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Walnut Canyon

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Even the ranger admitted that the name of the trail is somewhat of a misnomer:  “They call it the Island Trail, but it’s shaped like a peninsula.”

Here's what we saw as we headed into the canyon.

Here’s what we saw as we headed into the canyon. The Visitors’ Guide is on the right.

Desert plants surviving in the snow.

Desert plants surviving in the snow.

I can only imagine the classified ads for these places:  "1-3 BR, Great views. Must see to believe. Call for appointment."

I can only imagine the classified ads for these places: “1-3 BR, Great views. Must see to believe. Call for appointment.”

"... a stratum of rock, softer than those above, had been hollowed out by the action of time ... The overhanging cliff made a roof two hundred feet thick. The hard stratum was an everlasting floor. Thus the houses stood along in a row; like the buildings in a city block, or like a barracks."-Willa Cather, on a visit to Walnut Canyon in 1912

“… a stratum of rock, softer than those above, had been hollowed out by the action of time … The overhanging cliff made a roof two hundred feet thick. The hard stratum was an everlasting floor. Thus the houses stood along in a row; like the buildings in a city block, or like a barracks.”
-Willa Cather, on a visit to Walnut Canyon in 1912

Heading down into the canyon.

Heading down into the canyon.

One of the dwellings.
One of the dwellings.

Mormon Tea. This plant is a member of the ephedra genus and was used by native tribes as a beverage and medicinal tonic.

Mormon Tea. This plant is a member of the ephedra genus and was used by native tribes as a beverage and medicinal tonic.

The trail was partially closed due to weather and safety conditions. However, we were able to look inside.

The trail was partially closed due to weather and safety conditions. However, we were able to look inside.

The view from inside.

The view from inside.

Bryon, who is 6'5", provides a sense of scale.

Bryon, who is 6’5″, provides a sense of scale.

A view across the canyon.
A view across the canyon.

As we made our way back up the path I thought of Willa Cather and the tourists who had come a hundred years before us. They had been more adventurous to come this way, unencumbered by modern conveniences, untethered by technology. Even so:  we had nothing on the communities who had lived here hundreds of years  before us. Their great grandchildren had long since died or moved on. I understood why:  as soon as I made the vertical climb back to the Visitors' Center, I had to stop and rest before crawling back to the car.

As we made our way back up the path I thought of Willa Cather and the tourists who had come a hundred years before us. They had been more adventurous to come this way, unencumbered by modern conveniences, untethered by technology. Even so: we had nothing on the communities who had lived here hundreds of years before us. Their great grandchildren had long since died or moved on. I understood why: as soon as I made the vertical climb back to the Visitors’ Center, I had to stop and rest before crawling back to the car.

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Wupatki National Monument

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It is possible to visit all of the pueblos in a day, but we made two trips so we didn’t feel rushed. This is an even better idea if you want to visit in the summer and have the time. Bryon suggests that, because the days are longer, visit some of them in the morning, spend lunch in Flagstaff, and come back in the afternoon when it’s a little cooler. (Keep in mind that the Visitors’ Center closes at 5:30 p.m.–at least during the winter–so plan accordingly.)

Approaching the pueblo.

We started our visit at the Wukoki Pueblo, which was an easy hike.

"Do they mean, 'No papooses allowed?'"

“Do they mean, ‘No papooses allowed?'”

We started our visit at the Wukoki Pueblo, which was an easy hike.

The back side of the pueblo.

What you can see from the top of the pueblo--across the street, if you will.
What you can see from the top of the pueblo–across the street, if you will.

The afternoon sun was beginning to set, and it was going to be cold(er) soon.

The afternoon sun was beginning to set, and it would be cold(er) soon.

Weathered sandstone formation.
Weathered sandstone formation.

Check out the view from this one.
Citadel pueblo:  check out the view from this one.

Here's what you see from the Citadel Pueblo:  a huge limestone sink. A professional basketball court and sideline seats could easily fit inside it.
Here’s what you see from the Citadel Pueblo: a huge limestone sink. A professional basketball court and sideline seats could easily fit inside it.

Here's a view from the Lomaki Pueblo.
Here’s a view from the Box Canyon Pueblo.

One of the rooms inside the Lomaki Pueblo.
One of the rooms inside the Box Canyon Pueblo.

Box Canyon Pueblo

Box Canyon Pueblo.

Even the plants seemed timeless.

Even the plants seemed timeless.

Wupatki Pueblo is the largest pueblo in the monument.

Wupatki Pueblo is the largest pueblo in the monument.

There are several parts to the pueblo complex.
There are several parts to the pueblo complex.

Desert foliage.
Desert foliage.

"Don't touch the pottery!" We saw more warnings than pottery.

“Don’t touch the pottery!” We saw more warnings than pottery.

The sun was starting to set. We needed to head back to contemplate (read: make) dinner.
The sun was starting to set. We needed to head back to contemplate (read: make) dinner.

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Sunset Crater

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Armed with a national parks pass, we set off to see how far we could go. Arizonans looking for winter sport amusements were heading for Snowbowl or Wing Mountain.  Bryon and I wanted only a break from the excitement of getting our older son moved into a larger apartment so his younger brother could join him and start college. After a few days of wrangling with the registrar’s office and the apartment manager, why not blow off some steam at the nearest volcano?

This part of the trail is on the southwestern edge of the Sunset Crater above the Bonito Lava Flows.

This part of the trail is on the southwestern edge of the Sunset Crater above the Bonito Lava Flows.

As we predicted, we had the place (almost) to ourselves, encountering two families with children and a Forest Service ranger making her rounds.

It's hard to estimate how deep the snow is at any one point.

It’s hard to estimate how deep the snow is at any one point. Our estimate was between six and twelve inches.

Southern face of the Sunset Crater.

Southern face of the Sunset Crater.

We saw no animals during our hike, but we knew they were there.
We saw no animals during our hike, but we knew they were there.

A cinder cone forms during the early stages of an eruption as magma rises upward through a central  vent. As the gases in the magma are released, the solid components of the magma land around the vent and form a cone.

A cinder cone forms during the early stages of an eruption as magma rises upward through a central vent. As the gases in the magma are released, the solid components of the magma land around the vent and form a cone.

A late-night errand?
A late-night errand?

Southern side of Sunset Crater, on the Lava Flow Trail.
Southern side of Sunset Crater, on the Lava Flow Trail.

Cinder cones come in various sizes and shapes.
Cinder cones come in various sizes and shapes.

Hikers are no longer allowed to go into the crater because the traffic would cause the sides to erode.

A view from the northwest side at the Cinder Hills Overlook. Hikers are no longer allowed to go into the crater because the traffic would cause the sides to erode.

It was an easy hike. If you’re in the Flagstaff area, grab your camera and check it out.

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Day Trip: Jerome, Arizona

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“Hey, let’s go to that town where that guy from that band who started a winery …”

If that doesn’t ring a bell with you either, don’t worry:  we had to consult the Font of Knowledge (i.e. Google) for something more specific. All we had to do was program the Garmin, and we were ready to go.

Shops in Jerome.

Shops in Jerome.

We left most of the snow behind in Flagstaff and decided to recharge before hiking around the town.

The view from Main Street.

The view from Main Street.

The Flatiron Cafe had opened that day under new management. Thanks to Jen and Amy, we enjoyed two lovely cups of cappuccino and some fresh carrot and ginger soup.

A yummy cappuccino.

A yummy cappuccino.

Happily resuscitated, we headed back out to explore.

Across the street from the Flatiron Cafe we found the House of Joy. This former brothel (and restaurant) currently operates as a boutique but was closed when we visited.

Across the street from the Flatiron Cafe we found the House of Joy. This former brothel (and restaurant) currently operates as a boutique but was closed when we visited.

We found Nelly Bly, a shop that sells kaleidoscopes and art. Just think–over a hundred years ago, kaleidoscopes were considered cutting-edge home media.

A view from a kaleidoscope at Nelly Bly.

A view from a kaleidoscope at Nelly Bly.

More cool stuff at Nelly Bly.
More cool stuff at Nelly Bly.

Glass art from--where else?--Nellie Bly.
Glass art from–where else?–Nellie Bly.

There were many shops and galleries to enjoy, but we were only able to preview a few. This place is worth a second (and a third) visit.

More cool stuff from local artists.

More cool stuff from local artists.

A reminder that Jerome is an old mining town.
A reminder that Jerome is an old mining town …

... that is home to a lively artists' colony.
… that is home to a lively artists’ colony.

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Great Expectations

The glowing reviews on Yelp (and other sites) had piqued my interest:  “On my list of 1,000 Places to Eat Before You Die, this would be number one”; “Spectacular!”; “Authentic”. Such praises! Such pizza! Such a line!

Waiting for dinner, not Godot.

Waiting for dinner, not Godot.

The boys looked at us, and the decision was made:  we opted for dinner, and the promise of culinary nirvana would have to wait for another day.

Six months later we came back for a second chance. This time there was no line in front of the restaurant (but it had been open less than an hour). We took the two seats open at the communal table, and understood part of the reason for that line:  the place only seats two dozen at a time–tops.

The brick oven's radiant heat welcomed us in from the cold. We had only crossed the street, but it was cold enough feel my fingers stiffen in my gloves as I walked.

The brick oven’s radiant heat welcomed us in from the cold. We had only crossed the street, but it was cold enough feel my fingers stiffen in my gloves as I walked.

The service was quick and friendly. The daily special, a white pizza with Brussels sprouts, red onions, and speck, arrived quickly.

A white pizza with Brussels sprouts, red onions, and speck.

The daily special.

Parts of this pizza were scorched so the toppings were not evenly baked. We also ordered a Margherita pizza, the classical Neapolitan combination of pomodoro sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil.

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza.

The crust was slightly less scorched. The tomato sauce was simple, unencumbered by herbs or garlic. I thought of the jars of stewed tomatoes we have at home and the loads of basil we gave away this summer. What all those people were lining up for was … home cooking.

We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
–T.S. Eliot