Friday, August 24, 2007


Sorry I wasn’t able to post yesterday, the internet connection was really flaky. Dad and I decided to hike Bright Angel Trail, which descends about 1,100 into the southwest portion of the canyon.

It’s really fantastic to see the canyon walls at eye level, and then as you descend further seeing them tower above you against the deep blue sky.

There were several places where the rock layers became very distinct—and to think that most people believe that tiny little Colorado River laid down thousands of feet of sediment and then carved the canyon!

I’m sorry but the Creationist explanation—namely that the Flood deposited the layers, and that a massive post-Flood lake later burst, letting loose a torrent of water that carved the canyon—is the only sensible conclusion.

I had my eye on the sky (I almost always do) watching the Turkey Vultures circling when I noticed a bird markedly bigger than any vulture I’d ever seen. Training my binoculars on it I knew immediately what I was looking at—my first California Condor. How can you tell? I was asked. Well, if you see a bird the size of an airplane… :) Condors resemble eagles due to their wing shape (the splayed primaries) and size (up to a 10 foot wingspan!); they’re easy to tell apart from Turkey vultures because they’re about twice as big, the white markings under the wing are on the leading edge, and if seen from above, they have a sort of rectangular white outline at the base of each wing.

Turkey Vulture

Look at the size difference. Stretch your arms out and then imagine a bird with a wingspan almost twice that, weighing close to 30 lbs.

You probably know that the CA Condor has been highly endangered for many years (I don’t know the cause) and the truth is, there are only about 100 existing in the wild—all tagged and monitored of course. The only places to see them are Grand Canyon and southern California, and we saw three! Raptors rely on midday heat thermals to soar, since it allows them to spiral upward without any effort, so the condors kept circling for a while above us. Dad got some pictures, and in fact we were later able to identify all three by the tags on their wings. I’m thrilled we got to see these birds.

If you hike in the canyon BRING WATER. This is not an option. :) It usually gets very hot, and even if it doesn’t the dry air and exertion really wear you out.

After the hike, Dad and I decided to take one of the free shuttles that runs along the canyon rim to visit various viewpoints along the way (we hoped to see the condors up close, but they weren’t around). We stopped at Trailview point (appropriately named because you get a birds-eye-view of the Bright Angel Trail, and others snaking their way down to the canyon floor) Maricopa point, Powell point (named for John Wesley Powell, the first man to explore the canyon by boat—we got a copy of his account, sounds like a wild ride :) Hopi point, and others.

Bright Angel Trail

Several times the road got within just a few feet of a sheer drop, so the bus driver offered some great advice: “If you don’t like heights just close your eyes like I do.” ;) The destination was Hermit’s Rest, where they had a nice little gift and snack shop.

We found this beautiful plaque posted in plain sight right outside the shop—I love that!

Views from along the rim

There were several really cool promontories that jutted straight out into the canyon. I sure look pretty happy teetering on the edge there... :)

To cap it off we drove out to the southeastern rim to the historic Desert View Watchtower for the sunset. It was absolutely gorgeous. By 6:50 p.m. the canyon rim was flooded in orange light, so we took the opportunity for a few group shots. Perfect ending to a fantastic day.


Stephenb said...

"Bringing water is not an option"...

That reminds me of a story that my cello teacher told me of when they went down there. Apparently, a group of Mexicans (who else) thought that it was simply because Americans were wimpy that they advised to bring extra water. They didn't, and halfway back up were suffering from the heat and begging passesers-by for their water. Typical, huh?!

Benjamin said...

Crazy Mexicans, that's just ridiculous, especially in the middle of summer.

It was a really thirsty hike, but we had just enough water to get us through alright. Next time we're going to the bottom, so we'll probably need about 40 lbs. of water to get to the river :)