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Snapshots at the Grand Canyon

Published October 20. 2012 09:01AM

OK. So by now you know how fantabulous I think the Grand Canyon is.

Besides the incredible scenic vistas, here are some incredible moments I had.

*Goose bumps at the Grand Canyon

George and I were sitting along the edge of the Canyon waiting for Connie who was exploring a little. Harry was doing his Bright Angel Trail hike. (Next week's story.)

Suddenly we began to hear this very loud "Whooooosh Whooooosh Whooooosh" sound. We both looked up and saw this huge bird with this amazing wing span come flying overhead.

George said, "I think that's a condor."

I quickly aimed my camera and was only able to get one shot. But I knew I was seeing something amazing. It gave me goose bumps.

The California condor is the largest flying bird in North America. Their wings span nearly 10 feet from tip to tip. They can fly up to 15,000 feet high.

In 1982, only 22 condors were known to exist and was close to becoming extinct. Thanks to a conservation-breeding program, today there are 405 California condors. But only 226 birds currently live in the wild. Condors were sacred birds to the western Native Americans. They have great respect for the condor and see it as a symbol of power. They call it the thunderbird because they believe it brings thunder to the skies with the beating of its huge wings.

The name of the lodge we were staying at in the Canyon was the Thunderbird Lodge.

And I got to see one of those 226 birds in its natural habitat. Goose bumps, people. Goose bumps.

*Romance at the Grand Canyon.

On our second night at the Canyon, I had gone back to our room before Harry. He came rushing in and told me to grab my camera. Evidently, an elk had come calling right out in front of our lodge.

He was quite a handsome young bull and we got about 15 feet close. He was very intent on wooing a lovely young elk miss and was courting her with his distinct bugling. I snapped a couple of pictures. He turned his mighty head in the direction of the flashes and looked straight at me. Harry started tugging on my shirt and told me maybe I should back up a little. Of course, being the obedient wife that I am, and suddenly envisioning the headlines of the morning paper ..."Tourist tossed into Grand Canyon by disgruntled courting elk" I moved back until he swung his head and refocused on his girlfriend. She was being coy, and kept moving on. He followed until both eventually moved out of sight.

Bet there will be a new little Grand Canyon baby elk running around there in about eight months. Mrs. Elk will be able to say, she spent her honeymoon at Thunderbird Lodge. Ah ... romance.

*Legacy of a Grand Woman of the Grand Canyon

While at the Grand Canyon, two names kept popping up ... Fred Harvey and Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter. I was familiar with Fred Harvey and his Harvey Girls, thanks to the Judy Garland movie, "The Harvey Girls." But it was Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter that I became intrigued with.

Mary was born in Pittsburgh in 1869. She attended the California School of Design and was offered a job by Fred Harvey to decorate the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She began working for him full time in 1910, and became an architect. For the next thirty years, she worked as one of few female architects and in rugged conditions, completing 21 projects for Harvey. Some of them in the Grand Canyon. She designed the Phantom Ranch buildings in the bottom of the Canyon. We visited her creations of the Canyon's Hopi House, Hermit's Rest, Lookout Studio, the 70-ft. Desert View Watchtower, Bright Angel Lodge. She is responsible for influencing the look and feel of an entire architectural genre some call "National Park Service rustic" and setting the precedent for using site materials and bold, large-scale design elements like using native fieldstone and rough-hewn wood. One of her masterpieces is the geological fireplace in Bright Angel Lodge History Room, with rocks arranged floor to ceiling in the same order as the geologic strata in the canyon walls.

What a legacy! What a woman!

*Beyond Belief at the Grand Canyon

So there I was on our second night in the Grand Canyon. We had just finished a delicious meal at the Bright Angel Lodge. I was visiting the Ladies Room. Sitting in my stall, I overheard this conversation.

"I'm going back to the room and get my camera," said one lady. "I want to take a picture of this sign."

"What sign?" asked her friend.

"The one that says 'Caution: Mmlk plkjsg ioposjf ..." (I couldn't hear the rest.) And then they left.

As I was washing my hands, my eyes wandered around the room trying to find a sign that was worthy of a picture. When I didn't see anything, I realized the sign must have been in her stall. So, I opened a stall door and sure enough, there was a sign posted on the wall just above the toilet. I opened all the other now empty stalls, and the same sign was above each toilet. It read: "Reclaimed Waste Water. Please do not drink the water."

Seriously? These signs were needed why? Because someone actually drank the water from one of the toilet bowls? Ewwwww! Beyond belief!

Hey, did I already tell you how amazing my trip to the Grand Canyon was?

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