Colorado River Float
I checked out early because I had to be at Colorado River Discovery at 7am. After about 15 minutes, we all got in a bus and drove over to the Glen Canyon Dam. Access to the river is via a tunnel that was built to facilitate construction of the dam. The tunnel runs from the top almost to river level. When we got out of the bus, we had to put on hard hats to protect against anything thrown down from the bridge (usually coins) and from any rocks that might fall from the cliffs. Then we walked down to the boats.
The boats are motorized pontoon boats. We had a sizeable group. I think we ended up in 4 boats. Most of us sat on the outer pontoons. Pretty soon, everyone was in a boat and we headed downriver toward Lee's Ferry. Sometimes the motor was off, and we just drifted with the current, othertimes, the motor of was running, but more at a trolling speed.
The wind had picked up again the last few days, although it was not so bad when we started. However, the canyon twists around, and when it was pointed the right way, it sometimes created whitecaps. For these areas, we speeded up considerably. When that happens, water comes up between the boat and the pontoons. In other words, you get a bit wet. This would be refeshing later in the season because the water is cold.
After a while, we pulled over at a sandy beach. There were restrooms there. We looked at some petroglyphs, where a Chuckwalla was hiding in the wall placed there to help protect the petroglyphs. Interestingly, some of the petroglyphs appear to be covered by sand. According to the guide, the lowest visible layer of petroglyphs was once completely covered. That suggested the beach has formerly grown, and is now shrinking.
We then got in the boats and continued downriver. We floated through Horseshoe Bend. Eventually we got to a point where the walls started to the break up and we could see rocks colored more like those at Lee's Ferry. In fact, it was Lee's Ferry! These boats are not allowed further downriver. The downriver boats were being loaded as we arrived. We found out that the afternoon float trip was canceled due to high winds when we boarded the bus to return to Page. The driver spotted a condor as we approached Navajo Bridge. It turned out that there were two.
After returning to Page, I headed to the South Rim, retracing some of the path we had just taken. The wind continued to rise. Further south on US-89, sand and dust were blowing across the road. It reminds me a lot of blowing and drifting snow. It wasn't enough to close the road, but discouraged any unnecessary stops (e.g., to look at the Little Colorado Gorge). A dust devil came across the road at one point. It was kind of like the sudden blast of wind you get when coming out of the wind shadow of a truck.
Eventually I got to Grand Canyon. I stopped at Desert View and went up in the tower. It's obviously more crowded here than the North Rim, and I'm still miles from the main part of the park.
I also stopped at the Tusayan ruins and museum on the way in. Then it was on to Maswik to check in.
After checking in, I walked a bit along the rim. A lot of people think that the north rim doesn't look higher. I disagree. To me it looks like the south rim is about at the base of the Coconino sandstone on the north rim, in other words about 1000 feet lower (which it is). Pretty soon, it was time for dinner at El Tovar.
You are well-treated at El Tovar, to an extent that made me think I should be dressed up. The food was good, but not up to the standard of the service. Like many upscale restaurants, the chef seems to regard vegetables as decorative items rather than food. Having eaten there twice, I'd say it is totally random whether they are cooked properly. The first time, the carrots were ok, but could have been cooked more, while the brocoli was undercooked. The second time the carrots had been barely cooked, while the brocoli was perfect. Entrees and bread were fine, and the soup was good.
As I crossed the railroad tracks on the way back I encountered some Mule Deer. Then on the road leading to my room (which backs on a ponderosa pine woods) I saw some people out photographing something. There were two bull Elk. A nice way to end the day.
So far, I have found 145 bird species and 15 mammal species during the trip.
Maswik Lodge, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ