Jul 072014

Last week I thought I’d see flowers while wandering the Walhalla but not so much.  This week I saw a combination of flowers and fossils along the Arizona Trail.

01 DSC_3536a AZ Trail NR GRCA NP AZ g pano (806x1024)I love to stroll through the forest stopping frequently to look and photograph everything along the way.  The Arizona Trail runs 800 miles north to south, border to border, across Arizona and Grand Canyon.  I have no plans to hike the entire length but there are convenient places to pick up the trail in the park and forest.  Unfortunately this stretch of old two-track is never far from the road and sounds that go with it.  Maybe it’s the original road.

02 DSC_3411 Weidemeyer's Admirals on scat AZ Trail NR GRCA NP AZ g (1024x678)It makes a good byway for many animals as I saw from their scat left behind.

03 DSC_3523 Looking up Ponderosa Pine AZ Trail NR GRCA NP AZ fb g (678x1024)But even with that I heard birds tweeting, chipping, chirping, singing and tapping all around yet barely saw more than a swift view disappearing into the forest.  Oh, and a raven flying over.

04 Fossils AZ Trail NR GRCA NP AZ (1024x576)So I settled with searching for fossils of which there are many in this ancient seabed of 270 million year old Kaibab limestone.  Looking down closely certainly slowed my pace.

05 Wildflowers AZ Trail NR GRCA NP AZ (1024x576)Which also allowed me to notice all the colorful wildflowers, mostly small with paintbrush the tallest when hiding in the shade.  Pussytoes, sandwort, asters and more.

06 DSC_3484 Wild strawberry AZ Trail NR GRCA NP AZ g (678x1024)Plus one tiny wild strawberry which I ate immediately after the photo.  Oh so sweet.

07 DSC_3459 Squirrel AZ Trail NR GRCA NP AZ g (1024x768)Every time I stopped to admire and take a photo there seemed to be a squirrel scolding me, as if to say move on, move on.

08 DSC_3628 Stormy sky above meadow Kaibab Lodge Kaibab NF AZ g (1024x678)This was a delightful two hour walk and I probably didn’t even go a whole mile.  But did feel like I earned dinner at Kaibab Lodge while watching a storm approach.

09 DSC_3630 Stormy sky SR67 S Kaibab NF AZ g (1024x485)And on my way home saw lightning way off in the distance.  And later a little rain fell.

Jul 032014

01 DSC_2621 Stormy sky NR GRCA NP AZ g (1024x659)We who live on the North Rim are doing a rain dance.  A little tease July 1st as dark clouds filled with thunder rolled over the Kaibab Plateau yet only a few minutes of light and playful rain fell during the 1pm Way Cool Canyon program designed for young visitors/kids.  Grand Canyon monsoon, right on time.  Let it rain!

02 DSC_2622 Storm clouds over Walhalla Plateau NR GRCA NP AZ g (1024x749)The following day clouds were building at 1pm when I left the Visitor Center.

03 DSC_2626 Grand Lodge NR GRCA NP AZ g (1024x678)An hour later back on the rim for a rove to the Grand Lodge the sun still shone through in places.

04 DSC_2641 Virga over SR from NR GRCA NP AZ g (1024x650)But things were looking a little more serious over the South Rim.

05 DSC_2639a Stormy sky over SR from NR GRCA NP AZ g pano (1024x301)As I set up for a geology talk on the verandah the sky distracted me as it did for the few visitors taking photos like myself.  Yet they kept an eye on me and one commented that it must be safe.  “I’ll follow the Ranger.”

The storm swept eastward across the South Rim, occasional lightning made the watchers “oo and aa” as if at a fireworks display on the 4th of July.  “Is it raining in the canyon Ranger?”  Maybe, but probably not very far down.  The rising heat often evaporates the rain before it ever hits the ground called virga.  Predicted 108F at Phantom Ranch along the river today.

06 DSC_2654a Storm over canyon NR GRCA NP AZ fb g pano (1024x377)As if to prove me wrong the shifting wind brings the first giant rain drops yet allows time for all to move indoors, including me with a box full of rocks and carefully protected camera.  People settled and talk of geology began on time at 3pm while clouds of rain obscured the south rim leaving Oza Butte (closest peak on the right) as an island of rich layered colors.  A cool refreshing breeze slipped through open windows.

07 DSC_2656 Storm over canyon NR GRCA NP AZ g (1024x661)40 minutes later, camera wrapped in a plastic bag for just this purpose, I hurried back to the Visitor Center only 100 yards of light rain under dark sky.  For the next half hour, non-stop, I directed visitors to the dry lodge hopefully for a view, and suggested they stay off the rim during nearby thunder and lightning.  Repeatedly asked question, “when will it stop raining?”

08 DSC_2661 Storm over canyon NR GRCA NP AZ g (1024x666)Remember as a kid when you learned to count between the lightning and thunder, “One, one thousand, two, one thousand, three, one thousand…”  According to NOAA (National Weather Service) every five seconds counted equals the lightning being a mile away and recommends getting to a safe location at 30 seconds, or 6 miles away.  You definitely don’t want to be the tallest thing on the rim during a storm, taking photos or leaning on a metal rail.  Last year at Cape Royal overlook I saw a little girls hair lifting and sent visitors back to their cars in a hurry.

By 5pm, when I left the Visitor Center the rain had stopped leaving the slightest bit of moisture under the pines, even a few small puddles in the parking lot.  I felt the forest sigh, the smell of fresh washed air divine.   The soil, unfortunately is dry in less than 1/4 inch.

After dinner I gave a “campfireless” talk due to fire restrictions.  It is not enough rain, yet, to be playing with fire.  Will it rain tonight?  Probably not I tell campers.  But tomorrow is a different story.  Hiking before 11am stands a better chance of sunshine.  Afternoon rains are likely so be prepared.  Let it rain!