on March 22, 2009
Just outside of Flagstaff are two US Park Service National Monuments . . . Sunset Crater and Wupatki which is a nice way to spend a leisurely half-day. Sunset Crater is a currently dormant volcano, that hasn't seen action in nearly 1,000 years. There are several lava flows that you can take a look at, each with their own distinct appearance. Mostly, the lava is craggy and very rough.As you drive through the area and head on towards Wupatki, you go to an elevation of over 7,000 feet. Coming back on the backside, you enter a midlevel area filled with junipers and a lot of sagebrush type ground cover. On this day, with the high winds (gusts up to 60 mph), the tumbleweeds and dust bowls were visible throughout our drive.We did get out and hike at the Citadel Pueblo Ruins which provided a nice walk, even if it was into the wind. Once at the top, the view was beautiful but I swear I was afraid I was going to have my big butt blown off the top of the site. Along the way, the trail goes by the Nalakihu Ruins, which still has the room-like structure standing.The centerpiece of this US Nat'l Park Service monument is the namesake Wupatki which is located right at the visitors' center. A half-mile roundtrip walk will take you down to one of the nicest examples of the living quarters of these people, with over 100 rooms that housed nearly 100 people by the year 1182 AD. This was also a center of agriculture and farming . . . tough to imagine given the high desert landscape seen today.Park admission is $5.00/person and is good for both Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monument . . . and for seven days. If you are in Flagstaff and looking for a nice transition day or one that isn't too strenuous, this is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.
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