May 12, 2010 GMT
Grand Canyon

Following the sandstorm at Monument Valley I carefully checked the weather forecast before heading for the south rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. A cool 53F (12C) maximum with isolated thunderstorms was predicted.

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It snowed on the way to the Grand Canyon

As I rode across the flat lands I could see a number of what looked like heavy rain showers scattered around and hoped the road would steer me between them which it pretty much did for the first half of the journey. I stopped to put on the waterproof oversuit just in case I ran into a storm but caught some light rain which turned to sleet then snow. Some sections of road were white with slick ice sheets and my visor was building up a thicker and thicker layer of ice which got harder and harder to wipe away. As I arrived at Grand Canyon the small central portion of visor I had managed to keep clear of ice was insufficient to maintain peripheral vision for the side roads and I stopped to scrape it clean.

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Iced Up Visor

I had intended to camp at Grand Canyon but having ridden an hour and a half in snow I chickened out and booked a couple of nights in a motel. The next two days were of course fine so I moved into the campsite for the remainder of my stay. The temperature the first night in the tent got down to 20F (-7C), probably the coldest I have camped in but it was fine. I awoke to what I thought was the sound of rain on the tarp but when I looked out it was yet more snow.

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Desert View, Grand Canyon On The Day I Arrived

Camping in the snow isn’t so bad, it is arriving having ridden through the snow then having to unpack and put the tent up whilst it continues to snow that is grim. I was fortunate to have a café 400 yards from the tent that I could retreat to for warmth and sustenance. I might have a different opinion on camping in the snow if I couldn’t dash to a café to warm up and get breakfast. On the day it snowed it continued until 4pm. I spent the day in the café catching up on my emails and blog. I was glad I didn’t have to rely on the small tent for shelter all day.

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Grand Canyon

One of three words spring to mind when you first see the Grand Canyon, WOW and two naughty words. Fortunately for the Horizons Unlimited censors I’m more of a WOW kind of guy. I like the way the National Parks allow you to take responsibility for your own safety. If you want to stand or sit on the edge of the canyon rim you’re free to do so.

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A pair of star cross’d lovers take their life ... But Why The Dog?

The temperature changes during a day in this part of the world are extreme. On my last day at Grand Canyon I awoke at 7am feeling a bit cold in the tent so lit a couple of candles (Don’t tell the camping health and safety executive). At 8am the sun was warming the tent and the bike panniers were warm to the touch although a loaf of bread inside was defrosting and still frozen in the centre from the overnight 18F (-8C) and by mid afternoon it was 96F (35C).

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Grand Canyon

The signs warned that walking was safest before 11am or after 4pm so naturally
I set off at 10am and finished at 4pm, walking in the hottest part of the day. I walked halfway down the canyon and back in six hours. This was a seven mile round trip descending 2400 feet and climbing back up. It was 96F (35C) in the sun by mid afternoon as I was returning to the rim. As the park ranger said, it is like climbing a mountain in reverse, the hard ascent comes at the end.

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Its Much Hotter Inside The Canyon

The cooler weather this early in the summer is much better for walking than mid summer although the evening and night time temperatures were colder than I would have liked.

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Grand Canyon

I had intended on going to the north rim as it only gets 10% of the Grand Canyon visitors whilst the south rim gets 90%. The south rim is closer to Las Vegas and Flagstaff the two nearest cities. The rims are only a mile apart as the condor flies but it is over 200 miles by road. The north rim being a 1000ft higher at 8000ft keeps the snow for longer and wasn’t opening to the public until the 15th May, shortly after I had moved on.

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The Zig Zag Track Into The Canyon

My route from the Grand Canyon south rim to Zion National Park took me most of the way to the north rim using highway Alt 89 passing through Jacob Lake. Yet another scenic, sweeping road with little traffic.

Posted by at May 12, 2010 03:45 AM GMT

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