near the lodge. The third to the last was from the Cape Final overlook.
Shots from the area around the North Rim (including versions of the shots here) were posted way back over here.
My post-star party drive out of the Park, and at nearby Pipe Springs National Monument, is linked here.
Cropped version of my favorite shot from the trip. I just loved the way the lighting worked out.

Planning to return to the Grand Canyon Star Party in 2017. That one starts over Father's Day weekend. Mark your calendars if you're planning to go!

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