Camping in the Kaibab

For two nights, we made our home in a campsite at the DeMotte Campground in the Kaibab National Forest. This location was merely 7 miles north of the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim. It has an elevation of 8,760 feet.

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Campsite Panorama

My friend Muriel saw the image of the Campsite Panorama and expressed to me we seemed to be in a very secluded area. In fact, the campground was full; each of the 38 sites were spoken for on the dates we were there. Every campsite had a generous parking apron, large enough for an RV plus car. What I liked about our area, was that it opened to the meadow near the road. It meant I would be able to sit on our picnic table at night and look at the stars without looking through trees.

When you fill out your paperwork to register for your site permit, the host takes your vehicle license plate number and checks that against any vehicles parked in your driveway.  The hosts make rounds during the day and through the night. It actually gives you a sense of having a paternal watchdog looking out for you.

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Making Rounds | Jon, the consummate campground host

It was a very busy week in the Grand Canyon area. All the campsites inside the North Rim park campground were taken. We managed to score our site in the morning at 11 AM. Check-in is usually 1 pm. It is a first-come, first-served campground. The camp host confirmed availability and told us to slide on into the site and set up camp.  Afterwards we went into the North Rim for our first adventure. More on that in a later post.

Upon returning from the day’s adventure in the Grand Canyon, we noticed a strange car parked at the front end of our site driveway. It was already dark outside. Before I had time to fish out the toothbrushes to get the kids washed up for bed, a  camphost arrived quietly in his pickup truck. He inquired if we had added new members to our party. I shook my head in the negative, and off he went to clear out the squatters.  The next nearest campsite with availability was at Jacob’s Lake,  44 miles north on the main access road.

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Aster family in our campsite. These cuties were 6 inches talll.

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Kaibab Meadow at Sunrise | Panorama of 6 images stitched together.

I woke before the sunrise and stepped into the meadow near our tent. The edge of the open space was peppered with a small network of quaking aspen trees. The grasses were short and according to the camp hosts, tick-free. When the sun rose, it gave me a nice flare through the trees, and illuminated the white bark of the aspen.

I used my tripod to get an exposure of the night sky after everyone was settled into the tent for sleep. It was a clear evening, and the night just prior to the August “supermoon.”

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Aspen and starry sky one night before the August supermoon

Quaking aspen trees have white bark, like birch trees in New England. With ample sunlight and moisture, they grow from the root structures underground into fully exposed open spaces.  They indicate a sign of forest recovery when you see them in an area that experienced wildfires. Below are some shots I took while meandering in the meadow near our tent.

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Yellow wildflower with Ant

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Looking Up the Aspen Trunks

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On my belly to capture this diminutive daisy only 3 inches high.

There were lots of scavenger birds and chipmunks in our campsite. At night, we kept our food inside the minivan so they wouldn’t seek our supplies. During breakfast, one bird was daring enough to eat the crumbs of a grilled cheese sandwich right off our cookpan.

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Thanks, I’ll take that.

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Watching the picnic table from a safe distance.

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Caught this Mountain Short-Horned Lizard in the grasses near our tent. My 7 year old identified it. He remembers what he learns in his Junior Ranger educational brochures and visitor center displays.

Husband discovered the lizard and called the boys over to observe it. We scooped it into an empty can of mandarin oranges for closer inspection before we let it go.

As we drove out of the Kaibab, along the road was an area which had experienced a wildfire in 2006. There were some knee-level aspen growing in patches. The elongated purple wildflowers flowers were startling to see in the barren area. It started to rain on me, so I had to act fast and capture them. There is a bee flying around and having a feast; its pollen baskets look full.  I am still waiting for my inter-library loan of the  North American Fieldguide to Western Wildflowers, so I haven’t yet found the official names of any of the wildflowers in these photos, and the one from inside the Canyon. If you are reading this and know what we are looking at, put that information in the comments, please!

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Purple Wildflowers along the Grand Canyon Highway in the Kaibab National Forest. These plants were growing  up to 2′ high.

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