An October 2003 trip
to Flagstaff by btwood2
Quote: Flagstaff, at 7000 feet elevation and surrounded by majestic mountain peaks and ponderosa pine forests, is not what people typically think of as "Arizona". It’s a university town with a unique flavor and most assuredly refreshing when much of the rest of the state is sweltering in summer heat.
Flag is just a nice place to kick back and relax. The city has really excellent parks and trails systems, for joggers, bicyclists, and equestrians. The downtown is a fun place to walk around, find one of the many cafes, restaurants, and saloons with outdoor patios, and enjoy a coffee or a beer while people-watching and savoring the weather.
Some things we haven’t done that are on our list for the future are: going to the Arboretum, Flag’s natural botanical gardens, taking a tour of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Flagstaff Field Center, and exploring Lava River Cave.
A good place to begin is at the old railroad station, which now serves as the visitor center. Get the booklet “99 Things to Do in Northern Arizona”. It is comprehensive yet concise. The chances are you’ll find way more things to do than you have time for. That has been our experience anyway.
If you’re an RVer, many of the campgrounds close by mid-October, which we found out the hard way the end of October 2003. They open in the Spring after the last snows.
In the shadow of these sacred peaks, the Flagstaff region has been extensively logged and mined since the mid 1800’s. As recently as 2000, a huge , pumice mine on the slopes of the peaks, which boomed in the 1980’s with the advent of stone-washed denim clothing, was finally closed down.
In July 1997, we took the Arizona SnowBowl chairlift ride to the high slopes of Agassiz Peak, one of the San Francisco Peaks. We walked around marveling at the wide vistas, snowpeaks and volcanic formations and fields all around us. Just at our feet was another wonder: delicate yellow flowers of senecio franciscanus The alpine zone above the treeline is reportedly the only place where the endangered San Francisco Peaks groundsel grows. It’s a tiny member of the sunflower family.
At this time (March 2004) the San Francisco Peaks are once again the focal point of a heated controversy. The US Forest Service wants to allow Arizona SnowBowl, the company that leases land from the Forest Service, to expand lifts, ski runs, and trails, and install pipelines to spray recycled waste water from the city as "artificial snow". On one side of the controversy are economic and development factors and some (but not all) downhill skiers. On the other side, Native Americans and conservationists. For more information, below are links to websites that express varying viewpoints: Flagstaff Activist Network Arizona Snowbowl DES Save the Peaks Coalition Grand Canyon Trust
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 21, 2004
Sacred San Francisco Peaks
14 miles north of Flagstaff, Highway 180
Attraction | "Flagstaff Pioneer Museum"
Besides the old two story hospital building, there is a barn that dates from 1911, a root cellar, and a historic cabin that was built by Ben Doney. Doney, a Union soldier, railroad foreman, and homesteader just north of Flagstaff, became more or less a Flagstaff fixture of his times. After a stint as mayor of Flagstaff, he died at age 90 from injuries sustained in a fall from the porch of his cabin.
The museum collections include farm machinery, vehicles, period costumes and pioneer memorabilia. Since I used to work as a nurse, their exhibit of early medical equipment was of particular interest to me.
My husband Bob’s favorite exhibit was Locomotive #12, one of the last two logging locomotives used in the Flagstaff area. After its construction in 1929, this engine was first put to use in Oregon as a water tanker. In 1956, the locomotive was refurbished and worked for three years for Southwest Forest Industries in Flagstaff, before being retired in 1959. It stood on the fairgrounds until July 1994, at which time the Northern Arizona Pioneers Historical Society paid the sum of $30,000 to have the engine as well as the caboose moved the nine miles from the fairgrounds to the museum!
This year (2004) May 28- June 20 they will co-host the 15th Annual Trappings of the American West Exhibition of Western Art and cowboy gear.
Presented by the Dry Creek Arts Fellowship, most of the events and exhibits will take place at the nearby Coconino Center for the Arts.
The museum is open Monday thru Saturday 9AM to 5 PM, and closed major holidays. For more information, call 928-774-6262.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 21, 2004
Arizona Pioneer Museum
2340 North Fort Valley Road
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
+1 928 774 6272
Attraction | "Some duplex! - Riordan Mansion"
This 40 room home containing more than 13,000 square feet of living space was built in the Craftsman (also known as Arts and Crafts) style, which came out of a reaction against the industrial revolution and mass production technologies, as well as opposed to the elaborate, complex and flamboyant Victorian style popular during that time. The same architect who created the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon, Charles Whittlesey, designed the Riordan mansion. Much of the original furniture inside the mansion was designed by Gustav Stickley, whose magazine, The Craftsman published plans for this particular style of house. Both Craftsman homes and furniture emphasized simplicity, quality, and natural materials, often using local wood and stone. This home features log-slab siding exterior, volcanic stone arches, and hand-split wooden shingles.
In spite of its large size, the home appears quite livable. From large to small items of furniture and decorations, the feel of the mansion is authentic, almost like you’d expect a horde of Riordan children to come running through the great billiard room. For a description of the Riordan family and some of the events that took place in the "duplex", read Riordan Mansion State Historic Park. The mansion is open from May to October, 8:30 to 5 PM daily. Guided tours are given on the hour. For more information call 928-779-4395.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 22, 2004
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
409 West Riordan Road
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001
Attraction | "Sunset Crater - Youthful Volcano"
The Sunset Crater Volcano Visitor Center will be closed for about 3 months beginning March 2004, to allow installation of new exhibits. The Lava Flow Trail at the base of the volcano will be open. We hiked on this one mile self-guiding trail loops through the Bonito Lava Flow during our visit to the park in July 1997. Forty-five minute ranger-led “lava walks” take place daily during summer. Visitor information is still available at the Wupatki Visitor Center, 18 miles to the north. When we last visited in October 2003, we were amazed to see that the skies north of Flagstaff were hazy from the San Diego (California) wildfires. We’re looking forward to seeing the renovated visitor center and camping across the road at Bonito Campground, which has also been recently renovated, the next time we visit the Flagstaff area.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 26, 2004
Sunset Crater Volcano Monument
Flagstaff, Arizona 86004
Attraction | "Wupatki Ruins"
At Wupatki’s heyday in the 1100s, it rose in places as high as three stories, contained as many as 100 rooms and may have housed over 200 people. Archeologists estimate that this pueblo was continuously inhabited between about 1120 to 1210. Who lived here? Ancestral Pueblo, from whom the Hopi descended and known to them as the Hisatsinom (people of long ago), known also as the Sinaguas (without water). Also found was evidence of other ancient cultures, such as the Huhugam and Cohonina. They farmed the surrounding land, growing corn and other crops in the desert soil upon which layers of volcanic ash from nearby Sunset Crater served as mulch. The pueblos were built mostly of Moenkopi sandstone and ponderosa pine beams, but also made use of natural rock walls when available. As the population thrived, more rooms were added.
Several unusual features are to be found here, including a large amphitheater which may have served as kiva or dance plaza lies near the ruins. A little further down the trail you will find what appears to have been a ball court, next to which is a natural blowhole. Depending on the surrounding atmospheric pressure, air is either blown out or sucked in.
By the mid 1200’s archeologists have determined that Wupatki was abandoned. It’s not clear just what factors contributed to its demise, but it’s more likely that there were multiple causes, among them drought, disease, dispersal of the volcanic ash cover, or more mysterious and still unknown reasons. In the 1930’s partial restorations of some of the ruins and structures in Wupatki were carried out before the NPS policy changed. Between 1938 and 1949, David Jones, a park ranger, and his bride Courtney Reeder Jones, actually lived in part of Wupatki ruins. In Letters From Wupatki , Courtney writes about their lives during the 11 years they resided there. The book is a selected collection of her letters to family and friends.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 28, 2004
Wupatki National Monument
County Road 395
Flagstaff, Arizona 86004
Attraction | "Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings"
One is immediately drawn to the past in Walnut Canyon, named for the black walnut trees that grow here. It’s a sacred ancestral place for the Hopi, some of whose clans can directly trace their lineage back to the people who lived here. These “people of long ago”, Hisatsinom, lived here between 1125 and 1250. They built shelters tucked into the cliffs and on the canyon rims. The limestone blocks were laid in rows and held together by clay and mud, then smoothed over with plaster. The people were traders, hunters and farmers, planting fields of corn, beans, and squash mostly on the canyon rims. They built small dams, terraces and irrigation systems so their crops would thrive. Eventually, as with the pueblo dwellings at Wupatki, these too were abandoned for unknown reasons in the mid 1200s. They apparently remained undisturbed and quiet for the next 600 years
With the coming of the railroad in the 1880s, the dwellings were discovered and pot hunters scavenged Walnut Canyon, stealing artifacts and even dynamiting some of the dwellings in their search for more relics. It was not until 1934 that this historical treasure was placed under the protection of the National Park Service.
We walked the mile long Island Trail, a bit of a climb (185 feet) getting back up – something to keep in mind at 7000 feet elevation if you have any heart or lung problems. The trail is self-guiding and leads to 25 cliff dwelling rooms on one of three rock “islands” in the area. It’s an amazing feeling going into a room and trying to imagine yourself backwards in time as someone who used these dwellings for shelter. We visited on a weekday and there were very few others present. The breeze was the only sound save a few birds. The .75-mile Rim Trail is more level. Go to the Visitor Center from which the trails begin to get more information. Sometimes there are ranger-led hikes and tours. There is also a picnic area in front of the Visitor Center.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 30, 2004
Walnut Canyon National Monument
I-80 Exit 205, 7.5 Miles East Of Flagstaff
Flagstaff, Arizona 86004
Rodeo, New Mexico