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This week, I thought I'd share some photos from one of my favorite Arizona trips with Denis. If you head up to northern Arizona, you can do some one-stop shopping by traveling up US 89, and taking the turn-off on the right to Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater. (Actually traveling US 89 from one end to the other would be a wonderful trip. It links seven National Parks and fourteen National Monuments!)
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is the youngest in a string of volcanoes in the San Francisco volcanic field. Flagstaff, Arizona, lies at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks, which are an extinct stratovolcano complex. Here's a bit of trivia for anyone who's interested: Arizona has two of the three largest volcanic fields in the continental United States, the San Francisco (#2) and the Springerville (#3) volcanic fields. Depending on the time of day and the light, Sunset Crater can glow orange or plum, and when Denis and I visited, it was deep plum laced with snow.
But before you can get to Sunset Crater, you have to drive through the Wupatki National Monument-- one of my very favorite places in Arizona. The Sinagua people lived here before, during and after Sunset Crater erupted. From various vantage points throughout the land, you can see the Painted Desert, the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks, and cinder cone volcanic remnants.
The day we explored Wupatki, it was a cold January morning, and the rabbits were out in full force. Walking along the foot paths, it was easy to see how well- populated this area was hundreds of years ago. (Click on any photo to view it full size.)
|A few of the many ruins at Wupatki. How many do you see?|
The Citadel is a pueblo atop a hill with wonderful views of the surrounding country. It has often been closed to the public because golden eagles sometimes nest and raise young there. You can see that the inhabitants used some of the black volcanic rocks in building Nalakihu Pueblo at the foot of the hill.
|Nalakihu Pueblo and the Citadel|
The star, of course, is Wupatki, a pueblo containing over 100 rooms, a ball court, and a geological blowhole. 800 years ago, this was the largest pueblo around.
|A slice of Wupatki showing the ball court|
Wupatki may be the star, but my favorite ruin is Wukoki. I guess it speaks to the small town girl in me. (Plus, it has a better view!)
By the time Denis and I arrived at Sunset Crater, it was not optimal viewing time. You see... it was snowing. A lot. But we did get a few shots of the lava fields here and there. Even after hundreds of years, the lava is sharp and impossible to walk over, and there are still many areas in which nothing grows.
|Sunset Crater...about to get more snow.|
|A tiny section of the lava fields at Sunset Crater.|
I hope you enjoyed this whirlwind tour of one of my favorite areas in Arizona. If any of you like to read letters, there is an excellent book, Letters from Wupatki, written by Courtney Reeder Jones. Her letters were written beginning in 1938 when she and her husband actually lived in the ruins and worked to stabilize the walls.