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.


  1. So glad you found a friend. A mouse can't just hang with his parents all the time! Glad you guys are getting out. It's tough with a demanding work schedule for sure but what's it's all about at the end of the day.

  2. Beautiful!!! And really cool you got to see a condor!!

  3. The sunsets there are amazing as is the tower. Incredible how it was built and fits right into the landscape. You guys look like you are having a great time.....