Roaming the North Rim: Day Five in Arizona

The first three days of our trip to Arizona involved a rigorous schedule, but we were fueled by the excitement of visiting the Grand Canyon.  That excitement continued today, our fourth day of the trip, as we prepared to see the Desert Watchtower on the South Rim, have lunch at the Cameron Trading Post, and then make a longish drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We began by driving to the far end of the Grand Canyon to see the Desert View Watchtower. Once reaching the tower, we instantly took notice of the interesting and beautiful architectural style of Mary Colter, the woman who has often been deemed “the architect of the southwest”. It almost looks like it was meant to be there, as if nature itself had erected the structure in time.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Grand Canyon, Watchtower

The tower was built in 1932 and has served visitors of the canyon since, providing them with spectacular views of the Grand Canyon and winding Colorado river below.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Grand Canyon, Watchtower

On the first floor there is a large, open area that had several vendors selling jewelry. As the LEAP ambassadors climbed to the second and third floors they viewed the Native American paintings along the walls.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Grand Canyon, Watchtower

Once reaching the forth floor everyone took to the outlook windows to enjoy the unique view of the breath taking beauty that is the Grand Canyon.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Grand Canyon, Watchtower

The Desert View Watchtower was a great start to the busy day ahead, and toward the end of our tour, we were joined by photographer Mark Burns, who was doing photography in the park.

This would be everyone’s last view of the south rim of the Grand Canyon (for now) as we made our way to the north rim, and it was far from a disappointment.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Grand Canyon, Watchtower, Mark Burns

Although we still had much to do, we also had to eat.   The Cameron Trading Post in Cameron, AZ was established in 1911, making it older than the establishment of the nearby Grand Canyon as a National Park and even the National Park Service. This historical site is where we ate on our way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The trading post is more than a Native American food restaurant and oversized gift shop, however. There is also a motel, RV park, and authentic hand-crafted Native American art shop, though we were there for one reason: food. Our dishes arrived not long after we ordered them, though the restaurant was busy: Navajo French Dip, Green Chile Stew, Navajo Taco, and Navajo Fry Bread covered in honey.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Cameron Trading Post

We only had a few minutes to look around the enormous gift shop before we had to get back on the road to make it to the North Rim before sunset, so once again, we all loaded in the cars and drove the scenic route to the less visited side of the Grand Canyon.

We arrived at the entrance about an hour before sunset…

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim Grand Canyon, Angel's, Bright Angel Point

….and we maximized our time by exploring Bright Angel Point, a short (.5 miles) but scenic .5 mile hike. Though not long, the Bright Angel Point Trail had large changes in elevation and offered several incredible vantage points of the vast canyon…

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim Grand Canyon, Angel's, Bright Angel Point

….and at sunset, the colors in the layer of the rock revealed themselves, especially the reds.

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim Grand Canyon, Angel's, Bright Angel Point

The views were incredible, and we also took advantage of the many rock outcroppings to gain even better views!

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim Grand Canyon, Angel's, Bright Angel Point

…and to pose for photos.

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim Grand Canyon, Angel's, Bright Angel Point

It was a beautiful hike, and a good introduction to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was the first time that any of us had been there and we were duly impressed.

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim Grand Canyon, Angel's, Bright Angel Point

Following our hike that finished at sunset, we still had a long day ahead of us.  Our plan was to assist Mark Burns with some basic photography (mostly carrying equipment) as he continued work on photos for his Grand Canyon Exhibit, which will open at the George Bush Presidential Library in 2019.

Burns’s objective on this evening was to shoot the Milky Way over “Angel’s Window” in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  To that end, we were with him from approximately 9:30pm until 1:30am.  Although summer, it occasionally got cold on this rim promontory, with the temperatures dipping to the low 50s.  This wasn’t freezing, but it could be chilly.

We learned a lot by watching, and we enjoyed the immense beauty of the night sky.

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Angel's Window, Mark Burns, Milky Way

We observed about a dozen shooting stars, and we practiced shooting in the dark.

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Angel's Window, Mark Burns, Milky Way

Although this proved difficult, it gave us much to think about.

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Angel's Window, Mark Burns, Milky Way

It was approximately 1:18am, when Mark got the shot he wanted, and it was a good one (attend his opening exhibition to see it!).

SHSU, LEAP Center, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Angel's Window, Mark Burns, Milky Way

With that, we left for Kanab, Utah, where we would be spending the “night.”  Given that it was two hours and fifteen minutes away, it was more like we were spending the morning there.  But with a big day at Zion the next day, we were eager to get whatever sleep we could, so we finally settled into the hotel around 5am, for a couple of hours of sleep with pleasant, star-filled dreams.

Mountains and Monuments: Another Day in Santa Fe

Bandelier National Monument by Bianca Saldierna

On our last day in the rugged west, we went for an early morning hike at the Bandelier National Monument, where the Ancestral Pueblo people lived starting approximately 11,000 years ago.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

The Bandelier National Monument encompasses over 33,000 acres of protected land and over 70 miles of trail. We adventured on the most popular trail at the national monument, the Main Loop Trail, also known as the Frijoles Canyon Trail. As we wandered on the 1.2-mile trail, we had the opportunity to see archeological sites such as Big Kiva…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

…Tyuonyi, Talus House and the Alcove House. As we learned about Big Kiva, a communal meeting place used for religious, educational and decision-making purposes, we spotted three mule deer around the Tyuonyi ruins. To our surprise, one by one, the deer calmly approached the site, stopping a couple feet away from us to snack on some of the grass (although we want to believe that it was because we are some kind of wildlife whisperers).

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandolier Monument

As we continued with our tour, we learned that the Tyuonyi pueblo was one of the several large pueblos located within the Bandelier National Monument. The Tyuonyi once had over 400 rooms and it was home to approximately 100 people.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

We were able to better appreciate the scale of the remainings of the Tyuonyi structure after climbing a volcanic tuff cliff situated in front of it. Resting on the cliff were the Talus Houses which were reconstructed in 1920.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

We had the opportunity to enter the small cave dwellings called cavates via ladder.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

We learned that because the clay rock was crumbly, the people would burn the clay constantly to make it sturdier.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

Midway through our trail…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

…we adventured on the Alcove House which rests in the upper part of some large volcanic tuff cliffs.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument, Alcove House

To reach the former ceremonial cave, we climbed 140 feet up via four steep wooden ladders…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

…all despite Karla’s fear of heights.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

Luckily…

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…the narrow and partly paved paths were not crowded by visitors, which gave us some extra time to carefully explore…

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…and enjoy the views…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

of such a scenic and photogenic place.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

Shopping Downtown by Karla Rosales

After our hour-long hike at the Bandelier National Monument, we headed back to the hotel to pack up and enjoy our last few hours in Santa Fe. We spent part of our afternoon at the heart of downtown Santa Fe around the plaza market which was filled with various shops and art galleries.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Plaza

We began our walk through the portal at the Palace of the Governors which was filled with Native American Vendors. The Native American artists, from approximately 41 pueblos and tribes, make and exhibit jewelry, pottery and other works of art.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Plaza

The program that allows Native artists to showcase their art is called Portal Native American Artisans Program and it requires for the vendors to be members of New Mexico tribes and Pueblos and for all of their pieces sold to be genuine pieces. Some of us bought copper bracelets and even a copper guitar pick which were handmade and had unique cultural symbols and designs. Other ambassadors decided to walk around the plaza and enjoy a hot cup of coffee from a local shop.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Plaza

We wrapped up our quick shopping trip and hurried to meet with Mark Burns for lunch.

Lunch with Mark Burns by Christina Perez

Make Burns is a well-known photographer who grew up in Houston and who is known for the National Parks project that featured his photographs of all 59 National Parks. Currently, The LEAP Center and Mark Burns are collaborating to create a documentary on his profession and his successful career as a photographer. Interestingly, as he was working on the National Parks Project he spent some time in Santa Fe. Besides joining us for lunch, he also met us to work on the documentary and allow us to take a few photos of him. Because of being so familiar with the city, he recommended that we visit Tomasita’s Restaurant which serves Northern New Mexican cuisine.  Tomasita’s was first opened in 1974 and has been a local favorite since then. During lunch we enjoyed listening to experiences Mark Burn’s had during the last few months. He shared news about his project of the 100th-year anniversary of the Grand Canyon and his new website design.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Trains

Canyon Road Walk and Film with Mark Burns by Bianca Saldierna

Our conversations were carried on through our walk with Mark Burns around Canyon Road.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road

The half-mile long road located in Santa Fe’s Historical District houses more than one hundred galleries, boutiques and restaurants.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road

As previously mentioned, Mark Burns sporadically lived in Santa Fe while he completed his National Parks Project. He took us to his short-term house located in this picturesque road. We were able to briefly film and photograph Mark Burns in this location to include the material as part of our documentary.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road

To our surprise, the neighboring gallery displayed several pieces of one of the ambassadors’ favorite sculptor, Allan Houser Haouzous.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road, Allan Houser

We also had a chance to photograph Burns at the front of the home in which he stayed during his various trips to Santa Fe.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road, Mark Burns

After concluding our work with Mark Burns, we strode through the charming road…

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…peeked into a couple of galleries, took some photos, and visited a restaurant with a noteworthy side story.  The walls of El Farol’s (The Lighthouse) restaurant display five small murals brushed by Alfred Morang, an artist who made Santa Fe his home and whose house and former studio sit just off of Canyon Road.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road, Alfred Morang, El Farol

We had previously admired Morang’s artwork at the New Mexico Museum of Art…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe NM, New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts, Alfred Morang

…in fact, our knowledgeable museum tour guide directed us to his artwork at this unique restaurant. Our New Mexico visit ended in this historic and popular part of Santa Fe. Although we were nostalgic to leave such beautiful city, we headed back to our home state delighted to have learned about the city’s culture, people, art and history.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road

Art & Photography on the Fly: Caddo Lake & Marshall, TX

“A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” William Wordsworth may have never seen Caddo Lake, yet it is a perfect way to describe the effect of the lake’s beauty. On this second day at the lake we were now set out to capture this captivating grandeur through the lens of Mark Burns.

Daybreak Voyage, By Ryan Knesek

The LEAP Ambassadors met with photographer Mark Burns early in the morning to continue with our documentary process. As you may remember, Mr. Burns has been a part of the National Parks Project where he photographed all fifty-nine national parks in black and white.

On this expedition to Caddo Lake he focused mainly on the color scheme of the autumn cypress during the dawn hours while taking wildlife photos here and there.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns
Photo by Mark Burns

LEAP Ambassadors were able to converse with the accomplished photographer and expand their knowledge of composition, lighting, and color scheme in photography.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

Being amateur photographers, we benefit from the knowledge he provides–even if it isn’t evident in our own photos!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake

And as we saw the beautiful landscapes of the lake and the graceful wildlife, we set these newly learned skills into practice.

Starr Home, By Ryan Knesek

After meeting with Mark Burns in Uncertain, Texas, Leap Ambassadors found themselves in the city of Marshall. There, Ambassadors toured the historic Starr Family House, a Victorian-style home that was built with the money from the Starr’s land possessions.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Dr. James Harper Starr was commissioned as president of the board of land commissioners and receiver of the land dues for Nacogdoches County by Sam Houston in 1837. The tour showcased refurbished wood flooring and antiques that were unique to the home. Art, woodworking, and portraits illustrated the family’s status when the Starrs had guests at home. Now, years after the owners’ lifetime, their elegant lifestyle is still admired as people visit and tour the home, which is operated by the Texas Historical Commission.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Among the most interesting aspects of the home were all its artifacts. Ambassador Makayla and I were even allowed to use one of these artifacts, the stereograph.  This contraption functioned as early 3-dimensional glasses for photography and was the first time that Makayla and I had used one.

As one would imagine, the home showed portals into the past through its architecture and artifacts.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

One interesting aspect of history while touring the home was Dr. Starr’s relationship with Sam Houston. Apparently, Dr. Starr owned land close to land owned by Sam Houston in Nacogdoches. However, land disputes arose while they were neighbors and Dr. Starr tried to sue the celebrated Texas war hero and politician.  This tour helped highlight the fact that the more you learn about history and the present, the more connections you see, and this is the beginning of true understanding.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Lunch at R & R Bakery, by Christina Perez

After the LEAP Ambassadors finished their tour of the Starr Family Home tour, we headed to lunch. We arrived in historic downtown Marshall, Texas…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Harrison County Courthouse

and pulled into R & R Bakery and Coffee Shop. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by friendly staff and sat down ready to enjoy our meal. As we waited on Sierra and Sarah to arrive we shared our favorite things about the sunrise tour.  We discussed the birds, the colors of the trees, and our favorite part of the tour.  Ryan got the South Western roast beef sandwich with jalapeño bread and a garden salad on the side and lets just say he enjoyed his meal, clearly evidenced by a clean plate a few minutes after his order arrived. After lunch we shared some desserts, apple cinnamon scones for some and choclate chip cookies for others. It was a sweet way to enjoy the afternoon.

Michelson Museum of Art, By Makayla Mason

With such a filling lunch, we decided to walk it off with a small shopping session through town. Our wallets turned to the various antique shops along N. Washington Ave. And even though we could have spent longer at the shops, we made our way to the Michelson Museum of Art.

Opened in May 1985, the museum houses hundreds of pieces of art by artist Leo Michelson. The museum was founded following a donation from Leo Michelson’s widow. The donation consisted of more than 1,000 of Michelson’s art pieces.

Today, the museum consists of Michelson’s work, as well as works from locally and nationally recognized artists. The traveling exhibit that was currently at the museum was of illustrator Marla Frazee.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

Frazee has illustrated several well-known children’s books such as The Boss Baby, Clementine, Stars, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and even one of my favorite book series, The Borrowers.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

The Ambassadors enjoyed looking through books they remembered reading when they were younger and appreciated the detailed illustrations.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

The other exhibit at the museum was “Our Artists and their Selfies.”

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

This exhibit contained thirteen artists with pieces of their work paired with their self-portrait and a list of highly-recognized art museums that feature each artist.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

One of the thirteen artists was Henri Matisse, a name familiar to the LEAP Ambassadors, so we decided to take a selfie!

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art, Henri Matisse

But from indoor art…we went back to the natural art of Caddo Lake. Sunset and sunrise lighting conditions are far from the same. That is why it was important for Mark Burns to return to the lake during the late afternoon. Swaying in the tranquil waters of the lake, Mr. Burns continued to look for that perfect spot to photograph.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

During his National Parks Project, he spent five years visiting and revisiting parks. This search, as you can tell, is continuous and ever changing. Even though we had been here over the summer, the lake is not under the same conditions as before.

“Water levels have fallen by three feet,” Wes, our captain and tour guide, told us.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

This affects the composition of Mr. Burns’s photos since cypress roots are more visible. Of course the most prominent change is the fall colors in the foliage of the cypress trees.  This is such an important trait of the lake since it changes the format in which Mr. Burns takes his photos.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

Now that the fall colors are so rich, Burns sought the right light for the perfect color.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns
Photo by Mark Burns

Tomorrow will be our last chance, for now, to get the last few shots of the lake. As we returned to Marshall for dinner we reminisced on the day’s success. We even got to see a few of the photos that Mr. Burns had taken through out the day. With excitement in our step and a show of confidence…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Harrison County Courthouse

…we returned to the hotel welcoming tomorrow’s adventures.