THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED – To THE NORTH RIM – SUZANNE EL-HAJ

Last week I went to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. The North Rim is only about 20 miles from the South Rim. However, to get there it takes about five hours driving. This is because the only route there is around the entire canyon. There are no bridges that go through the canyon to take us across it. On the way there we encountered some intense monsoon rains and thunder. However, it was still a beautiful drive through the Navajo Nation reservation and the vermillion cliffs. We stopped at the cliffs in hopes of seeing some condors but there were none. I hope I get to see one before I leave this region!

At the North Rim we camped for three nights and four days. In the mornings we would have a 6:30 AM meeting, then head out to the field. Our days were filled with exploring the open meadows in search of wildflower seeds and grass seeds. There were so many bright yellows, purples, pinks, whites and everything in between. The North Rim sits at about 9,000 feet in elevation so it has cooler weather and wildflowers bloom longer. There is also different vegetation and wildlife there. There are beautiful aspen trees and less desert plants. Currently the park is struggling with a bison issue. The bison are destroying the native vegetation in the region and for almost one hundred years, the National Park Service has been trying to rid all the bison. It is a controversial issue because the bison may have been here before the colonizers came and killed them off. For me, in some ways it feels like a repetition of that American history.

While I was there, I learned so much about seed collecting. I realized that you could collect seeds from practically any plant, if you find it at the right time – when it is seeding. It is also so essential to collect from native plants. Those plants will thrive and benefit the local ecosystem. I plan to continue collecting seeds in my hometown region! I also realized that the North Rim is less crowded and not many tourists visit there for multiple reasons. However, in many ways the North Rim is much nicer than the South Rim and definitely worth the detour.

“May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.”

— Indigenous American Proverb

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