Saturday, October 18, 2008

30-08 Sunset Volcano more Pueblos Flagstaff Arizona

Sunset Crater Volcano

Wupatki Heritage Site

Palatki Heritage Site

Flagstaff AZ

This past week has been one of the most pleasant weeks out west. The crisp fall air has arrived with sunny blue sky days. My work at Dead Horse Ranch State Park continues to go well. I’ve been able to take my days off and I continue to tour the area. I decided to take the back roads through Sedona and on up into the Coconino Forest on my way to Flagstaff. I was hoping to see some change of color, but little was evident as most of the trees are evergreen. But the day was still breathtakingly beautiful. One of those days you just want to go for the proverbial Sunday drive. Thanks to my friend Ron in Cadillac Mich. for sending me some great photo’s of fall color in Michigan, so I didn’t miss the change of seasons too much.

By the way, Flagstaff is at an elevation of around 7,000 feet and Cottonwood where I’m staying is at an elevation of 3,000 feet. The drive up was on a winding mountain road and the drive back along hwy 17 was a dramatic continual straight drop down, down, down which provided for some spectacular vistas. They tell me Flagstaff is in the 70’s most of the summer and they do get below freezing during the winter with a dusting of snow.

Flagstaff has a number of geological attractions and I ended up heading into Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. For the price of the entrance fee, I got a loop tour that also included the Wapatki Heritage Site. Now, being so close to the Grand Canyon (about 90 miles away) this is one of those parks that doesn’t get huge crowds unless your staying in the immediate area.

It was a cold day since it was one of the first cold spells in the area. As I drove through the Sunset Crater park, viewing the recent lava flows (1,000 years old) it was like observing one that had occurred much more recently. Much of the lava had little or no growth on it, so it appeared really new. Huge hills of lava rock from small black and to pebble size that had spewed from the volcano to larger flows that were solid streams running along the ground. These are some of the newest volcano’s in the continental U.S.

Taking the loop road through the park, the landscape changed from Pine forest, to lava fields and volcano cones to desolate dry desert and there in the desert were the ruins of a number of ancient Indian villages. Wupatki being the largest and having the visitors center near by.
This site in northern Arizona showed how far the influence of Mexican culture went. At Wupatki, in the middle of this desolate land, with only a small spring for water the Native Indians created a 100 room Pueblo, an unusual ball court below the pueblo as well as a large Kiva. The ball court was fashioned after the ones in Mexico where this Indian tribe had learned to play the ball games.

The day I visited Wupatki, the light was such that everything in the desert appeared richly colored. The adobe structure, made of the red sandstone and clay appeared so rich in color, I actually took off my glasses a couple times to see if I something had happened to them. It was the most unusual feeling. As if I was walking in an Alice in Wonderland type experience.

I loved the story of how when the Gov. made Wupatki into a National Monument, they rebuilt two or three of the top rooms in the pueblo so that a park ranger husband and wife could live on the property. This of course would never be done today. As soon as the couple moved into the two rooms (no electric, heat, or water except for a 50 gallon drum that they had to fill by hand), the Gov. began to charge them $10 a month to stay there!

More photo's at:

Yesterday, I took a drive through high country desert on SF 252, a dusty well graded forest road of dirt and gravel. This is a gorgeous part of the desert landscape and is a part of the Coconino Forest. It’s surrounded by those awesome red stone mountains that make Sedona so enticing to so many people. I saw a number of the Pink jeep tour vehicles out in this wilderness and was glad to be exploring it on my own. I stopped numerous times just to take in the scenery and take a few pictures. I noticed a couple places where there was undesignated camping sites. One had about 4 RV’s parks in an awesome site. No hook-ups, but then again no fee for camping either. I love taking these dirt roads. I’m just going to have to get a 4 wheel drive one of these days. It’s like exploring places the average person never gets too. (Of course the truck was covered in red dust by the time I got home)

Heading towards the Palatki Heritage site, I had to make reservations ahead of time, as the site has a small parking lot and they only permit so many to hike around the area at any given time. Two couples (camp-hosts) had their big rigs parked next to the visitor center. Talk about a fortunate location to be camp hosts. The visitor center is in the old white clapboard siding house built by a pioneer who came out here at the age of 68 and started a fruit orchard. Planting over 2,000 trees.

More photo's at:

The site has yet another cliff dwelling and a good number of pictographs. The pictographs were well worth the effort and they have some great guides who really know their stuff. Really helped to understand the rock art which was produced by multiple waves of Indians migrating in and out of the area. Each having their own style in creating the pictographs. One could actually see the layers and differences between each group that created the painted art on the walls.

I’ll post some of them on my Picas web site.

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