Our second cohort of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars program is taking part in a conservation summer immersion program on the Colorado Plateau, and they are guest blogging here at L-C-Ideas to keep us up to speed on what they’re doing. Please check back for more!
Day 1 Adventures: NAU, the Grand Canyon, and Sunset Crater
Written by Fernando and Kyra
Yesterday evening, a bus full of DDCSP Scholars pulled into NAU after climbing several thousand feet from the scorching desert of Phoenix, AZ to the much cooler alpine haven of Flagstaff. We were jet-lagged, hungry, and excited to get rolling. After a big pizza dinner and full night’s rest, we gathered this morning for our first time together as the full 2016 Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Cohort. We shared a welcome breakfast where we played name games, met our awesome staff, and learned about the structure of the program. We got a first glimpse at the next eight weeks to come full of meeting conservation professionals, learning and working in the field, and confronting major conservation issues on the Colorado Plateau. After our orientation, we dove right in and embarked on our first adventure: to see the Grand Canyon!
Our full cohort and staff made our way along highway 89 towards the South entrance of the Grand Canyon. En route, we passed through the Kaibab National forest which contains a range of gorgeous geological formations such as extinct volcanoes and exposed strata.
After a two-hour journey, we arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and quickly filed out of our vehicles. Soon after we made our way towards the edge of the canyon to a viewing point overlooking the majestic sculptures carved by the deposition and erosion of sediments over the course of millions of years. Those who had never seen the canyon before were blindfolded and taken to the viewpoint in order to maximize the shock factor. As soon as the blindfolds came off, the voice of the students responded in awe.
While onlooking, it was clear to any observer that the Grand Canyon was shaped by the force of time and water, forces that have exposed the history book hidden within the varying layers of rock. These so called layers, or strata, not only decorate the landscape but are evidence of the extensive time it has taken to sculpt such an immense structure without the intervention of humans. Although the canyon’s beauty could be observed by the human eye, its scale and time could not be rationalized within the lifespan of a human being.
After most of us had our first awe-inspiring looks at the Grand Canyon, we journeyed onward to see Mary Colter’s watchtower. This tower sits on the South Rim and was designed to look like an Anasazi watchtower. A stone spiral staircase weaves through Anasazi-style murals on its way to a high look-out over the canyon. Some scholars climbed up to the top while others found a quiet place to reflect on the beauty of the canyon.
On our way back, we stopped for dinner and many of us experienced Navajo Tacos for the first time! We eventually landed on our first camping spot of the summer: Sunset Crater. We arrived as the sun was setting and pitched our tents in between the abundant Ponderosa pines. A few scholars slept directly under the stars; luckily it didn’t rain! We gathered together in an evening circle to share what we are bringing to the group and what we hope to gain from the summer experience. Everyone’s passion for the natural world and conservation was inspiring and each person brings a unique view – we’re all looking forward to seeing where we go from here!