Found the aspens

October 23, 2011

Finally found the aspen grove yesterday afternoon. I got slightly better directions from a ranger downstairs in the bookstore: “If you see the ponds, just go around to the other side, keep going and you find the aspens.” I guess it’s easy for rangers. Since there are no trails, I hiked through groves of pines and oaks, keeping the canyon to my left and checking the compass to make sure I was heading east. I finally see a big culvert, which Betty in the library had described. And there were the aspens. Not exactly a solid grove, but nice. I scrambled along the culvert and noticed a path through the brush from other people who had found them. The culvert ends at the rim, and there is yet another grand view of the canyon. I realized you can poke around these areas to find your own spectacular view and avoid the crowds at the established viewpoints. I made my way back out of the culvert and to an area on the rim I remembered from my Thursday hike. After finding another nice view, I sat to watch the last of the sun on the rock formations.

This morning got a message from Annie in the bookstore that someone from New Mexico was trying to contact me. I called Ranger Marna, who put me on to a man named Rush, who had attended the talk Friday and wanted to know if I was interested in Chaco Canyon, a national monument in New Mexico. I said yes, I have been interested in it since it has lots of ruins of Native Americans, and they have an extensive night sky/astronomy program in the park. It sounds like a great dark sky location – Rush said you go 20 miles over a dirt road to the visitor’s center, and the nearest town is about 30 miles away. No hotels, but you can camp. Rush said he goes there often with astronomy clubs and would be able to help gain access at night to the ruins for photography.  So this sounds like a future opportunity.

This is my last day at the Grand Canyon; it’s been an amazing week. I’ll have to sign the artists’ journal that Rene put in the apartment a few years ago. Tonight is an evening lecture by Tyler Nordgren, a physics teacher at the University of Redlands, who wrote a book about night skies in the national parks. Then off to Petrified Forest tomorrow morning.

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