Ten Reasons to Visit Marble Canyon, Arizona

As the halfway point between the Grand Canyon’s South and North Rim, Marble Canyon is more than an outpost town. It is a nature lovers gateway to paradise. Considered to be a base camp for Lees Ferry, Marble Canyon is an adventurers thoroughfare. River rafters, backpackers, day hikers, kayakers, and fishermen come from all over the world to experience this jewel of the southwest.

S0361036 (2)

Tourists utilize Marble Canyon’s facilities to refuel their gas tank and grab a bite on their way to the North Rim; many remain unaware of the attractions and adventures that this outpost town has to offer. Below are ten reasons why you should consider spending a  few days exploring Marble Canyon.



The two Navajo bridges, one historic and one new, represent one of only seven land crossings of the Colorado River for seven hundred miles.


Serving as a pedestrian crossing, the historic bridge provides visitors with an opportunity to observe river rafters floating down the Colorado River and the chance to see the endangered California condor.





Only 225 California condors are living in the wild and 75 reside in Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.


These majestic birds are often seen flying in the thermal currents and roosting on the steel girders underneath the Navajo Bridge.




The Lower Cathedral Wash Trail is located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This 2.5 mile round trip trail ends at Cathedral Rapid on the Colorado River.




Directly across from Lees Ferry campground is Paria Beach. Known for its white sand and turquoise water, Paria Beach is a great place to watch rafters navigate their first set of rapids down the Grand Canyon.





This historic ranch, which lies near the mouth of the Paria River, was home to the families who operated Lees Ferry. Living in a such an isolated area demanded a self-sufficient lifestyle. Harvesting their own fruit and vegetables, these pioneers turned a barren desert into a green oasis.


The main ranch buildings are a short walk from the parking area. Be sure to tour the orchard, log cabins, stone house, and the pioneer cemetery.




If you visit the ranch cemetery, follow the dirt road all way the until you reach the Paria River Trail. Whether it’s a short nature walk or full-blown day hike, Paria River is a wilderness area begging to be explored.


For dog owners, this is a great place to take the dog for a hike and swim.



As the official start of the Grand Canyon, Lees Ferry boat ramp is a great place to watch commercial and private rafting expeditions launch.



For the price of a kayak rental and backhaul shuttle, you can explore a sixteen mile stretch of the Colorado River. Rated as a Class 1 paddle, I highly recommend spending a few days camping and kayaking your way back to Lees Ferry.


For a detailed trip report


Backhaul Services



Kayak Rentals





Home to more than 20,000 wild trout per mile, Lees Ferry ranks as one of the nation’s top fishing destinations. Guided excursions, private and rented boats, and walk-in fishing are permitted for fifteen canyon miles upstream from Lees Ferry boat ramp. I highly recommend hiring a local fishing guide to take you upriver to fish the backwaters, gravel bars, and main river channel.

S0057005 (2).jpg









Lees Ferry Campground is located 1.5 miles from the boat ramp. Wind breaks, flush toilets, and a waste station are available for RV’S. First come, first serve, at $20 a night.


“Using friend as a verb is a recent phenomenon, thanks to Facebook. In a verb world, friending is a simple click taking only seconds to bridge a connection. In a noun world, being a friend requires a real investment of time.”


Facebook friends, are they really our friends?

Has social media redefined our sense of values about friendship?

Could a friendship simply be “knowing someone” or “having them on your Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn?”

What is the difference between an online friendship as opposed to a face to face friendship?

Has Facebook become a melting pot of strangers and online acquaintances who have yet to meet in the flesh?

Separate of established friends, family, and co-workers, how many friendships have you formed online through community interest groups?

What was the commonality required in order for you to click on a stranger’s name to invite a friendship?

Would political or religious differences lead you to ending a Facebook friendship?

th (2)

To unfriend someone on Facebook is rather common, no explanations or reasons are needed. With a simple click, you can virtually disappear from someone’s life.

Would you end a valued friendship this way in the real world?

Has social media crippled our communication skills?

Do we hide behind the keyboard instead of having face to face conversations?

Have we become emotionally braver via text, yet cowardice in limbic conversations?


Can a form of emotional intimacy be established online?

Could this online vulnerability transform a virtual friendship into a face to face friendship?

Why do some of us feel safer disclosing intimate personal details via a keyboard as opposed to a sit down with a cup of coffee?

Are we more willing to share our world from the safety of our laptop?


These are some of the questions that have floated around in my head since moving to Vermilion Cliffs nine months ago. Has Facebook been more a friend or foe since living remotely?

Personally, I feel Facebook has helped me maintain long-term friendships, in addition to creating and establishing new relationships. My internet communications have become so intimate that I now feel it’s possible to cultivate authentic relationships online. I often wonder how many of us get the chance to meet some of our online confidants and actually spend quality time with them. In this regard, I consider myself extremely fortunate, as I was able to meet some of my online friends this year. Not only did meeting them in person make our relationship stronger, it reinforced what connected us in the first place, authenticity!


Ranger Karen drove 300 miles out of her way to come by and say “HI!”. Her spontaneity and eagerness to meet in person made my day, month and year. Karen was a blog follower and a Facebook friend, who I met through the full timer’s RV community.


Sethi is a Bay Area native, who I met through the John Muir Trail Facebook community. Sometimes our phone service out here is unreliable, and even though she could not reach me via phone she still came out to see me.

S0523094 (2)

Fortunately, I was home and spent the day together hiking and bonding in the mud.


Renee is a fellow nomad I met through Facebook travel communities. I think mainstream society would be surprised to learn that there are many women traveling solo, deciding not to wait for the ultimate travel partner, instead they are living in the now.


Jackie is yet another Facebook friend I met through the full timers RV community. When I was researching alternative ways of living, she offered some very helpful advice regarding potential LGBT job discrimination.


I was curious to learn more about Jackie’s life on the road and asked if she would be willing to sit down for an interview. Without hesitation, she said “Yes” and then later that evening we spent two hours filming. Look for a blog about her story in 2015. In the meantime here is part of her story.


According to recent studies by the Pew Research Center, Facebook users average about 338 friends each. It makes one wonder if it’s possible to sustain friendships with over 300 people at one time?

Anthropologist Robin Dunbar believes our brains aren’t big enough to hold all the information necessary to maintain relationships with hundreds of people. In 1993, Dunbar conducted research to determine the cognitive limits of a person’s effective real-world social network, where individuals know who each person in that network is and how each relates to every other person. Although his research was based primarily on animal and primate interactions, Dunbar’s analysis and theories have since been applied in psychological and sociological circles and have given rise to “Dunbar’s number.” That limit, it seems, is about 150 people including your favorite waitress, your boss, co-workers, people you attend church and social functions with, classmates, and so on. But that’s just the limit of people you can maintain stable relationships with, much less friendship.

download (1)

It’s estimated that the average American spends 37 minutes on social media each day. That’s a full day each month spent cultivating relationships in front of a screen. Cumulatively, Americans spend 115 billion minutes each month on Facebook.

Are we sacrificing time that could otherwise be invested in real-time face to face friendships?

What if one lives remotely and face to face time is not an option?

Is it possible that the larger your “network” the shallower your connections become?

How would you measure the depth in your network connections?

By immersing ourselves in social media, are we ultimately choosing quantity over quality in our friendships?

download (2)

A college friend of mine confessed that having lots of friends and dozens of “likes” on her Facebook status gave her an ego boost. I asked which posting seemed to generate the most traffic. Her top three topics you may wonder; updates about her dog, complaints about her co-workers, and pictures of her homemade desserts. I have noticed my dog Shadow has quite a following and fan base on my Facebook page.


Photographs from my adventures and backpacking trips also tend to generate a lot of attention, in addition to my random commentary on human behavior.


It has been suggested when someone’s Facebook status highlights a personal trauma or an oppressive circumstance, Facebook friends offer minimal virtual support. In my experience, I have seen a community of caring, compassionate, supportive friends that have rallied around a Facebook friend in need. At the same time, I have also seen Facebook pages go silent when someone struggling with their mental health has cried out for help. Perhaps in some ways Facebook does emulate the real world, at times uncomfortable situations render us silent and visibly invisible.

download (4)


For me, Facebook offers three types of connection: connection, reconnection, and disconnection. Facebook has afforded me connections with like-minded individuals who might otherwise be strangers. Facebook has reconnected me with old high school friends and most recently my childhood best friend.

With that said, I feel the disconnection lies in the reality we spend more time commenting on social gossip and educating ourselves less about social issues and political news. Have we become less engaged politically and socially since Facebook? Has Facebook empowered our knowledge and increased our awareness, or has it served merely as a distraction from reality?

In 2014, my reality was living remotely. I learned you cannot hide in an outpost town, it’s simply easier to live as an open book. I chose to live the same way on Facebook, naked if you will. Perhaps by stripping down socially it has made me more open to experiences with strangers, and undoubtedly more willing to say YES to the unknown.


Whatever the outcome, we can always say: “Old age happens when the regrets have taken the place of the projects.” Michèle & Gaétan

S0565072 (2)

On a mid October afternoon my fantasy 4×4 Adventure vehicle pulled into the parking lot at Lees Ferry Lodge. Fortunately for me, the restaurant was slow, so without hesitation I marched outside to meet the owners of this dream machine.

S0305043 (2)

Meet Michèle and Gaétan, a delightful couple from France. Michèle and Gaétan first met in 1976, and after spending 26 years together they finally bit the bullet and married in 2002. In 2010 , Gaétan started contemplating his pending 2012 retirement. He tried to imagine what his days would look like while he waited 8 years for his wife to retire. Considering Gaétan spent 33 years as a truck driver, the idea of spending more time alone in retirement did not sound appealing. Yes he could fill the days with gardening, mowing the lawn, and completing DIY projects, however ultimately he really wanted to travel.

S0555071 (2)

Have you ever entertained a radical idea and turned it into a reality?

Would the idea seem less radical once you entertain it and make it happen?

What would you be willing to give up in order to gain something greater?

For Michèle and Gaétan , “radical meant we will live with less, but we shall live otherwise.”

In order to pursue their travel dreams Michèle retired early, they sold their house, and used the funds to purchase their all terrain home on wheels.

S0625078 (2)

With their minimal English and my nonexistent French language skills we  gestured our way into the lodge for some drinks and dessert.

Snapshot 5 (10-14-2014 10-57 PM) (2)

I am still not sure what was more contagious; Michèle and Gaétan’s love of life, or their willingness to explain the details of their international road trip.

S0255035 (2)

I was determined to learn more about Michèle and Gaétan’s journey.Where did they start in North America? How did they transport their vehicle to in North America? What country was their final destination?

Perhaps this is how foreigners tried to communicate before Google translator?

I would later find a few maps on http://www.lescapadedesmigati.fr/ that documented their journey across North America.Their adventure began by ferrying their home on wheels to Halifax, Canada. Michèle said it was cheaper to ship their vehicle to Canada as opposed to the U.S.A. Personally I think Halifax is a great starting point, here is the map that documents their travels throughout Canada.


S0275039 (2)

After leaving Vancouver, the couple off roaded through some of the most stunning scenery the U.S.A. has to offer.





On this day I felt blessed that Lees Ferry Lodge had become a stop on Michèle and Gaétan’s adventure map. After leaving Arizona Michèle and Gaétan headed to California before venturing south into Mexico. From what I understand they are South America bound.

S0575073 (2)

The beauty about residing and working in a remote area is that you never know who you are going to encounter on any given day of the week. Every stranger I have met out here has a story. At times I think we have become so disconnected from our own humanity that we have transferred this lack of interest onto our fellow human beings. Everyone has a story, sadly the majority of human experiences will remain untold simply because no one ever bothered to ask.


For the past 8 months I have worked in he hospitality industry. As a newbie there was a lot to learn, however I think the most important component of the hospitality industry is understanding the meaning of the word. Biblically, hospitality means for the love of strangers. In order to enjoy the business you must love strangers and perhaps even be in touch with your inner Curious George.

th (1)

So the next time someone says “Did you hear about the retired French couple who sold everything and bought a $200K adventure van to explore the world?”

Tell them, “why YES I have!”

S0535069 (2)


“We’re all strangers connected by what we reveal, what we share, what we take away, and our stories”


A couple from New Mexico sat down at Lees Ferry Lodge to have lunch. As I handed them menus, I asked them in my mixed Australian/ American accent, “So what brings you to this neck of the woods?” Smiling, the women replied, “The vastness of space”. “Wide open spaces tend to make people less guarded,” I replied. “Perhaps the desert permits a vulnerability that city landscapes tend to imprison”.


The husband nodded in agreement, as his wife enquired about my experiences with people visiting the lodge in Vermilion Cliffs. I told them it seems people who venture out this way seem to be more willing to share their life, thoughts, and dreams. Spend five minutes with a patron and you will learn more about their life than they would ever share in the city.

As I took the couple’s order, the husband asked where I was from. “Australia,” was my reply. It seems my accent tends to be an icebreaker for both American and foreign tourists. For American’s, they insist I sound like Crocodile Dundee, while Aussies are somewhat horrified as to how American I sound. The Brits are relieved to find out I’m Australian, because they know I will bring them milk for their tea and coffee, as opposed to America’s coffee whitener, half n half. Europeans are somewhat relieved as they know I will understand when they share a meal, as they find American portion sizes to be rather gluttonous.

During their lunch, the wife who I will refer to as Dr. C, told me she studied Tibetan Buddhism, which led her to traveling and working in remote areas of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. I told her about my experiences in Northern Thailand, in addition to studying Shinto Buddhism, while living in Japan.

As I prepared their bill, Dr. C signaled for me to come to her side of the table. With a very sincere, yet serious face, she reached for my hand and said, “Leigh, you are someone who travels to remote areas, you would be the perfect person to scatter my ashes after my passing”.

Surprised by her request, yet feeling very honored, my answer without a moment’s hesitation was “YES”. Dr. C’s husband looked me square in the face and told me his wife was very serious about her request.

In a gentle tone, I kindly asked his wife to leave her chair and approach the counter. I wanted to show both her and her husband I was serious about keeping my word and carrying part of her ashes with me throughout my travels. It was at this point, I got my co-worker to grab my camera and capture my promise in action.


“By carrying you in the living, I honor my commitment to carry you in death” were my promissory words to Dr. C ,as we began our piggy back ride up and down the bar.


Terrified I would drop her, her husband watched on until he realized I could carry his wife comfortably around the bar.


While many of us may fear death, there are some people like Dr. C, ensuring a death that involves frequent flyers miles and hiking boots. I have always hoped I would pass on a mountain. It seems more serene than a hospital bed or dying of a terminal disease in a nursing home.

For me, perhaps the idea of being henpecked by buzzards on a mountain ridge seems more natural than lying on a cold tray at a mortuary, and being injected with formaldehyde. Yes, cremation is an option; however, being turned into human powder remains just as unappealing.

As Dr. C and her husband left for New Mexico, my co-worker was quick to comment, “Leigh, now that was destiny”. If destiny is a hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future, what do we call experiences and events that happen in real-time, the now?

Was Dr. C meant to play a role in my destiny, or could it be that I am predestined to play a role in hers? I feel we are all destined to play a role in each other’s lives. Life really is one big undirected movie, and you just never know who will play the lead and supporting roles in your life. In the meantime, piggyback rides now have a whole new meaning for me.



“Good afternoon gentlemen” was my opening line, as three bikers walked through the front door of Lees Ferry Lodge. As they approached the bar, “DICE” enquired as to where his boys should sit for lunch.


You can sit anywhere you want my friend, wherever you feel comfortable was my response from the other side of the counter.  Without hesitation Coach, Dice and Bullet sat down at the bar.


After taking their lunch orders and engaging in some small talk, Coach mentioned that sitting at the bar was something of a luxury and privilege. I guess the surprised look on my face prompted a warranted explanation from Bullet.


Bullet explained how their biker image often caused them to be seated in the far corner of eating establishments. Coach asked if I was afraid of bikers. My reply was rather instant, not in the slightest!


Contrary to the biker images of outlaw gangs, tattoos, and hard face stares; I felt my experience with bikers had been one of regular men and women who simply enjoy riding and belonging to a club.

DSCF4452 (2)

Over lunch, we talked about their road trip, politics and social issues. It seemed the one social issue they wore on their heart, sleeve, and vest, was their support of child abuse survivors. Bikers Against Child Abuse is an international non-profit organization of motorcycle riders that works to create a safer environment for abused kids.


Dice was quick to point out that BACA members are not vigilantes. BACA works in conjunction with police and social workers. Local authorities will refer a child to a BACA chapter. Upon referral, the chapter “adopts” the identified child. The child instantly gains an extended family of brothers and sisters they can call anytime.

I can only imagine how empowered and protected a child would feel from an entire chapter visit, not to mention being assigned a road name with a biker’s vest.

For a moment consider a child’s reality of testifying in court? Would you feel safe having your abuser present in the courtroom? Would it help if your extended family of bikers escorted you into the courtroom?

As Dice told me, “The kids feel less alone and protected by their presence.” Coach said, “The chapter is available to the child 24/7 regardless of the reason.” I wondered why I had never heard of BACA prior to meeting these guys. I found it somewhat ironic that these protectors were seen as problematic and considered a social eyesore in some restaurants.

Bullet asked me if I had ever spent time with bikers or been on a bike before. The answer was no on both accounts; however, I did tell them bikers and hikers have a few things in common. Hikers have trail names, bikers have road names. Perhaps hikers have better memories though as we do not patch our name on our clothing.


Hikers and bikers offer a community of connection and common interest. We are not defined or separated in status by our profession or income; it’s the love of the road or being on trail.
Hikers and bikers love to meet strangers; we really are very social loving creatures. At times society considers bikers to be loud troublemakers while hikers are perceived as dirt friendly granola eating earthlings.
Hikers and Bikers both appreciate simplicity. We travel light, pack small, and LIVE big. The road binds a biker’s brother and sisterhood, yet they still maintain their individuality by riding their own ride. Hikers share the same trail, we break bread with strangers, yet we still hike our own hike. I feel this is where we share the same defining factor, our sense of FREEDOM. For it seems we seek, find and experience FREEDOM on the road and trail.


As the gentlemen paid their tab, Bullet succumbed to some peer pressure and belted out some Bob Seger tunes. Earlier at lunch, Dice had mentioned how amazing Bullet’s voice was. I asked Bullet who his favorite artist was. Without hesitation, he said Bob Seger. Bullet admitted he loves to cover Bob Seger, yet but we both agreed no one should ever try to replicate “Turn the Page”.

As the Bikers Against Child Abuse headed out onto the 89A; all I could think of was Bob Seger’s lyric line. “Here I am, on the road again.”

S0598649 (2)

I felt honored to have served these gentlemen and blessed that they were willing to share part of their lives with me. And YES, it’s ok if you sit here!

DSCF4451 (2)