Got on the road by 10:00 and headed north. I had to go through Flagstaff which is in northern Arizona. I went from 3000 feet above sea level to 7000 feet above sea level. The poor RV struggled a little bit – I was still going about sixty but the engine sure was whining. I went from 71 degrees to 53 degrees and horror of horrors when I topped the last hill, what did I see but snow on the ground. Not a lot of snow, maybe 4-5 inches. The Flagstaff area is considered the Snow Bowl of Arizona – they have skiing here. Arizona sure is a strange state – going from killer deserts in the south, up to high deserts in the middle and then ski areas. These areas are all fairly close to one another also. Something to consider if one were looking for a new place to live.
My first destination was Walnut Canyon to look at more real estate – seems like most of the National Monuments in Arizona are pueblos, or caves, or cliff dwellings that ancient people lived in. They sure were prolific builders.
You walk into the visitor center and you are on the top of a very deep canyon that has been cut by Walnut Creek. In it's curvy meanderings, the creek went around a solid piece of rock and made sort of an island of it. There are more than 300 cliff dwellings, most of which are a simple one room. The ecosystem was interesting here – on the south facing walls of the canyon and island, it was arid and there was a lot of cacti growing. On the north facing walls, it was all Douglas firs and Ponderosa Pines. There is a trail that takes you down into the canyon 350 feet or 250 stairs. Then you walk around the island and can peer into the rooms. After your stroll around the island, you have to walk back up all those stairs. I did mention that we are at 7000 feet, right? You could really tell that the air was a lot thinner. I met a ranger as I'm on my way back up and stopped to chat. He told me that the key is to read all the interpretive signs on the way up, not the way down to give yourself breathers. Duh!!! I didn't think of that. Anyway, the air was brisk and it had that pine tree smell – it was lovely.
|A look into the Canyon|
|This is what one of the rooms looked like on the island|
|See little ol' me way over all by myself|
I took Miko for an evening walk. As we are walking along, out jumped the biggest rabbit I have ever seen. It was almost as big as Miko. I think it might have been a jack rabbit – I don't think I've ever seen one before. Holy cow, was that thing big. I remember watching some old horror movie when I was young about giant flesh eating rabbits. I think they might have used this one as the model. We scared up a few more jack rabbits who were not quite as large but sure bigger than our little cottontails back home.
Going to hit Petrified Forest National Park today. National Parks are usually impressive. They can only be created by Congress which means that Congress has to agree on something.
I had read that the Petrified Forest was RV and pet friendly so I drove the RV and dragged the car down to the south entrance. Ok, let's just say that I was a little bit underwhelmed in the beginning. There are a bunch of logs lying around on the ground, yeah, they are stone logs, but it still looked like a logging operation in Minnesota. Miko and I were walking around the logs at the visitor center when a busload of Asian people showed up with their cameras. When I would sit Miko down to take her picture, three or four of them would be snapping away. Miko was very gracious although she eventually got this look on her face like 'Enough, already'.
|Maybe I'm just not understanding the significance here|
|Miko's photo shoot|
|Miko and her new friend Zero at the Crystal Forest|
There is a 28 mile road through the park with various turnouts. Miko and I did a walk through the Crystal Forest which is where the innards of the logs were all quartz – sort of pretty, but still I'm underwhelmed. As we move north, it is mostly grasslands and then we come to the Blue Mesa. When I first started through the Blue Mesa, I'm thinking “ok, but not as cool as our badlands or Teddy Roosevelt's park.” But then I got into the thick of it and it really was pretty. Then we go a little further thru more grassland and then Wowser – I have arrived at the Painted Desert. This is a huge canyon where the walls are about every color of red that you can imagine. Of course I have no pictures of this part of the park, but take my word for it. If you see nothing else, you need to see the Painted Desert.
Hopped on I-40, which according to my Route 66 scholar, is over much of the old Route 66. Of course, since it is all freeway, there is not much charm. I left behind Arizona and moved into New Mexico. I spent almost exactly one month in Arizona and only scratched the surface. I will definitely have to come back.
My campground for the night is Red Rock County Park just a little bit east of Gallup NM. Twenty six miles from the Arizona border. The red rocks are pretty, but the whole campground is nothing but thick sand and pretty unlevel sand at that. I had a hard time making any sense of how this campground was laid out – it seemed like the electrical/water was just put about willy-nilly. It took me three different sites before I could get the rig level. But, I'm settled now for the night. There are only three other campers here.
|Red Rock Campground|