Wednesday, June 30, 2010

North Rim, Grand Canyon

We found it good to have gone to the South Rim before we came to the North Rim, rather than vice versa. First, there are fewer people on the North Rim and you feel closer to nature. Second, the North Rim is an ecosystem higher in altitude than the South; it's fresher, greener, and less dusty. Third, the North Rim gave us a context for what we had seen on the South, helping us put together a more complete picture of the whole Canyon. For example, here is Joan at Bright Angel Point, looking down on Bright Angel Canyon and across to the Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim. The view helped us understand our hike from the Lodge to Indian Gardens 25 years ago - how far down the face of the Canyon we went, and how steep Bright Angel Trail is - and how much further down we would have had to go to get to the Colorado River.

When we drove east to Inspiration Point, and then south to Cape Royal, we saw some of the interesting formations, such as Angels Window, that presage formations in Bryce Canyon. We were able to view the Painted Desert, 50 miles away and 3000' lower in elevation, that we'd driven through. It's hard to see the Colorado River from either Rim, although we had good views from Desert View on the South Rim and from view points on the road to Cape Royal. Here is a view of rapids on the east side of the Park. At Cape Royal, we were able to look across the Canyon to Desert View and its stone watchtower. And anywhere on the Rims, there are wonderful colors and rock compositions at sunset. (Maybe there will come a time when we get up for sunrise, but we're not holding our breath...)

So the North Rim was thoroughly rewarding.

To the North Rim

From Anthem to the North Rim is supposed to be simple -head north on I-17 to Flagstaff, continue north on US-89 to just below the Glen Canyon Dam, cut west on 89A, and bingo! Not quite.

We dawdled a bit by diverting to Arcosanti,, a planned, self-sustaining city for 5-10,000 in the desert 70 miles north of Phoenix. It was conceived by a genius, Paolo Soleri, about the same time Larry Halprin was working out the design of The Sea Ranch. Soleri had the tougher challenge, since he wanted Arcosanti to be environmentally self-sufficient - and he didn't have the backing of a developer with deep pockets. So he - now in his late 80s - and students, interns, and a note-for-profit foundation have been plugging along for 40+ years, gradually making the concept a reality - it's worth the two miles of dirt road to visit the place, a real surprise in the desert.

Then back to the serious business of getting to the North Rim. No problem until we were about five miles north of Flagstaff and found US89 blocked because of the out of control (then) wildfire that was threatening housing adjacent to the road. What to do? We chose to go back to Flagstaff and take off to the east about 50 miles into Navajoland, turning (sort of) north for 100 miles or so to Tuba City, the "capitol" of the Hopi Nation, and back to US89, about a 100 mile diversion. BUT, it was well worth it to drive through the Painted Desert up close and personal. The mesa walls are spectular in the intensity and variety of color.

As a result, we got to the North Rim just about sunset - a spectacular time. We spent Monday and Tuesday nights in what the Grand Canyon Lodge calls a Pioneer Cabin, quite adequate.

Educational Technology

On Monday, before we left for the South Rim, Andy took us to his school, Boulder Creek High School. It was built in 2006 so is about as modern as one might dream a school to be. Andy's lab includes 32 graphics-strength PCs, the technology for an interactive white board, and a 24"x36" poster printer (Andy's hoping his request for a 60" printer will be approved). The lab was a real "wow!" as I recalled working, in the '80s, with Caltech, UCLA, and USC to establish experimental labs of maybe 20 IBM PS2s - we in IBM were trying to learn how PCs could be used in education. Now Andy's lab has more computer power than you could find in many so-called supercomputer centers 20 years ago. More impressive, it is being used effectively in well-designed curricula.

Continuing to Catch Up -Weekend of June 19-20

After the time at the Grand Canyon, we were ready for a quiet weekend. Of course the 100 degrees in Anthem didn't encourage a great deal of outside activity. So we hung out, took, some pictures, and haad much joy and mirth when Kate and Joan danced together (sometimes Joan provided the music on her recorder).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Belated Introduction of our Host in Anthem

While Granddaughter Kate has played a featured role in this blog, her Dad, our son Andy, has had more of a supporting role. This entry is to correct that deficiency by telling a bit about Andy.

Andy has finished his third year teaching at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem, where he created and now teaches the three-year Graphic Design program. The program is a CTE program, roughly equivalent to California’s ROP programs. (Indeed Andy started teaching as an ROP teacher at Big Bear.) Andy is tough and blunt, but supportive, with an off-the-wall, humorous, and creative way of guiding his students – he’s liked and respected by them and they produce high quality results. Andy and the students do graphic design work for the school and for local not-for-profits. Andy and a colleague are setting up a graphics design firm, hoping to provide stipends for some of the students.

Andy’s other full-time job is as a single father, very successfully providing a loving and supportive home for Kate.

Catching Up

We've finally found a reliable wireless signal and will try to update the blog today and tomorrow with a series of entries to reprise the last week.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Grand Canyon, Summing up the Experience

Friday morning, we broke camp leisurely, but without mishaps. Andy and Kate took off so Kate could finish her Junior Ranger badge and get her certificate, then make their way bak to their home in Anthem.

After a teleconference of the Diocesan Standing Committee, Joan and I started back to Anthem going via the eastern exit. After stopping at Moran Point and and Lapin Point, we went east into Navajoland, stopping at the Tribal Scenic Viewpoint overlooking the Little Colorado River - worth the $2.00 entry fee. Then on to Anthem through Flagstaff. We'll enjoy Andy and Kate for two more days, then Monday morning will be off to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Won't camp there, though.

We are hoping to camp at Bryce later next week. Our four days at Mather Campground were a success. We did enough things right to gain confidence in this camping business, and we made enough mistakes to feel like we learned a lot. We'll make some immediate tweaks, punctuated by a Walmart run, based on what we've learned. By the end of the summer, maybe we'll have all the bugs worked out. We learned did have a secret weapon with us - Andy had sixteen years experience in the Army and Army Reserve, loves the outdoors - and is a very capable camper. He kept watch on us and we're appreciative of his patient teaching.

Grand Cayon, South Rim, Days Three and Four

We began to get into a "take it easy" routine, appropriate for old fudds and five year olds. The air is clean and fresh, the skies are clear, the campground has nice shade, so it's just nice to be out. Wednesday was very windy, though, and I worried that the tent pegs would hold. They did - it's wonderful when things work the way they should!

Kate enjoyed story time. The park is very kid-friendly, and most of the visitors are friendly, too. It's a diverse group of visitors - in four successive nights, the neighboring campsite had a "typical" American family, a German couple, a group of Japanese twenty-somethings, and a group of California teachers celebrating the end of the school year. The people make for a good experience, but we are looking forward to being in less populated parks this summer.
We started Thursday with a campground adventure. Coleman puts a little window near the tent floor advertised as allowing one to run in an electrical cord or to reach out to a cooler for a beer - they don't mention that it's a squirrel door, too, so we had some fun persuading Mr. Brown Squirrel to depart.

I wasn't feeling good Thursday, so Andy drove us east to Desert View. Much as we like the views from the developed areas close to Mather Campground, I think the views from the easterly end of the the Park are even more interesting. One photo here looks west from Lapin Point to the mile-long rapids of the Colorado River. The other photo is from Grandview Point, the location of the first resort hotel at the Grand Canyon.

We ended Thursday with choclate milk shake suppers as we watched the colors in the canyon change at sunset. Next time we come to the Grand Canyon - and judging from Junior Ranger Kate's interest - next time will be soon - we'll go to one of the eastern points for sunset (or maybe sunrise if it's at a more reasonable hour than 5 AM).

Grand Canyon, South Rim, Day Two

We survived the first night in the tent, but it was a learning experience that wasn't conducive to good sleep. We found ourselves doing things slowly.
Kate sat in on on Kids Rock!, a youth activity focused on archeology, that got started on becoming a Junior Park Ranger, Raven Level.
The sun was hot on the Rim Trail (temp in the 80s) as we walked to the El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge.
In early April 25 years ago, we hiked down the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens, from snow to 80 degrees. Joan's sister, Pam, went with us. When we finally got back to the RV, Pam's comment was, "Don't go on vacation with the Jordans, they'll try to kill you!" Not this time - we need to be in a lot better shape before we do any serious hiking below the Rim.

Grand Canyon, South Rim, Day One

Yes, we can put the tent up for real! With some help from Kate. Late afternoon, we got the tents up at our Mather Campground site and then found our first views of the Grand Canyon. We were last here about 25 years ago, and are sure that the views of the Grand Canyon will always be brathtaking, not matter how many times we see them.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ready for Camping

We've made the obligatory supply run to that outstanding outdoors store, Walmart, and now only have to figure out how to fit all our stuff and four people into the Prius for the three hour ride to the Grand Canyon. If there's a Starbuck's or equivalent at Grand Canyon Village, there may be a picture of the campsite and tent on the blog tomorrow or Tuesday.
Spent the afternoon having fun working at a car wash, but for a sad and serious purpose. A cousin of one of Andy's best friends, a 27 year old Phoenix police officer, was killed with an AK-47 after stopping a stolen car. Leaving wife, two year old daughter and a one month old son. The car wash was one of a series of fundraisers to give the family some financial stability - raised several $K. The other workers were a neat group of younger people with their kids Kate's age and older. Everyone, young and older, pitched in.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We're in Anthem Now

Arrived in Anthem around 6:00 last evening after the drive across the desert from Barstow - the cactus and yucca are in bloom, but it's hard for coastal Californians to imagine folks living in the 100+ heat.
The star of Anthem, of course is granddaughter Kate, five years old today, shown above with her birthday cake and below with Andy, her Dad. Kate graduated from pre-school a week ago, with an award for being the Dancing Queen. She twinkles, and seems to be in constant motion - outgoing and energetic - a delight for her grandparents.
Anthem is the staging area for camping at Grand Canyon next week. One of the advantages of the first camping adventure being at the South Rim is that anything we forget is available at the store there. How's that for inching into roughing it?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Seriously on the Way

This is Thursday evening in Barstow. We're 600 miles into the adventure (51.9 mpg for the loaded to the gills Prius) The doctors patted us on our heads and told us to come back in another year. Cardiologist thinks the camping idea is a lot of fun and will help me achieve his goal of getting me shaped us and slimmed down. Internist is bemused,
Drove into Southern California vis the little-used, but very scenic, route in the interior of the Coast Range - CA-25 south out of Gilroy to CA 198 over to I-5. On to Anthem in the morning.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Getting Ready

So we're on the first leg of the adventure tomorrow - nevermind it's just the prosaic stuff of some medical appointments tomorrow and Wednesday morning, separated by a TheatreWorks production of Opus, then an Interstate trip to Anthem, AZ, son Andy and granddaughter Kate (who undoubtedly will be the star of the next ten days' posts) .
There's all the usual getting the house buttoned up sort of stuff, but the big adventure was finding out how to put up a modern tent. My last experiences were with heavy canvas things, wooden poles and tent pegs ... which gives you a clue as to when Joan and I last camped. First lesson - don't try to put a tent up for the first time when there are 30 knot gusts. Second lesson - a tent with 72" peak height is damn big. Third lesson - it is possible for old fudds, with patience, to put the thing up in 40 minutes while reading the instructions; and it's possible to get it down and even packed into its stuff sack in a half hour. Fourth lesson - make sure the camera batteries are charged else the blog won't have a picture of Joan's smile of satisfaction with the tent up.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Disaster for The Sea Ranch?

June 2nd's election of officers for The Sea Ranch Association's Board of Directors provides more motivation for the National Parks Adventure. The Board is firmly in control of a group whose ability to manage their responsibilities without creating permanent wounds to The Sea Ranch vision and concepts is problematic. The decisions made today are likely to be costly - our assessments are likely to be 25% higher by 2013 and we're likely to have fewer services provided by a more expensive, less competent staff. Perhaps I'm overly pessimistic - I hope so - and being away on our adventure will create the space for a more positive view.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why we live at The Sea Ranch

Yesterday, Joan and I had the last Harbor Seal Docent duty of the two-month long pupping season at the Green Cove rookery. We had a peaceful time watching the moms and pups as the tide came in. Only one pup still nursing, the others weaned and ready for migration away from the rookery. Always fun to tell hikers on the Bluff Trail about Harbor Seals.
Today we spent the morning in the Posh Squash organic community garden, which is beautifully lush from all the rain we've had this spring. The Tuesday morning group is the best (of course) and always good fun, joyful with the real work of growing some of our food.