We woke this morning to a weather report of rain blanketing the western end of the Grand Canyon from morning till evening, but the eastern side of the gorge looked like it would be relatively clear by the time we got there. From our hotel in the quirky Route 66 town of Williams, we decided to head east to Flagstaff, and then up through grassy lodgepole pine highlands, into the Navajo Nation, and into the park from the east.
Little Colorado Canyon Gorge
Worried, perhaps, that our views of the Grand Canyon proper in the park would be obscured by rain, we stopped in the bright sunshine at the edge of the Navajo Nation to take advantage of one of their overlooks above a deep, dark stone gorge, the Little Colorado Canyon Gorge Overlook. Like much of the Navajo Nation that we drove through, this is a quite stark landscape, rocky with small bushes of sagebrush and mormon tea, yucca and century plants, prickly pear cactus and shrubby pinon trees.
Despite the altitude, it was hotter than I had expected, especially with the open rocky landscape. The gorge was deep and steep, but I knew that better was coming, so long as the rain didn’t keep us blinded.
We heard some wrens and ravens, and saw some turkey vultures overhead. But we wanted to get on to the big objective of the day.
The Grand Canyon
Last time we came to the Grand Canyon, we started from the Grand Canyon Village in the center of the South Rim, and at our leisurely pace for lots of photography and drinking in of the view, we weren’t able to make it all the way to the eastern end of the South Rim Road. This time, from the other direction, we started our day at the…
Desert View Watchtower
This, now, is the canyon you see in photographs, red and gold, deep and dramatic, made especially dramatic by the play of sun and cloud across the landscape, and the torrential rains visible at the western end of the park.
The upside of coming to the Grand Canyon during the monsoon rainy season, however, is the abundance of flowers, and the birds that feed on them, as well.
I had a lot of fun at this spot stalking a raven for the perfect cameo.
I was pretty enthralled at this stop by the Stansbury’s Cliffrose, a rugged, twisting little tree that likes limestone cliffs.
This was as far as we made it the last time we came to the Grand Canyon, and while it was a nice place to watch the sunset, we’re thrilled to have gotten to see farther east this time in the Canyon.
We clearly made the right choice for the day, as we could see all day long, thunder to the left of us, sunshine to the right, and caught in the middle was perfection.
As we followed the Rim Road in the direction of the storm clouds, we continued to find new flora and fauna.
We saw tons of birds today: chipping sparrows, Brewer’s blackbirds, ravens, grackles, turkey vultures, rock squirrels, cliff chipmunk, and what might have been a white-throated swift.
By sunset, it was clear enough to head west of Grand Canyon Village.