Might as well jump in!
Ten miles from downtown Flagstaff is Walnut Canyon National Monument. Initially established in 1915 to preserve ancient cliff dwellings, this biological "hot spot" has become a significant natural resource. Most of the 3600 acres are steep, inaccessible canyon walls. With the varied exposures and elevations compressed into a narrow band surrounded by tall pines, this eco-sytem combines hot desert-like slopes and shaded forests. These areas are normally separated by thousands of feet of elevation, but here are found nearly side-by-side.
It is hard to imagine people making permanent homes here for 100's of years. Although it was a harsh environment here in 1400 AD, the more recent addition of the dam and de-forestation has made it the un-inhabitable place of today.
The Island Trail is a one-mile round trip. At 7,000 feet and 185 foot vertical drop at the beginning, and climb at the end, it isn't for us. All the parking places at the visitors center are full, there are a lot of people here. And they're all on the Island Trail.
Which makes the flatter 3/4 mile Rim Trail perfect for the three of us. The sky is azure and the only sound is the wind in the junipers and pines, and a few birds singing around us. Near the ruins at the end of the trail, we see movement in the distance and four mule deer bound through the trees. When they stop they are impossible to see without knowing exactly where they are. They completely blend into their surroundings. No pics.
|I'm in awe at the depths. Bill tells me to remember this when we see the Grand Canyon in a few days :-)|
|I note the Island Trail (top of this photo) doesn't have railings at this section and I'm even happier we didn't do it|
|The trail goes down/up to the left of the visitors center|
|This dwelling is in the photo above, at the center in the trees|
|Looking for "the dog". Don't ask.|
|Humphrey's Peak to the northwest|
|Several ruins were uncovered at the top of the canyon, including evidence of crops and irrigation|
|Not a kiva, this is a pithouse for storing their harvest|
It is wonderful being back in the mountains so we decide to go play in the forest on Friday. Flagstaff is a nice city, but the traffic is crazy! Not Seattle-crazy, but definitely a lot busier than Santa Fe. Being out of town on the weekend also seems prudent.
The Coconino Forest is huge. We head south on Hwy 17 as far as Stoneman Lake Road and turn east. This area is junipers and pinons and new grass.
The road makes a steady climb, and at eight miles the pavement ends. We soon figure out this is a popular hunting area. Several camps along the road, and trucks and ATVs on the road. The wind is up and there is a bit of dust in the air. Still, it's green and beautiful here. Small patches of snow remain on low banks.
We get back on pavement about 3 miles from Morman Lake. Which isn't a lake today. We are sad that it is like the ones in Oregon and northern California, but learn later that the 600 acres is a "shallow and intermittent lake being 10 feet at it's deepest". It must be beautiful when full, surrounded by forest and meadow.
|A small amount of water remains today|
|Upper Mary Lake. The small white caps look like melting whip cream on hot chocolate.|