Friday, June 3, 2016

A Free Government Service

About 260 miles east of Las Vegas, there exists a famous national park, carved over the millennia by the waters of the mighty Colorado River. Yesterday morning, Christine, Shannon, and I climbed into Tim's car and went adventuring. We drove past Hoover Dam into the Arizona desert. We stopped for gas along Route 66. We headed into the stubby pine trees of Kaibab National Forest, and out of them, and back in again. (Seriously, you can't escape Kaibab National Forest--it's nowhere and everywhere.) Finally, four hours later, we arrived at our destination: Grand Canyon National Park--A Free Government Service.

We initially hiked along the South Rim, taking in the geologic wonder of it all. Also, pointing out cute dogs. Also, narrowly avoiding brushes with the aggressive, plague-carrying squirrels. Also, hoping that we weren't going to see a certain set of death-defying teenagers fall off a cliff.

Our first view.


Group photo courtesy of our new friend, Claudia the jewelry designer.

Me with messy hat-head.

Christine and Tim, valiant explorers.

We are expert tourists.

After a while, we hopped back into the car and drove 22 miles to the Desert View Watchtower on the extreme eastern end of the South Rim. (And yes, I did climb to the top of the watchtower, as I always climb to the tops of tall buildings when I'm touristing.) Our plan was to participate in what was described as a "Sunset Walk," but that wasn't quite accurate. First, Desert View is apparently the worst place to watch the sunset in the whole canyon--though I thought it was still extraordinarily beautiful. Second, it was not a walk at all, but rather a talk.

For 45 minutes, Ranger Rick (yes, that is his real name) told us the harrowing story of the efforts to save the California Condor. And when I say harrowing, I mean it. The four of us were entranced. Rick is a great storyteller, and by the end I was pretty much ready to donate half my savings to condor conservation efforts. We didn't see any condors--there are only about 70 in the park right now--but we did see lots of turkey vultures and ravens. Or as Tim would say, hawks. Because all birds are hawks. 

I can't even with the Desert View landscape. I. Can't. Even.

I guess this is what hills look like if you cut them in half?

Sunset silhouettes.

Same view, different colors.

On our way out of the park, we grabbed dinner at the Yipee-Ei-O! Steakhouse, a tourist trap in Tusayan. Decent food, though. Then it was just a long drive through the black night, lit only by millions of stars and the street lamps of the occasional town. Tim and I talked and talked and talked, and we made it safely back to Vegas at 2 a.m. this morning.

We are pretty good adventurers, if I do say so myself.

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