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Day 13 :: October 03, 2004: 07:52 PM

Thursday, September 30, 2004
Day Thirteen

We were not as cold as we expected but the temperature had fallen below 40f overnight. During the night I heard coyotes and in the morning the huge flapping wings of ravens flying around the campsite: I love ravens mostly because of a great series of children’s books I read to my daughters years ago – from that point on all ravens are Mortimer to me - a bright- and wonderfully ill-behaved - bird..

We got up (47 degrees and fairly cloudy) and made breakfast– grinding the Starbucks beans (the supermarket here sells Starbucks beans – we brought our own, plus electric grinder…and the power inverter and the Coleman’s power supply….

Then we headed off on our first walk along the rim, calling in at the Visitor Center for some ideas. It is a new construction in a large plaza and meant to service the thousands of people a day who are here in summer. We were alone in the vast hall save for two Rangers at the info desk and a man asking a question. Immediate help! The cool, weather, it is unusually so, is a nuisance but to have this place so much to ours is such a treat!

The part of the Grand Canyon, South Rim that people get to visit has a number of easy rim walks. You can take the free shuttles as private cars cannot drive most of the roads (not enough parking I suspect.) The shuttles are every 15 minutes at this time of year and you can stay on and ride or get off and look at the view and hop on the next one, or like us, you can take the shuttle to the extreme point and walk back.

After our experience at Yellowstone, which found a surfeit of ways to imagine your demise, the Grand Canyon is less exotic. Obviously you can fall over the side which they say happens pretty rarely (though we saw guys who were trying their best to do it.)
There is a book out about all the people who have succeeded. It seems that just about no-one survives the first 300 feet…and there is plenty more rock after that. Unlike Yellowstone they do not have bob cats, wolves, bear, moose and bison. Anyway, apart from falling, they do warn about the mountain lions and the rutting elk, common with their neighbor to the north, and then it gets sketchier…the mule deer, as adorable and totally disinterested as they have seemed to us, can be upset if you want their space…oh – and- er – it’s hawk migration season….and er…male tarantula migrating season too.

The hawk migration seemed to be more troubling to rodents than ourselves and the spider thing just weird…like an addendum. With the mountain lions they told you what to do – star at them, back off, scream etc…but nothing else was said about the 8-legged furries…and where are they going from and to? And what about the females?! I sort of mocked the whole thing.

Well, guess what was on the path as we walked from to Mather Point? A tarantula who posed nicely for a photograph. We also saw turkey vultures hanging on out on a rock; eagles, more ravens and a lot of smaller birds I do not recognize. No mountain lions this time.

After our walk, we decided we deserved a latte. The other dire warnings are about altitude sickness and what might happen if we walk too far or too fast up here in the thin air and especially the sun. In current conditions I reckon we are pretty safe from heat exhaustion or sun stroke…the hypothermia is much more likely.

While it is to be 88 degrees down by the Colorado today we will be lucky top get to 60…
Tonight could get below freezing if the anticipated clear skies arrive.

Signs warn : this is no place to diet, and all are encouraged to drink lots of water, stop and rest, eat salty snacks and have good , hearty meals…the drinking water comes all the way from the North Rim and tastes great.

Anyway, we came back to the campsite, read, did crosswords puzzles, cooked, ate and headed to the evening Ranger Tour in the “Shrine of Ages” auditorium: on the geology of the GC. It was pretty good. And so now I am having a drink of tea and Mike is tending to the fire. At dinnertime we shared a can of Beamish Stout made just 10 miles from where we used to live…! I guess the park Service is trying to make all the Brits feel at home because most of them appear to be here. (The pound is very strong and the dollar weak.)

Silliest sight of the day: a new, small pickup towing a car filled with the owners’ camping gear – to the roof - with sleeping bags, blankets, clothes etc.

As for the GC itself…there is no way to describe it. No photo, even those on the walls of the museums and visitor centers, captures what it is like. The scale is just overwhelming. Yes, indeed, it is possible to make me speechless.

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