Gaelyn, a National Park Service ranger, spent her break with us. She told us stuff about the Canyon, cleared up misconceptions (mine), and offered to show us amazing high-clearance sights that Prius drivers don't usually witness.
We had listened to a California condor program, and somehow I "heard" that all condors in the wild now came from one breeding pair. That has troubled me every since, because a genetic bottleneck like that is not a "fix." But, Gaelyn explained that a condor won't canoodle with a close relative, and that there was more than one pair involved in the comeback. Whew. Glad I heard that incompetently.
On hot days, condors cool down by uri-cating (peeing and pooping) on their legs. That's an August hiking tip from me to you. I think birds do that all in one activity, but remember: I have no Google.
Humans are still heavily involved with the condor population. The birds are radio-tagged, and blood is taken regularly to watch for lead poisoning caused by lead bullets in game hunting.
The bullet shatters into the guts (and into the meat eaten by hunters and their families), leaving teeny, tiny bits of lead in the gut pile. Condors are scavengers, and a gut pile is the dinner bell. They're very sensitive to lead. It hits their central nervous system and they can't fly, and forget to eat. Eagles are also sensitive to lead, but turkey vultures chew it into clever shapes to sell to tourists.
If you're a hunter, the solution for your kids and the condors is to use copper ammunition. In Arizona, compliance is voluntary, and when you get your license you also get a voucher for lead-free copper ammo, compliments of Cabela. There are still the die-hards. The "you'll get my lead when you pry it from my cold, developmentally-delayed hands" hunters. Is this a multi-generational Darwin award?
[This is more than you've learned from me in four years of blogging, and yet there's more.]
I said they're bison, but I lied (1992, Michael Bolton).
These guys are wild beefalo. Gaelyn says they're genetically closer to cows than to buffalo. The smart ones seek asylum in the Park, where they are protected from lead in their own gut piles.
We think it's rude to call someone by his food name, so what do you think: Cattlo? Buffacow? Mooalo? Buffattle? Buffa-Lite?
Inside the Park, there is a dining room in the Lodge, and a deli alongside it, if you'd like to eat out. There is a Post Office (North Rim, AZ 86052), and a gift shop. There's a general store in the campground (that's where you'll go to surf and buy V-8). There's gasoline nearby, either inside the park or just outside on 67. We found the outside station about 50¢ cheaper per gallon, but don't let me influence you.
Unlike the South Rim, the North Rim has a season. It seems to run from May ides to November, but winter is already here on the plateau by then. Come early, or come with long underwear and chains (or whatever your own kink is - I've said too much).
While we were in the thick of monsoon down in Flagstaff, our solar panels were having trouble keeping our batteries topped off. We're in good shape now, but we've started turning off our inverter at night, and when we're gone. I think it's the single biggest drain, and we don't miss it when it's off. Still, Annie has her eye on a couple of full-sun meadows and a field.
What's the difference between a meadow and a field? Like obscenity, you'll know it when you see it.
Fellow boondocker Gail has just installed a Nature's Head composting toilet in her RV - hurray Gail! We hope you enjoy the freedom from dump stations and the less-frequent water trips.