Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Down is Optional, Up is Mandatory

Youngest Son, Mommy with Commuter Husband and Oldest Son

“Leave it as it is. You cannot improve it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is keep it for your children, and for all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American … should see” 
Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday morning Commuter Husband and I picked up Oldest Son and Youngest Son from Greene Family Camp (after 24 days of Jewish sleep away camp) and Monday morning we hiked 1.5 miles into Grand Canyon on the South Rim’s Cedar Ridge Trail. That is many hours on the road – thank goodness we picked up two hours with the Pacific Time Zone. The little red Prius is on its first Commuter Family Road Trip!

We along with about 15 other travelers met the Grand Canyon Ranger at 7am to enter the Grand Canyon. Ranger was friendly, informative and passionate. I am always impressed by our country’s National Park Rangers. I learned that 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon annually but only 5% step foot below the Rim – thus we entered this elite group today.

The skies were clear and most of the trek down the Cedar Ridge Trail was shaded. Our Ranger shared much of her knowledge with us …
This Utah Agave lives about 35 years on only blooms in its last months of life. Our Ranger has a children’s book in mind … really.

And the Utah Agave in its youth: green and robust before the fatal bloom. 

Ranger, Oldest Son and Youngest Son find something of interest … while I envy Ranger’s two walking sticks!

Youngest Son in front of Ranger and Oldest Son … that majestic view ahead.  

Ranger explaining DUDE: deposition, uplift, down cutting, erosion – the steps for how the Grand Canyon was formed.
THE MOMENT of the day was by Youngest Son. Our group was stopped and Ranger was explaining the major conservation efforts of one of the rarest birds in the world: the California Condor. She was telling us we MIGHT get to see one. Youngest Son was perched up on a rock that was making me slightly nervous. He volunteered that there was one below him. The Ranger looked skeptical and politely asked Youngest Son if perhaps it was a Turkey Vulture. He confidently reiterated that it was a Condor. So Ranger climbs rock and it WAS a CONDOR! Very exciting. Then about half of us, one at a time, climbed up the rock to see it. The other half decided not worth the precarious look out point.
Youngest Son on his bird-viewing platform! He is calling himself the Condor Whisperer.    

Condor #22 – offspring of mate-for-life Condors #8 and #9 – spreading his wings to attract a female.
The hike back up was much more arduous. Youngest Son had a ridiculous amount of energy providing a parental opportunity to teach Youngest Son some leadership skills. For example, stopping and waiting and encouraging certain other hikers … yes, Commuter Husband found the steep incline a bit challenging as evidenced by the frequent rest stops and this comment …

Commuter Husband “At least I do not need a stress test now.”
Oldest Son “What do you mean?”
Commuter Husband “Well I have not had a heart attack yet.”
Ba Da Bing!

Oldest Son re-enforced the family spirit by insisting we all complete the trail exactly together so after 3.5 hours of hiking we crossed the “finish line.”

Perhaps Youngest Son best summed up the experience on the shuttle back to the visitor’s center when he asked me in all earnestness “Why haven’t you brought us here before?”

Youngest Son was excited to fill our bottles with fresh Grand Canyon (Colorado River) Spring Water – very cute.
As road trips go, things do not always go as planned. Those wonderful new Camelbacks did a great job hydrating the males in our family. However, one Camelback was not closed properly and it leaked all over our baggage. So at midnight Monday, I sorted through damp clothes to hang dry in our very rustic and very small cabin outside the Sequoia National Forest …  
Clothes all dry (whew!)  and we are on our way at 6:30am Tuesday morning!

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