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.