Lessons Learned on Our Southwest Trip

1. 3,000 miles is a long way from home.

2. Going 3,000 miles with touring stops along the way is nice. Coming straight home, not so much.

3. Six weeks is a long time to be away from home.

4. There is quite a difference in air when you live at 43’ above sea level and your destination is at 8,000’.

5. Be sure to put the cap on your makeup securely if you don’t want it to run out all over everything when going up in altitude.

6. When going up in altitude be careful when opening the mustard, catsup, etc., anything with pressure unless you want to be sprayed with it.

7. Release air in the sleep number mattress as you change altitudes.

8. Remember to check the bicycle tires too!

9. Hiking at a high altitude is quite a bit different than hiking at home. Breathe!

10. Remember to make sure the bicycles are securely affixed to the bike rack especially after we have gone over awful roads.

11. Check water lines, fuses, etc., anything that may need to be tightened after going over horrible highways.

12. Don’t overload your fuses.

13. We can dry camp for three days and nights.

14. We don’t need to try to save propane by using space heaters and letting everything underneath freeze up.

15. We have three hydraulic slides and one electric slide.

16. We can put a slide in manually.

17. Everything that is on a receptacle goes through the house battery.

18. You shouldn’t buy a cheap bike cover from Walmart. It won’t even last 100 miles!

19. Communicating with family is difficult when you are in different time zones.

20. National parks are so much fun!

21. We love state parks.

22. We love hiking but 7 miles is our limit.

23. I now know what a face plant is.

24. We like hikes that start with the ascent and then end by going down. Makes it a lot easier!

25. Sunset happens quickly. Have the camera ready.

26. Believe the campground reviews. Read in between the lines.

27. Love the Southwest.

28. Can now identify a saguaro and a cholla and can even pronounce them correctly.

29. The best part of any trip is always coming home.

30. There’s no place like home.


Home At Last

My sister had asked me to pick up some BAMA sweatshirts for her so after we pulled out of Coaches Corner we headed to the local Walmart which was only a couple of miles from the campground. Unable to find anything at Walmart we headed over to Sam’s and found one long sleeved t-shirt. All of the short sleeved t-shirts reminded me of merchants putting out Christmas decorations in October. Think they all are rushing the season a bit.

It was nearly 10:00 when we headed out of Tuscaloosa but our plans were for a shorter driving day today. We had once stayed in Augusta on a return trip home so we had hoped to do that again. Unfortunately they were unable to accommodate us so I began AGAIN to locate a park. Since it was our last night on the road we needed a park with full hookup. I finally located The Barn in Lexington, SC. It was a nice park just a couple of miles off of I20. As we rode in Jerry spotted a Bojangles and said that was where he was going to have breakfast the next day. What a fateful statement.

We got settled in at The Barn, had dinner and watched some of the Olympics. When I awaken Tuesday morning about 6:00 I immediately realized that it was completely dark in the coach AGAIN! Jerry woke up too and began to assess the problem. Unfortunately it was bigger than we thought. He got the tanks emptied and then told me to pull in the slides. When I pressed the button to pull in the passenger bedroom slide nothing happened. Oh no. I later found out that three of our slides are hydraulic and one is electric, standard for most RV’s. The electric one would not come in. After trouble shooting Jerry finally called Newmar and they were able to instruct Jerry on how to pull in the slide. It was determined that we had an electrical issue that was causing the fuses to blow so that is something that will have to be dealt with by an authorized Newmar repair center. It would probably be helpful if we understood how the electrical system works and that may be a seminar in the future. As Jerry said, if we keep having problems he will soon know how to solve them. Needless to say it was very upsetting and a bad way to end a wonderful vacation. We did finally get the slide in and got on the road and yes, we stopped at Bojangles for a biscuit and some coffee.

We finally made it home by 3:00 and we were mighty glad to see Autumn Drive. As soon as Jerry turned off the ignition we turned to each other and bowing our heads thanked the Lord for safe travel and a safe return home. Although we did have some bumps with the coach along the way we never broke down on the road and we never had a problem we were not able to deal with. 6200+ miles on the coach and I have no idea how many on the car, probably at least 1000 and home safely. It was indeed a trip of a lifetime, a trip of learning and a trip of sharing and being together with my best friend!

Alabama, Home Away From Home

Heading Home

We woke up this morning to 30 degrees and a lot of wind. Fortunately Jerry didn’t have to hookup anything but of course he went outside to make sure everything was secure. While outside he spotted another traveler in the parking lot and though it was freezing cold he couldn’t resist taking a couple of pictures.

As we traveled through Texas the temperature begin to drop, 28 degrees with a wind chill of 18 and we had to stop and get gas! Brr… We were also getting alerts on our phones about winter precipitation coming in so we were anxious to get out of Texas. We also saw several warning about Ice Prevention Crews ahead although we never saw anyone.

I began to look for campgrounds for the evening and located Travel Centers of America in Greenwood, Louisiana. The gentleman I talked with was very nice and met us at the gas station upon our arrival and led us to the park. It is a very nice overnight park located right off of I20 not I10 as some reviews say. We got a pull thorough with easy hookups of light, water, and septic and the slides were all opened unlike a night at Walmart. I could also get my pajamas out of the drawer which I couldn’t do that last night

We woke up on Sunday, February 11 to another cold, overcast day. We pulled out about 8:30 headed to Coaches Corner in Tuscaloosa. The first 10-15 miles through Shreveport confirmed what I remembered about Louisiana highways. Wow, I knew if any nut, bolt, fuse, or waterline, etc. remained tight it would be amazing. After about 15 miles though the highway smoothed out. We began to see green grass and standing water, ah, thoughts of home. The entire day was overcast with occasional misting rain which made for easy travel plus there was not much traffic on Sunday morning. As we entered Mississippi we began to get alerts about flood warnings. – fire and dust warnings in Arizona, winter storm watch in Texas and flood warnings in Mississippi. Wow!

Unfortunately before we got to our destination it began to rain heavily so that slowed us down a bit but we still got there mid-afternoon. As we were checking in I mentioned that we had heard about the campground from Tami and Eric Johnson of TechnoRV and by golly, he pointed out that they were right next door to us. Small world. After we got set up I went over and chatted with them just a few minutes and then back to the coach to get ready for a visit with my nephew and his lovely wife.

Davidson and Sarah came over and we had a nice visit plus we got to show off our motor home. No one in the family has seen it and most of them probably think we’re a bit crazy. Hopefully Davidson and Sarah will tell them about our nice home away from home. We went out to dinner at Depalma’s Italian Café in downtown Tuscaloosa and then rode around a bit to see the campus. In conversation Sarah and I realized that her mom and I are sorority sisters!

After a tour of their apartment they took us back to the campground where we settled in for the night a little closer to home.

Home Away From Home, Texas

Goodbye Arizona

Bless Pat, we pulled out before 8:00 this morning! As Jerry and I both agreed, it’s Austin. Let me explain. Last year at the end of our Texas visit we returned to Fredericksburg to visit the Enchanted Rock. The next day we headed for home with a planned stop in College Station at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library. As we drove toward College Station I realized that we were going to be close to Austin. I had heard many good things about Austin so was thinking we probably needed to explore the town. As we got closer I realized that no, we were not going to be close to Austin but were going right through it. I asked Jerry if he wanted to stop and after a few seconds he said no and we both agreed that it was time to head home. We were like homing pigeons and we were ready to travel east. Apparently we felt the same way yesterday as we were discussing whether to leave for home today or tomorrow. Today! We may stop in Tuscaloosa to visit family but other than that we are on the way home!

As we pulled out of Benson I began to see signs of “Brush Fire Danger – Extreme” bringing to mind the fears I expressed earlier. It is so very dry in Arizona. Nearly two hours later as we entered New Mexico we saw signs warning of dust areas and saw places for pull offs. I had read about the dust storms but fortunately we didn’t have any trouble this morning.

I spent the first two hours trying to plot out our route and find possible places to stay. I used the Harvest Host directory and found a possibility for tomorrow night. The RV park I settled on in Van Horn, Texas didn’t open until 2:00 so couldn’t make a definite plan with them at that time. It’s a Passport park and at $14 a deal for full hookup.

As we continued to travel through New Mexico I was periodically getting fire alert warnings for each area we passed. At times I felt as though we were running from potential fires. Of course the warnings were for the next day but I couldn’t help but think that we left North Carolina hours ahead of a huge weather event for the East Coast and now we are leaving Arizona ahead of the fire threats. To hear that an area is dry and has the potential for fire and to see the area and realize how very dry it is, well, that’s two different things.

We took a short break at the Visitor’s Center at Anthony, Texas just across the New Mexico border and had a quick lunch. Jerry was feeling good so he suggested that we drive further than Van Horn so after we got back on the road I started looking for a place to spend the night. Between Van Horn and Odessa which was further than we wanted to drive there were not many options. I finally located a Walmart in Pecos and called to see if they allowed overnight parking for RV’s. Yes, they did so we headed on there. In the back of my mind I kept thinking about that hour we were going to lose.

About 100 miles into Texas we had to go through a Border Patrol inspection center. They just asked if anyone was in the back, then on to Pecos we went. Pecos had both a Flying J where we could fill up and a Walmart to overnight at. No problem. Right? Wrong! First, there was a lot of traffic and very long stop lights. It probably took us over five minutes to get off of I20. Then the Flying J was not easily accessible and the Garmin took us around Pecos. We had a nice little tour. Then back through Pecos to the Walmart. When I called they neglected to tell me that the parking lot was the size of a postage stamp and every available parking slot had been captured by cars. There was absolutely nowhere to park so back on the road we went. I began frantically looking for something but I20 doesn’t have much to offer. There was a Walmart in Odessa so I called them. Nope, they didn’t allow overnight parking. Our next hope was in Midland, eighty miles further. I called and they very nicely said sure. The 330 rule followed by many RVer’s is drive 330 miles or be off the road by 3:30. Boy, we broke that rule today. Jerry was feeling good so we decided to go on sure we’d be off the road before dark. Well, that didn’t work so well. There we were on I20 with trucks, work trucks, semi’s and a few cars flying by at 75+ mpg. Jerry competently drove and I prayed.

We pulled in the Walmart in Midland about 8:30 along with several other RVer’s and truckers and we were tired and hungry. I had dinner planned but Jerry saw a McDonald’s so we just walked over there and had dinner. When we got back to the RV Jerry pulled the steps in and we settled in for the night. I never heard a sound! Thank you to the Midland Walmart for being so kind and generous to some tired travelers.

Arizona, Home Away From Home

Tombstone, Arizona, The Town That Wouldn’t Die

As I do every morning when I awaken I looked at the clock at the foot of the bed and guess what? All was dark. I had no idea what time it was but I knew we didn’t have any power. Jerry woke up as well so he got up, turned the generator on and began to recharge the house battery. We have had a problem with a breaker on the generator tripping so Jerry went outside to see if that was the problem. Yes, it was and because it happen last night the house battery didn’t charge as it should have. Hopefully we were far enough away from our neighbors so that a generator at 6:00 didn’t bother them.

After showers and dressing we got everything ready to pull out except hooking the car up. Jerry wanted to ride over to the FMCA rally to see what the new RV’s looked like. Would you believe the Newmar dealer did not have a single Canyon Star? Apparently they are not very plentiful as he said they were still waiting for some to come in. We quickly walked through the vendor’s hall to see if Cummins had a booth but they didn’t so we went on back to the RV, hooked the car up in minutes and pulled out at 9:20. It was a busy morning.

We only had a little less than 40 miles to drive to get to Benson. At first I thought that I had probably make a mistake but as it turned out it was the perfect place for us to begin our journey home. We were at the Red Barn RV Park a little after 10:00. Set up was quick and easy. As we were setting up Jerry mentioned that we might want to consider starting home tomorrow instead of Saturday since we pretty much had a full day ahead of us to tour. We decided that we’d see how the day went and then decide. We walked up to the office to register. It is a Passport park so our overnight fee was only $15.10. We told the owner that we might leave early so we only paid for one night telling him we’d let him know tomorrow.

We headed to Tombstone and I’m not sure what Jerry and I expected but it was definitely not what we saw. It is definitely a tourist trap, oh excuse me, town with a lot of western shops, a few restaurants and ice cream shops and many people recreating the Old Tombstone. There were a couple of gunfights but we elected not to spend that $20. We did walk into the Bird Cage Theater and got a brief glimpse into the historical building. We ended up getting cones of gelato and then headed out to Bisbee. Again, not what we expected. A lot of shops plus a couple of mines. We stopped at the Queen Mine Visitor’s Center but since we had been on a mine tour when we were in Michigan we elected not to do that.

The Jail
At my suggestion we headed back to Tombstone to see the historic Courthouse and finally, a good idea. It is a beautiful building filled with history from the courtroom to the judge’s chambers to the replica gallows outside. We learned a lot about the Gunfight at OK Corral which didn’t actually happen at the OK Corral but in the street. October 26, 1881 “will always be marked as one of the crimson days in the annals of Tombstone. A day when blood flowed as water and human life was held as a shuttle cock, a day away to be remembered as witnessing the bloodiest and deadliest street fight that ever occurred in this place or probably in the territory.” Tombstone Nugget, October 1881. I was astonished at the ages of the people involved. They were so very young. Both Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were in their early 30’s when the gunfight occurred and Doc Holliday actually died from tuberculosis at the age of 36.

After spending a good hour in the courthouse and declaring that the day had turned out pretty good we had to stop by Boot Hill. Buried along with the upstanding citizens of the community were the outlaws with their victims, suicides, hangings, legal and otherwise as one person was hung by mistake. It is said that the cemetery got its name because the people died with their boots on. Several of the graves had money, both coins and paper on them so we went in and asked about it. Since some of the graves held people who upheld the law many law enforcement contemporaries drop money on their grave as a symbol of honor. Occasionally the town comes in and collects the paper money but leaves the coins. There was also money on the graves of children for no other special reason than people just empathize with the loss of a child.

Since we had done so much today we did decide to leave tomorrow. That left a lot to be done in the evening. We stopped by the campground and put our second load of laundry in the washing machine and then went to the grocery store to stock up for the trip home. We got some beef to prepare in the crockpot as we travel. When we got back to the coach I fixed some spaghetti sauce and some sloppy joe mixture so all we have to do is heat it up. I think we’ll be have enough food to get us back to Kinston even if we have to dry camp a couple of nights. Our plan is to spend the last night in Augusta at Heritage RV Park. We can get full hookup there and get all of the tanks emptied so that won’t be a problem when we get home. Wow, five weeks on the road, a wonderful trip and we’re just as excited to be heading home as we were when we started our trip.

At dinner tonight we discussed our trip trying to determine what our number one favorite place we visited was. Neither of us could answer that as there were many things that stood out, some more than others. Tomorrow I’m going to try to make a list of each place we visited and each hike, etc. we took. As Jerry said it’s difficult to remember each thing because we did so very much. He asked me what I would recommend to someone else and how long I would suggest their trip be. Again, I couldn’t answer. We came such a long way and we know we will most likely never come out here again so we felt compelled to do as much as we could and see as much as we could. Did we do so much that it all ran together? No, I don’t think so. Blogging each day helps me remember more clearly but it’s something I had to do every day so as not to confuse the packed days. It has definitely been a trip to remember and we feel very blessed to have been able to do it. Now, praying for safe travel home.

Home Away From Home

Saguaro National Park

We got an early start today and headed to Saguaro National Park, our sixth national park on this trip. A stop at the Visitor’s Center gave us the information we needed so we headed out to drive the eight mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive. It is a paved narrow one way road that we shared with a number of cyclists. We were absolutely astounded at the bountiful saguaro, the cholla, the mesquite and the beautiful palo verde trees. We stopped along the way to photograph some of the stunning landscape.

We arrived at the Mica View Picnic Area where we began our two mile loop though the desert beauty. Initially we were on a paved path but it turned into a sandy, dirt path. I was fine with the hiking until I saw the warning about rattlesnakes and mountain lions. Jerry said later if he had seen a rattlesnake it would have made the morning perfect. I’m not so sure I agree with that. One thing of particular interest to me was seeing the young saguaros under their palo verde “nurse tree”. Unfortunately we didn’t get a picture before we turned off of the pavement and we didn’t really see anymore. As we hiked the Cactus Forest Trail we both noticed that the vegetation seemed to changed. Since it was a bit higher and closer to the Rincon Mountains we wondered if possibly there was less water there. Who knows? We are aware that Arizona is in a severe drought and it has been mentioned often as we’ve traveled. They have not had any rain during 2018 plus very little snow, meaning no snow melt from the mountains. With the summer months of May, June and July being the dry months it’s a bit frightening to think about the possibility of fires. In addition I read today where Arizona is the lightning capital of the United States. It could be an anxiety ridden year.

Guess he got tired of me asking him to smile.
After our hike we continued our drive around the loop stopping occasionally to view the beautiful Rincon Mountains and trying to determine how far up the mountain side the saguaros continued to grow. It is amazing to realize that we have visited six national parks in relative proximity to each other yet they are each so very diverse. Within just a few hundred miles are examples of such different life zones. In fact in the Saguaro National Park there are six different life zones going from the desert lowlands to the pine zones at the top of the Rincon Mountains. Along the way hikers might eve encounter animals not usually associated with the desert such as foxes and black bears. Rattlesnakes, mountain lions, black bears – reminds me of “lions, tigers and bears, oh my”!

After completing our drive through the loop road we continued on to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, part of the Coronado National Forest. As soon as we arrived we found a shady place and had our picnic lunch then went in search of information. We decided to ride the tram up the nearly four miles instead of walking hoping that perhaps we’d walk back down. After the first descent on the tram Jerry looked at me and said, “Nope, riding back”! The tram driver provided a very informative narration on the 25 minute drive up and answered one question Jerry and I had. Earlier on our trip we had seen some trees with completely white bark but we didn’t know what they were. We found out today that they were Arizona Sycamores. The trunks are so white they look almost painted. Fortunately we sat under the shaded section of the tram and the ride up was very pleasant as the driver pointed out different points along the way.

At the top we got off of the tram, took some pictures and then trudged up a slight trail going toward the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. We didn’t go very far before we decided that it was too hot for hiking so we just sat down on the trail and enjoyed the scenery. Soon a tram came up and we hopped on and rode back down. After getting our Passport book stamped we headed to the car.

Since I had brought nothing but turtlenecks and cold weather clothes we did a little shopping for cooler clothes and then stopped at Walmart for some groceries. Earlier Jerry had suggested that we have a steak and I added French fries. We haven’t had a meal like that since we left home. When we got back to the coach it was warm but as with yesterday the wind was blowing and with the windows opened and the exhaust fans on it cooled off very quickly. Since we are still dry camping we are still trying to conserve so it was an early night.

Arizona, Home Away From Home

On to Tucson and More Dry Camping

We finally pulled out of Kit Carson RV Park just before 10:00 headed to Tucson. I was a little anxious that the GPS would try to send us 89A but it didn’t and all but about three seconds was an uneventful ride. Hwy 17 out of Flagstaff is pretty rough plus we had some climbs of 6%. As we neared Phoenix we began to see saguaro and prickly pear cacti with their yellow flowers lining both sides of the highway. That’s the first time we’ve seen flowering cacti. I tried to take some pictures but was not very successful. Will have to get some more later. The three scary seconds – A big blue truck coming off of a ramp decided that he would just come on over to our lane and we had nowhere to go. I was reading and saw it out of out of the corner of my eye. It was several minutes before my heart was beating normally. Thank you Jesus for protecting us.

We stopped to get gas at a Flying J and had lunch there as well. We had decided to stay at the Pima County Fairgrounds which was first come, first serve and we knew there was an FMCA rally there and spaces were scarce. I called just to make sure there was room and the lady laughed and said definitely but we would be staying in the middle of a field. Ok, the middle of a field for $20 a night but with the gem show going on it was about all there was in Tucson and we knew we’d be safe.

We arrived a little after 2:00 and of course with no hookups to deal with we were set up quickly and yes, we were in the middle of a field. We met our neighbors and chatted with them a few minutes and then just took it easy for a while. After dinner we rode around the fairgrounds looking at all of the coaches hoping we’d see another Canyon Star. We didn’t.

Since we were dry camping we were conservative with our electricity and our water so we called it an early night. When we arrived it was pretty warm but with the wind and the setting sun it cooled off quickly and was very comfortable in the coach. In fact we finally had to close the windows because it got a bit chilly.

Arizona, Home Away From Home

A Day in Sedona

We headed out to Sedona this morning. Several people had warned me about Hwy 89A and initially we couldn’t understand why as it was four lanes and good driving and then… It got really curvy and steep, a typical mountain road. In the Jeep it was no problem but I surely wouldn’t want to do it in our RV. We will definitely find an alternate route tomorrow as we head south. It was a beautiful drive though through the Coconino National Forest. We even stopped at one point and took some pictures.

When we hit the outskirts of Sedona I was mildly surprised. It is not a sleepy little town but a very busy, touristy place and this is not even their busy season. We had talked about taking a trolley around town but decided to first go to the Visitor’s Center. After talking with someone in there we scratched the idea of the trolley and headed to Red Rock Crossing and Cathedral Rock.

On to Cathedral Rock we went. Supposedly it is one of the most photographed sites in the area and noted for the red rocks which is due to a thin coating of iron oxide mineral. It was a lovely place and had we not been tired of sandwiches it would have been a lovely place for a picnic. We stood in the center of the walking paths and took some beautiful pictures of Cathedral Rock. I can see why it is a popular spot for photography.

I’m not sure exactly what path we took but we followed a lovely stream as we walked along. We saw some people that were crossing the stream on stones but they eventually had to walk in the water to get out so we nixed that idea. We didn’t really hike, we strolled through the wooded path which quite often diverged into two paths. The weather was perfect for a walk but we were glad when we got back to the car because we had gotten a little hot. Unfortunately neither of us brought any “summer” clothes on the trip. In fact when I get home it will be a while before I wear black pants and a turtle neck!

We rode back into Sedona and we finally found a parking place which was not easy. Although there is public parking it was all full so we were forced to park in the pay to park on the street. $4 got us 2 hours which was ample time. I can’t imagine what it would be like in their busy season. We immediately walked into a shirt store right in front of the car and asked about a pizza restaurant. The lady was so nice and recommended Sedona Pizza right across the street. She did caution us to walk on the crosswalks as they were giving tickets to anyone who jaywalked and she wanted us to enjoy our visit.

Jerry had been wanting pizza for a couple of days so Sedona Pizza it was. The pizza was good however something must have happen with our order or our waiter. After we were seated four other tables were seated. They had been served and had finished eating and we still had not gotten our order. Jerry asked about it and the waiter brought it out immediately. Unfortunately it was just warm, not hot so I suppose it had been sitting somewhere waiting to be served. It still was good though.

Our next stop was the Original Red Dirt T-Shirt store. It’s a small shop and is where the dirty t-shirt originated. The sales lady was very informative and was eager to explain the different ways the colors were created. Jerry ended up buying both a shirt with “Older Than Dirt” on it and a cap. I told him that I was going to hide the State cap he has worn this entire trip!

We returned to the shirt store (that’s what it’s called – The Shirt Store) we had gone in earlier and I bought a t-shirt as well. The next stop – oh yeah, ice cream. Of course I got a chocolate and it was yummy.

We returned to the car and headed for the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic chapel built into the buttes of Sedona. Upon arrival we looked up and there seemingly almost carved in the rocks was the cross surrounded by glass. As we entered the chapel we realized that the entire front of the chapel was glass framed around the enormous cross. The inside of the chapel is very simple with only two tapestries on the wall and the lighted candles.

Before we reached the chapel we had seen a ginormous beautiful home or at least we thought it might be a home – or a hotel! Actually I found out later that it is one of three homes owned by a Romanian immigrant, now an American citizen who among other things invented laser surgery for eyes. They said he is rarely there though.

Our next stop was the Bell Rock and the Courthouse Butte. We parked in the parking lot, took some pictures and decided that three miles was enough for the day so we headed on to Flagstaff. As we rode I tried to find somewhere for us to stay in Tucson tomorrow night but had no luck. The gem show is there this week and apparently has taken every RV spot in town. I still have two places to call tomorrow morning before we leave. If that doesn’t work out I guess we’ll be headed to Tombstone for a couple of days assuming we can get reservations there and then wind our way east to North Carolina! Along the highway to Flagstaff we saw several signs saying beware of elk. Do you really think I saw one?

Home Away From Home

Ruins of An Ancient People and Nature All in One Day

This afternoon we were privileged to visit two national monuments, one show casing the ruins of an ancient people and the other the ruins and devastation caused by nature.

Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center at Sunset Crater Volcano located outside of Flagstaff. As we drove up we saw some picnic tables and with the sunlight it was a perfect place for our picnic lunch. After lunch we went into the center and talked briefly with the ranger about the trails however we decided to get Sunset Crater on our way out after we had visited the Wupatki National Monument.

As we drove the loop road to the Wupatki National Monument we got glimpses of the devastation that was caused by the volcano eruption thousands of years ago. After a few miles of blackened, dried lava we began to see revegetation with trees, possible piñon pines, on both sides of the road. There were also many trees that appeared to have been struck by lightening. Some of the trees, both living and dead had such twisted trunks. We later learned that was nature’s way of the tree compensating for the varying winds.

As we rode along we saw a sign indicating the Wukoki Pueblo Trail so we headed there. Built of a sandstone outcrop this pueblo is unique both for its location and it structure. Despite being exposed to the elements for 800 years it stands as a tribute to the people who lived there, constructed homes there and farmed there. It is a large structure and can be seen for miles. In fact, at a distance it resembles a castle. Wukoki is the modern word for “Big House” and indeed it was as it was most likely three stories high. We were able to climb up to the second level and walk around observing how very well the structure was constructed.

Our next stop was the Visitor’s Center where we received information about the Wupatki Pueblo Trail which began right behind the center. Most likely a center for trade the 104 room Pueblo features a ball court, a community room and a blowhole. What is a blowhole you ask. I had no ideas but I found out. It is a crevice in the earth’s crust that appears to breathe. In fact as you stand next to it you can feel the gusts of wind coming from within. Although archaeologists have yet to uncover any connection to the Wupatki Pueblo the Hopi, descendants of the people refer to the blowhole as the “Yaapontsa”, the wind spirit.

The Blowhole
We went into the ball court which is 78’ wide, 102’ long and had a 6’ high wall surrounding it. As we stood in that oval we could just imagine the voices of children and adults having their fun for the evening.

We stopped briefly in the community center which seemed to be a round pit with stones benches available for seating. Again, we could almost hear the voices of past peoples.

Back in the car we headed to the Lava Flow Trail, part of the Sunset Crater Volcano. We walked around on the pavement and then descended into the lava flow. We only walked a part of the trail as it was getting late. The black lava, the split trees, the devastation completely surrounded us as we left the pavement and followed the dirt trail. Amazingly, occasionally we would see sprigs of life, a sapling, a twig.

Looking at the devestation

Fortunately we are able to visit these national monuments today as they are now preserved and protected by the federal government. Before they were declared national monuments much looting went on and many of the relics disappeared. So did many of the answers that archaeologists search for today.

Arizona, Home Away From Home

Walnut Canyon National Monument

The visit to Walnut Canyon National Monument which is located southeast of Flagstaff started of course with a stop at the Visitor’s Center where we got pertinent information about the two trails, the Island Trail and the short Rim Trail. The ranger was very clear when he said the Island Trail had 273 steps down, 190 around and then back up and you know it, we took the Island Trail first. As we started down we saw the familiar sign “Going Down is Optional, Coming Up is Mandatory”.

The canyon rim is 6,690’ and the canyon’s floor is 350’ lower. The loop trail is approximately 1 ½ miles and descends 185 feet. As with the Bright Angel Trail, going down was a breeze and oh, so interesting. We were able to look right into canyon dwellings constructed by the Sinagu and located under overhanging cliffs. We could walk into some but were cautioned not touch anything or to sit down.

The Sinaguas appeared in northeast of what is now Flagstaff more than 1400 years ago. It is thought that they located there due to increased rainfall, trade and a population increase in the Southwest. The cliff dwellings were only occupied a little more than 100 years though and no one knows why the people left. It is speculated that they depleted the land of the nutrients and unable to provide for themselves they sought newer land. They also may have assimilated into the Hopi culture.

The walk down to the Island was so amazing, steps and then a small platform, steps, platform, etc. (Those platforms were really nice on the way back up as were the rare spots of shade!) Going down we stopped often to view the ruins, take pictures and just gaze at the various rooms.

As we were looking at one of the dwellings I happen to turn around and there on the other side of the canyon was a shady forest of spectacular, tall Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine trees. Sometimes we just need to turn around and look.

We made it back up to the top despite the altitude which we still are adjusting to. We rested periodically and then walked on.

After a brief rest and some water we walked the Rim Trail, a short trail that gives a nice view of the canyon. At the end of the trail was a viewpoint with benches. We sat there for a few minutes enjoying the beautiful vista before us, listening to the tweeting birds and just enjoying the sunshine on our faces. Sometimes you just need to sit, rest, listen and enjoy the moment instead of hurrying off to the next planned adventure.