Grand Canyon

Thursday, June 5, 2003: Given the continuing heat (it's still 10-15 degrees above normal) I decided to scrap my plan to hike one of the Paria Canyons and spend more time at Grand Canyon instead (the north rim is over 8000 feet). One last check of the lake at Ruby's Inn revealed a beautiful American Avocet in full breeding plumage and a Semipalmated Plover (not on the Bryce/Rubys checklist!).

[Dune Plants] I stopped at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park on the way. Late afternoon is a much better time for photography. Still, I managed to find a few shots. (PHOTO2, PHOTO3)

After restocking in Kanab, my next stop was the overlook of the Grand Staircase south of Kanab. It was too hazy for great shots (a problem the whole trip...heat + air pollution = haze), but you could still see all of the steps of the staircase as it descends to the Colorado. The Grand Staircase is a sequence of plateaus that have been eroded out of the Colorado Plateau by the Colorado and its tributaries. It starts with the Pink Cliffs (think Bryce), and descends through Gray Cliffs, White Cliffs and Vermilion Cliffs before reaching the Kaibab Plateau that extends to the Grand Canyon.

I got to Jacob Lake way too early to check in (they're on Arizona time = PDT in the summer, MST in the winter) and headed for the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. On the way, I stopped a couple of times in the Kanab National Forest. (PHOTO)

The Grand Canyon is pretty [Grand Canyon] impressive in terms of size and the shear number of rock layers, but I think that that Canyonlands has it beaten in terms of complexity. (ANOTHER PHOTO) [Grand Canyon] I walked the short trail to Bright Angel Point (near the lodge), and then went to the eastern portion of the north rim to view the canyons successively from Point Imperial, Vista Encantada, the Wahalla Overlook, and Cape Royal. There's a trail a Cape Royal that takes over over a natural rectangular stone arch to the viewing point. On the way back I stopped at Roosevelt Point and walked the short trail. (PHOTO)

[Grand Canyon] [Grand Canyon] [Grand Canyon]
Grand Canyon

I returned to the Jacob Lake Inn in time for dinner. After dinner, I birded the area some. There are lots of Pygmy Nuthatches here! Also, Steller's Jays, Gray-headed Juncos, Western Tanagers, and Broad-tailed Hummingbirds. The cottages are in a Ponderosa Pine forest adjacent to the Kaibab National Forest. They remind me somewhat of Roosevelt Lodge in Yellowstone except that they have bathrooms here. There's a water feature. It's a fountain/waterfall over a pile of rocks. It has several shallow pools and I saw both Western Tanagers and Gray-headed Juncos using it.

Jacob Lake AZ

Below the Rim

Friday, June 6, 2003: I did a little birding around the inn early in the morning. One interesting thing was a Broad-tailed Hummingbird bathing in the water feature and defending it from other hummers.

Then it was time to be off to the park. I started with the Widforss Trail. I didn't do the complete trail, but went out about 1 1/2 miles. This got me well along Transept Canyon, although not to its head. At one point I heard a woodpecker tapping. By the cadence, it was clear it was a sapsucker. By the sound, it was also clear he had found something very resonant to tap on. It took me quite a while to work over to where he was, but I was eventually rewarded with a good and prolonged look at a male Williamson's Sapsucker. I also found one new trip bird, a Cordilleran Flycatcher (heard only).

My second hike of the day followed immediately. This was to take the North Kaibab Trail down into the canyon as far as Supai Tunnel. (There are 3 typical day-hiking destinations on this trail...Coconino Overlook at 3/4 mile, Supai Tunnel at 2 miles, and Roaring Spring at 4.7 miles.) I figured that going any farther than Supai would be silly given the continuing heat (102 at canyon bottom yesterday, 82 on the rim). Since I was unable to park at the trailhead, the hike was 4.3 miles and involved a climb of about 1600 feet on the return. Going down was fairly easy. The trail is well-maintained and mostly covered with sand. It's also exceedingly dusty (and given that they use mules on the trail, I don't want to think about what's in the dust). The Supai Tunnel is a tunnel cut in the Supai formation rock. It was made for the new trail in the 30's (there is also an old trail that still exists). The trail provided good views of the some ways better than from the top. You also get a better sense of just how many layers of rock are there. There were a number of Black-headed Grosbeaks on the trail, including one on a nest right over the trail. I had no luck finding the Kaibab Squirrel.

[Grand Canyon Lodge] After returning to the top (a long struggle) and lunch, I attended the talk about the Condors. I found out that the lodge area is the best spot to see them on the north rim. In fact, several have been roosting in Transept Canyon, which is one of the two canyons flanking the lodge and Bright Angel Point (the other is Roaring Spring). After the talk I wandered around the lodge area and Transept Trail, finally returning to the lodge's back porch. I sit down and it's not long before a big bird flies by...a Califonia Condor! I rush to the other side to see it again and it flies back the other way at close range. A couple of minutes later I noticed it out by one of the "temples" and got to see it soar up on a updraft for several minutes.

After that, I figured I was done with the North Rim for this trip and returned to Jacob Lake Inn and took a shower to get the Kaibab Trail dust off me.

Jacob Lake AZ

Vermilion Cliffs Roundabout

Saturday, June 7, 2003: I again birded around the Jacob Lake Inn this morning. I had previously heard White-breasted Nuthatches. This time one put in an appearance. Then I started for Zion...the long way.

[Vermilion Cliffs] The long way was to go east the Page, Arizona on US-89A then return to Kanab, Utah on US-89 instead of taking 89A west to Kanab, passing through the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument as well as the southern portion of Grand Staircase/Escalante. I made many photo stops on the way. I photographed the Vermilion Cliffs from 89A several locations in the Lee's Ferry area (PHOTO2, PHOTO3), of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area [Old Navajo Bridge] the Navajo Bridges (PHOTO2, Marble Canyon (PHOTO) the Glen Canyon Dam, which has drowned Glen Canyon under Lake Powell, the Horseshoe Bend Overlook (required a 1.5 mile desert hike), a Lake Powell overlook north of Page (PHOTO), and finally the Cockscomb. I had originally planned to hike Wirepass/Buckskin Gulch near the Paria, but the heat had removed this from the itinerary. My preparation for the trip has meant that I have had plenty of alternate activities available when some are precluded by weather.

[Lee's Ferry] [Glen Canyon Dam] [Horseshoe Bend]
Lee's Ferry Glen Canyon