Walnut Canyon and a Rude Awakening

April 8-9, 2017

Not one to hurry across the miles (except on rare occasions) I took the lovely drive up Cottonwood Canyon north out of Sedona to Flagstaff and decided it was time to find a place to camp for the night. I’d checked on the internet and learned that most of the national forest roads were still closed for the season on the plateau here, but those on the south side of I40 east of Flagstaff were open so I decided to see if there was anything near Walnut Canyon National Monument, which was 10 miles east of Flagstaff.

I might have missed this little gem if the other roads had been open because I’d really wanted to go and explore a lava tube 9 miles north of Flagstaff, and would have camped there instead. I’m glad I found this place on the map, and there was National Forest less than a mile from the entrance.

Walnut Canyon was once inhabited by the Sinagua People (Sinagua means Without Water) but left mysteriously around 1250 CE, (pre-Columbian) leaving around 80 cliff dwellings and ruins along the canyon walls and on the rim. There is only one set of ruins in the canyon that visitors are permitted to visit, but more can be viewed from the trail or the rim. The canyon rim elevation is 6,690 ft (2,040 m); the canyon’s floor is 350 ft lower. A 0.9 mi. long loop trail descends 185 ft (56 m) into the canyon passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms that were built by the Sinagua.

The rocks in the canyon walls are formed of three distinct layers – the upper third of Walnut Canyon’s walls contain Kaibab Limestone that varies in layers and hardness, where the cliff dwellings are found, which overlies steep, scrub-covered slopes of the Toroweap Formation, while the lowest third is the sheer-walled, cross-bedded Coconino Sandstone. Many layers of the limestone eroded, creating alcoves that the Sinagua Indians used as cave-dwellings.

I passed a pleasant two or three hours at the monument, taking my time and dodging rain showers then found a nice quiet spot in the national forest nearby.

The rude awakening came at about 7:00 am, when all these cars started pulling up along side me, and all around and down the road. After about 20 of these cars had parked, someone finally came over to me and said that they were here to do some police training, and I was welcome to stay, but there would be some odd things going on.

I was clearly in the way and almost got blocked in a couple of times, so I skedaddled.

Once I was down the road a bit I made breakfast and pulled out the map, and decided to drive up 180 to The Grand Canyon.

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of my travels during the winter of 2016/2017, and hope you’ll continue the journey with me. Please visit the HOME page to find more articles, and feel free to share, sign up and leave a comment. Also please visit my YouTube Channel. Until next time…remember to step outside of your comfort zone as often as possible and watch it grow.

Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature


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