LCI is excited to be co-hosting the Grand Canyon Semester for Fall 2014 with NAU’s Honors Program and Grand Canyon National Park. The GCS students are kindly providing blog updates of their activities this fall so that we can live vicariously through their experiences– hooray!
Seeps and Springs (by Anna, Levi, and Jamie)
Following along with the theme of seeps and springs, Thursday September 18th was totally devoted to water. That morning, we took a beautiful hike in the San Francisco peaks through aspen groves with pine and fir trees, to reach our destination of Veit Springs. We explored the surrounding area and found a small cave with centuries-old pictographs along the outside rocks.
Inside the cave was a short tunnel that ended with a small pool of water fed by tiny trickle coming from deep within the cave. We then had our field presentation led by Zia, Maddie, Kelli, and Monika. We discussed seeps and springs and traditional ecological knowledge, how the two can relate, and also how they differ. The discussion was very productive, often leading to discussion of other issues related to seeps and springs.
After that, we headed to Montezuma Well. The elevation differed by a few thousand feet, so both the landscape and temperature were drastically different. Around Veit Springs, the elevation was higher, which means the temperature was very cool, the air moist which led to more vegetation. It was the opposite at Montezuma well. The air was hot and dry, with little vegetation around. We took the loop trail down to the well and saw a few cliff dwellings used by ancient people. Montezuma well is a very unique place. Because it is filled by an underground spring, the water levels above ground remain constant, even in times of severe drought. The water that fills the well has a high content of both dissolved oxygen and arsenic, which allow for at least five endemic species, the most of any spring in the American Southwest. We then had an eye opening discussion about water, its uses, conservation, and shortage. It was eye opening in the fact that we were thinking about how little water is out there for consumption, and how it is being managed, both properly and improperly.
Friday consisted of another trip to visit another local outlet of water. After a vital coffee stop at Late for the Train, we drove over by the base of the San Francisco Peaks, near the turnoff to get to Snowbowl. There, we met Steve Monroe, who talked to us about the distribution of water in and around Flagstaff, and what that meant for Big Leroux Spring. As we were talking, the skies opened up to demonstrate one step of the rain cycle, and we all pulled out our jackets and huddled under some Ponderosa Pines to avoid the rain. While under the trees, Steve explained to us the nature and science of inventorying a spring. After the rain let up, we ventured out from under the trees and started taking some basic measurements and observations of the area. We followed a form used by USGS and inventoried a spring as if we were real scientists, out in the field discovering and documenting a new water source for the first time. We split up into groups, working to identify water quality, water quantity, site conditions, surrounding vegetation, and other surrounding wildlife that might affect it. When everyone was finished, we combined our data sheet into one big one, which we gave to Steve, who said he would take it back and submit it as real data that could be used as information on the springs.
We hiked down from the spring, and headed back to Flagstaff. We had about three hours to pack up to get ready to head to the South Rim, where we would spend a very peaceful night listening to elk bugles and coyote yips.
On our way up, we saw a fantastic thunderstorm the closer we got to the park. It was dark, which made the lightning even more dramatic as its bright flashes lit up the sky and its electric bolts cut through the dark background. Luckily for us, by the time we got up to the South Rim, all had passed, and a few of us even slept out under the stars.
In the words of Natalie, “[We’re] always glad to be going back to [our] absolute favorite hole in the ground.”
Saturday’s activities started with Bruce’s workshop on drawing. He was very passionate and meticulous about how drawing landscapes should be—he emphasized the importance of creating a ruff sketch before any creative project. He would take his index and middle finger from each hand and make a 90-degree angle, touching his hands together in order to make a box. The box then became the preliminary composition of what ever it is you are trying to draw. The sun was still making its early trek towards zenith when Bruce made a box with his hand pointing to Zoroaster’s Temple, saying, “Gosh, will you look at that! So many contours, lines, and shapes! Just look at the shadows!—Now that’s a whole project right there,” nodding his head with raised eyebrows while he finished his sentence. He then gave us blank paper for our journals and told us to begin sketching a particular section of the canyon using our newly learned framing technique.
The Celebration of Art event began shortly after the conclusion of our drawing session—the first part of the celebration started with the “artist quick draw”, where all the artists involved with the program had two hours to complete an impromptu painting. The event started at 9 o’clock, and Bruce took us to Bright Angel trail head where we would see the first artist starting her paining—a few mere red scribbles on a board canvas. Putting his index finger towards his temple and tapping, Bruce said, “Artists SEE what they’re doing in their minds before a piece is complete. She knows what every line means.” We continued along the rim towards El Tovar, with many artists sprawled out along the way. We would stop at each artist while Bruce explained certain techniques he saw people using in their work. Every time he saw someone who had a preliminary sketch, he’s turn to the group and say, “See?”
At 11 o’clock, the artists had all finished their compositions and began framing them and preparing for the auction that would occur at 12. The starting bid for each painting was $300, and the proceeds were split 50/50 between the Grand Canyon Association and the artists. The GCA would then use that money to pool for a proposed art gallery within the park. The students were told to be cheerleaders for the auction in order to increase excitement, and therefor increase sales. When the auction began, we were all very surprised to see where the artists took their work. Most of the paintings were modest scribbles, lacking definite form, but ultimately they became amazing translations of the Canyon. Overall, the students really enjoyed the auction and the experience was somewhat humbling.
After the auction, we were given a tour of the Kolb Brothers’ studio. We were shocked to see just how much more there was to the building besides its initial gift shop entrance—the sub levels are very impressive and almost luxurious. The views from the windows were no doubt the best in perhaps any home in Arizona—eyes straight out towards Indian Gardens and Phantom Ranch. We learned a lot of information about the Kolb’s in the early years of American interaction with the canyon. They had many obstacles to over come, including friction from both the Harvey Company and the National Park Service. The Harvey company never wanted to endorse tourist competition between the Kolb’s and the railway company, so the Kolb’s required individualized entrepreneurial strategies in order to start their business. These strategies ranged from hauling dirty, muddy water in order to develop the Kolb’s film to one of the brothers to using an abandoned mine shaft as a dark room.
After our tour, we left the Canyon back home towards Flagstaff. The ride was standard road trip—some of us read, some of us slept, and some of us were eating snacks. When we made it back home, the sun was just about to set, coloring the clouds both orange and neon pink. I took my index and middle finger from each hand, placed a frame capturing the clouds and some of the mountains facing west from Flag, and reflected on all the art we had just witnessed—Arizona is a beautiful place.