Archive for the ‘Grand Canyon’ Category

May 26: North Rim

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

We got to the Jacob Lake Inn as planned late in the afternoon of May 25, and had a few moments of panic as their computer system said that we had reserved the nights of May 24 and 25th instead of 25th and 26th. Fortunately, Robin had the confirmation email on her phone, and they were very nice about it, finding us rooms. The meal options are limited in the area — there’s a KFC somewhere nearby, but you’re pretty much committed to eating at the Inn. It’s in the woods, with trails leading out through the pines. I never did make it to the lake, which I understand is actually just a small pond anyway. I did hike in about a mile before breakfast, seeing loads of Grace’s Warblers and Yellow-Rumped Warblers, along with a bunch of Flickers, and the very peculiar Kaibab Squirrel with its fluffy white tail. One lifer in the woods — Plumbeous Vireo, which I heard singing everywhere, and finally got some good looks at.

North Rim

We headed for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the morning. The scenery is completely different from what you get approaching the south rim; on the south, it’s high desert scrubland, while from the north it’s tall conifers and broad alpine wetland meadows. As we neared the park boundary, I looked out the window and saw a Mountain Bluebird perched on a sign — a lifer with the naked eye at 50 mph.

At the park, we went to the visitor center and the lodge, where we made a reservation for an early dinner. Then we decided to drive east along the rim to visit several overlooks. As we started driving on the rim road, it started to snow — first a few wet slushy flakes, then little snowball pellets, and eventually just big flakes and lots of them. We had some very chilly views. When we finally got out to Point Royal, the snow let up and there was a little sun for our walk out to the overlook.

North Rim

North Rim

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When we got back to the visitor center the sun had come out and it was actually pretty pleasant. As we had about an hour and a half before our dinner reservation, we decided to take a loop hike near the center, which was pleasant enough until it started to rain about halfway through. By the time we got to the lodge for our dinner, we were pretty damp and cold. Dinner was outstanding, though, so we ended the day in pretty good spirits.

May 25, 2016: Condors! Oh, and the Grand Canyon.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

From Flagstaff to Jacob Lake near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, our next stop, is only about a 3 hour drive. So we decided that since I’d never been, we could throw in a detour to the South Rim on the way. We got there around 10:30 or so, and I was kind of astounded at the huge crowd of people on a Wednesday morning not even really in summer vacation season. The canyon itself is spectacular, and as everyone says, it’s like being in a postcard. It’s just too big to really grasp. We walked around a bit at the visitor center, and I noticed some birds swooping overhead. Those long, thin wings tipped me off, and a quick look with binoculaArs confirmed that they were White-throated Swifts. Finally saw them for real, and a legitimate lifer. I also had a mammal lifer, Cliff Chipmunk, who was hanging around waiting for crumbs while we ate. Don’t worry, we didn’t feed the animals. No desire to get the plague.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Cliff Chipmunk

After lunch at the visitor center, we headed east to Desert View, where we had some nice photo ops. Peggy and I climbed to the top of the Watchtower, an interesting early 20th century faux-indigenous bit of architecture. You can see the San Francisco peaks back in Flagstaff from the top floor.

Grand Canyon

The main event for the drive, though, was to cross the Colorado at Navajo Bridge and look for California Condors. I’d checked it out in ebird in advance, and that’s the most reliable spot on our whole trip to see them. I was really a little worried that we wouldn’t see them and it would be a big disappointment. I needn’t have been. We pulled off in a parking area on the east side of the river, from which you can walk out onto the old bridge, now a pedestrian span. As soon as I got to the foot of the old bridge, I could see a group of guys with giant telephoto lenses all looking at the same spot on the canyon wall, and I knew that the condors must be there.

Sure enough, two condors were perched on a much-guano-stained ledge. Everyone got to see them very well, and I took way too many pics, and then one of them launched himself off the rock and soared over to the bridge. I managed to get a shot of him in flight, and then a nice close one leaning too far over the railing. Me, that is, not the bird. Then the other condor also flew, and I got a couple of shots of that one starting to take off. All in all, it was a very satisfying experience.

California Condor

California Condor

California Condor

At Hamner’s insistence, I did the Chicken Dance on the bridge while he photographed me. Another lifer, bringing my total to 515 — 34 in the past week on this trip.

Chicken Dance

We drove on to the Jacob Lake Inn, where we’re staying the next two nights. It sits right in the pine woods, so I have hopes for woodpeckers. Tomorrow to the North Rim.