Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meet a Grand Canyon Ranger, North Rim edition

We were just hanging out, broadcasting our location to the world, hoping someone fun would find us.  It worked!


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.

What hump?
If you know the South Rim, and you're thinking this might just be the northern version, I'm here to contradict you. This is another world. The pace is slow. The tourists have had to work to get here, and they're here for a while. There are no sardine-can shuttle buses. It's cool here, and clear, and bright. And quiet. Y'all come visit. Set a spell.

 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.

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Anonymous said...

Yes—the white stuff in bird guano is actually urine (specifically, uric acid).

I could tell those weren't pure bison, but I don't know why I know. Perhaps they aren't as big-shouldered as bison. They do have definite bisonic tendencies, though.

Hang on—did I miss something? How did you get to the North Rim? That's a couple-hundred-mile journey, in either direction, isn't it?

The Good Luck Duck said...

I didn't know they weren't bison. I just thought wow, they're tinier than I imagined. We came up on Monday, so I guess it's just about a week. Being Utahan, this was probably your rim of choice, yeah?

Sherry said...

I knew it from the title. You got to meet Gaelyn. You really are a couple of LUCKY DUCKS.

North is definitely my rim of choice. I was on a "schedule" last time I was there since I foolishly made reservations listening to the voices of doom that said June to September there are NO camping spots unless you reserve. You've blown that idea out of the water. But it's clear I can't get there in time to miss the snow this year. But...........

If they are more cattle than buffalo, I vote for Catlbuff. Has a ring to it doesn't it??

The Good Luck Duck said...

I like it! It sounds like someone who enjoys cows.

Right, no spots available unless you boondock. Silly voices of doom.

Karen Snyder said...

This blog is absolutely one of the best places I know to get a good laugh or three! Buffacow--is that like polish it before showing in the county fair?

Who's the fella in the last photo and whatever is he dining on?

The Good Luck Duck said...

Yeah! That's perfect. Maybe it's also the product you use to burnish it.

I don't know! And, I don't know! This is why I can't be a ranger.

Donna K said...

The picture of the beetle on the blossom is ***WOW***!!! Love it.

I am all for the comeback of the condor poopulation and I vote that we install air conditioning for them.

The Good Luck Duck said...

Thanks, Donna!

I worry that they'll get chilly when they def-inate on themselves, though.

Soaring Sun said...

I'm at work and I'm supposed to look busy, even when there's nothing to do, so thinking up cattle-bison hybrid names is just the ticket.

I'm thinking hip-hop about moobu (female) or bullybu (male)?

Or an Old West hip-hop name for either gender could be bu-dogie.

Or you could go archaic and call 'em wisentkines.

Texas Yellow Rose said...

You know, reading your blog is dangerous in my delicate condition. It really does only ache when I laugh! Thanks for the giggles! ;)

Gaelyn said...

Those funny looking critters, not you two, are sometimes called Cattelo. Was so great to meet you. Am hoping for no trip to the dentist on my weekend and we'll go play in the big truck.
Nice thematics on the the condors.

Paul and Marti Dahl said...

I'm glad to see the Condors have been returned to the Grand Canyon, and hope they get to feed on the gut pile of those idiotic hunters who refuse to give up their lead bullets. Grrr!

Rick Doyle said...

If the Condors are endangered why are hunters allowed to kill them? With or without lead bullets? Only in Arizona, I suppose. I guess I'll just add this one to the list of reasons I have for not visiting Arizona anymore.

Anonymous said...

As you've discovered, the North Rim isn't highly accessible from anywhere. I've visited each rim once, but have had much more opportunity to see the South Rim (via Las Vegas).

Debbie Petras said...

How exciting that you got to spend time with Gaelyn! I've been to the Grand Canyon many times but have NEVER been to the North Rim. Now I must go. I live in Phoenix so there's no excuse. Glad to 'meet' another Arizona blogger.

Bob Giddings said...

Gosh. A composting toilet. On an RV. Sounds like a great place to bury a vegetarian.

Bob, who likes your posts better than your composts.

Jeannie and Eldy said...

Whoa! 910.00 for a composting toilet! Being that I can't get Eldy to boondock, I won't have to worry about saving up for one. Sounds like a great idea! Great informational post and thanks for the chuckles as well!

Harriet said...

My vote is Cowlo, since these guys are thinner than your average buffalo. Maybe they did a re –boot?
Hunters have brain damage probably caused by handling too, much lead shot. IMHO

Bob Giddings said...

O well, to weigh in on the naming contest... I prefer a dyslexic reading of a previous suggestion.


Who wouldn't sit down to a Buffcat Burger and chips? Though whether to eat it or just rub it behind the ears... that's a conundrum.

As for the chips, they come pre-composted. It's win-win.

Cheshire Cats Capers said...

One of our absolute favourite places, have a fabulous visit.

intrepid-decrepit-traveler said...

Incompetently, incoherently, whatever....

I like A/C, but not THAT kind.

Don't name those things: Bison should stay away from cows, you know?

We definitely need to spend time at the North Rim. Where are you guys going next? N S E W ??

The Good Luck Duck said...

Intrepid, we don't know what's next, except we'll tuck back into the South Rim so that my photographer cousin can join us and get some liminal-time photos.

Maybe the cows should stay away from the bison? We can only imagine how that works, and probably shouldn't imagine it for long.

Thanks, CCC!

Bob, I'm afraid the chips would ruin my appetite, and I'd have to double-compost them. Buffcat - I think I've eaten at that trendy restaurant. Funny comic! I think that composting toilets, like veganism, seems less radical once you've tried it.

Harriet, it's true. I think they're vegan, unless you count the bugs they get on the vegetables. I'm not big on hunting, but I understand why people do it. I just never knew that they were also eating lead from their own kills.

Well, Jeannie, I've been told people DO boondock without composting toilets, I just don't know why! :D

Debbie, good to meet you! Do you blog? Phoenix is pretty close to the GC, in the big picture.

So true, Rob. You don't drop in on your way to anywhere.

Rick, I wasn't clear. I mean that the hunters field dress the game they shoot (with lead bullets) and leave the gut piles, which the condors eat. Not visiting Arizona anymore? I probably missed that discussion, but I'll bet I have some notion. Maybe?

Marti, karma can be awesome. Although, those hunters' carcasses may be toxic, too, so maybe the condors can bring their own lunch and simply taunt the gut piles posthumously.

Cattelo. Okay, it's logical. Should we push for something cuter, or go with the status quo? Let us know how your plans evolve!

Oh Betty, I'll try to tone down the hilarity until you get more healed.

Moobu. It's strangely compelling. Wisentkines completely baffled Google. Well, it gave me words, but I couldn't read them.

Contessa said...

Fabulous post, thanks.

The Good Luck Duck said...

Thanks, Contessa!