Day 7: Grand Canyon Village to Cameron - Indian Country part two, 2018 - CycleBlaze

May 15, 2018

Day 7: Grand Canyon Village to Cameron

Today promises to be an awesome but long day. I went to the snack bar to get a breakfast burrito, arriving just before it opened at 7 AM. On the road at 8. The weather was sunny, 60F (15C) and rising. I pedaled the bike trail from Yavapai lodge to the South Kaibab trailhead. The last mile is along the rim with many views into the canyon, mostly with no railings.

Canyon view from the rim trail near the South Kaibab trailhead.
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15 years ago I hiked the South Kaibab trail halfway down to the river. I could still do a hike like that but not in the middle of a bike tour.

I continued to Yaki point on a road that is closed for reconstruction. 15 years ago the spur road to the trailhead and Yaki point was open to cars. Both places had many parking spaces. Recently the spur road was closed to all private vehicles. Visitors must now come by shuttle bus or tour bus. Or they can hike/bike in on the rim trail. The road is being rebuilt to remove most of the parking and create bus-friendly loading areas. The end result will have less asphalt, less traffic, and will be more park-like.

I had Yaki point all to myself because it was officially closed. The early morning view was kind of a disappointment. I wasn't alone at any of the other viewpoints.

View from Yaki point.
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The next viewpoint is Grandview Point. The spur road is a big hill climb. Best I can tell the highest point of the tour was on the spur road. 7495 feet elevation. The area was settled by miners in about 1890. The mines weren't successful, so they switched to guiding tourists instead. Grandview once had a lodge and was the main visitor destination until 1901. Grandview declined after the Grand Canyon Railway arrived 10 miles to the west. Now the only thing at Grandview is a trailhead and interpretive signs.

View from Grandview point.
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The park road has no shoulder but the speed limit is 45 mph. Traffic is light, with almost no big trucks. It's pleasant for cycling.

The main park road tops out at 7481 feet elevation between Grandview Point and Moran Point. It had been mostly uphill so far today. The road descends 400 feet from the summit to the Moran point turnoff, then gains it back climbing to Desert View.

Moran Point is at the end of a steep half mile spur road. A bit of work, but the view is spectacular. The point is quite prominent, so it has a 180 degree view into the canyon. Great in the morning or afternoon.

Awesome colors in the view from Moran point. Another 180 degree canyon view. Worth the dead end hill climb.
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At Moran point I sat in the shade under a Piñon tree. Afterwards I discovered huge blobs of pine sap on my tights. It was warming up, so I took off the tights. I never wore the tights again because the remainder of the tour is in warm deserts.

Moran point has 3 separate views of the Colorado river.
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A short distance past Moran point I turned into the Tusayan ruins area and hiked the short nature trail. Less than 1/4 mile off the main park road. The ruins are modest compared to other Pueblo Indian ruins I've seen. Tree ring studies show that the site was only occupied for about 20 years starting in about 1185.

Tusayan museum was built in 1928 to resemble a Hopi pueblo.
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7000 feet elevation on the Coconino plateau doesn't seem like a great place to live. It's too cold to grow crops but wild game was surely abundant.

Kiva at Tusayan ruins.
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Tusayan ruins.
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The next overlook is Lipan point. It has views of the river 5000 feet below. Finally I have river views with a decent sun angle.

Lipan point has 2 views of the Colorado river.
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River view from Lipan point. Great colors down below.
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Navajo point is very close to Desert View but on the opposite side of a side canyon. The view from Navajo point is similar to the view at Desert View.

Navajo point.
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River view from Navajo point.
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I turned left on the spur road to Desert View. The watchtower is an easy mile off the main park road. Desert View has the most open view of the Colorado river. Add the watchtower and it's a spectacular scene. The Desert View road crests at 7495 feet elevation, tying for the highest elevation of the tour. The watchtower is 30 feet lower but is still the highest overlook on the south rim.

Watchtower at Desert View. Built in 1932, designed by Mary Colter to resemble a Hopi watchtower.
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Desert View was my last view into the Grand Canyon.
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Desert view has a gift shop, snack bar, ice cream parlor, and campground. I camped there 15 years ago. No lodging.

At Desert View I encountered two touring cyclists. Klaus and Sabine are veteran global bike tourists on a long west to east tour across the U.S. Here they were detouring west to see the Grand Canyon.

Klaus and Sabine at Desert View. Their blog is
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Desert View was my last view of the Grand Canyon. I wasn't really sad to leave it. I've looked into the canyon 3 days in a row. Enough for now. It's time to move on.

I left Desert View at 2:30 PM. Still 30 miles to go but it's mostly downhill. The biggest descent of the tour. The road acquires a paved shoulder and faster speed limit after exiting the National Park. Then the road descends a few miles through Kaibab National Forest before entering the Navajo reservation.

Final view of San Francisco Peaks while descending from the Coconino plateau. Still forested here.
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This is the only large descent of the tour. From 7495 feet elevation at Desert View to 4202 feet elevation at Cameron Trading Post. It was fun to see the vegetation change from tall pines to piñons and junipers, then to desert bushes.

I barely noticed this sign. It's small, faded, and set back far from the road.
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I had a flat tire shortly after entering the Navajo nation. I swapped the tube and patched the tube in my room in the evening. The hole was caused by a deteriorating rim strip over a spoke nipple, not by anything on the road.

For a couple of miles I had good views of the Little Colorado river canyon to the left. The tribal park was closed. Otherwise I would have detoured to the park's cliff-edge overlook.

Little Colorado River canyon.
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After 3 days on the forested plateau it was a refreshing change to be back in the desert and have warmer temperatures. Up to 82F (28C) when I arrived at Cameron Trading Post at 5:30 PM.

Back to the desert! About 4500 feet elevation.
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The Navajo town of Cameron has changed a lot since I saw it 15 years ago. US 89 has been rebuilt as a 4-lane divided highway. Two small shopping centers have been built at the highway intersection. They have a Burger King now! The Navajo nation is developing after a long period of stagnation. Later I learned that a lawsuit by the Hopi tribe prevented the Navajo tribe from developing new ground water resources for decades, until 2006.

Cameron Trading Post was founded in 1916.
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Today's destination is 2 miles north of the Navajo town. Cameron Trading Post was founded more than a century ago. The white owners have a mutually beneficial relationship with the Navajo, providing things the Navajo need and buying large amounts of wool and crafts from the Navajo. The purest example of a Trading Post that I've ever seen.

Wool yarn for sale at Cameron Trading Post. Future heirloom Navajo rugs. The glass case contains ampules of dye.
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Cameron Trading post employs dozens of Navajo people and sells handicrafts that employ many more Navajo. The Trading Post is in the Navajo nation and must follow Navajo rules. No alcoholic beverages for sale. The gift shop sells t-shirts, stickers and magnets, but most of the store is Navajo arts and crafts.

Dinner was pretty good despite having no beer. The restaurant has charm that can only be acquired with age. Exquisite wood work, stamped tin ceiling, walls decorated with antique Navajo rugs and two large reproductions of 1880's Thomas Moran paintings of the Grand Canyon. I can't help but think about how many people have eaten here over the last hundred years.

Dining room at Cameron Trading Post.
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The Gallery was closed while I was there. I went there 15 years ago. It's a great place to gawk at multi-thousand dollar masterpieces. Cameron Trading Post is a true oasis in the desert. A lush green courtyard is behind the gallery.

Gallery at Cameron Trading Post. Closed while I was there.
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I booked my room months in advance. $114 with an AARP discount, breakfast not included. I don't know why but I was given the room with by far the best view in the complex. A big window faces north with a view of the old suspension bridge across the Little Colorado river.

The old Little Colorado river suspension bridge. View through the window of my motel room.
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A window and the door face west with an unobstructed view of the Little Colorado river canyon. If you stay here, ask for room 319. It's up one flight of stairs but worth it. Awesome views and high charm factor made Cameron Trading Post the most memorable lodging of the tour.

Twilight view of the Little Colorado River canyon from the door of my motel room. Room 319 has the best views by far.
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Today was a great day with perfect weather, many views of the Grand Canyon, a wide range of scenery, and a charming Old West destination. Long but not extremely strenuous. It helped to finally have a big descent plus the usual brisk southwest tailwind.

Distance: 65.9 mi. (105.4 km)
Ascent/Descent: +2460/-4995 ft (+745/-1514 m)
Average Speed: 11.1 mph (17.8 km/h)

Today's ride: 66 miles (106 km)
Total: 324 miles (521 km)

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