Unfortunately, we did have to deal with near constant 20 mph winds (with frequent gusts up to 40-50 mph) the entire time we were at the Canyon. This made staying outside for any length of time rather difficult so we used the shuttle a lot more than I had originally intended and had to do a lot of our observing from inside structures. I believe this also limited our opportunity to interact with wildlife. I had received many reports of people seeing deer right outside their doors at the Yavapai, but we didn't have any luck. I did see some birds, but taking photos was impossible as they were constantly being blown about by the wind - I watched one scrub jay literally get blown off its perch on a rock and out into the canyon and have to fight its way back to a perch in a tree.
We did still have a great time and managed to find some other highlights like drinking prickly pear lemonade (made from the syrup of the prickly pear cactus fruit) at the Arizona Room of the Bright Angel Lodge and having breakfast (corn and polenta pancakes with prickly pear syrup and pistachio butter and OMG they were so good we went back and had them again the next day!) in the El Tovar dining room overlooking the Canyon, taking the shuttle along the Rim Trail to some of the scenic overlooks and then exiting the park on our last day by stopping at the Yavapai Geology Museum and the Desert Watchtower.
This was our first view of the Canyon from an overlook outside the El Tovar.
In this view, you can see the Colorado River. It is hard to believe that this river carved the entire Canyon!
The black staining on the Canyon wall in this photo is called "desert varnish" and is left behind when Spring thaws cause temporary waterfalls to exist as the snow melts in late winter/early spring.
Remember that Scrub Jay I mentioned? Here he is on a bench at one of the overlooks.
And then I managed to get this photo of him on the ground before he had his little wind adventure.
And here he is in the tree - recovering from being blown around. Other birds I saw at the Canyon, but couldn't get photos of due to the wind, were Mountain Chickadees and Western Bluebirds.
As I mentioned, the day we left, we stopped at the Desert View Watchtower. It was designed in 1932 by architect Mary Colter and was meant to imitate the design style of Native American structures.
Here is Ryan explaining that the tower is "this big."
The interior has murals and other artwork reminiscent of Native American art. This is a view of the ceiling inside the tower
I wanted to remember the style and color schemes of some of the art work as inspiration for future jewelry designs.
This was part of one of the murals on the walls.
Wall painting between two windows.
This artwork is done in the style of some of the petroglyphs in the area. In a future post, I'll be sharing some photos of those actual petroglyphs as we went out to one of the sites near Sedona to see them in person.
I did have one truly unusual experience while at the Watchtower. Remember I mentioned the high winds? Well, they were still blowing on that day as we were leaving. As we headed out to the parking lot, Ryan and my mom split off from me to go check out a crow that was sitting on a picnic table begging for food. I kept walking towards the parking lot and then suddenly I heard them yelling at me. I looked up and realized that a HUGE dust devil had just dropped from the sky and was heading right towards me. Now, I'm not talking the little ankle-sized ones that swirl some trash and leaves across the road...this thing was as wide as a large van is long and it was higher than the top of the trees I was standing near. I knew I couldn't get out of the way in time so I hunched over around a small metal post that was near me, wrapped my face and head with my arms and proceeded to get pummeled by this thing. I got hit by quite a bit of debris - fortunately most of it was small, but I did have a bruise on my back from a rock about the size of a silver dollar. I also had to really scrub my hair that night to get all of the sand and grit out of it.
I guess vacations are partially about having once-in-a-lifetime experiences and if that is so, well, I can check "get hit by mini-tornado" off my bucket list LOL!