Monday, November 30, 2009

Grand Canyon Highlights

South Rim, Grand Canyon AZ, late afternoon in October

One of my priorities when planning our fall trip to the American south west was to see the Grand Canyon. Gaelyn of Geogypsy had posted so many interesting and beautiful features about the North Rim that I wanted to go to that section of the canyon. However, accommodations at the North Rim close on October 15th even though the park itself is open until November 30th or until snow makes it inaccessible. I realized there was not enough time to make the long trip into Utah. We settled for a few hours at the South Rim and even that was a 600 mile round trip from our hotel in Las Vegas. The day was beautiful, sunny and on the cool side which was good for walking. I took a hundred or more pictures but none of them conveyed the length and depth of the canyon. Every few minutes the colours on the rocks changed as the sun lowered in the sky.

Bright Angel Trail, South Rim, Grand Canyon AZ

The Bright Angel Trail descends over 4000 feet from the south rim to the Colorado River and is used by hikers and mules. This picture shows a little perspective of the size of this part of the canyon. I chose to walk up the Rim Trail which was paved and little wider with rest stops along the way. There were many birds along this trail which were hard to photograph due to light conditions. Deep shadows from the rocks and cliffs covered many trees as the autumn sun was lower in the sky. Mountain Chickadees look similar to our Black-capped Chickadees but their call is lower and a little more hoarse. I had to look closely to see the white stripe above the eye as they feasted on pine cones. Stellar Jays and Juncos were plentiful as were Pygmy Nuthatches that moved quickly around the trunks of the pine trees.

Hairy Woodpecker, Grand Canyon AZ

This Hairy Woodpecker looked and sounded like the ones I am familiar with in the eastern part of the continent. Their range is very widespread. We saw many Ravens, a bird we do not have in SW Ontario. Their croaky call was unmistakable, much different than the common American Crow which is abundant at home.

California Condor

I wanted to see a California Condor and about half an hour before we left, one flew overhead just long enough for me to get this picture. It is the largest flying bird in North America and is endangered, with only 75 of them in Arizona (2009). It created quite a stir and many people were excited to have even a brief glimpse of this scavenger. It rested below the rim on a shady rock, the banding number visible on the wing. (I cannot make sense of what appears to be -0 as a number)

We had only a brief glimpse of all there was to see at the south rim and I would love to return and explore the north rim as well. It was not too busy here in late October, but the weather could turn cold and snowy at any time this far into the season. Our tour guide said they have people sign a waiver after November so they do not have to return their money if they get near the park and the bus cannot continue due to ice and snow.

Have you seen the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world??


  1. The golden leaves matches with the golden soil of the mountains.

    There are so many places in the US I would like to go. I have been only to NE and California.

  2. What a fascinating place to visit.

  3. I would love to see the Grand Canyon, it is on my "to do" list. Those pictures are fantastic and it makes me more excited to visit it. That condor is amazing. To be in the right spot at the right time. It would be intersting to find out what the band means.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. We've hiked on the rim and down into the Grand Canyon many times -- it's only about an 8 hour drive from our home to the north rim.
    Beautiful photos! And quite exciting that you were able to see a California Condor!

  5. Dad said ...
    The Grand Canyon is too big to photograph. We took pictures of it in smaller sections which made it more dramatic. The lesser canyons are also very outstanding to see

  6. I've been to the Grand Canyon a number of times and one of the things I remember most is looking down into the canyon as a child after the sun went down and seeing miniscule flickers of light and asking my mom what they were and they were actually campfires of campers at the bottom! An amazing sight..fantastic pictures.

  7. You got more good bird photos in a few hours than I get all summer, including the condors. Not sure about the -0 number, but the roosting condor is definately an immature with that grey head.
    Next time the North Rim Ruth.
    BTW, only the accomodations at the NR close Oct 15th, the park is open until the end of Nov, unless the snow flies first.

  8. Hi Ruth....some beautiful photographs .....woodie is great but the Condor, for me, is just so incredible. It must have been wonderful to see this huge bird in flight.

    Yes I have been to the Canyon. It was the colours that I found most fascinating. When you live in the UK everything is small...we are a tiny island. The Canyon seemed so goes beyond words......

  9. I am glad Gaelyn mentioned it above...the North Rim road just closed yesterday November 30th...unless snow closes it sooner.

    The Condors seemed to hang out more at GrandView Point this year in my experience. I took some great pictures and video of them there.

    Another location the Condors tend to hang out on is Marble Canyon Bridge if you have the time and inclination to drive from the South Rim to the North Rim...but I also recommend you come to Page and see Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon too...

    I love to hear about peoples' experiences visiting the Grand Canyon....thank you for visiting and sharing.


  10. Thanks for the comments. Dad, I need to learn how to do the panoramic stitching on my camera, but the depth is the difficult thing to see in a 2D picture. Tanya, seeing little campfire dots at the bottom would add some perspective. Gaelyn, I corrected the post to reflect the dated the North Rim is open. Next time I would stay closer to the canyon and spend a week travelling around it. KB- thanks for your helpful comment.

  11. Very beautiful. One of my goals in life is to see a California Condor. Thanks.

  12. I've never been there, and the photos I see never cease to make me sit in awe. The color and the sheer size... just amazing.

  13. I've not been there, and not likely too, so I always appreciate seeing great shots like these, and I enjoyed reading about your aadventure!

  14. Between the Condor and the Canyon, it must have been a red letter day!

  15. Wow! you saw a California Condor!
    I would be thrilled to see one.I see you still have your January count on the sidebar.I'm trying to get myself psyched up to do it again this year.


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