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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.