I rode to work this week. I work for a company that makes products to track animals in water. Specifically we make acoustic transmitters and both manual tracking receivers and automated receivers designed to stay in the water and occasionally be retrieved to gather data stored in memory. This week, we were helping to finish up installations of automated receivers near Leeís Ferry, the beginning of the Grand Canyon.
Glenn Canyon Dam is on the Colorado River above the Grand Canyon. It radically alters the flow of the Colorado into the Canyon. Instead of seasonal flows, big temperature changes, and lots of sediment, the water flows cold and clear out of the dam. In an attempt to recreate spring floods, there is a scheduled high flow event from the dam. I say scheduled because this is controversial. The dam and the canyon and everything around this area is controlled by a comically complicated alphabet of organizations and groups. To do anything near the Canyon is a lesson in frustration.
None of that is really my business, but it is part of the story, since we needed to make small tags that lasted a long time, which involved turning them on and off depending on times researchers would be looking for them. The time of the flood from Glenn Canyon is important to us.
This is why I got to ride to work, from Tucson to Leeís Ferry. We were scheduled to be at Leeís Ferry on Thursday. We werenít quite done with the smallest of tags since we were waiting for times, so my boss left for Leeís Ferry and I would follow on Saturday. I donít own a car, so my options were to ride, or rent a car. He took my sleeping bag and wading boots. Snow nailed Flagstaff on Thursday. Marlin, yep the owner of a company that tracks fish is named Marlin, called Thursday night and said it is icy and nasty on highway 89 north of Flagstaff. I waited until Saturday morning and everything looked fine, so off I went on the bike.
It turned out to be a beautiful day on Saturday and my ride to the Marble Canyon Lodge near Leeís Ferry was good. The quickest route was I-10 to I-17 and then Highway 89 toward Page and Glenn Canyon Dam, then a turn at 89A. This is the road that leads to the north Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The trouble spot of this route is always I-17 out of Phoenix. Shortly after leaving Phoenix and hitting the outskirts 17 goes down to two lanes and heads uphill. Semis are slowed to a crawl in the right lane. We all know this. So the left lane fills. Some, whose lives and destinations are very much more important than mine fly up open spots in the right lane until they hit the previously mentioned slow trucks and then hurriedly move over into the left lane. To me it is the equivalent of line cutting at the movies. No, I donít like to give frontsies. It doesnít seem to matter to them if a bike is already there or not. But I got through that fine and made it through the snow-lined areas of Flagstaff.
The Navajo bridge lies about sixteen miles after the turn from 89 to 89A. This is the last vehicle crossing of the Colorado until the Hoover dam about six hundred miles to the west. Since everyone would be working on the river until sundown, I had some time.
I stopped at Navajo Bridge and walked onto the old bridge, now pedestrian and equestrian only. Much to my delight there were three California Condors hanging out on the cliffs, occasionally taking flight. They are enormous birds, but surprisingly graceful in the air. There were a couple of people who had hiked near the cliffs. This gave a good standard to measure the size of these birds.
They stood nearly waist high to these people who seemed to be not paying much attention to them. They were looking more at the somewhat loud group of twentysomethings on the bridge to the west of me. I paid little attention to these folks thinking it was some kind of tour. I stared and stared at the Condors, until I heard one gal say, ďDonít rush me, Iím old.Ē I looked over and she was climbing on the railing of the bridge. I thought that looks dangerous. It is about 460 feet down to the river and looks every bit that distance. Then she did the most astounding thing. She just jumped. My mind freaked. What do I do, how do we get down there if she survives, can we get a boat? Moment later, with much relief I finally noticed the bungee cord attached to her. She dropped until about ten feet from the river and bounced harmlessly back up. I headed back to the safety of my motorcycle and rode to Marble Canyon Lodge.
The next day we worked on our installations on the river. Our stuff was put into cliffs and rocks. We were creating three ďgatesĒ of receivers. They will be able to tell movements of Rainbow trout before, during and after the flood. The receivers will detect any fish passing through the gates; one six miles upriver of Leeís Ferry, one just a bit below Leeís Ferry and one six miles downriver of Leeís Ferry. Finding ideal spots was a process of balancing access, good water conditions and good cliffs on both sides of the river. One site does require a bit of a hike to get to the receiver.
To get to this bad boy, one has to exit the boat downriver about a quarter mile and hike up through cracks in rocks, walk along Talus slopes and carefully make your way onto a big rock ledge. Then you can get the data from the receiver. We made the walk and set up the receiver. Later that night while thinking about that particular receiver, I realized I did not take it out of debug mode. That was the only one. I would have to make the walk again the next day.
We mostly finished our work the next day. We were short some cable. Some RG-58. I had the BNC ends I needed. Someone in Flagstaff was contacted and dispatched to
Radio Shack. Radio Shack told them RG6 would work fine. Thatís what he arrived with. My job for the next day was simple. Ride to Page and get some cable. I found a computer place that actually had it. Thatís all I had to do, besides actually putting the cable together.
So, with only hour ride to Page and back, I planned a little ride up 89A. It was a gorgeous day, and I road up the hill toward Jacob Lake. It got colder and twistier as I went up. The snow was piled up next to the road. Fortunately, the road was clear except for some gravel and cinder in some corners. I wasnít able to fully exploit the LTís cornering ability for fear of becoming just another motorcycle statistic.
Tuesday night I anxiously watched the weather from one of three channels available on the Lodges TV. The Phoenix station reported nearly certain snow and ice in Northern Arizona and Flagstaff down to about Munds Park starting at about 10:00 AM. I needed to start the transmitters at about 7:00 AM to get the timings for the next sixty days right and then I could leave. I got out at about 8:00 AM. Everyone told me it was about two and a half hours to Flagstaff. I figured that would put me right into the beginnings of the snowstorm. I made it in about an hour and a half. I wasnít really going that fast, maybe 10 over. It was sprinkling and about 38 degrees. But I did get through Munds Park and started down in elevation before any snow or ice hit. From then it was the trafficy ride home though Phoenix and on to Tucson. Our equipment seemed to be working well in a very challenging environment, and I made it home in one piece. All in all, it was a good weeks work.