I started out day 5 just north of Kanab and blasted south toward the North Rim of the Grand Conyon. It was a relatively short ride down 89 and then 67 through the Kaibab National Forest. It was really neat, after days of riding though desert and desert like climates, to be back in a woodsy area. It was also cold. This was the first time on the trip where I had to bust out some layers and the colder weather gear.
The entire time, riding through the forest in the early hours of the morning, there were small groups of birds along the side of the road that would scatter as I approached. Some got a bit closer than I was comfortable with, but I didn’t think much of it. About half way to the canyon, one collided with my helmet.
I’d never taken anything bigger than a medium sized piece of rock to the helmet before this. Doing about 70 and hitting a bird is an “exciting” experience, to say the least. I had to pull over and catch my breath after almost dumping the bike. I wasn’t able to find the bird, but I doubt he fared as well...
Another issue from the short ride through Kaibab, the bike began running rough. On tip-in it would get a nasty misfire that kept getting worse the further in to the forest I went. It felt like a rich bog, and I knew I was at high elevation (about 8200ft when I first noticed the issue), but I specifically got a fuel injected bike so I wouldn’t have to deal with this. I pulled a plug and confirmed it was running rich. My working theory at this point was that the “accelerator pump” function of the aftermarket fuel controller (installed by the previous owner), spit a set amount of fuel in on throttle application (it’s designed to improve throttle response) that didn’t adjust for elevation. At high altitude, that would tend to make an extreme rich condition right at tip in. There wasn’t anything I could do at this point besides hope it went away once I got back below 8000 feet. It never got so bad that I couldn’t ride around the issue.
I kept heading south and arrived at the canyon around 7am local time.
There was a bit of smoke from nearby wildfires that affected long range visibility, but the scale of this place is amazing. It really makes you feel small.
One of the real draws of the North Rim, is that it sees on average 90-95% less visitors than the South Rim. This is due to it being pretty far off the beaten path. The 100 or so mile road I took in is the only way to get there, and there aren’t any through roads. Basically, if you are going to the North Rim, you need to devote a 120 mile round trip where 60 miles is back tracking to get back to a “main” road. There aren’t any fences or crowd herding measures due to this, so I was able to sit right out on the edge.
I found a little spot up on the rocks near Bright Angel Point, where I relaxed and took in the view for about an hour. I didn’t see another person the entire time I was up there.
After spending some time in that area, I determined I had enough time and gas to explore a few other areas. I headed up toward Point Imperial. Mostly, I wanted to see it, but also I wanted to see how the bike would run closer to 9000 feet and test my elevation theory. There was a nice twisty road leading up to the point, but I wasn’t able to enjoy it quite as much as I would have with a properly running bike. The misfire got pretty bad up near the peak.
The wildfire smoke was a lot more apparent up this high, with long range visibility diminished markedly
While I do wish I had been able to see the whole scene, the smoke shrouding the distant features and making only their outlines visible, looked cool in it’s own right.
I headed back north a little after noon to find a place to camp. Just after passing the park entrance, I passed the same buffalo herd as AMGtech (wish I’d stopped to grab a photo)
I ended up finding a nice little spot just south of Jacob Lake. I wanted to be as far North as possible to make he following day’s ride a little shorter.
Kaibab easily has some of the best hammock camping environment I’ve ever been in. Relatively clear ground with tons of trees that have usable spacing.
I spent the rest of the day exploring the forest and called it an early night as soon as it got dark. For some reason, I woke up around 3am after the moon had sunk beneath the horizon, and was treated to the clearest night sky I’ve ever seen. Sections of the sky that was usually dark were full of countless stars not usually visible with light pollution. There were several shooting stars from the tail end of the Perseid Meteor Shower. I’m not sure how long I stayed awake and observed it, but it felt like a while.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to photograph.
Total Miles: 1362
Total Miles for the Day: 141
Highest Elevation: About 9000 feet
Lowest Elevation: 4500
Killer Piece of Gear: Full Face Helmet!
Best part of the day: The night sky in the Kaibab Forest
Worst part of the day: Hitting a Bird