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The Grander Canyon

But fascination soon outweighed aversion, and I leaned in to get a better look. The snake's delicate salmon color and smooth coils contrasted with the alien angle of its eyes and its nervously flicking tongue. Laura rolled her eyes and kept her distance. "I'm not carrying you out of here," she warned.

We ceded the right-of-way and kept going.


Tuweep Point offers sweeping views of the Grand Canyon -- with few people to obstruct the scenery.

On the way up we passed a weary French photographer with more camera gear than water or common sense and a party of five that had wisely started down before dawn, but that was it for the entire hike. I think of the last time I took the crowded Bright Angel Trail from the South Rim, where unwise mothers push baby strollers down trails toward the river, and rangers occasionally have to rescue businessmen hiking in wingtips. This is another world.

By 8 a.m. it was officially hot again, but by then we were almost out. The climb out took half an hour less than the descent.

Back on the rim, the ranger was home. He told us how often people underestimate the trail. They usually make it out under their own power, he said, although often thirsty, tired and humbled. Occasionally he has to go get them.

Oh, and the Jeep owners? They got a flat and kept driving. Got another, kept going. And so on.

Our own respect for the Grand Canyon, a place that's as unforgiving as it is beautiful, had certainly been rekindled. Today the view from the edge was just as astounding as yesterday, but the river no longer seemed as close.

Maybe that's what the raven was trying to tell us: Unless you can catch a breeze and soar to safety, you odd, earthbound creatures, go prepared.

Julian Smith, a writer in Santa Fe, N.M., is the author of the award-winning guidebook "Moon Handbooks: Four Corners."

Details: Tuweep

GETTING THERE: Access roads to Tuweep, on the Grand Canyon's northwest rim, are about 215 miles east of Las Vegas. Three unpaved roads lead to Tuweep from the north. The most traveled -- called the Sunshine Route (BLM Road No. 109) -- leaves Arizona Highway 389 about seven miles west of Fredonia. It's well- maintained, but be ready for some washboarding and dust. Two-wheel-drive vehicles, including the occasional RV, can make it the entire 61 miles to the rim, though the last three miles are rougher going over slickrock. These roads can all become impassible when wet.

WHEN TO GO: Tuweep is open year-round, but the best times to visit are in the spring and fall. March, April, October and November are ideal. From May to September, temperatures at the rim can be in the 90s, and in the canyon can climb to over 100.

WHAT TO BRING: There are no tourist facilities, so visitors must be completely self-sufficient. Fill up on gas, pack a good spare tire and bring food and at least one gallon of water per person per day -- more if you plan on hiking. Have sturdy hiking boots, sun protection (light, long-sleeved shirts and pants, hats and sunblock) and warm clothes for cool evenings. Cell phones do not work out here.

HIKING: The 1 1/2 -mile Lava Falls Trail, the shortest route to the Colorado River from the rim, is steep and loose in spots, with little shade and no water. Hiking to the river and back in one day is possible, but is still a serious undertaking. Bring plenty to eat and drink, let the ranger on duty know you're going, and try to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). River water will clog filters and is not recommended for drinking even when chemically treated, except in an emergency.

WHERE TO STAY: Eleven primitive campsites are available near the rim, with picnic tables, fire grates and composting toilets. They're free, available on a first-come, first-served basis, and can fill up on spring weekends. The nearest city with full visitor services is Kanab, Utah, just north of Fredonia.

FEES: Visitors to Tuweep do not have to pay the usual $20 park entrance fee (per car), but you do need a backcountry permit ($10, plus $5 per person per night) to camp outside the campground. You can get these from the ranger on duty or at Pipe Spring National Monument (928-643-7105, www.nps.gov/pisp) near Fredonia, the closest U.S. Park Service facility to Tuweep. Also check here for weather updates.

INFORMATION: Contact the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park (928-638-7888 or 928-638-7870, www.nps.gov/grca) for more information. Pipe Spring National Monument stocks the free "Grand Canyon National Park Tuweep Information Sheet." The "Southern California AAA Guide to Indian Country" map, available throughout the region, shows the main routes to Tuweep.


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