Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Hiking and Motorbiking We Will Go

While work continues to be quite hectic for my parents, we have taken the time during days off to enjoy the grandness of the Canyon and the surrounding areas.

My Mom, Dad, and I hiked the Rim Trail from Hermit’s Rest down to the Village last Sunday.  Including to and from our campground, we clocked 8.5 miles.  It was a sunny afternoon with comfortable temperatures, just perfect for the task at hand! I was amazed at how many flowers have bloomed since Mom and I last visited some of the points on this trail just two weeks ago.  The fragrant, flowering cliffroses are now adorning the trail in abundance.  

The Cliffroses--sweet smelling and smile-invoking, too!

With its distinct white markings on the underside of its wings and its pinkish head, we spotted our first California Condor of the season.  We learned these ancient vultures, although not the strongest flyers, can stay aloft for hours when floating on warm air thermals.  With a 9 foot wingspan, an adult California Condor weighs approximately 20 lbs., giving it the distinction of being among North America's largest flying birds. They can survive in the wild for up to 60 years!  Pretty cool.    Even more unusual, we saw the National Park Service (NPS) helicopter hovering above the Canyon carrying a big white load.  It wasn't a body bag, and it wasn't supplies.  I pulled out my trusty binoculars to investigate further.  It turned out the dangling cargo was a horse!  Can you imagine what was going through that poor stallion's mind!  I know what was going through my mind:  please don’t let him get nervous and poop in midair!

On another day off we visited the Desert View Watch Tower, a truly remarkable architectural design by Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter.  When you look at the structure and its details (including what looks like a crumbling wall), you would think it was standing on that spot for centuries, serving as a watchtower for Ancient Puebloan peoples.   Instead, you learn it was built in 1932, and hidden beneath the masonry is actually a steel skeleton!  You can see Ms. Coulter’s painstaking efforts to replicate an ancient structure on the inside as well--every mural, pictograph, and artifact selected lends authenticity to the design.   And the view from the top of the four-story structure is stunning!  You don’t have to be a feminist to admire this woman and her accomplishments!  Born in 1869, Mary Coulter graduated high school at age 14.  She attended what is now known as the San Francisco Art Institute, apprenticed with a local architectural firm, and taught art, drafting, and architecture for 15 years BEFORE landing her gig with the Fred Harvey Company, where she served as chief architect and interior decorator for nearly 38 years.  Though she designed a multitude of buildings in the Southwest during her tenure with the Fred Harvey Company, we are fortunate to have a half dozen of her architectural masterpieces right here at Grand Canyon, which are listed collectively as a National Historic Landmark.  You go, girl!

While visiting the Watch Tower, my parents introduced themselves to some of the GCA employees on duty they had not met previously.  It turns out that co-worker Rhonda lives near Quartzsite, knows our QIA dance instructor, and had attended our 2017 March Madness Dance Party!   Additionally, we had the chance to catch up with Jan, one of our fellow dancers from Quartzsite, when she visited the Canyon recently with her brother.  It seems somehow, someway, everything is connected to our quirky winter desert retreat!

I also had the pleasure of making a new friend on this outing.  Meet Mattie!  Seemingly, my parents are not the only nutty people in this world who carry a life-sized stuffed animal with them on their travels (although I noticed Mattie's Mom doesn't dress her in human clothes)!

Say hello to my not-so-little friend Mattie!

We perused the other stores in the Desert View Watchtower area while waiting for another picture-perfect sunset.  As you can see, we were rewarded well with another masterpiece.

The weather has warmed up enough (finally!) for us to cruise on the motorcycles!  We traversed along the less populated Highway 180, a gorgeous, scenic byway with spectacular views of Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona's highest summit, topping out at 12,633 feet.

I squeaked and squealed as we rode the curves, hairpin turns, and pigtails up to the Snowbowl outside of Flagstaff, which broke a record recently for having the longest ski season in its recorded history.  The views overlooking the valley were breathtaking.  We did a short 1-mile hike to enjoy the fragrance of the pine trees and the beauty of the Aspen trees as they emerge from dormancy.  The various shades of green--melon, avocado, emerald--sure painted a beautiful landscape.

Our day of motorcycling would not be complete without a visit to Williams, the last city along Historic Route 66 to succumb to Interstate 40.  It is a quaint, sleepy town, yearning for yesteryear, staying alive only from the nostalgia associated with the Mother Road and the train ride that brings guests to Grand Canyon.  A little bit cheesy, but we all know how I love cheese!

The Williams Zip Line

Rambling RV Rat helping Smokey the Bear Prevent Forest Fires

The Red Garter--Once a brothel, now a coffee house/cafe

Shared a Grand Canyon Brewski with Dad at Cruisers...

...While Mom swooned over Elvis.  What a hound dog and crocodile!

Beautiful mural on side of a building

Well, we clocked 180+ miles and thoroughly enjoyed our day of motorcycling and sightseeing.

We topped off our evenings recently viewing one magnificent sunset after another at Yavapai Point.  This is my absolute favorite spot in the Canyon for sunset views.  When you look West, you watch the sun actually set.  But looking East gives you a different perspective--the sun casting shadows on the rock formations, literally changing the colors right before your eyes.

The Masterful Artist of Creation never ceases to amaze me with his canvases.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Erratic Happenings

Wow, can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve checked in with everyone!  It’s been a wild and crazy ride here at the South Rim.

For starters, the weather has been quite inconsistent.  For example, we went from a gorgeous, 80-degree mid-afternoon to temperatures dropping below freezing the next day, with snow, sleet, and heavy winds.  The moisture in the air created clouds that gathered inside the gorge, hiding the magnificent Canyon from everyone’s view.  Within minutes the clouds would dissipate, only to return again.  Quite a dramatic scene, producing some very cool photos for those of us with the luxury of seeing the Canyon every day.  But for our visitors with limited time here at the South Rim, it was quite disappointing.

Now you see it...

...Now not so much!

What looks like snow-topped peaks is actually cloud cover!

My parents' work schedules have been a bit erratic, too.  There is considerable under-staffing.  One hired seasonal workamper didn't come to Grand Canyon due to medical issues.  Additionally, several employees (both year-round and seasonal) have restrictions and/or personal requirements for times and days of the week they can and/or will work and tasks they can and/or will perform.  Furthermore, a bronchial bug has been circulating among the staff for the past month, resulting in a wave of absenteeism. To add the cherry on top, store hours of operation are extending next weekend!  Needless to say, these situations create a burden on the few people like my parents who are always ready, willing, and able to fulfill ALL the requirements of the jobs they accept.  The net result is fluctuations in assigned work locations, less time off than anticipated, having 6-7 straight days of work (across a two week period) before getting a day off, and the infamous and much-dreaded by Mom “clopen” (i.e., Closing a store at 7:30 p.m. and required to open a store the next day at 7:30 a.m.).  Hopefully, a new hire willing AND able to work a 40 hour week will arrive soon, alleviating some of these issues.  On an upbeat note, Dad got promoted to the position of Shift Lead, resulting in a 60 cent/hour increase.  Yeah, more money for my cheese purchases!

Our furnace has been quite quirky lately, adding to our mayhem.  Sometimes it works fine, other times it kicks on but does not ignite.  Dad tore the basement apart and cleaned the dirt and dust that accumulated near the furnace sail switch.  Alas, this was not the solution, since the inconsistency continued.  Next Dad installed a new furnace motherboard, only to incur the same sporadic results.   Guess he will need to change out the sail switch and/or purchase a new thermostat to see if either of those tasks resolve the problem permanently.  Overnight temperatures have dipped consistently into the 30s during our time here in the Canyon.  So we have used the heat more in the last 6 weeks than we have during the last 3 years!

Dad caught the aforementioned bronchial bug just recently, although he did not miss work because of it (my parents are "old school", and short of being dead, they push on).  While he stayed in bed on his day off to get well for work the following day, Mom and I did some hiking along Hermit's Rest Road.  From the campground, we hiked to Powell Point, named for John Wesley Powell, who successfully completed and fully documented his second Colorado river expedition of 1869. Thereafter, we jumped on the shuttle bus before hoofing it again between Pima Point and Hermit's Rest.    Overall, we hiked 6 miles.  Seeing the Canyon at different times of day with varying levels of sunlight provides a unique view each and every time.  Mom was intrigued with all the Spring blooms, while I was fascinated by the size of the bees buzzing around!

Maricopa Point View

Powell Point

Look at the size of this carpenter bee!

Mom and Dad celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary recently with dinner at the historic El Tovar Hotel.  Since this was a special date for them, I stayed home with Tabby and enjoyed some macaroni and cheese.  Based on the photos Dad sent me, their steak dinners were quite delectable and enjoyed immensely.  My parents love beef almost as much as I love cheese!

Mom stocked our freezer and pantry shelves quite heavily before we arrived at Grand Canyon, postponing major grocery shopping for 6 weeks.  But now our dwindling supplies required us to do the 1.5 hour drive to Flagstaff to replenish.  Mom the multi-tasker suggested we combine our shopping day with doing something fun.  So we utilized our newly-purchased Access Pass and visited Walnut Canyon National Monument. What an interesting place with its contrasting ecosystems!   One side of the Canyon is forested with evergreens and conifers, while banana yucca, Mormon tea, prickly pear cactus, and other flowering desert plants adorn the other side.   The cliff dwellings were “home” for peoples some 800 years ago.   It is amazing how resourceful ancient peoples were.  The natural rock overhangs acted as canopies or roofs to protect them from sun, rain, and wind.  They would dig holes in the rock near the top of these canopies as “chimneys” to divert the smoke from the fires they burned inside their dwellings.  During winters they would capture snow in clay pots to use as water later in the year during periods of drought.    The berries and flowers of plants provided food sources, dyes, and medicines.  Walnut Creek once ran through this canyon, but this water source has since been diverted to provide a water supply to Flagstaff residents.

It was a productive day in Flagstaff, but quite tiring.  We stopped in Williams around 5 p.m. to get a bite to eat before we headed home (having to face the task of putting all the groceries away on an empty stomach didn’t sit well with me and Dad).    We checked on-line menus and reviews of several restaurants in Williams.  What a disappointment to learn that none of them currently are open on Sundays!  Good to remember for future food shopping treks.  In the interim, Dad and I shared a bag of Cheetos Cheese Puffs to satisfy our hunger until Mom cooked us dinner.

Mom finally admitted it was time to put her 25-year-old “K-mart Special” bicycle to rest.  It suffered from rust, brake failure, tire blowouts, and gear shift failures.  Keeping in her thrifty ways, she purchased a new bicycle at Wal-mart for a whopping $99, stating this will last her for the rest of her lifetime.  We put it to the test, pedaling along the many wooded paths that connect the residential areas to the Village here in Grand Canyon.  She was a bit rusty getting accustomed to a bicycle with all its parts working properly, but managed to complete the 5 miles round trip.

My blog would be incomplete without sharing some of the spectacular sunsets we witnessed recently.  We were even treated to a rainbow!

Sunset at Hopi Point

Sunset at Yavapai Point

The view from Yavapai Point of a rainbow that appeared right before sunset

Well, time for me to say goodbye.  Talk to you again soon!