Photo Essay: Grand Canyon, Part II

First posted in April, 2007

[ Click here to view the previous Grand Canyon photography essay. ]

On Sunday, we got up and headed to the rim for another meal at the El Tovar. On the way, we encountered three condors, who were sunning their nine foot (on average) wingspans in the early morning light.

What's particularly amazing about the fact that we saw three is that this is the world's rarest bird of prey, and that at one time there were only twenty-two California condors left on Earth. Now there are not quite three hundred (both in captivity and in the wild). Hence the number tags on the wings...

After brunch, we wandered down the Bright Angel trail. I've presently got a joint in my foot that I'm trying to let heal, so we avoided the temptation of planning a lengthy hike into the canyon.

There are some pictographs not far from the rim.

We wandered down maybe half to three quarters of a mile and found a shady little alcove to keep us out of the sun. It was a beautiful vantage point, but noisy - lots of people were wandering the trail, often yelling and trying their best to generate a good echo.

There are views that are far away, and sights that are close up.

We visited in the tail end of winter. The trees still bore the remainder of last autumn's leaves and no new buds.

Eventually we gave up our spot to a couple of out-of-breath hikers and headed back up to the rim. On our way, we passed this piñon jay, who was kind enough to pose for a few photographs.

We also encountered a squirrel who, once he discovered we wouldn't feed him, simply refused to pose properly for us.

As we neared the rim, we were treated with the sight of another lovely condor.

We headed back to Yavapai point for another ranger talk, this time on geology. There were some bighorn sheep that were wandering right in and amongst the crowds. It was tricky, but I managed to get a few "natural" photographs.

After that we headed down to the new Canyon View Information Plaza. It's not so much a visitor center as a train station - but with no train (yet... eventually it will have one). It's certainly an interesting way to accommodate the information needs of thousands of daily visitors.

The new center isn't without its charms - I loved the natural details found throughout the building.

We made a brief visit to Mather Point, one of the most beautiful (and most visited) spots along the south rim.

The point is named for the first director of the NPS, Stephen T. Mather. The monument near the point reads:
Stephen Tyng Mather: July 14, 1867 - Jan. 22, 1930

"He laid the foundation of the national park service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done."
A quick aside, as I've always loved Mather's story: Mather was an avid outdoorsman, and in 1914 he wrote a letter to Secretary of the Interior complaining about the management of national parks. The secretary basically wrote back saying, "If you don't like the way things are run, come to Washington and run them yourself." So he did - he went to Washington, built support for the creation of the NPS, and was appointed to the position of director. I'd probably write Washington more often if that was the sort of result you could receive...

Anyway, as I said, Mather point is beautiful...

...but it's where the majority of the visitors go to view the canyon.

And so Sam and I wandered off the beaten path, down a semi-secret trail through a once-charred stretch of forest to a lesser-known point where there would be fewer people.

We ended up seeing only one other soul the rest of the evening, and he was there for the same reason we were: solitude and quiet.

We stayed until sunset...

...and made it back to the car just before full dark.