Thursday, January 1, 2015

Differing Perspectives - From North Rim to South Rim, Grand Canyon - Day 7 - September 21, 2015

After the exciting day of travel the day before, we were in for the most staggeringly beautiful day yet on this trip. It's hard to believe now, in retrospect, everything that we saw in this remarkable part of the country on this one day. Waking up in our camp site on the North Rim, we cooked some breakfast over a fire, enjoyed our coffee, broke camp, and then it was a short drive to the Lodge and the trail head for Bright Angel Point. 

It has taken the Colorado river over six million years to carve this canyon from the rock, and at some points it is 6,000 ft. deep and 18 miles across at its widest.  This is considered "arid-land erosion" and the canyon is 277 miles long. In its geologic formations, you can see three of earth's four eras of geologic history. Let's consider it a work in progress.

It was a short, but precarious, walk from the lodge to the overlook even with the paved trail to get out there. Bright Angel Point basically sits at the end of a needle-like peninsula that sticks out into the canyon. I can imagine that a lot of people become unable to go further, if they suffer from fear of heights or vertigo. Worth the effort to get past the nominal fears the trail and heights induce though.

Here's an awesome example of my video taking skills!  Check out the view from Bright Angel Point! 

North Rim - Grand Canyon - September 21, 2014 from Briana Taylor on Vimeo.

Setting out early, so that we could enjoy some time at the South Rim before sunset, we traveled back through Kaibab National Forest, past the Vermillion Cliffs, back over the Navajo Bridge, and followed 89 South until we hit 64 East, which is basically the entrance to the Grand Canyon from the Eastern side. This is not the main entrance to the Park, as it seems most people are coming from the Flagstaff area. We were hoping to get a camp site at Desert View Campgrounds, just inside the Park. We had reservations at the Mather Campground near the main Grand Canyon Village, but that would add another 26 miles to our estimated 189 we were due to travel that day. Desert View was also more isolated, with only 50 camp sites, and on a first come, first serve basis. 

Traveling back through Kaibab we stopped in this burned out area on top of the ridge that leads back down to the Vermillion Cliffs. In the photo below, you can see them looming off in the far distance.  The burned out area was exquisitely beautiful, and despite it being the end of September, it was full of spring colors. Chartreuse, and an abundance of white, purple, and pink flower, and thistles in full bloom. The contrasting black of the burned trees and various logs laying around the landscape was stunning, surrounded by such new growth all around. 

 Crossing the Navajo Bridge again ...
We had luck, and found a camping spot at Desert View on the far Eastern edge of the South Rim. It was site #44, and being a first come, first serve campground made it likely for us to find a spot so late in the season. The spot was so perfectly isolated from the rest of the campground, and we only had one neighbor across the way which we could see. I'll tell you about them in the next day's post!

I had spotted elk prints out behind our camp site and when Jeff returned from paying the camping fee, I brought him out to show him the tracks I had found. We were surprised by a small tarantula, who was quickly moving along the elk tracks. Not what I expected to show Jeff at that moment, but it was a very cool surprise. After, I walked over to the restrooms, and visited with the camp host, whose camper was right next to the facilities. I told him about the tarantula, and he informed me that they were migrating at this time of year!  Tarantula Migration... Seriously?!  These amazing arachnids migrate...  So very cool, and scary too.  We were certain to close up the tent every time we went in and out so that we wouldn't wake up to a furry friend nested in our bed.

Our camp host hailed from Maine, and this was his first year at Grand Canyon. He looked like Walt Whitman, with a giant white and gray beard, and larger than life build. He was busy sweeping one of the said tarantulas that had wandered into the ladies room. He said he hoped to hear the elks bugling on this night. It was now high rutting season for the elks and the males were busy scouting, fighting, and bellowing for mates.

Here, you can see by this map, we stayed in Desert View, instead of traveling over to Mather campground. We had come around from the right side and entered the park on the Desert View side. 

Taking the opportunity to get a glimpse of the South Rim from Desert View before the sun would set, and also needing some supplies for the camp, we headed over to the Visitor center. It's a small center, compared to Grand Canyon Village, 26 miles to the west of this spot, but the views are spectacular from here and it's much quieter on a tourist level.  The sun was setting pretty rapidly, but we felt very leisurely about walking along the rim of this part of the canyon. It was very quiet with not too much wind, as at Bright Angel Point in the morning.  I've never seen anything like it, and was stunned by the sheer vastness of the landscape all around. I found it hard to get my mind around the scene, and it all seemed so unreal. I felt myself looking and looking, and now, three months later, I finally feel like I've recorded this scene in my mind as a reality. Revisiting these photos as time progresses actually has had the effect of anchoring the memories in my mind. 

Later, after setting up the camp site, we did hear the bugling of the elks! They began their calls in the early afternoon, and continued to call throughout the night into the early morning. If you are interested in hearing what they sound like, check out this video on YouTube of an elk calling.

The following photos will sum up the views we took in from this side of the South Rim. I hope to go back here and get to stay for some time.