Day 15: Fossil Walk, Condor Talk, and Lightning!!
We woke up early and went on a Fossil Walk led by Ranger Robb. While we waited for everyone to gather for the walk, Ranger Robb told us about his personal attempt to haze the squirrels at the Grand Canyon with a water gun. People have been feeding the squirrels so they get really close to people and sometimes bite people, which is a problem because they still carry the plague, as in the black plague that killed half Europe's population in the 1300s. So if you're visiting the Grand Canyon, don't forget to chase the squirrels away!
Ranger Robb showed us the fossil beds on the Rim Trail that are evidence that the land around the canyon was once under water.
After lunch, Nick and I took a bus to the Yavapai Geology museum, about 20 minutes away from our cabin, where we saw illustrations of how the canyon was formed over millions of years. It's pretty complex and after so much time I don't remember the exact details, but it involved an inland sea, the Colorado River, and erosion. From the museum we were able to see the bridge at the bottom of the canyon that allows hikers to cross over the Colorado to get to Phantom Ranch, the only lodge on the canyon floor.
In the afternoon we attended a Condor Talk by one of the other rangers, who explained how condors were reintroduced at the Grand Canyon after being almost extinct. There are now just fewer than 500 condors in the world, many of which live at the Grand Canyon. The most fascinating thing that she shared with us was that they discovered that some of the condors were nesting in the same place as condors did 10,000 years ago. I believe they knew this because of fossils or bones, but I can't be sure. Sadly we didn't get to see a condor, which has a wingspan of 9 1/2 feet! We did see this pretty little guy.
After the talk we got some ice cream to tide us over until dinner. While we were sitting by the canyon enjoying our snack, we saw a squirrel come up right next to a woman who was also sitting and eating a snack. She then asked her husband if she should pet it, and he said yes! As I saw her reach out her hand about to touch it, I involuntarily yelled, "NO!" and she looked startled. I explained that the squirrels can carry the plague, and she replied, "I know." WHAT?! People amaze me.
After picking up the Grand Canyon version of the "how people died here" book and a book about the Fred Harvey Company, which was partly responsible for the Grand Canyon becoming a tourist spot, we spent the afternoon relaxing in the cabin. Just as we were getting ready to head to dinner at El Tovar, a crazy lightning storm blew in. Ranger Robb had warned us that lightning is pretty deadly around the rim, so we opted to drive over to the hotel instead of taking the short walk.
We were seated in a room that had an entire wall of glass facing the canyon and we were able to watch the crazy storm throughout our meal. It would have been awesome if I hadn't been so worried about what was happening back at home as the hurricane barreled through our area, along with the tornado warnings that had popped up on top of everything else.
We retired early for the night in preparation for an early morning hike into the canyon!