MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finally Made It To the Grand Canyon!

For someone that loves the National Parks, like I do, it has been a black-eye on my excursions that I have never made it to the Grand Daddy of the National Park system.  If you think about the big ones, Grand Canyon ranks up there... high up there.  Now, finally, I can say that I have seen it with my own two eyes.   While this was only a day trip - I definitely saw a lot at the South Rim - took in a hike, two ranger talks, took lots of pictures, watched the inspirational film at the Visitor Center, climbed the Watchtower, and oogled jewelry at the Hopi House.

View during Sunset at Mohave Point
I learned at the park that 8 people have died so far this year falling off the ledges.  This is where I laminate about stupid people... do you believe in the Darwin theory?  The strongest survive... well, for tourists, Darwin is about the stupid weening themselves out of the gene pool.  You see signs and are warned by rangers and fences to not go out on the rock ledges.  But do people listen?  NO!  Rangers have noted that men typically ages 20-35 tend to cross fences onto ledges.  From my short day there, I can say that is exactly what I saw.  I really don't understand it - you can get fantastic pictures from the look out points and along the fences.  The ledges really do not look that stable.  In fact, you can hear rocks falling every once and a while... so why go out there?  To tempt fate?  To prove a point?  Because you think you are indestructible?  Well, good luck - it is a long way down...

The first point that I saw in the area was of Little River Canyon.  Just a tributary, this small river has cut its own canyon that feeds into the Grand Canyon.  At a few of the look out points, you can stop, look and shop.  Local tribes' artisans sell their works - and a hint if you are interested in Native American Art... bring cash, it is more affordable than anything in the stores/shops/boutiques.  If you know what you are looking for, you can get a good deal.

Watchtower provides views of the river
Following the 'little' canyon, we made our way to the grand-daddy of them all.  WOO-HOO.  First stop - the watchtower.  From the Watchtower you have views of river; you can see more water here than anywhere else on the Rim.  Inside the Watchtower, you can take in native art, carvings and etchings.  The tower was designed to blend in and honor those that called the canyon first, and serve as a souvenir/artisan  shop...  From the top of the tower, you can great views in all directions.  And from the Watchtower we headed towards the village and visitor center (while taking in a few observation points)  Parked at the Center, we could walk the rim for a few miles and head to a park discussion that efforts to save the condor.   Here, I learned of the egg manipulation done to early condor pairs, where eggs typically not viable were taken from mating pairs, causing the female to drop another.  These eggs were incubated, the young reared by puppet like hands that mimicked condor feeding and eventually released back.  Condors are finally seen in the park again.

The day at the Canyon was capped off with an amazing sunset.  The shuttle driver recommended a few good points to see the painted canyon come to life.  I really have an incredible number of pictures of the event since every inch the sun dipped, the colors of the canyon changed.  Some rocked lit up while others fell into shadow.  They glowed in reds, oranges, yellows and sands.  Condors we spotted (finally). Clouds danced in the sky from the storm that never made it to  the South Rim.  It was truly breath-taking.  After nature's show, we headed to a ranger program on endangered species (I will save my opinions on that), and were treated to another of nature's shows - the night sky.  Since Grand Canyon is so isolated, the sky lite up in ways I have not seen since my trip to Big Bend National Park.  I finally got to see the Milky Way again.  We spent some time craning our necks just to stare that the brilliant displays and wishing we had a camera with a good tri-pod and time lapse capabilities.

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