It was hard to leave Page with beautiful Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Monument Valley. What a gorgeous area of Arizona!! The weather was really hot so we decided to spend five days in Flagstaff, which at an elevation of almost 7,000 feet was going to be cooler.
We thought we would just hang out in Flagstaff and enjoy the weather, but there turned out to be more to do than we expected.
A short drive from our campground was Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Monument.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a 2,200 square mile volcanic field with more than 400 cinder cones. Sunset Crater is the youngest volcano in the area, having exploded in 1065 AD. Because it was pretty hot and we had already experienced a lot of lava fields at Craters of the Moon in Idaho and in Hawaii, we didn’t spend a lot of time here. We saw a movie at the Visitors Center and we found a really cool geocache. The geocache was located inside an extinct fumerole (an opening in the earth’s crust which emits steam and gases). Since the fumerole was extinct it was no longer emitting steam and gases, but I was still surprised Bill jumped down into the fumerole to find this geocache. Really, Bill??!!
Within Wupatki National Monument are 800 ruins, the homes and villages of the Sinagua and Ancient Puebloans. These ancient people felt the warning tremors before the volcano erupted in 1065 AD. The lava flows forced them to vacate the land they had cultivated for over 400 years, and they moved to Wupatki and Walnut Canyon. Here they lived for another 100 years before moving to other areas of the Colorado plateau. The agricultural potential of the area actually improved after the eruption because the thin layer of ash absorbed moisture and helped prevent evaporation in the hot, dry landscape. By 1250 AD the pueblos in Wupatki stood empty. While there we walked a paved trail which took us up close to several dwellings.
In the early nineteenth century settlers and visitors to the Flagstaff area explored the Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monuments, looting the area for souvenirs and damaging the landscape. In 1928 filmmakers planned to use explosives at Sunset Crater to create a landslide for filming. This led to a public outcry and a push to preserve the area. In 1930 President Herbert Hoover established Sunset Crater National Monument as part of the national park system. Wupatki had already been designated a national monument in 1924 after extensive looting of the dwellings.
I think our favorite trip was to nearby Walnut Canyon National Monument. Here there are dwellings sheltered by overhanging cliffs inhabited here in Walnut Canyon for over 800 years. The people, known as Sinagua, meaning without water in Spanish, lived by farming, hunting deer and small game, and gathering plants. It is amazing how they were able to turn this dry land into a homeland. It is not known why they left, perhaps due to a severe drought. It is thought they traveled southeast and assimilated into the Hopi culture.
In the 1880’s the railroad brought souvenir hunters to the region, and like Wupatki and Sunset Crater, looting and destruction of the area caused alarm and dismay. In 1915 Walnut Canyon was protected as a national monument.
We intended to only walk the Rim Trail around the top of the canyon which would have given us a distant view of the cliff dwellings. The day was cloudy and cooler, so we decided to walk the Island Trail which was listed as a strenuous trail mostly because of the 240 steps each way which would take us closer to some of the cliff dwellings. As it turned out it was more moderate than strenuous and we found the walk pleasant and very informative.
We left Flagstaff and drove to Phoenix and our elevation dropped 6,000 feet. Boy could we feel a difference in temperature!! Now the temperature climbed to 111 degrees during the day. After several days of this, the local weatherman said it was going to be cooler with temperatures “only” around 100 degrees. We were practically the only ones in the campground resort. The snowbirds will not be arriving for at least another month.
While in Phoenix we did drive into the downtown area on a Sunday to see the state capitol building. We found some geocaches including one at the Liberty Bell located on the capitol grounds. This Liberty Bell is identical in dimensions and tone to the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The bell is one of 53 cast in France in 1950 and given to the United States government by several copper mining companies. It is dedicated to us, free citizens in a free country. Every September the Bell is moved to Gilbert, Arizona where it is displayed as part of Constitution Week. Close to the capitol grounds we found Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza where there are many memorials honoring important people in Arizona history as well as memorializing wars and significant historical events. We found a geocache at the USS Arizona anchor (see our post of the USS Arizona memorial). The 16,000 pound anchor was part of the ship which was bombed and sank during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship still lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. In the plaza is also the USS Arizona signal mast and gun barrel. Inside the capitol museum is a superstructure salvaged from the ship and the US flag which flew on the battleship when it sank.
Next we head to Yuma, Arizona for a few days before we begin our slow trek back east.