Musings of a roaming nature nerd

Archive for March, 2013

The Grand Canyon: Week Nine and Beyond…

Day 57: Into the canyon we go! One last weekend romance with our new found rocky, craggy love. Although mere miles from the Bright Angel, the terrain and landscape along the South Kaibab trail provided new perspectives and surprises around every bend. I found myself exclaiming cliches “It’s so amazing!” “We’re so lucky!” “Just look at the colors!” as if I had not been living here for the past two months. The fresh excitement of the experience reminded me of just how little I have really seen of this most magnificent place, and truly how lucky I am to be here at all.


Day 58: The Inner Canyon Rocks! (Click below and then click the link a second time in the next window, to watch a short video)

Inner Canyon


Day 59: Serenaded by canyon wrens as we walked, our ascent was long and hot and completely awesome. Condors soared high in the sky, ancient ruins hidden above ancient trails beckoned with mystery, and soon ten miles and 4400 feet disappeared behind our laughter and delight at spending another day in this place.


Day 60: Beginning of my last week on the job. Back into the distance learning studio to connect with schools around the country. I observed and practiced with my coworkers today, getting back into the groove of high-tech teaching!


Day 61: An early morning text from Jason “EVGR near the market!” made me drop everything and race off for some spontaneous birding. Evening Grosbeaks (EVGR) are birds I have been hoping to see since we arrived. Their fantastically brilliant yellow color, their ginormous bill, their gregarious, charismatic behavior and their yet to be explained population decline make these birds intriguing on many levels. Not only did I manage to see (though unfortunately not get great photos of) about a dozen Grosbeaks, but numerous other residents as well. Below is a Mountain Chickadee, Evening Grosbeak (female), Red-naped Sapsucker (female), and Pygmy Nuthatch.


Day 62: Back into the studio to connect with schools in North Carolina and on Long Island, NY (of all places!). This grant and donation funded set-up allows for hundreds of students to experience the magic of the canyon and gain important earth science knowledge each week. As much as I love the personal connection which only comes from classroom visits, the kids who join us over the internet are usually bubbling over with enthusiasm and are ready for a memorable and hopefully life-shaping experience!



Day 63: A farewell lunch and photo-op with my amazing coworkers! While the canyon itself has undoubtedly reached me on a very personal and (I almost hesitate to say it) perhaps even spiritual level, it is always the friends and community which will perhaps be missed the most. Not only have I rediscovered myself as an educator through the help of these wonderful people, but I feel that my life has been enriched through knowing each and every person in this photo. I can only hope that in a small way, the contribution I have made to the canyon and to this incredible team of people has a positive and lasting impact as well.


Day 64, 65, 66 and 67: As we packed and cleaned and shared meals with friends and hiked and laughed and bought a few souvenirs, our time began to run faster and faster. Despite the joy, each hour began to feel like a long, painful, drawn out good-bye. If there is nothing else I have discovered over the years, it is that while many aspects of the nomadic lifestyle satisfy me greatly, the transitions become ever more difficult. As I write this from our “new-old home” in hot, sunny southern California, I do realize that every place offers something special and unique and as for the Grand Canyon it is not “Good-bye” but just a simple “See ya later…”  So without dwelling on the bittersweet, I offer the last images from our last days.





The Grand Canyon: Week Seven and Week Eight (Yuma)

Busy-ness and travel have consumed my time recently. Even though I have made an effort at capturing photos each day, I haven’t found the time to update the blog. I’m headed into the canyon again in a few short hours for one last trek, so I though I better take a few minutes to share the past two weeks. My camera jammed up a few days ago (too much sand whipping through the air and into the lens) so week eight, spent teaching in Yuma, is not well represented. In any case, I’ll keep doing my best! Only about one week left here at the Grand Canyon. This place we have called home for only a short time feels more like a true home, through the beauty of the landscape and the warmth of the community, than most of the places we have lived for much longer.
Week Seven
Day 44: We took Gaby out for an official welcome breakfast at El Tovar and then spent our morning discussing the plight of the Condors and looking for them in a few favorite roost sites down inside the canyon. Jason snapped this shot while Gaby and I watched three birds far, far below… One even taking a bath in a puddle atop the butte!


Day 45: I love looking for interesting ways the light will play with both the natural environment and the man-made one. Something about the shadows near sunset today really struck me as beautiful.


Day 46: Red Butte, about 15 miles south of the park boundary, affords an short but amazing hike with views of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff and back toward the canyon’s rim. This special geologic area is one of the only nearby landforms to show off younger rocks that would have once also been atop the canyon, but have since eroded away. The youngest rocks at the Grand Canyon are 270 million years old, but Red Butte rises up with remnants and outcroppings of younger layers, providing clues to younger landscapes that once graced this region. We did not see any new fossils along the snowy, muddy trail, but did come across some chunks of petrified wood, left behind from a forest long ago.


Day 47: Walking home from work though the Ponderosa Pines, I just had to stop and marvel several times at the intricacy of their bark. Though providing tiny hidey-holes for insects to spend their lives in, woodpeckers still hammer through and scoop them up from those homes. However those holes left behind by woodpeckers, in turn create homes for new critters like the spider living deep inside this one.


Day 48: Another storm today turned the forest into a swirling, sparkling, wondrous scene of winter!


Day 49: Before heading to Flagstaff with Kaylyn for an evening outreach event at a middle school, I enjoyed exploring the forest in the fresh snowfall.


Day 50: Visiting Ranger Maci out at Desert View ended a great week. I learned why the prickly pear cacti are so purple right now (lack of water- makes sense of course!) and I learned how awesome it is to reconnect with old friends. The nomadic lifestyle may not always allow for traditional friendships, but it does allow for many joyous reunions and the slow, meaningful, deepening of connections over the years.


Week Eight
Days 51-56: Without a properly functioning camera, this week has been somewhat left behind. I traveled to California with a load of our stuff in preparation for the upcoming departure and then headed down to Yuma for my last Ranger-Visits-to-Classrooms. I visited some old bird survey sites from two years ago and discovered that the process of restoration is well underway. My former site that had been covered in tamarisk and smelled of rotten sauerkraut is now gone. All the invasive vegetation ripped out in preparation for new, healthy plantings of cottonwood, mesquite and other native species which will hopefully start to turn the ravaged Colorado River ecosystem around. Now it’s down into the canyon… Just a week or so left…