Grand Canyon: North Rim
Today I started at the North Kaibab trailhead. I didn't take the North Kaibab Trail (tomorrow!), but rather the Uncle Jim Trail, which initially runs along the Ken Patrick trail. These also use the North Kaibab trailhead. The Patrick/Jim trails run together for 3/4 miles or so (don't believe guidebooks saying otherwise), then split.
The trail was extremely birdy: Audubon's Warblers, Western Tanagers, Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Juncos, Audubon's Warblers, 3 species of woodpecker, Mountain Chickadees, (Northern) House Wrens, and others…did I mention the Audubon's Warblers? As a result, I made very slow progress toward the trail fork. On the way, I added Downy Woodpecker to the triplist. The “Field Guide to the Grand Canyon” calls it a rare resident, but I encountered probably at least 6 individuals.
Eventually, I got to the split. The Uncle Jim trail splits again in a short distance to form a loop. Before that, I had to work my way around a large tree that had fallen across the path, possibly last night. Soon after the split I encountered a squirrel running up a tree. Kaibab? But why wasn't the tail white?
I took the left fork at the loop. It leads to the rim Bright Angel Canyon, before reaching a corral and spur trail. The best view is from the short spur trail to Uncle Jim Point, at the midpoint of the loop, with Bright Angel Canyon on your left and Roaring Springs Canyon on your right. Just before heading out to the spur trail I heard a Clark's Nutcracker, which soon flew over. You can see the North Kaibab Trail switch-backing down Roaring Springs Canyon from the point. With binoculars, you can also see hikers on the trail. The helipad further down at Roaring Springs was also visible.
I circled around the other part of the loop. Near the end, I again encountered Abert's Squirrels. This time there were two, and I got a really good look at one. The white belly and dark tail left no doubt it was not the Kaibab form. According to the books, the normal Abert's form does not occur on the North Rim (south yes, north no). So what are they doing here? Do any biologists know about this? There was also a Uinta Chipmunk in the area.
When I got to the big downed tree, there was no tree blocking the trail, just sawdust-covered snow. Two NPS guys (with chainsaw) were resting a little farther down. This was a big tree. They had been very busy while I was hiking!
I headed out to the Wahalla Plateau next. I stopped at a couple of overlooks, then headed for Cape Royal, 23 miles from the visitor's center. The Wahalla area overlooks are the only place on the rim where you can actually see the Colorado River. The trail to Cape Royal includes a side trail to Angels Window. I visited both overlooks. This runs through Upper Sonoran habitat, so the birds were a bit different (e.g. Black-throated Gray Warbler). I also spotted an Empidonax. It seemed clear enough that it was either Pacific-slope or Cordilleran Flycatcher. Unfortunately, it was completely silent. It goes down as a Western Flycatcher.
When I got back to the car, I was feeling pretty worn down. I had a sandwich, then drove to the Cliff Springs parking area. I wasn't sure whether to do the trail, especially feeling tired, but it's short and a couple who had just completed it made it sound good, so I tried it. Maybe it was the sandwich taking effect, but I was reinvigorated partway down the trail.
The Cliff Springs trail is a little less than a mile round trip (I walked past the end, so it might have been a mile). It's a nice walk though the forest, then under an overhanging cliff (this part is air-conditioned!) to the spring. If you walk a bit further, you get a canyon view that includes distant Humphrey's Peak, Arizona's highpoint. The under-cliff walk reminded me of another trail, I think at Zion, perhaps the Canyon Overlook Trail.
Since I was feeling stronger again, I decided to take the 2-mile (one-way) walk to Point Final. Most of the trail seems to follow an old roadbed, only leaving it near Point Final. The best view comes if you climb up on the rocks at the end of Point Final. I rested there for a while, then headed back to the car. It took about 45 minutes for the 2-mile return walk. This was my last serious walk for the day. I headed back to the visitor's center, got some pizza, and sat out on the lodge's plaza overlooking the canyon for a while. While sitting there, I realized that the Bright Angel trail (south rim) is visible (use binoculars) down to the Tonto platform. The Vishnu schist of the inner canyon was visible near the end of Bright Angel Canyon (north rim). After some additional searching, I found parts of the South Kaibab and Tonto trails.
So far, I have found 144 bird species and 14 mammal species during the trip.
Grand Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ