Go West Old Men: A Travel Memoir. Part 15

The Colorado River from Toroweap Overlook, Grand Canyon National Park

This is Part 15 of the story, follow these links to see Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14


It was time to move on.

We packed up to leave the North Rim and headed back south toward Tuweep.

I had my doubts about Tuweep from the beginning. In spite of being cold at our other campsites, there was plumbing, if you get my drift.

After passing through the town of Fredonia, we turned onto the road into Tuweep.

On an aside here, all through our journey, I was looking for authentic fry bread. I never found it, and I should

Little Outhouse on the Prairie

probably make the trip, or a similar, edited one, again.

Tuweep is the ancestral home of the Southern Paiute people and refers to the broad volcanic valley and surrounding park lands. Part of Grand Canyon National Park, Tuweep campground is located at the North Rim’s most remote viewpoint: Toroweap Overlook.

The access was, how to put it? Primitive, rustic, wilderness? Pick one. We knew that once we got there we would be doing primitive camping. No water. No electricity. No cell service. And, as we thought at the time, no…um…facilities.

Several rangers warned us regarding the trip into Tuweep. The roads were rough and required more off-road driving in a vehicle with four-wheel drive. But after the trip to Point Sublime, and compared to our final off-road adventure, the drive into Tuweep seemed mild.

Scott at Toroweap Overlook.

At the entrance to the campground we stopped to talk to the ranger, a volunteer just back from his mountain bike ride around the campground.

Once we made it to the campground, we had our choice of spots. We chose a spot close to the, thank you Lord, primitive bathrooms. And no, not your standard port-a-johns. These were well maintained buildings with pit toilets.

We set up camp took another short drive over to the Toroweap Overlook. This offers a view of the Colorado River with a sheer drop of 3,000 vertical feet, but also breathtaking views.

There we got our first view of the river down below.

Back at the campsite, we had dinner and waited for the stars to come out.

This is perhaps my biggest disappointment with Tuweep and the trip in general. I was expecting to view thousands, if not millions of stars and hoped to see the Milky Way.

The moon had different ideas. The skies were clear and a full moon was on the way. It was never really dark.

The next morning we took our breakfast out to the overlook and watched the river, and the rafters coming through.

Most of the time we were alone in the campground. That morning, a trio of older folks, who in reality where probably our age, showed up in a Subaru. I still don’t know how they made the drive.

Back at camp, we gained some neighbors, but they were just young folks on a day hike.

That night we had one neighbor. We didn’t have a conversation with him. English was not his first language. He was up and gone before we packed up on our last day.

While I admit that I was dreading the primitive aspect of this portion of the trip, this turned out to be my favorite spot.

It was quiet, it was beautiful, it was warm.

I spent the rest of the day reading, writing, doing a little drawing. After dinner, Scott decided to take a “short” six-mile hike. I stayed back at the camp to take in the sunset and the warmth and wonder what might have been if I had indeed taken that left turn in Albuquerque.

I had a lot time to think. It gave me time to think about how life would have been different if I’d actually made it back to New Mexico after that one summer. I thought about my friend Rick, about dreams I’d had, about how things had turned out differently.

But it wasn’t all regrets. Far from it.

I’ve had some pretty incredible experience over the last forty-plus years. This trip was only one of them.
Sure, we can all point to things we wish we’d done differently.

I wish I’d taken better care of my health.

I wish I’d kept up with the piano lessons.

I wish I’d kept up with the language lessons.

That’s just part of my list. You have one of your own.

I also realized in the quiet that there’s no turning back, and no real need for regrets. I found myself hoping that the trip would change me and motivate me to move forward.

I think it did. I also think that writing about the trip continues to fan the flames of that inspiration.

I could have stayed longer at Tuweep. But we were more than halfway through our trip and it was time to start the journey back East.

Sunset at Tuweep


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