Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Trips West 2013--Wupatki National Monument

Because of my work as an archaeologist in another life, I had originally hoped to visit two well-known Southwestern archaeological sites of the ancient Pueblo cultures, Chaco Canyon and Canyon de Chelly, while in New Mexico and Arizona. See a map of the area here. After reading the AAA tour guide and park descriptions of less than ideal road conditions near Chaco Canyon (some 20 miles of unimproved, rocky and rutted road) and the warning that GPS devices might not be functional in all areas, I decided against trying to drive the last few miles to Chaco in our van. We were afraid there might be similar road conditions leading to Canyon de Chelly and decided to save both those stops for another trip.  Maybe next year. Instead, we decided to visit archaeological ruins of the same types of ancient Southwestern cultures in the Flagstaff area.  (Some photos were made with the camera instead of the cell phone, so clicking might yield closer looks. Also, underlined links were supposed to be highlighted in red, but Blogger is uncooperative today.)

Wupatki National Monument
More information is available here and here.

Just a few miles north of Sunset Crater Volcano near Flagstaff is Wupatki National Monument. Both sites are located about fifteen miles north of Flagstaff along a scenic loop that covers about 50 miles off US 89 beginning at Sunset Crater, then meanders along Route 395 back to 89 about 15 miles north of the Sunset Crater Visitor Center.  After our visit to Sunset Crater on our first day in Flagstaff, we decided to go back another day and spend some time at Wupatki. We did not try to cover the entire Wupatki site complex. A number of the 2500 documented sites of the complex are accessible by trails and we had a bit of a time trying to decide which to explore. We were trying to get to Sedona, AZ later in the day, so our ramblings took us to the Lomaki (Hopi for "Beautiful House") site where we walked among many abandoned structures of these ancient people.

Daughter near one of the houses constructed of sandstone blocks. These blocks were held together with mortar and portions of many are still standing, even though the site was abandoned sometime around AD 1200.

Another house ruin

The trail at one of the stops at Wupatki with No. 2 Son and a structure in the distance. Sunset Crater is visible on the left and the San Francisco Peaks on the right

Close up of that trail shot--No. 2 looking at a lizard with the house just beyond

More photos of some of the ruins

Looking through a doorway from one room into another

 Looking down over a collapsed wall into a box canyon above which the house had been built

Daughter and No. 2 inspecting on of the structures

A last look at Wupatki's Lomaki site with the volcanoes in the distance

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Trips West 2013--Sunset Crater National Monument

Although our May trip was originally planned for a duration of three weeks, my bout with bronchitis delayed our May 12 departure by three days, then changes in the schedules of Daughter and No. 2 Son required us to return home a few days ahead of our proposed date of June 1. We had to alter our original, loosely planned itinerary a bit. This allowed us to make it to the two things in which arrival time was important--Bat Flight at Carlsbad Caverns and our Grand Canyon helicopter and jeep tour--but we were still able maintain a leisurely and rather open schedule as much as possible. We played it by ear and made a few unplanned and really interesting stops that weren't on our original list. Here is one of them.

Sunset  Crater Volcano National Monument 

There are cinder cones and volcanic remnants all over the area we were exploring around Flagstaff. It was amazing. That area must have been a regular volcano farm--or  I could say a hotbed of volcanic activity (sorry...couldn't help it). There are about 600 volcanoes in the area. Go here for a map of the area showing all the volcanoes in the region. Sunset Crater is the result of an initial eruption sometime around AD 1180, although tree ring dating from house timbers yield earlier dates of about 1040 to 1060, but these are disputed because of lack of information concerning the source of origin of the timbers. The people of the puebloan culture who lived in the area undoubtedly witnessed the eruption of this volcano and the ash from  its activity probably enriched the soil of these early Southwestern farmers. These small volcanoes are silent now, but could erupt again at any time. 

Sunset Crater Volcano from the road leading to the visitor center. Its total elevation is about 8,000 ft, with the cinder cone rising about 1,100 ft from the local elevation of almost 7,000 ft. My home elevation is just over 622 ft and the elevation of Monte Sano Mountain, Huntsville's landmark "mountain," is a little over 1600 ft, so even in the lowlands out here we were as high as the highest elevations in the Smoky Mountains of the Appalachians (Clingman's Dome at around 6640 ft).

Lava beds

A view from the lava trail we hiked around the crater. I supposed you'd call this the back side. There is a trail that goes up to the summit, but it had to be closed in 1976 because of the risk of increased erosion.

And another view

There were many beautiful old snags that provide homes for lots of critters--look, there's one now!
No. 2 Son and a fallen snag

No. 2 and Daughter beside another fallen snag;  the San Francisco Peaks and Humphreys Peak (elevation 12,635 ft)  in the distance

Daughter, a standing snag, and cinder cone

More lava beds

We spent four nights in Flagstaff, Arizona, which became our base camp for exploring the area.  There are many interesting things to see in and around Flagstaff.  I think we could have spent at least a week there.

 I had planned to include Wupatki Ruins in this post, but will save that for next time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Now What??

I bragged on the Blogger iPhone app and now it won't load the photos of my newest post about our visit to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Trips West 2013--Grand Canyon

Parting shot from Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  Looking across the lowlands (elevation of about 3500 ft.) from the parking lot (elevation of about 6500 ft) with the visitor center behind us (all these photos are made with my cell phone, but I did get many more with a better camera that I haven't finished culling and uploading to the computer yet)

The desert has bloomed in the rainy season. Below, the second visit in early August after six weeks of intermittent rain. 

The drive to the caverns in late mid May during the dry season. Quite a contrast from this first visit to our second one. 

We made several stops between Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon, but I will skip those for now.

Grand Canyon. Arizona. May, 2013. Our visit began with a helicopter tour from Grand Canyon National Airport followed by a jeep tour through Kaibab National Forest in order to view sunset from the canyon's South Rim. 

Looking down from the helicopter at part of the Kaibab National Forest near Tusayan, Arizona.  

One of our first views of the canyon from the air. There is really no way to properly capture this spectacular panorama. A few more shots follow.   

The Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon. The work of running water is amazing. Just look what it did over several million years.

And a few photos from a couple of stops during the jeep tour of the canyon's South Rim. With the sun getting lower in the sky, the contrast made it difficult to get good detail and color in the photos.
No. 2 Son with an awesome background

No. 2 Son and Daughter at one of the stops. Just a few feet behind them is a drop of about a mile.

Cutting across the upper center of the photo is the Colorado River, about a mile down from the canyon rim

The canyon casts a shadow on itself as the sun gets lower in the sky

The last rays of the day from the South Rim

 Next time: Petroglyphs, Sunset Crater, and Wupatki National Monuments

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Trips West 2013--Carlsbad Caverns

[Trying to use the Blogger app for iPhone again. It has been working well lately. However, I just completed a post that I thought was published, but it is not showing up, so I'm trying it again. Just watch. I'll probably have two of the same thing. Here we go again.] 

I haven't posted anything about my two trips west this summer, so I thought that since the national parks are currently closed, I'd share some photos. I made two trips because my children's schedules were not compatible. I took the two younger ones to New Mexico and Arizona during May-June. The older one had to wait until August. He had a request to see the Rocky Mountains, but less time for travel,  so he and I went to New Mexico and Colorado. 

Carlsbad Caverns (both trips; yes, we are cave nuts)

 No. 1 Son at Carlsbad Caverns visitor center in August

Carlsbad Caverns natural entrance. A good, long hike for fit folk who want to attempt the steep, 8-story hike down and back out. We took the elevator down and back. 

Cave stuff (not sure why the lighting in some of these photos looks green; colored lights are not used in these caves)

More cave stuff

And more cave stuff

Waiting for Bat Flight at the amphitheater at the natural entrance to the caverns where between 450,000 and 500,000 Mexican  Free-tailed bats, who live in the cave from about April or May until October or November, emerge every night in search of insects and water. No photos electronic equipment are allowed during the flight because of the possibility of interference with the bats echolocation. Take my word for it, though. It can be pretty awesome.

Next: Grand Canyon

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

They're Back!!

Replicas of the  Nina and  the Pinta visit the Southeast again. It's been three years since they were here. I saw them at Guntersville on Columbus Day 2010, but missed them here at Ditto Landing Marina. They are currently at Ditto and will head up the Tennessee River to Chattanooga, TN next. After that, other Tennessee stops include Lenoir City and Knoxville. If they weren't such tiny vessels, I'd try to stowaway, but where would I hide?

The Nina at her temporary location before getting in place for visitors

The Pinta, the larger of the two 

According to the website, the Nina is "the most historically accurate replica of a Columbus Ship ever built." More info at

Pinta just arrived at the dock

 Nina slipping in beside Pinta when they first arrived. 

I had forgotten these two ladies were coming to Huntsville and just happened to be at Ditto when they arrived. I was unaware that they were even in the area and did not see them coming up the river. I was being entertained by these folks over on the creek side of the marina 

Suddenly there was a loud blast followed by another about five minutes later. I decided I'd creep around to the riverside parking lot to see what was going on and was very pleased to see the Pinta making her way into the marina. The blasts were the two ships firing their canon to announce their arrival.  The Nina had already docked at a temporary spot. I spent quite some time watching them dock and get into position for visitors. What a happy surprise that I was there.

My older posts of the 2010 visit are Columbus Day 2010 and Two More Photos of the Ladies and Parting Shots