Wednesday, May 6, 2009

the story that might never end

When last we saw our tragic heroes, the splendor of a certain Grand Canyon was burning through the haze of a penetrating shitstorm of misadventure:

We were so excited to arrive – we had stopped at a convenience store outside of the park for the bare necessities: ice cream and beer. As the signage indicated our impending arrival at the national park, I told the kids: “Here’s the ranger who is going to say WELCOME TO THE GRAND CANYON! We approached the kiosk with merry anticipation and he, in all his khaki splendor, reaching out his hand to collect our national park entrance fee, which I gladly forked over to support my country’s greatest natural resource, said: “Good Morning!” It was 5:20. pm.

But we were there! We resisted the urge to stop at the first glimpse of the canyon, knowing that every other doofus in town was doing just that. We did pause though, of course. You can’t just take in your first sight of it without pausing. It literally takes your breath away. Or is that just the altitude?

We headed right to the Bright Angel Lodge, where we checked in for our overnight stay at the neighboring Thunderbird Lodge. The windows of our room opened right up to the view of all views. We were directly on the rim, it was spectacular. We went straight out to gaze. There were condors in flight, hunting in the lingering late afternoon sun. Dem’s some big boids.

As I mentioned in my previous pity party post, we had not exactly packed wisely. My girl, being the steward of innovation that she is, simply put on ALL of the clothes from her suitcase. My boy followed suit, and anyone who knows my husband knows that for him, packing for a summer trip does include several fleece layers, so my boy got to wear one of those on top of his lumpy layers.

That night, we ventured around and had a great dinner and visited both our Bright Angel and the El Tovar Lodges, where we found a gift shop, and these:

The next morning, we were hot to hike. It was a beautiful day, the whole world was a-sparkle. I gave many, many a stern lecture about this

To the point of neurosis. My girl sort of whimpered the whole way down, and kept repeating: “This is freaky!” She took to heart the 'most who die have gone beyond walls or rails' part. She was positively hugging the mountainside.

We had made a plan that allowed 1/3 of our time to walk down and 2/3 to get back up.

My boy puh-shawed the notion of turning back so soon, but quickly retracted once we got underway.

When they needed a water break, we found a shady spot and took one. We took photos for our “The Ugly Family” album,

(another story for another day)

and just as we were gathering up to continue our ascent, we noticed what I thought was a black hefty bag flapping a bit in the breeze up on a. bluff. It registered, but not as anything outstanding. Then my boy said: “look at that ginormous bird!” And ..Oh. My. Holy. Shitness.

It was a California fucking CONDOR.

A bona fide endangered species, close enough that we could see its numbered tag. Right there. Right. There. Close enough to pluck my wee girl from the mountainside for a snack if it was so inclined. Thankfully, it was not.

We stayed there a long time, though. The kids delighted in telling people who came down to pass us to stop and look. And everyone did, sharing in this special secret moment that we knew would end the moment that giant, prehistoric creature took flight.

This might not appear overly dramatic, it’s hard to show the relative size of the bird when the surrounding landscape is the grand damn canyon, but here's a little perspective:

We left the Grand Canyon later that day, with a renewed appreciation of the miracles that nature can produce. I hope my kids saw far enough beyond the tourists in their face masks, the price tags on tacky trinkets, and the continuous beeping of the cash register to really remember the feeling of that place. The awe that is inspired by the sheer vastness of what the earth has become in this place. It truly is a wonder of the world.

The glass here is etched to say:

"Do nothing to mar its grandeur for the ages have

been at work on it and man cannot improve it.

Keep it for your children, your children's children,

and all who come after you. "


(a righteous dude)

On the way toward home, we reveled in the warming day. We enjoyed our open roof, and silliness ensued. At one point, I tried to take a photo of what I saw through the rearview mirror, not realizing that the camera was in video mode. It's just a blip, but I like it. And I think it's a good way to say, finally, The End to this story.


Anonymous said...

Well, I would like to think that you bought socks for ALL OF US!!! no? Dang, I really like those socks.

The Blue Ridge Gal

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Wow! Great stuff Jacquie. I love the sad faces of your pathetic children on their water break, and that bird. That bird!

What's up with "the tourists in their face masks"?

I really really love that Canyon. Ain't it Grand?

Kathy Rogers said...

Gorgeous photos of the condor.

They only eat dead stuff, so the little girl was safe.

Unless she had disobeyed your lectures and went over the edge...

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Ellie: remember we were there just as news was breaking about the piggie flu.

Di, I know. everyone needs those socks.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Ah ha, we have those socks, or at least Merrell does. Although I think they were purchased in Scottsdale, not amidst the grandeur of the canyon. Still though, it counts for something, right?

What a fine end to your Arizona saga, Jacquie. I enjoyed it all, and agree that the blip was the perfect finale.


Kat said...

The condor was hands down the coolest thing I have seen all day.