Several people have been e-mailing me, asking what there is to do in the Flagstaff area.
As relative newbies to Arizona we are finding out!
One thing I have discovered about Flagstaff is that it does not have the desert climate or terrain you normally think of when visualizing Arizona.
Flagstaff is high in elevation (hovering near 7,000 feet), is mountainous, and surrounded by the world's largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest.
Located only 80 miles from the Grand Canyon, and 30 miles from the Red Rock country of Sedona, there is plenty to see and do in this historic area.
We love to hike, and one of our favorite activities was a visit to Walnut Canyon.
Home to the Sinagua Indians from 1100-1250, this pre-Columbian group built over 80 cliff dwellings nestled along the harsh canyon walls.
Can you see their homes located against this mountain side?
We hiked down a steep trail that drops 185 feet to "The Island".
Down, down, down, 240 stairs.
The going down was not nearly as difficult as the climb back up, which provided quite the workout!
Sinagua means "without water", describing a people who were able to live in this dry area.
Water only flows on the canyon floor when the snow melts during Spring thaw, and with sudden storms of summer monsoons.
The Sinagua built their homes under these limestone ridges, nearly hidden in the cliffs.
Can you imagine the hike to the canyon floor 350 feet below to gather water?
In these earthen rooms they would store up to a 100 day supply of water in clay pots.
Some of the rooms were for sleeping, and provided shelter from bad weather.
They experienced heavy snow in the winter and hot dry summers.
Mr. Cactus is 6'3" and as you can see how his head touched the ceiling of one of the larger quarters.
Small doorways were originally covered with animal skins, cloth or sticks woven together.
Thick walls of stone and mud provided insulation from the harsh winds and retained heat in the winter.
The community ranged from 75-400 people.
Rooms were added as families grew or storage needed to be increased.
Despite the terrain, the Sinagua were able to grow maize, beans and squash.
There is only speculation on why the Sinagua left this area.
Harsh conditions, disease, or a desire to band with other groups have been suggested.
One sign read:
Hopi tradition holds that Walnut Canyon was simply one stop in a larger journey, and ultimately, not the final destination for these people."
And another suggested there was a spiritual reason to leave:
"From Hopi perspective, the primary reason for migration is the fulfillment of a spiritual covenant...the religious intentionality of Hopi migration receives scant attention in most archeological reconstruction of the past."
I really enjoyed hiking through this unique area, and would definitely recommend adding Walnut Canyon to your "to-do" list.