Travellers' Tales: Cycling Across the Grand Canyon
We took the Adventure Cycling Association’s Grand Canyon route as part of a ride from Florida to San Francisco. It starts by climbing steadily out of the well-watered lawns and cactus gardens of Phoenix. After a big climb on Interstate 40, we reached Williams (7,000 feet) on Route 66.
A late April snowstorm blew in. With typical ‘big country’ hospitality, our campground host invited us to camp in their clubroom.
From Williams, we went north across a gently undulating plateau, so it was all the more startling when the land disappeared and we stopped at the rim, staring at a vast wilderness of multicoloured rock towers. To get across the canyon to the north rim is over 200 miles by road. The road takes a spectacular detour alongside the Painted Desert and the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument to cross the Colorado River at Marble Canyon. Then it climbs back up the 4,000 feet you just came down.
Each day the sun sped over us to set behind the next range of mountains ahead."
It’s a big exposed landscape so we carried lots of water. The route passes through a Navajo Nation Reservation, where we saw the painful contrast between their proud history and a tough present reality.
The Grand Canyon route continues into Utah’s Zion Canyon, where we cycled along the canyon bottom and stared up at a fantastic landscape of immense rock walls.
After the canyons came Nevada’s Great Basin. We crossed a cold, occasionally snowy, desert landscape of mountains and wide, arid valleys. Sixty miles or more between settlements, along with headwinds, made for tough, exhilarating cycling. Each day the sun sped over us to set behind the next range of mountains ahead. Few places give such an intoxicating sense of space.
For more, see Steve and Guy's travel diaries at www.wutheringbikes.org.uk/SouthernTier
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