March 31st, April 01, 2014
Our time in Sedona was exceptionally pleasant, but more land awaited my eagerness to explore. When leaving Sedona, one has the choice of going up to Flagstaff via Rt. 89A or the I-17 interstate. Rt. 89A is the most scenic and the way we traveled north. This road zigzags into very tight canyons, with the road very narrow and in some places tree limbs cover the road. It’s very hard to capture the rock formations on either side of the road. The traffic is at moderate pace and I had to concentrate on driving. Two to three hours later, we arrived at Flagstaff, AZ.
We’ve been in Flagstaff three times and every time we’ve been depressed. Why, because we are now at 7,000 feet above sea level and every time we’ve been here, it’s been cold. The limited campgrounds are pricy and I wasn’t going to pay good money just for the sake of being in a campground. We instead stayed at a Conoco Truck Stop. Surprisingly, not many trucks were in their back lot. We set the furnace to 69 degrees and put our insulated vent covers on the ceiling. The morning low temperature outside was 29 degrees. We both were tired and cranky that night, but come morning, our spirits were up and another days adventure awaited.
Our days intended travel was toward Monument Valley, but our plans changed a little bit. I noticed, on the map, Sunset Crater Volcano Nat’l. Monument, just on our right on our map. The truck camper must have been pulling us in that direction. The temperature was rising quickly, up to the mid fifties, and the side road brought us into a huge black pine forest. At the Visitor Center, we were surprised to see what we would be looking at further up the road. This whole area was very volcanic in nature and several mountain tops had blown their tops off and created a very different ecological landscape. We headed slowly up the well maintained forest road. Then through the trees, we started to see these strange looking black, jagged rocks, later identified as lava rocks, appearing more and more. No place to stop and even signs saying “no stopping” were everywhere. I wanted that picture, of course, the NP system had a plan for us photographers. Soon, we were at large pull over with access to a short hiking trail into the lava field. Yes, we were walking with camera in hand, to set up, one of several selfy photos to show scale of the very large lava chunks! There is too much information that we learned at the Ranger station. It is impossible to re-tell here, in the blog, but maybe later I’ll ponder writing with more detail.
Soon we arrived at Sunset Crater. We were not allowed to climb to the rim, but we did get good pictures from the overview parking area. At this time we also started to take note of all the scenic dead pine trees. We took many pictures, many of which will be framed hopefully next summer back home.
From this point, the loop road back to Rt. 89, took us to Wupatki National Monument to visit ancient ruins. The terrain from here expands into golden grassy prairie lands. This is the beginning of the Navajo Nation “Painted Desert”. You can see for many miles of golden grass, green sage brush, small bushes, distance Mesas of browns, reds, some grays. Now this is very hard to capture in a photo due to the immense distance and panorama. In mid afternoon, we arrived at the city of Tuba, AZ. A town of about 7,000 first nation people made up of different tribes. Hopi and Navajo are the major tribes. We spotted a Quality Inn, with of all things, an RV Park out back. We checked in and walked to the native museum next door. The girl that was at the reception desk wasn’t busy and personally gave us a tour. We would have never learned so much about their culture and customs. It got pretty confusing when she started to explain how she couldn’t marry anyone from her father’s tribe or her mothers tribe. Obviously, this is to keep incest from weakening the gene pool. It actually got a lot more complicated as she explained the whole process. Their traditional homes are called “Hogan” and there are Hogans that are for male and some for females. They are distinguished by the roof shapes. Males have an adobe pointed roof and the female version has a dome shaped roof. This is just a glimpse of their traditions. We both left the museum and felt that we knew a lot more of these people.
That is what we saw and did!
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