I had not realized this, but we have been following the Colorado since Grand Junction. Sort of.
We crossed the Colorado River on the I-70 just before we entered Utah. Actually, the Colorado follows the I-70 deeper into Colorado, through a spectacular canyon that's shared with Amtrak's California Zephyr. After Grand Junction, though, it cuts southwest through Utah and into Arizona, where it cuts out the vast landscape that is the Grand Canyon.
After leaving a nameless town in western Utah, we headed south on US-89, fortified by some excellent coffee and burgers by a roadside café. We entered Arizona and approached the Grand Canyon from the north. The north rim does not receive the attention that the south rim gets, mostly because it's harder to access; all of the big cities in the area (Las Vegas, Flagstaff, etc) are on the southern side. So, we were promised that the north rim would still be impressive, but less touristy.
We were impressed by the drive up to the north rim, which passes through a microclimate of pine forest and bison. It was really quite beautiful. And then the land drops away, and there's the canyon, diving hundreds of feet deep. It's spectacular -- or, would have been if it hadn't been totally obscured by the smoke of three nearby wildfires. It made the visit quite a disappointment, and the smoke actually made Eleanor physically sick. Fortunately, she recovered quickly as we high-tailed it out of there, heading for Flagstaff.
Leaving the pine forest, we entered Moon Canyon, a wide, flat expanse across northeastern Arizona that's buttressed by tall, red mesas. I couldn't help but be impressed: crossing the Grand Canyon is impossible, of course, so to get around it, you have to go nearly a hundred kilometres out of your way, where the Colorado River hasn't cut so deep. And here is where we found a sight that made our day. Moon Canyon is wide and flat at this point, and the Colorado River cuts into it deep. There's a steel road bridge, and an older footbridge that used to be the road bridge. We got out and walked across the bridge, and saw that the Colorado River was about a hundred feet below us. It's like the Grand Canyon is just getting started here.
We took pictures of the bridge, the canyon and the surrounding mesas, and drove off to Flagstaff as the sun set, arriving after nightfall.
Tomorrow, we will try the Grand Canyon again, heading for the south rim, but further west, hopefully avoiding all of that smoke. We'll bunk down near the Nevada/California border, and be in Fresno by Sunday night.