North Rim AZ/UT
The engine on my 2008 Kawasaki KLR is screaming at 8000 rpm and starting to over heat. I quickly jump off the bike and begin to push. The Kenda 270 rear tire is doing everything it can to gain traction. It’s hot, desolate, and I am riding solo with through deep sand with an overloaded bike.
The idea came about to head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon kinda last minute. My wife was heading out of town to see here family and my 2 little boys were going with her. Its not very often that I am able to head out on an Adventure/Photo Trip for a whole week. The plan was set. I will load up all my camping gear on my bike as well as my Time-lapse photo gear and head North.
Part of the reason we moved to Arizona was because of the close access to some of the most amazing place that the continental U.S. has to offer. It also puts me extremely close to Los Angeles and Las Vegas for work purposes. Yah yah yah…I know its hot in the summer but it remains really nice the other 9 months of the year. People always focus on the negatives…I try and see the positives.
Touring on an “Adventure Bike” is a cross between car camping and backpacking. You can’t take all the comforts with you from home but you can go further into places and take more than you can backpacking. Motorcycle riding is also much more economical for these type of situations. I rode just over 1000 miles and it cost me less than $50 in gas.
My bike is a 2008 Kawasaki KLR 650 with 32k miles with most of those miles gained while off the beaten path.. She (my bike) is considered an Adventure Bike. It can be ridden both on road and off-road. The KLR is one of the most tried and true motorcycles of it’s genre, it’s the Swiss Army Knife of Motorcycles. KLR’s have been in production since the 80’s and has received very few updates over the years. It is not glamorous like a big BMW GS but it gets the job done.
I love to explore new places and there is no better way then by Motorcycle. You truly become part of the environment you are riding through. Cars take you out of the environment you are in and create their own environment. On a bike you are directly in contact with your environment. It rains you get wet, it’s hot and you sweat, it’s cold and you shiver, but you smell, see, and hear things you would never know existed if you were in a car. Motorcycle Adventure touring is not for everyone!
With my bike fully loaded up and fueled up I headed North on Interstate 17 through Flagstaff AZ and off into Navajo Country. My goal was to Camp in Jacobs Lake AZ, which is the Gateway to the North Rim. With the road to the Grand Canyon National Park still closed for a few more weeks, I was hoping to beat the crowds. My intention was never to actually enter the park, but explore the outlying areas. One of my goals was to gain access to an interesting and world famous Sandstone Formation known as the Wave Rocks. Unfortunately it is an extremely popular attraction for people all around the world.They Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hands out 20 passes per day. Basically a lottery takes place everyday to gain access to the Wave Rocks. Last year they received 48,264 applications and the day I showed up there were over 90 people hoping to win the lottery. Sadly I did not win, but I did get a pass for the Coyote Buttes South area which gave me access to less famous, but very beautiful Sandstone formations.
Upon receiving my pass I was given Maps to the area which indicated…Mandatory 4 Wheel Drive Vehicles to access the Coyote Buttes South Wilderness…Warning Deep Sand. Well they weren’t kidding. The sand was deep, but it wasn’t going to stop me. I battled for hours in first gear spinning my tire and dropping my very-heavy bike multiple times and almost breaking my leg in the process. I spent two days riding, shooting time-lapses and camping in the sand. In the end it was all worth it. The Coyote Buttes Wilderness is truly stunning.
My next mission was to head into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but first I was going to re-group and camp out on the Utah Arizona border campground. After leaving and heading down House Rock Rd. to the campground I hit some serious weather…rain and hail. The road got extremely slick and I had to slow down to a snails pace to keep from wrecking my bike and myself. Eventually I made it to a covered awning in the campground where I was able to string up my wet clothes and my comfy hammock.
With a good nights rest I was ready to head-off to Jump Up Point…one of many overlooks for the Grand Canyon. It was to be around 60 miles off-road. The roads were pretty decent and I was able to make pretty good time if it wasn’t for the fact I got turned around a few times. Even with maps and a GPS I still managed to get a little confused. Finally headed the right direction I made my way to Jump Up point. When I finally arrived I was blown away,not only by the beauty, but by I was completely alone. I never saw another person the 14 hrs I was there. I set up camp with in a few feet of the edge and set out to get a few time-lapses in the process.
After 6 days on the road it was time to pack up and head out. I headed back through Jacobs Lake and through the desolate Navajo Indian Reservation. All in I travelled around 1000 miles with about 400 of those miles in the back-country. It was a truly inspiring trip both artistically and personally.