Monday, July 10, 2023

Not Even Not Traveling 25: On Mules in the Grand Canyon

2023 - Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah

Approach to the Grand Canyon -  Wednesday, June 21

We drove from Las Vegas, Nevada into Arizona, then Utah.  In Hurricane, Utah, we stopped for a late lunch at Lonny Boy’s BBQ. They had a good, friendly atmosphere and the best bathroom signs I've seen in a while.  They proclaim they were voted 'the best in the region' but the food seemed merely acceptable.  So we decided, okay, no more barbeque in this region.

But ...

We are spoiled by our hometown Frederick being a foodie spot. We came to Lonny Boy's during its off hours, after the lunch rush. Most of the food was pretty okay.  And the one thing the restaurant made for us on the spot (because they were out) was the fried cauliflower and it was the best item we received.  I haven't had fried cauliflower before but I really enjoyed this stuff.  It made me wonder if the rest of the plate would have been better if it had been made fresh. Seems likely.

Driving conversation observations:

1. Utah in this corner is a lot like Arizona, no surprise
2. The border with Arizona is flocked with liquor stores even though Utah is a not dry state
3. We guess Utah has higher liquor taxes

Grand Canyon - Thursday, June 22

This was the first day of doing more than traveling. We weren't just walking around small towns. We drove from our Quality Inn in Kanab, Utah to the north side of the Grand Canyon, Arizona. The north side of the canyon is the less popular one. The geography is more difficult, so the area offers fewer options for places to stay. That's why our drive took hours, mostly in the dark.

At the Grand Canyon National Park, we discovered the staff wouldn't let us into the buildings. During the winter and spring, heavy snows had burst the park's pipe system during the melt. Park staff were bringing the buildings online in stages. In this third stage during which we'd arrived, the park had  endured a setback. They had been trucking about 20,000 gallons of water up the mountain each day while they re-initiated the fixed pipe system. But the first attempt at putting water in the pipes revealed more broken pipes than had been visible before. (The pipes are underground so big leaks had essentially been hiding these smaller leaks.)

We wanted coffee but there was none to be had except for staff. The staff took pity on us after a bit, though, and brought up coffee for us. (Yay!) After, we hiked around the north rim of the canyon following the staff recommendations.

When we returned to the buildings of the north side visitor center, we hooked up with the Grand Canyon Mule Rides company. We had bought positions in their tour down into the canyon and back.

The ride down is easier on the mules but harder on the people. The trail is rough and you have to continuously lean back to keep from being thrown forward and off your mount. From the beginning of what would seem to be a light effort led by our animals, we were working pretty hard.

Diane's mule, Suzie Q, was an angel. Mine, Tom, was a rascal. He tried to give me the brush-off as soon as we entered the trail. (A brush off is when your horse or mule rubs up against a rock wall or tree in the hope of rubbing away the saddle, stirrups, and, with those, a troublesome freeloader - you.) I had to do a bit of negotiation with him. After half an hour, we had settled into our roles and Tom had resigned himself to yet another plod down and up his over-familiar mountain track.

At the midpoint, the humans in our troop dismounted. We shook our legs, reacquainted ourselves with walking, took pictures, got drinks of water, and generally explored the sights of the canyon.

On the way back up, which was an easier ride for me, Tom the mule got tired. As a consequence, he became extremely well behaved. I had to kick him forward a few times and he responded fairly well. He gave me an exhausted sigh each time. On the last stage of the climb, he tried but could not catch Susie Q. The mile uphill had worn him out.

As a bonus, our human guide, Quince, seemed competent about more than horses. He knew about Grand Canyon history, native flora and fauna, and other important details you would expect from a guide. His jokes were terrible, the product of a thousand tellings, but even so they held a bit of charm.

After we finished the Grand Canyon tour, we stopped at a Navajo-run restaurant for lunch. I opted for the Navajo taco, which is based on flatbread the Navajo developed when forced onto their reservation with low rations. It also seemed to be the basis of their dessert, which is ‘fry bread.’ Fry bread is the same light flatbread coated in sugar or powdered sugar. (Probably everyone knows that but me.)


  1. I am always grateful for your travel logs. :) Love them.

    1. I confess that often when I write these travelogues, I am thinking of you and your reactions.

    2. I certainly wondered what you would think of this one,