Cape Royal & Angel’s Window at Grand Canyon

You can look through Angel’s Window at Cape Royal Point to see the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! Wow, the river and the scenery is spectacular!

If you drive from the Grand Canyon’s north rim main lodge directly to Cape Royal Point it will take about 45 minutes. But I believe you would stop at vistas along the way; the scenery is beautiful! Or, maybe you will drive to Cape Royal Point and stop at scenic spots on your return. Can do!

Once at the parking lot at Cape Royal Point, you will walk a short trail to Angel’s Window. At some points along the trail you can see the Colorado River framed by the rock window. Walk along the main trail further and you are at Cape Royal Point with views of the canyon. Quite honestly, you need to visit since no photo will really do it justice! What are your plans for next year? Add in a stop at the Grand Canyon’s north rim, but realize it is only open May to October if the weather cooperates.

Look closely at people walking the trail above the window.
From another point, photo was taken through the window to the Colorado River below.
Another view.
Colorado River in the distance.

Visit Point Imperial; A High Point!

Point Imperial has the highest elevation on the north rim of the Grand Canyon at 8803 feet. You’ll drive north from the north rim’s main lodge on the park road and turn east onto Cape Royal Road. After some miles of driving, you turn left and this road takes you to Point Imperial … lodge to point is 11 miles and about a 25 minute drive.

There is a huge parking area, a picnic area and a short trail with scenic vistas overlooking the Painted Desert and the eastern end of the Grand Canyon. Here are some photos from that trail:

Point Imperial vista point
Scenic view from Point Imperial

Some people were picnicking, volunteers were collecting native seeds, and I was time bird-watching. I saw 11 different species of birds. Here are a couple of bird photos:

Western bluebird
Pygmy nuthatch

Back on the road our next stop, and blog post, will be at and about the end of the road at Cape Royal and Angel’s Window … 17 miles from Point Imperial to Cape Royal Point, taking about 35 minutes to drive. However, you may also stop at other vistas along the way as we did and the drive then is longer, but all wonderful to explore and enjoy! Do so, since who knows when you’ll ever return!

Aware of AZ’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument?

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geologic structure between two monoclines rising 1,500 feet with many colored layers of shale and sandstone in northern Arizona. John Wesley Powell first named these cliffs in 1869 while he was on the Colorado River exploring the Grand Canyon. It was not till November 9, 2000 though when the monument was established with the National Landscape Conservation System mission: “to conserve, protect, and restore our nation’s natural treasures for present and future generations”.

Vermilion Cliffs

We drove a dirt road, House Rock, to the condor viewing site. The condor breeding facility is in California with the condors being released here each year. There was no condor activity during our visit at this site. Condors were sighted at Navajo Bridge. We fortunately discovered there are more places to explore down this road the next time we visit here. See the map below with the West Bench Pueblo stop, Maze Rock Art site, and various trailheads … one of them being where the 800 mile Arizona Trail (from Mexico to Utah through Arizona) ends.

Places to visit in the area.

I loved this sign showing the size of the condor wingspan: 9.5 feet compared with other birds of prey. The following photo shows how the range of condors has diminished.

Condor wingspan, wow!
Condor range had diminished.

As you drive the road between Navajo Bridge and Jacob’s Lake in northern Arizona, it is the only paved road across 2.8 million acres of public land. There are 4,000 miles of unpaved roads that necessitate use of a high-clearance vehicle. Take time to plan your adventure as this is remote backcountry terrain with no services or cell phone signals. Be prepared!

A personal experience:

Years ago, I experienced this wilderness area while on a 3 night backpacking trip through the Paria Canyon. We started our hike a day later than our original departure plan due to heavy rains in Cedar City, Utah. Those rain waters would have flooded the deep slot canyon the next day and we would have had no escape. A couple of important points: have a permit to enter this area and know what weather is predicted for a couple of days before and also during your hike in the canyon. Do not get caught in a deep slot canyon with water roaring through and at you! Please do your homework and understand what you are planning to accomplish … be prepared … this is a wilderness area! 

Rocky Mountain Beeplant in Vermilion Cliff area

Television? Not in My Van Travel!

Watching television while traveling in my van simply does not happen … and so it was for me  April through June of this year. Once back home, I tried to catch up on my recorded television programs. However beginning July 1, I was busy watching cyclists for 21 days of bicycle racing in the grueling Tour de France, followed by 8 days with the women bicycle racing in their Tour de France! Also, I could not miss grass-court, Wimbledon tennis action which started at the same time and continued for 2 weeks! And let me not forget Women World Cup Soccer. Those games reminded me of my college days, 4 years running up and down the field hockey field. While a hockey stick hurts when hit in the shin by another, I cannot wrap my head around a soccer ball bouncing off my head! What athletes will do to be successful on a tennis court, soccer field or roadway for hours at a time in each sport. Kudos to all!

Thankfully DVR’s allow us to record television programs. Once Wimbledon, World Cup and the Tour de France men and women tours were over, I began watching my recorded programs. Fortunately there is no announcement on my radio of who won “Tough as Nails” or “American Ninja Warrior”. I can watch my “Nature” and “Hope in the Wild” programs knowing that I had spent many hours in the natural world while I traveled and can now relax watching others in nature. Binge-watching “Call of the Midwife” and other PBS programs become do-able, especially with a bowl of popcorn! 

What a life I enjoy! 24/7 time I can spend in the natural world while traveling in my van and then to return home to the luxury of television-viewing. When I walk the campgrounds at night I see RVers with their televisions … some have multiple televisions in their rigs … and I think my break from TV watching is beneficial to me … and that is important … so is the DVR!

Would not want to have missed this sunset!

Citizen Scientists, YOU, Can Use iNaturalist App

iNaturalist is now an independent organization! You may not know about iNaturalist, so let me tell you about this app that has encouraged my participation as a “citizen scientist” these past 4 years. The app is free, easy to use and you may wish to use it too.

I use the iNaturalist app to help me identify a plant or animal I do not know. I use my smartphone, take a photo of the unknown, and download the photo at the app. Once location and date are entered, the app provides suggestions of what it is I observed. I decide if the suggestion or the next suggestion in the list is best and then click on “share”. Others may agree with what I chose as identification or may disagree and offer another suggestion. Eventually my observation’s data quality is at “research grade”, meaning the community agrees on the identification. I now count it as one of my hundreds of observations. 

How it is that iNaturalist can have 1 million observations per year? This may explain that fact. I met a guy in California while he was taking photos of a number of plants. During our conversation he told me his observations were all going to the iNaturalist app. As an environmental educator he believed he was doing his part in adding his observations. The info allows researchers to use the collective info for their fields in ecology, conservation or where needed.

So whether you view yourself as a “citizen scientist” or part of “community science”, this app may be of interest to you. This app began in 2008 as a UC Berkeley master’s program and joined with CA Academy Sciences and National Geographic Society in 2014. It is now  an independent 501(c)(3) USA-based non-profit organization! The app team plans to keep the app free because “we believe nature is for everyone”. Fortunately iNaturalist receives generous donations and grants.

So … download the iNaturalist app … you’ll have it on your phone for the next plant or animal you wish to photograph, identify and share with others. Researchers will appreciate your effort and if it is a living thing new to you, now you’ll know what it is! Get outdoors and have fun!

Identified by iNaturalist: desert spiny lizard
iNaturalist app

Point Loma Tide Pools, California

I live in land-locked Arizona, so getting to the Pacific Ocean a few times a year is great travel fun for me. I’ve written about various California places, but walking at low tide at the intertidal pools within Cabrillo National Monument is worth a visit. Time to visit the Point Loma Tide Pools in the San Diego area!

Be sure to know when the tides are during your visit. You do not want to be caught in high tide when the water is just over 7 feet in depth. If you are looking for sea anemones, crabs and other living things it is best to be here at low tide. At this location there are 2 high and 2 low tides most days. Google it or ask a ranger the tide schedule.

I love checking out the pools of water and seeing living things there or in the cliff’s edge. See the crabs in the photo below? And look at all the life clinging to the cliffside!

Once again we see the power of water as these smaller pools were made.

Many people visit these pools, so plan your arrival as early as you can. Cabrillo National Monument which is where this place is, opens at 9am each day. I have been here other times and found the parking lot closed due to it being full. Of course there is plenty of other spots to stop at this national monument so consider doing that too. Of course, I was happy to get a good photo of a snowy egret flying by!

San Diego Visit: Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

When in California’s San Diego area, stop by Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. You can easily walk this park above the ocean water on the cliff, where signs will remind you of cliffs possibly being unstable, and/or hike down a steep set of metal steps to the ocean’s water. (Connected to and north of the park is Sunset Cliffs Coastal Trail, also worth visiting as I did, but this post is about Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.)

I walked around the park to observe the beautiful views across the ocean and also see the local plants and birds. Many walkers, runners and visitors were at the park.

Then I hiked down the steps to be at the ocean’s water. It is fascinating to see the result of years of water’s erosion of the cliffside and the tunnels that were created. Water is a powerful force of nature! We often forget this fact until we are reminded when seeing the effects of flooding with people, cars and/or homes carried away or cliff erosion and a RV going over a cliff. I was at the stairway’s mid-point when I took the two photos so you have a sense of the steps. Take your time and you’ll be fine walking the steps.

Great fun to listen to the water, walk on the rocks and enjoy the day! Check out this park if you are in the area!

Don’t Mess With My Food!

When I was a 7th grade science teacher, an activity for my students was to create a beak for a bird to dig, grab and eat the bird’s food. Dependent on the student’s research of what food the bird eats would determine the shape of the bird’s beak. Then their challenge was creating the beak and only allowed to use two of their fingers to move their created beak. Really interesting creations were made and some truly worked in picking up “food”.

Often I think of this science activity as I observe birds working to find food in the natural environment. Every so often I also see other birds try to “steal” another bird’s food. While walking along the north trail at Imperial Beach, CA, I did see one gull try to get another gull’s food. I suspect this happens often, yet here was my opportunity to observe the action.

Here is a western gull with food in its beak. It shook the food and a small bit fell off. The other gull picked up the piece and moved closer to the gull. 

They see each other and the one gull tries to get closer. The gull displays its annoyance to get the one to move away. I watched this activity between the birds for a couple of minutes and the gull with the food was having none of this annoyance from the other gull! Do not mess with my food! Looks like it snipped at the gull’s tail feathers.

Ok! that gull will leave the other one alone now!

Brown Pelican … in Action!

Bird photography has its challenges! I set myself in a place to capture a photo as a bird flies into the wind and hopefully towards me and within reach of my camera lens. While on Southern California’s Pacific Ocean, I saw a number of brown pelicans and thought this was a good bird to photograph.

All set up to capture the brown pelican flying towards me.

Then before I knew it, the bird must have seen some fish just below the water’s surface and dove into the water! It’s head was well underwater!

I was originally looking at the bird’s breeding plumage and large bill and pouch, but then was holding my breath as it plunged underwater! The bird feeds on small fish and I could only hope it would be successful.

Back to the surface!

Once back on the surface, it looked like the brown pelican was running across the water. Check out the photos and see what you think. I loved seeing and photographing this bird!

Birding While Bicycling, Forget It!

Bicycling is fun and so is birding. Combine the two activities and there is a challenge at least while I ride my Trek bicycle. I can cycle along and hear the cactus wren at the cholla cactus, the curve-billed thrasher by the cactus or under a creosote bush, or a common raven cawing overhead. But as soon as I coast, stop pedaling, on my bicycle there is a buzzing sound flushing birds from the area! Very frustrating if I want a closer look at the bird or even a photograph!

Well my reality is I am not going to stop birding while bicycling. Instead I have realized I should just keep pedaling, even if it is slowly, when I want to take a closer look. Or pass by the area where a bird is or stop before where I think I am hearing the bird!

We have a wonderful bike loop here in Tucson, Arizona so many bicyclists are out cycling and maybe not as observant of some things that I may notice. At times I stop to observe, listen, and take in a moment. I’ll continue to bicycle and bird …

By the way, the clicking sound is like that of a ratchet wrench, if you know what that is. On a bicycle, the sub-component of a bike’s rear wheel is the free hub that allows the wheel to keep spinning even when I have stopped pedaling. The drivetrain is instantly disengaged until there is a transfer of power from me to the wheel when I pedal. There is more to this in the world of “pawls” to understand the creation of the clicking sound; I will not get into here. I just want to get outdoors to cycle and bird! Hope you are having a great day!