Saturday, September 27, 2014

Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments

Wupatki (Pueblo) and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments are located within a 35 mile loop and are both accessible for one entrance fee.  The visitor center for Sunset Crater Volcano is located 15 miles from Flagstaff on Highway 89 north.  The Wupatki Pueblo is 26 miles through the beautiful Painted Desert park loop.  There are other pueblos located along the park loop for touring.  
One of the first sights upon entering the park are the peaks of the San Francisco Mountains.  They rise to Arizona's highest point of 12,633 feet.  These peaks make up what is referred to as a stratovolcano.  A stratovolcano, also know as a composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by layers of hardened lava.
This is the first look at Sunset Crater.  Sunset Crater is a geological infant having erupted less than 1,000 years ago.  It is is estimated that a roaring fountain of lava rose 850 feet in the air, which is nearly as high as this 1,000 foot high cinder cone!  
The eruption of area volcanoes is what led to the local natives leaving the area to move further south. The park provides a nice half mile loop trail through this lava field.  This is located right across the road from the Lenox Crater trail.
This is the half mile walk up to the top of Lenox Crater.  The trail up to Sunset Crater has been closed since the 1970s to help preserve it.
Here's our first view of the top!
Wow!  It was worth the hike!  Check out the cloud appearing to steam out of the distant crater!
This is an interesting tree trunk.  It seems to be riddled with what I'm guessing are woodpecker holes.
This is the view heading back down the trail.  The walk was oh so much more enjoyable!
There is a parking lot near the base of Sunset Crater and a nice paved path out through this field of volcanic ash and lava flows.  The flowers that seem to thrive in the ash are beautiful.  The Fall blooming yellow Rabbitbush can be seen everywhere.  It must particularly thrive in this environment.
The red flower stalks seen scattered about are Penstemons.
This bush is called Apache Plume.  It typically blooms from June through August and then goes to seed with these beautiful pink plumes.  The plumes will be carried by the wind when the time is right. I found it to be very attractive, possibly more so with its plumes than when in full bloom with its white flowers.
The red ash is from iron oxide.
This is a lava flow that has fallen in on itself.
The cinder cone to the left is Sunset Crater.
This is looking the opposite direction from Sunset Crater.  The low rounded peak to the left is Elden Mountain near Flagstaff and the two peaks straight ahead are the San Francisco Mountain peaks.  All the hills and mountains  you see are volcanoes and make up part of a 2,200 square mile area called the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
This little lizard, who was only about two inches long, ran out on the sidewalk and seemed to  dance about as if to get our attention and detain us awhile!  He seemed to enjoy Roy giving him some scratching under his chin, but wasn't interested in being picked up. He probably gets a bit lonely out on the lava field.
The park loop to the Wupatki pueblo goes through miles of beautiful painted desert with a changing landscape of colors!
Isn't this beautiful in its pure simple colors!  We decided to leave the pueblos for another days hike, but I found this area haunting me for days.  I wasn't sure why.  I later decided that seeing the volcano fields and then this wide open pristine desert seemed to show the earth in such a natural state, as if untouched by humans!  While the red earth pueblos blend with nature as much as is possible for a man made thing, they still seemed to be an intrusion on what seemed to be the earth existing in a natural state of being.  It's quite an amazing feeling!