“FLIP” Day in the Grand Canyon by Stella Schwartz

We were sitting in Vanessa (our van) once again, ears shimmering with freshly purchased earrings from the Indigenous Community Connections fair in Flagstaff. We eagerly watched out the window as we pulled up to the kiosk at the entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. After Biz showed the park ranger our camping permit and he handed us some maps of the park, we were on our way!

We drove for another 10 minutes until arriving at what we thought was our campsite. After unloading our many backpacks, setting up our tents and making dinner at our Coleman camp stove, we were politely told to move to a group site rather than the 3 normal sites we were currently occupying. With few complaints, our tents got hoisted into the air and marched across the campground.

My crew, the Stroods, were cooking so we stayed and finished up dinner while everyone else transported tents. At one point Cora and Nell fell behind the group of flying tents as theirs got stuck in some trees. Luckily, some of our lovely neighbors pointed them in the direction of our moving party. Finally, all of our tents, backpacks, and even our dinner, got moved to our new group site about half a mile away. There we had a quick dinner before trekking off into the night towards study hall.

During our time at the Grand Canyon, we had the opportunity to have study hall inside! The lodge was a lovely cafeteria one might find at a fancy ski resort. We were given a  conference room attached to the kitchen to do our work. The roof and two walls of our study hall space were completely glass, giving us an amazing view of some trees and bushes shaking in the wind outside. After study hall we walked/jogged back to camp where we made some hot water bottles to battle the cold and slept under the stars.

The next morning the rest of the Stroods and I were up early to cook. We made toasted bagels with an array of toppings for breakfast. As people slowly emerged from their tents into the frigid morning air, we sat around our concrete picnic table and enjoyed our bagels. We were all mega excited for the day. It was “Flip” day! It was the first day of our “Flip Flop of the Grand Canyon,” where we would spend one day focusing on science and another on humanities. Today, “Flip” day, was our science day. With 6 hours of science on the schedule we gathered our books into our day packs and piled into Vanessa once again.

Off we went to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where we hypothesized how the canyon was formed and learned about all the different rock layers we could see on the North Rim. Before lunch we squeezed in a visit to the Archeology museum where we learned how the canyon formed, how humans influence the ecology and geology of the canyon, and so much more! At the end of our museum visit, some us were initiated as Junior Rangers of the South Rim! Booklets were filled out, videos were watched, oaths were taken, and badges were received. It was a big day!

We then hopped back into Vanessa and headed to a parking lot where we ate our sandwiches at a picnic table in the sun. After lunch we moved the picnic tables back into place and commenced science once again! We walked a transect and collected data on the number of certain plants in the area before chatting about graphs. We then collected data on deer populations through a game in which we were either deer or resources. It was a blast! Our science day was almost at its end. But not quite! Now it was time to participate in a real-life scientific study! We clambered into Vanessa once again and watched 2 videos on how to participate in the Pinion Jay study. The volume on the computer was very low and we had forgotten a speaker. This led to some snoozers during the screening of how to identify Pinion Pines, Juniper trees, and Pinion Jays. Luckily, we already knew these species well. We divided into 4 groups and dispersed into the forest for our 10 minutes of observation. No pinion jays were sighted but a small scraggly coyote was! Fun times!

Into Vanessa once again, we drove back to camp. We had completed our 6 hours of science! Back at camp we had some free time before the Stroods were cooking dinner once again. We crafted bean and rice burritos with guacamole, salsa, salad and cheese. Delicious! After Tess, Wyethe and Biz, had completed their clean crew duties we trekked into the night towards study hall. Some rode in Vanessa with our books but I thoroughly enjoyed our evening promenades to our study hall lodge.

It was an eventful study hall that evening. Nell found her long lost hat! We were all ecstatic to hear the news as we had been hearing about this hat every evening at fireside during announcements, at times when many lost items are proclaimed missing. After study hall we made hot water bottles to battle another frigid night and climbed into our cozy sleeping bags once again. Flip day completed!

–Stella Schwartz

“FLOP” Day in the Grand Canyon by Maylie Gardner

Let me just start off my saying, Grand Canyon day 2—“Flop” day—was quite the day. My tent group started the morning early, 3:20 AM in fact. Cora’s alarm started beeping which led to many groans and “I don’t want to get up”s. Regardless, we all got out of our warm sleeping bags. The cold was an instant shock but honestly, I was too tired to even care. Emma, Cora, and I unzipped the flap on our tent, expecting to open it to the beauty of the lunar eclipse.

I can promise you: that is not what happened. We opened the tent flap to miles of clouds covering any sign of the eclipse. Frustrated that we didn’t see it and noting that we would have to be up in two hours for the day, the three of us mosied back into our warm sleeping bags and soaked up the last bit of sleep.

Once again, the beeping of Cora’s alarm went off, though unfortunately the repetitive beeping of an alarm right next to our faces failed to wake us up. This quickly turned our 5:30 am wake up to 5:57. We rushed to meet the rest of the crew outside by Vanessa. Ten exhausted teenagers with Biz and Madeleine up front hit the road to go watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon.

It is quite a wonderful view if you ask me. Cook crew brought granola and oat milk. We all grabbed our breakfast and chose a spot to sit alone and watch the sun. Unfortunately, my 20 minutes went by quicker than expected after I fell asleep on the rock I was sitting on. I was awakened by calls coming from Biz’s direction–she was making fake bird calls to summon us back. With my eyes half open, I walked over to the crew where we were met with a family with 2 kids. These kids were mesmerized by the ‘cah-cah-ing’ leaving Biz’s mouth. This made two 6 year olds start ‘cah-cah’-ing as well, making quite the noise.

After this nice ear-piercing song we got, we gathered up into our “go to learning shape”: a circle. Biz shared our literature assignment—to write dialogue between the North rim and the South rim for an hour. About 45 minutes in, Emma, Wyethe, and I had to use the “facilatrees” (if you catch my drift), but then we continued our writing. The hour flew bye much quicker than anyone expected. We made a stage to listen everyone’s stories. We laughed and ooohed, watching our wonderful classmates read their dialogues.

Once our sharing was complete, we loaded back into Vanessa and drove a whole 5 minutes to the cafe we had been using for study hall. We all piled into the cold room still feeling half asleep. Biz passed out the coloring pages she had promised us. Sometimes, all 15-18 year olds need is to color, and we started coloring in the pages while listening to a podcast about voting in Arizona. Today was November 8th!

We listened to the podcast followed by a guest speaker. But this wasn’t just any old speaker, this was Grandma Scottie! Also known as–Biz’s mom! Grandma Scottie has the best style out there and is a school teacher. Along with those, she is a poll watcher! We got to talk to her all about the work she does and learn the ins and outs of an election.

We then headed to the visitor center to partake in some Grand Canyon commerce. Stickers, postcards, and coffee were obtained, before we loaded back into Vannesa to go find the trailhead we were going to hike on. We hiked to our lunch location where we got a wonderful group photo taken by a lovely human passing bye. Then we quickly had to leave going back to the campsite for siesta time. “Siesta time” is a rare and very needed activity for me. Some were eager to keep hiking, so we split off into a siesta group and a hiking group. I would have enjoyed the hike but my need for a rest at that moment was quite high. Biz, Trish, Nell, Emma, Tess, Chloe, and I hiked back up the canyon and walked to the van. We all loaded in Vanessa and headed back to the campsite. Emma, Nell, Tess, and I took our siesta time to write letters and sew patches on our pants. We listened to our MP3’s, rocking out to Dolly Parton’s “9-5” and crying to The Head and the Heart’s “Rivers and Roads.”

Then – Biz ran over to tell us that we had to end the siesta early because Madeleine found a polling center we could visit! This one was located within the national park. We walked over to the Tusayan polling place and met back up with Stella, Wyethe, Ella, Cora, and Madeleine. Next to the five of them stood a nice man with a rectangular name tag–his name was Rob.

Rob took us through the voting location where all the workers seemed quite thrilled to see us. We learned about the polls and asked Rob tons of questions. We ended with a group photo with Rob. We all walked back to the campsite where Becky and Malia were back from the lodge. We gathered once again in a circle to have global studies class. Bodies were very cold during the class, so we took some time to layer up because being bold and starting cold in the nights of the Grand Canyon is not a good move.

For dinner, Biz’s crew hopped into the kitchen and made chicken and chick’n (vegetarian protein) sandwiches. Nell added her secret sauce, which led to a deep discussion where some (most) people wanted to know the recipe and some (me) were very adamant about not sharing secret recipes. Hey, it’s like I always say: as a chef you can never share a secret recipe! This is one of the reasons I am never able to get recipes from the restaurant where I cook. We moved on from the sauce and all sat together eating our dinner.

After dinner, it was “bathroom time,” which means one person has to go to the bathroom and everyone else follows only because there’s a cozy heater in there. Clean crew cleaned up dinner, and we all packed up for the cold trek to study hall. The walk turned into a run when we had 130 freezing fingertips. We entered the back of the cafe once again and studied away. Then we ran back to the campsite because at by late evening, everything was freezing! We lit the “blastoid,” preparing the water for our hot water bottles. We had a speedy fireside chat (our closing meeting of the day), then quickly got all ready for bed.

We had to take time to restake out our tents because a storm was headed our way. We cozied up into our sleeping bags and hit the “pillow,” falling asleep instantly. What seemed like minutes later, Cora’s beeping alarm went off for the last time at the Grand Canyon. It was dumping cold rain outside and we were chilly and cranky. Unfortunately, we repeated our mistake from the day before and decided to close our eyes for just another minute after the alarm was shut off. Once again this turned from 7 am wake up to 7:28 am wake up. Breakfast was at 7:30 and we had to be all packed. We hectically packed our bags as the puddle of water grew below our tent and our possessions started to get wet!

Emma, Cora, and I rushed outside and made our breakfast. We did breakfast in the vans to avoid the rain, and all sat eating with Cora and me occasionally saying, “It rains all the time in Seattle, this is nothing.” We decided to get it over with in terms of packing up the tents, so everyone re-entered the rain. The tents were cold leaving us with blue fingers. We got packed up and loaded into Vanessa again. We drove out of the park yelling “bye Grand Canyon! We will miss you Grand Canyon!” And were on our way back to Verde Valley School in Sedona, Arizona.

–Maylie Gardner