Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Inspire, Educate, Protect...

…That is the mission statement of our employer, the Grand Canyon Association, and as we finish up Week 3 of working, we know wholeheartedly that they have succeeded in their endeavors!   We have learned so much in such a short time about the Canyon, its formation, its ancestral peoples, its wildlife, and its architecture through the Association’s complimentary Junior Ranger Program, a fun way to engage and educate children of all ages (from age 4 to adult) and inspire them to protect our National Parks.  Watch out folks, there’s a new kid in town—it’s me PoPo, the Rambling RV Rat, now a duly-sworn and badge carrying Junior Ranger!

Mom, Dad, even Tabby, joined me in becoming Junior Rangers!

We said goodbye to our co-workers who finished up their Fall/Winter season on April 15.  The GCA gave them a catered farewell party and was kind enough to invite us as well.  Due to limited RV sites/housing, the Spring/Summer recruits could not arrive until the Fall/Winter workers departed.  During the transition, folks from the Admin. Office worked with us to fill in the scheduling gaps.  And it certainly was a busy few weeks!   Between elementary and high school Spring breaks, Europeans taking their 6-week vacations, and free admission to the Park for National Parks Week, we have been inundated with visitors!

We also received some surprising news:  our hourly wage increased by 15 cents per hour, so we now earn $10.25/hour.  It’s not a huge increase, but over the course of our gig, it covers the cost of all the camping gear Dad ordered for us in anticipation of our two-day trek into the Canyon and overnight stay at Phantom Ranch in late September/early October.

On our days off, we’ve been “training” for that trek.  Last Wednesday, we hiked along Bright Angel Trail down the Canyon to Indian Gardens Campground and hiked back. The gorge is only 1 mile deep if you were to go straight down vertically, a route no one recommends!  So following the gradual maintained trail amounted to 9 miles round trip (this would be the equivalent number of miles for Day 1 of the two-day trek).  What a spectacular, spiritual experience!  You can see the vivid colors of the various rock formations, dating back millions to billions of years, layered upon each other like a toddler’s building blocks.  I sniffed the fragrant flowering fendlerbush shrubs along the Trail, careful not to inhale any of the numerous bees who were enjoying these buds in their own way.

The Fendlerbush shrub has such a beautiful fragrance!

Our destination, Indian Gardens, is the dark green tree area in the center of this photo 

We stopped to let the pack mules pass us, as hiking rules dictate.  These are some hardworking animals!  They not only transport passengers down to Phantom Ranch, but they deliver supplies and U.S. mail as well! 

The trailhead boards said there was no water available at 1.5 Mile Rest House and 3 Mile Rest House.  Water refilling stations would not be available until Indian Gardens.  We planned for the worst and packed enough water for all of us to do the roundtrip without any refills.  Not everyone on the trail was prepared with adequate water supplies.   We ended up offering several folks some of our water.  It just boggles my mind how naïve and stupid people can be.  Like a Mom telling her 4-year-old son who was complaining about being thirsty that “we’ll get something when we get down there”.  What did she think, there was a concession stand or vending machine at the Rest Houses?

Most people say going down is easier than coming back up the trail.  But Dad’s bad knees and Mom’s fear of falling down took a toll on our pace.  After a 4-hour trek, we reached Indian Gardens Campground, and indulged in a tasty lunch amid a paradise of tall Cottonwood trees, blooming desert flora, lizards, squirrels, and butterflies.  After dipping our feet in the creek, we refilled our water bottles (even though we had more stored in our packs), and headed back to the South Rim.

We kept a good pace on our upward hike, and would have completed it quicker than the 3 hours it took if people followed proper hiking etiquette.  Unfortunately, they did not.  Those coming down did not yield the right of way to those of us climbing uphill.  Furthermore, people were hiking down 2 across rather than single file.  Not to mention the idiot who came running past us almost knocking Mom over!

While we didn't break any speed records, I was proud of myself for completing the hike.  But I was surely exhausted when we got home!

Dad was under the weather today, so Mom and I traversed from our Campground to the Visitor Center through the many forested trails that connect our Residential areas to the Park.  Then we hiked back along the Rim Trail, marveling at the breathtaking views and learning more about the rock formations by taking the "Trail of Time".

Geologists provide scientific explanations to how the Canyon was formed.  But this stuffed rat has his own theories, and in my mind, the Man Upstairs had a major role.

Well, time for me to get to bed--it's back to work tomorrow. Talk to you soon!



  1. Sounds like a fabulous hike. Your so lucky getting a gig there!

  2. You guys are crazy! That hike is on our bucket list, cannot wait to hear more about it!!!!