Northern AZ Field Trips
Who knew that the Flagstaff/WIlliams area had soo many other things to do and see??? We didn't and we were pleasantly surprised by what we found.
Sunset Crater Volcano & Wupatki National Monuments
Our first trip was to check out Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki. Originally I was focused on Sunset Crater only, but the two national parks are actually connected, so it was a two'fer! We do have the America the Beautiful pass and for us young pups, we have to pay the full price of $80 a year. However, since we have been fulltime for almost a year, we have been to 12 locations covered by the pass and it has more than paid for itself. The Grand Canyon vehicle entrance fee was $35 alone! We also have downloaded a really cool app called Chimani National Parks. It identifies all of the National Parks, Monuments, Sites, Battlefields, etc and gives you information on each and links to the official site as well as offering discounts on things in the area. In addition to that, a really cool piece we like is that you can earn badges when you visit and you can then go back and see where you've been and when. Plus, it's FREE, so it's for ME!
Sunset Crater Volcano is relatively young volcano in that it is only about 800 years old. Upon its eruption it created more than 600 hills and mountains in the volcanic field. There were then gas vents that opened up on the sides of the volcano, erupting themselves like toothpaste pushing out of the tube, creating the lava fields, with this whole process taking 6 months to a year. The "grand finale" then was a final burst of red and yellow oxidized cinders that blew out and fell on the rim, giving it a glow that reminded people of a sunset and thus led to its name.
It was soo interesting to see the varying landscape and the coolest part was being able to walk in an actual lava field. It looked like we were somewhere in Hawaii and the lava flow was fresh! BTW, it was a windy day!!!
From Sunset Crater we drove through the park up to the Wupatki pueblos. It was interesting to see the how the landscape environment changes from mountain to desert as you make this drive. Situated on the SW corner of the Colorado Plateau, you start off with Ponderosa Pines around the Sunset Crater, then to a prairie grassland environment on your drive north to the pueblos. Once we reached Wupatki, you are in desert surroundings.
The Wupatki National Monument area consists of several pueblos and villages, from one story to several in a high rise like building. The largest dwelling had around a hundred rooms. Sandstone slabs, limestone blocks and chunks of basalt were the main pieces used in construction of these buildings with a clay based mortar and some used large pines as roof beams and load bearing supports. The community had large gathering rooms and ball courts. Amazingly, these buildings look really good today, being that they are over 800 years old!
Planes of Fame Air Museum
Another day we checked out the Planes of Fame Air Museum which is on Hwy 64 north of Williams, on the way to Grand Canyon. This is a smaller location to their main site in Chino, CA, where they also have air shows. Even so, it was still cool to see the planes and military memorabilia they had. Amazingly, 90% of the fleet is still flyable. They even had a boneyard out back that you could peruse. Rick even was able to get in the cockpit!
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Our last day trip was to Arizona's 2nd largest canyon, Walnut Canyon National Monument. This canyon could not have been any more different to the Grand Canyon. For reference, the Grand Canyon is approx 6000 ft deep and 22 miles long and the Walnut Canyon is around 600 ft deep and 20 miles long. So second in size, but definitely not a close second! It was still amazing in it's own right. This canyon is east of Flagstaff and has both wooded and more arid desert settings in the canyon. One side shows more Ponderosa and Pinyon pines while other areas have prickly pear cactus and yucca growing.
The Sinagua people lived in the canyon sometime before 1250 AD and built homes into the ledges of the canyon, including on large middle island cliff. The cliff dwelling were believed to be built and maintained by the women of the tribe while the men were farming and hunting up on the rim of the canyon.
The park has two trails, one a rim trail which allows you to take in great views from the rim and see some ruins up top and the second, Island trail, takes you down into the canyon to get up close and personal with the cliff dwellings. This trail is a must! But know that there are 273 steps down the cliff with over a 185 foot decent and back up along with 190 other steps when you get down to the dwellings. That's over 700 steps!!! I will not lie, we thought there was no way we would be able to do the stairs and I thought for sure my hip would call it quits!!! However, when I saw an older couple coming back up without looking like they were ready to call 911, I thought we had a fighting chance! There are railings and benches along the way so you can stop on the way up to take a break, which we did! We are soo glad we did it though! The views were amazing and the dwellings were surreal. Knowing that people lived here that long ago and here we were, weathering out a storm, in the same dwelling. You could see and smell the smoky burn marks still on the walls. Another great, little known, National Monument!
Whew, we have been busy little tourists and I still have a couple posts to catch up on, so you will be hearing more from me this week! Even though the weather has been crazy with a little bit of everything thrown in, we have been making the most of it!
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