2016 Feb 16 – Day 37 – California and Beyond – Sunset Crater, Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, Meteor Crater

Day 37 – February 16 – Flagstaff to Winslow, AZ

We actually got a relatively early start this morning which was good as we had a number of places to visit before we could get to our next hotel in Winslow so as to have a short drive to Petrified Forest National Park tomorrow.IMG_1007 IMG_1009Our first stop was Sunset Crater Volcano located about 25 miles north of Flagstaff.  A huge volcanic eruption took place here 50,000 years ago.  You can no longer walk up to the crater or around the rim but we enjoyed the drive and the photo ops.  (And John really likes his new camera.)

IMG_1024 IMG_1011 IMG_1014 IMG_1016If you have ever been to the Big Island of Hawai’i you will recognize the A’a lava.

IMG_1018 IMG_1023 IMG_1026 IMG_1027IMG_1035 IMG_1038Sunset Crater National Monument is connected on a 35 mile loop road with Wupatki National Monument so we just drove along, stopped at the Painted Desert Vista (which the morning sun faded out a lot), and went to tour the ancient pueblos of Wukoki and Wupatki.

IMG_1039 IMG_1040 IMG_1045 IMG_1050IMG_1048 IMG_1058Humphrey’s Peak, the highest point in Arizona.IMG_1059 IMG_1060 IMG_1061 IMG_1062IMG_1063 IMG_1064 IMG_1065 IMG_1066IMG_1069 IMG_1070 IMG_1071 IMG_1072 IMG_1073 IMG_1074 IMG_1076 IMG_1077 IMG_1079 IMG_1084 IMG_1085 IMG_1087This is the back side of the rock that the complex is built on.IMG_1088 IMG_1089 IMG_1090

IMG_1092 IMG_1096 IMG_1097 IMG_1098 IMG_1110 IMG_1109 IMG_1111 IMG_1113 IMG_1115 IMG_1116 IMG_1117 IMG_1118This complex was so skillfully built on and into the rock bluff it was really amazing.  Very clever and very hardworking people.IMG_1120IMG_1122IMG_1123IMG_1126IMG_1130IMG_1132IMG_1133IMG_1135IMG_1136IMG_1137IMG_1138IMG_1139IMG_1140There was quite a force of cool air blowing up.   Would be great on a hot desert day.IMG_1142IMG_1143

IMG_1146 IMG_1147 IMG_1148 IMG_1153 Almost the entirety of three of the walls in this room were the rock.IMG_1158 IMG_1160 IMG_1162



Lunch time.





We didn’t stop at all the ancient pueblos at Wupatki National Monument. There were, I think, four more in various stages of ruin. None as nice as Wukoki and Wupatki so we checked them out via slow drives-by.  Then it was a return drive to Flagstaff and east on Highway 40.

IMG_1172 IMG_1175 IMG_1176Walnut Canyon was a surprise.  I haven’t done tons of internet, brochure, or tour guide searching about the things along the road; some, but not tons, so I don’t know exactly what everything may be. I knew nothing about Walnut Canyon.  We have driven through quite a few canyons; none of them National Monuments I admit, but a canyon is a canyon. Right?  Wrong.  Well, right and wrong.IMG_1177 IMG_1178 IMG_1179 Walnut Canyon is actually three canyons that converge around a central bluff forming a rock island.  None of the photos give a true idea of the depth of the canyon.  It is DEEP!  And people built houses in the cliff face hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. Amazing.

There are two main trails; The Island Trail and the Rim Trail.  IMG_1180 IMG_1181 IMG_1183 IMG_1184 IMG_1185IMG_1186IMG_1189IMG_1187IMG_1193


The Island Trail is a loop around the Island with many steps down the steep cliff sides.IMG_1194IMG_1195IMG_1197IMG_1205IMG_1206IMG_1207IMG_1208IMG_0170

IMG_1211IMG_1212IMG_1216IMG_1239IMG_1240IMG_1243IMG_1244IMG_1246IMG_1248 The Visitor’s Center is up on the hill.  That was where we started our hike.  The information in the brochure says the Island Trail is a loop – it should have rejoined the downward trail at the bottom of all the stairs from the Visitor’s Center.  However not far around this corner the trail was closed due to snow and ice which made too much risk for slipping.  Something you would not want to do.  It would be a long drop. So, we had to turn around and go back again.IMG_1250IMG_0154IMG_1253IMG_1256

Looking down at lower levels of the trail.IMG_1257




Hardy lichenIMG_1260 The trail is visible through the trees along the cliff face.  It is a bit dark, but you may be able to make it out.IMG_1263The trail map at the Visitor’s Center says 240 steps, but since we had to return on almost 2/3 of the trail we did 381 stairs, plus the pathways.

We then walked out to the first lookout along the Rim Trail.IMG_1266


The Island




Our final stop of the day was another 22 miles down the road.IMG_1267Meteor Crater is privately owned by the fourth generation family members of the man who determined that this huge hole in the ground was caused by a meteor hitting earth.  He had many sceptics and fought a long time to get it recognized as true.  This discovery started a whole new branch of science – meteorology.

The crater was used by NASA for astronaut training for the moon landings.  NASA still does some tests here occasionally.

A fellow negotiated a 199 year least with the Barringer family and formed Meteor Crater Company which built the Visitor’s Center with a theater, inter-active displays, and information boards.  And all the lookout paths and stairs.  It is a really nice facility.

IMG_1268 John correctly figured this to be the crater as we were driving along the highway.IMG_1270 IMG_1271 IMG_1272 IMG_1273 IMG_1274 IMG_1275 IMG_1277 IMG_1279 IMG_1290 Look near the lower right in the photo above to see a cardboard cutout of a 6′ astronaut and a 3.5′ flag (the same size they placed on the moon.  Can you see where this is in the crater bottom?IMG_1293 IMG_1295 IMG_1296 IMG_1312IMG_1298 IMG_1299 IMG_1301 IMG_1302 IMG_1303 IMG_1305IMG_1330Jetstreams in the sunset at Winslow, AZ, our stop for the night.  It was a full day.


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