Musings of a roaming nature nerd

The Grand Canyon: Week One

Eight weeks in one National Park is more than many of us will spend in any National Park in a lifetime. I have already had the privilege of living and working in three National Park sites. And growing up on the border of the Gettysburg National Military Park adds a fourth!

One week ago, Jason and I arrived at the Grand Canyon and will be spending our days amongst the glory of ancient rocks, wildlife and tremendous sunsets. We are volunteers and are provided with housing during our appointment. We of course are not paid for our work, but the payment of living in one of the wonders of the world is enough!

I have had such a hard time focusing on this blog in recent months. However, I wanted to capture our time here in this amazing place. These are photos from our first week here at the canyon. I will be documenting and sharing our eight weeks in an attempt to get back into the swing of writing, photography, and appreciating nature with both a scientific and artistic eye.

 

Day 1: Arriving at our new home moments after sunset, the scene before us literally brought tears to my eyes. What a privilege to be in the service of protecting and sharing our nation’s greatest treasures.

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Day 2: The light danced through the towering Ponderosa Pines as we walked near the canyon rim looking for Pygmy Nuthatches and elk. I can’t resist these unique pine trees and pressed my nose into their bark. The smell of vanilla filled my senses and I smiled.

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Day 3: We awoke at dawn for a big day out hiking and exploring. Although the views and the colors and the light in the canyon were all spectacular, nothing quite topped waking up next to my sweetheart and seeing that shining sunrise from our cozy apartment.

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Day 4: First day on the job, much of it spent indoors shuffling between offices, filing paperwork and seeking signatures. By sundown I was ready to stretch my legs. I walked past grazing elk and deer, and underneath ravens settling in to roost for the night. As I approached the rim no sound disturbed the air and no people were in sight. Rejuvenation at last.

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Day 5: My new boss sent me on a scavenger hunt around the south rim of the park. During a stop near the visitor center I looked down toward Plateau Point with my binoculars and saw a sight that warmed my heart. Hiking along the trail were two tiny figures. One in blue and one in red. Blue was one of the wildlife biologists and red was my husband, heading out to a well known roost for California Condors. Though not quite visible in this photo, they are in fact standing together at the farthest end of the trail on the point of rocks below!

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Day 6: I returned home well after sunset, and found the image of my apartment quite comforting. The stars were bright and the night air very cold. Warm mint tea and an evening of quiet reflection indoors were a lovely end to a busy day.

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Day 7: The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and at its widest point about 17 miles across. There are endless places to getaway and never see another soul for days or weeks. Yet here on the south rim the human story mixes readily with the natural story. Almost 1000 people live and work in this developed area of the park. While most of the buildings are only about one hundred or so years old, people have called this area home for 12000 years. While I enjoy getting away from it all, there is also something special about living in a place with such a rich human history. I look forward to learning more about the stories here.

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Day 8: The end of the first week since we arrived and a few inches of fresh snow covered the rim. I took photographs of the park to include in letters I am writing to school children who have written in with questions. Photos will never quite do a landscape like this justice, but I hope a few of those children and their parents will be inspired to travel here someday. As I watched an Indian family arriving at the rim for the first time, literally crying out in excitement, hugging each other, taking an impossible number of pictures, I was reminded of the incalculable value of protecting and preserving these places for all time and for all people.

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