Musings of a roaming nature nerd

The Grand Canyon: Week Three

Day 16: As I began to amble down the Bright Angel Trail, waiting for my husband to emerge, one of the mule teams trundled past. For over a hundred years these beasts of burden have trekked into and out of the canyon, hauling people, tools, rocks, provisions, even a few of Jason’s beers when he has forgotten them behind! Mules are the sterile offspring of male donkeys and female horses. No generational legacy carries on when all is said and done, but these strong gentle animals keep pushing ever forward through days end.

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Day 17: Rather than skirting the edges, finally it was into the canyon for real! Jason and Vicki and I clambered down together. We passed many people coming up who grimaced and grumbled, but you could see that they also felt such joy in their accomplishment. As they huffed and puffed their way out of one of the most glorious places on earth, the undeniable thrill they carried for their journey shone through and warmed my chilly bones!

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Day 18: What are the words to describe the day exactly? Perhaps sensory images will do? The sound of the Colorado roaring thousands of feet beneath Plateau Point; the ache in my shoulders from sweeping the telemetry antennae; the black specks of Condors across the canyon beeping in my ears; the warmth of endless sun against my cheeks and the grit of mineral sunblock to shield against said warming rays; the bubbling laugh of my friend; the patience and guidance of my love; the flurry of sunlit feathers as a rock wren pulled disappearing acts amongst the rocks; the moon rising and fading in the blue sky; the aerobatics of the ravens, barrel rolling past us; the cold shale seeping through my wool socks and taunting me to put my boots back on; the light as it defined and washed out and cut into and then hid the canyons features.

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Day 19: There are 77 California Condors in the Grand Canyon region. Three weeks ago there were 80. Lead poisoning from tainted carcasses has dropped 3 in this short time. Not only are condors susceptible to the spray of lead ammunition left behind by hunters who refuse to switch to copper ammo, but they are still being somewhat affected by residual DDT and their prehistoric food sources of rotting megafauna are now at least hundreds of years gone. The small population left in the world is heavily managed and monitored as critically endangered. These photos are of two females known as 280 (80) and 634 (L4). 280 is the adult and 634 is her 1 1/2 year old offspring. 634 is too old to be fed by her parents, but she still hangs around them, hopeful for a meal. They ignore her and try to drive her away, but she’s learning slowly. As I headed out of the canyon, I kept thinking of their magnificence (that 9 1/2 foot wing span at close range is breathtaking) and their vulnerability.

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Day 20: Can’t get enough of the views this week. I stopped for a photo just after sunrise near one of the old lodges. Every day I so am happy to be here!

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Day 21: The humidity rose with the temperature and layered the rim in misty fog. Nothing past the edge was visible. Certainly a good day to enjoy the weather from a cozy, warm indoor setting.

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Day 22: Warmth and humid air persisted. I took a walk at mid-day and approached the socked in rim. As I stood quietly looking into the stark white emptiness the clouds began to move. The breeze pulled them back, tossed them about, laid them back down and the ghost of the canyon was gone again. Just one minute of one day.

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