Watch final video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIrJf87Bcf8
This next adventure has special meaning. Kris turned 40 in June and all she wanted for her birthday was to “go somewhere”. She just wanted to be at another location other than home. I found a place called the Bar 10 Ranch. The Bar 10 is located about as far away from anything as a place can be in the world today. It is specifically located about 90 miles south of St. George, Utah. The Bar 10 has been around for several generations and has evolved from a ranch to a bit of a tourist attraction. It just so happens that rafters going down the Colorado river use this ranch as a starting and stopping point. I found them because of the ATV tours they offer.
Our journey started at the South rim of the Grand Canyon at the Grand Canyon Airport. Papillon Helicopters is headquartered there.
Kris and her first helicopter.
They are the helicopter service used to get the river rafters (also referred to as river rats) to and from the river banks. We would be using their service to take us to the North Rim and to the Bar 10. We drove up the night before and stayed at the Canyon Plaza Resort. A typical hotel with some nice amenities (I give it a B-). Our departure time was 6am in the morning. We arrived at 5:45am and met our pilot Steve. Steve was a super nice guy who did a safety briefing with us and told us the most important things to know about helicopters. Always approach a helicopter from the front and never for any reason walk around the back of a helicopter.
They have a few models to choose from!
I always thought it was the rotors which were the most dangerous. Turns out its the small tail rotor which is to be feared. I will always remember that. Once inside the helicopter we got seat belts and headsets on.
The view from the back seat of the helicopter looking forward
Kris had never been in a helicopter before and was apprehensive at first. It was loud and there was much vibration. Once we took off the ride was smooth and fun.
Our shadow as we take off from the airport
We flew over some forrest and then the ground became flat. Flat as far as the eye cold see. Where was the Canyon? I don’t know if I thought I would immediately see it from above or what but I guess I never thought it would be mirror flat and then just open up the way it did.
As we approach the Canyon
When we did finally fly over the Canyon it was spectacular. The morning sun with some clouds painted the canyon in the most beautiful light. I have been a photographer for most of my life and I was just taking pictures as fast as I could.
The Grand Canyon
I told Steve that I was going to be taking pictures and when we got over the canyon he said over headset that he had slowed down so I could get some better shots. How nice is that? Thank you Steve and Papillon Helicopters.
As good as it gets!
We reached the North Rim and then only 9 miles from there we landed at the Bar 10 Ranch. When I say landed at the ranch I mean we landed on the front lawn of the ranch’s lodge! Not more than twenty steps from the front door! So cool.
Inside the Helicopter at the Bar 10
When we landed Joe (we found out his name later) opened the door and gave us a resounding “welcome to the Bar 10” . This set the tone of the staff for us. They were friendly, helpful and sincere. This is what made our trip so enjoyable. The staff, and I mean the whole staff, were the nicest group of people I have ever experienced. Most of the staff are college kids from St. George, Utah. I don’t know what kind of training they get but if you could bottle it you would be the wealthiest person on the planet period. I can’t say enough about how great the staff at the Bar 10 Ranch are.
Once we got inside we put our bags in the office and grabbed some breakfast. Hot food. Pancakes and bacon and orange juice. We met Chantelle and her fiance Tom. Nice couple. Hope they have fun on their honeymoon in Playa Del Carmen. Next we met Gooche and Nelson. Gooche and Nelson would be our guides for the first ATV tour. We would leave for the Rim and the river view overlook at 9am.
We were given a helmet and goggles and a short briefing about the ATV and we were on our way. Just a reminder to all. Bring a bandanna with you…make that several bandannas with you. The first mile or so is fine dirt. Like silt or talc. It gets in everywhere…yes, everywhere. More about that later.
Kris and I ready to go riding.
The trail is flat for the first couple miles and then gets rocky and has some undulations. Nothing a novice couldn’t handle. Click here( bar10toriver) for a brief video of the ATV trail. The payoff at the end of this short 9 mile trek is the most breathtaking view of the Canyon and river.
No buildings, buses, railings, wires or signs. Just you and the earth. Can you fall over the edge? YES! So don’t. Personal responsibility goes into full effect here. Watch your step and enjoy the view. Wow, what a view. Click here for a video from the edge JnK_at_the_edge (non-scary version). They take about ten seconds to load.
Now click here for the scary version over_the_edge
We stayed about forty-five minutes and soaked it all in. Everyone in our group of about ten got to take pictures without anyone else crowding or “spoiling” the shot. Nice mix of folks from all over the USA and Europe. We headed back to the Lodge for some lunch.
The ATVs at the river view
Lunch consisted for BBQ beef sandwiches (fresh from the ranch of course) potato salad and chocolate chip cookies. Wash it down with lemonade and call it good. During lunch we got to meet Lexi and Gooche’s sister. They just sat down with us and struck up a conversation. Part of that welcoming feeling we had throughout the entire stay. They are the cooks. They are great cooks. Making family recipes of typical southwestern dishes. While we were eating we also me Uncle Ned. Uncle Ned told us he has been on the Bar 10 Ranch for 8 years. It turns out that Uncle Ned is a walking talking encyclopedia of the Arizona Strip. What is the Arizona Strip you ask? That is the piece of land where the Bar 10 Ranch resides. It is the part of Arizona which is north of the Grand Canyon and south of the Utah border. It is very wide, several hundred miles, and about 90 miles tall. Look on a map and see. Anyway, back to Uncle Ned, he would be our guide for our afternoon ATV ride to Whitmore Point. He pointed to a mountain and said “thats where we’re going. Actually, around there and then all along that ridge” Sounded good to me. Kris and I and Ned would be the only ones going on this trip. That’s the beauty of the Bar 10, not a whole lotta people know about it. The ones that do are mostly rafters who stay for a few hours…maybe overnight…but don’t really realize what a treasure this place is. They offer horseback riding, hiking, ATVs and Rangers (those 4X4 golf karts). Back to the story. We left around 2pm and headed out. First along a service road and then right up into the mountains. We stopped long enough to activate 4 wheel drive on the ATVs and then went up the rocky trail. Very rocky trail. Not so much that you were scared of dying but enough to get your attention and keep it. (click here for video whitmore_point_1). The trail leveled out and we stopped at what we now know is called a “catchment”. It is used for capturing rain water and funneling it into giant holding tanks. The Bar 10 and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) work together to conserve water for the animals who habitat here and for the cattle. It’s a co-op that has been keeping the area useful for hunting and grazing for many years. It turns out that the Mule Deer up here are some of the biggest, if not the biggest, in the world. The Fish and Game have a lottery for hunting permits to be able to hunt in the Arizona Strip. It’s a big deal for hunters. We continued along our trail and we would stop from time to time and Uncle Ned would tell us stories of what we were seeing. Stories about volcanos, indians and the various plants and animals around us. It was thrilling to ride the ATVs up in the mountains and so informative to hear about the land around us. We stopped at Whitmore Point to another unbelievable vista.
click here for video whitmore_point_2_1
The Grand Canyon has so many different views. To say that you have seen the Grand Canyon is not a statement anyone can make. You simply cannot take it all in. It’s too big.
We returned to The Bar 10 after 25 miles of riding. Add to that the 18 miles in the morning and we were exhausted from a full day of adventure. We showered before dinner and found out just how dusty and dirty a human being can get and still be bone dry. EVERYTHING had dust on it. The inside of my wallet had red dirt! My brain had dirt on it! Ok maybe not that, but you get the point. Diner was Navajo Tacos. I will not tell you anymore. You have to come to the Bar 10 to find out. It’s worth the trip. Desert was a fresh made yellow cake with pineapple frosting. So light and airy you wouldn’t believe it.
After dinner we played cards and just relaxed. Walked around and sat out in the cool evening breeze. Talked to others who had just gotten off the river and others who would be leaving for the river in the morning.
Time for bed. At the Bar 10 you have several options. You can sleep in a bed in a room. You can sleep out under the stars on a mattress in a sleeping bag. Or, they have a very special arrangement, you can sleep in a covered wagon. The ranch has about ten covered wagons with double beds in them. We opted for the standard bed but now I wish I had slept in the covered wagon. My mistake. The beds were very comfortable. Either that or I was so wiped out that it didn’t matter…probably the latter.
Day two started with the sun waking us up at 5:15am. A beautiful morning. Hung out until breakfast at 6:30am (biscuits and gravy, eggs and sausage) and then Uncle Ned told us we could leave anytime for our Ranger tour of Mt. Logan. We left the Bar 10 at about 8am. Uncle Ned’s grandson Isaac came along with us. We later found out he came along to help with some trail maintenance. Uncle Ned would stop and Isaac would trim some limbs in order to keep the trail open and not have them smack us in the face! Isaac is a nice kid. Just the kind you would expect to find on a working ranch. He is strong for his age, respects his Grandfather and is a perfect gentleman…but he hates mustard and pickles. I can live with that. On this tour (we were just passengers on the four seat Ranger) we learned about the difference between the pine, fir and spruce trees. Very easy to remember. Want to know? Ask Uncle Ned when you see him. We also learned about the Sore Eye Poppy. Named for what it does if you get it in your eye (can’t make that kinda stuff up folks). The Persistent Oak, Manazita plant and the sweet smelling Sage. Just flick it with your finger and it releases its fragrance. Once we reached the top of Mt. Logan we were in the forest and we were as cool and comfortable as anywhere on the whole trip. It was quiet and sunny with a slight breeze. The view was grand. The whole valley spreading out below.
Kris at the top of Mt. Logan
We began our trip back from the summit. Almost immediatly Uncle Ned stopped and out the right side of the Ranger, not 10 feet away, was a female Mule Deer. She was breathing heavily and agitated and tired. We thought it was because of us but Uncle Ned said no. He pointed out, in the dirt and on the trail, the footprints and mess for lack of a better word that had been made. It must have been some kind of chase. Was there a Coyote or Mountain Lion around? All of a sudden Kris says “there’s a fawn” I looked down between me and the deer and saw a fawn laying perfectly still. She was holding her breath… I took some pictures and the deer started to make noise and head around the front of the Ranger.
Can you spot the fawn between me and the deer?
Here is the fawn close up.
She was trying to lead us away from her fawn. I looked back at the fawn and it was breathing so hard I thought it was hyperventilating. It just laid there. Was it hurt? We pulled away about 100 feet and the deer went back to her fawn. We watched as the deer and fawn got up and walked away from us. Perhaps we just saved their lives… maybe we just prolonged the inevitable. Its nature so we will never know… we hope they made it. The entire trip lasted 6 hours and included a sack lunch with the best sandwich ever. I swear that you could have entered that sandwich in a competition and won.
That evening we had dinner which was another winner and then we took the ATV tour to Paws Pocket. It included more views of the Grand Canyon and was fun to ride with the sun setting behind the mountains. When we returned we were entertained by the staff at the Cowboy Entertainment. Not only are the college kids friendly and nice, they are also very talented. I won’t give away any details but trust me when I tell you that it was a fun and interactive evening, and a don’t miss. The girls baked Kris a cake for her birthday and everyone sang to her under the evening sky. Around 10pm every evening is “lights out”. It is exactally what it says. The generator is turned off and all the power is shut off. We were warned to bring a flashlight with us. At first its a bit dark to say the least but once you get used to the dark you are treated to the best view of the stars you have ever seen. We were able to watch the satellites orbit the earth. Shooting stars abound, as do the bats chasing the insects! It got so dark that your eyes actualy adjust and you can see and walk around even though there is no moon. It was an amazing experience and an excellent way to cap our two day adventure.
In the morning we had another wonderful breakfesat and waited for our turn to be helicoptered back to “civilization”. The Bar 10 becomes a very busy airport in the morning between 7 and 10 am. Helicopters and airplanes shuttle people in and out. It runs so smoothly you can’t believe it. I was facinated watching the staff just make it work. They have done this before. We boarded our helicopter and flew back to the South Rim. I will be back to the Bar 10 Ranch … that I guarantee…
A few post scripts about the Bar 10 Ranch.
It is family owned and operated and has been all its life.
The lodge is beautiful and clean and a source of pride.
Inside the Lodge
Inside the Lodge
All meals are home cooked and delicious.
The Staff: Tom, Chantelle, Gooche, Gooche’s Sister (I am so embarrassed I forgot her name. She is one of the best cooks) Nelson, Lexi, Mindy, Caden, The singing Cowboy Brothers, Erica, Isaac, Kristin the rest of the staff and of course Uncle Ned. I can’t say enough about how well we were treated. I felt like a member of the family. Thank you all so much.
The ATVs are all in great condition and cleaned after each ride. Impressive.
Me on the ATV. GoPro Hero on my helmet.
GoPro Hero Camera
The trails are all well maintained.
The Gift Shop is reasonablly priced and has everything you need. Seriously, everything.
If you are going to be in Las Vegas they have daily flights to the ranch. Take a few days and see what the real wild west is about. This is not a road side attraction. It’s the real deal.
The bar 10 ranch is the new high water mark which I will use to compare future adventures. It will not be easily beat.
Canyon Plaza Resort = $172.00
All inclusive Bar 10 Ranch trip = $1795.00
Extras t-shirts, hats, postcards = $109.00
Gas Phoenix to Grand Canyon Airport (round trip) = $55.00
Grand total = $2131.00
Grade A++ 5 stars and 5 diamond highest possible score.