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Friday, August 3, 2012

Walking Wupatki: Part 3


DONEY TRAIL
Wupatki National Monument
the saddle

on the trail
Geek that I am, I have a facination with lava bombs.  Heck--even the name is cool.  Lava. Bombs.  These products of volcanic eruptions form when highly viscous molton rock shoots into the sky from an explosive event,  partially solidifies on the way back to earth, then slams into the ground with a heat-warped taffy splat.  This process results in in mangled crater-side blobs and contorted ribbons that are best (indelicately) described  as "stone turds".  I think they are beautiful and I wish I could have been around to witness their formation.  Okay, not really, but it's almost a certainty that people living in the area 1000 years ago would have been treated to the fireworks.  Still, 21-century hikers can observe some very nice old, but fresh-looking lava bombs on the Doney Trail.  The trail leads to two of  four cinder cone summits that sit on a north-south line  of the Doney Fault which is visible from the top of peak number two.
lava bomb
A short walk over black cinders leads to a saddle with a bench and a lone one-seed juniper tree standing sentry over big views of the Painted Desert.  From here, the trail divides.  Go left to peak number one which features the ruins of an ancient  field house.  Peak number two is a little steeper climb, but the trail has been stabalized with wooden beams. On top, there's a viewing bench and a sign describing the surrounding peaks.  Look closely to the southeast and you should be able to spot the white roofs of the Wupatki Pueblo visitor center---next stop on the tour. 

LENGTH:  0.7 miles roundtrip
RATING:  moderate (loose rock)
ELEVATION:  5,300' - 5,500'
PETS: are not allowed on any park trails in buildings.  
Please do not leave pets in cars---heat can be fatal.
THE RULES: as with all archeological sites, it is illegal to take or damage anything.  Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Also, do not climb or sit on the fragile ruins.
FACILITIES: restoom, picnic table
GETTING THERE:
From Flagstaff, travel north on US 180 to milepost 444.5.  Turn right and continue 9 miles to the Doney Picnic Area turn off on the right. Roads are 100% paved.
INFO: National Park Service, 928-679-2365
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Walking Wupatki: Part 2


CITADEL and NALAKIHU RUINS
Wupatki National Monument
Citadel ruins and Citadel Sink

Nalakihu Pueblo
Whether this stone-hewn, hilltop structure was a swanky living space, fortress, ceremonial gathering spot or a Middle Ages-era marketplace we will never know for sure.  What is certain though is that this second stop on the Wupatki-Sunset Crater circuit will stoke your imagination.  A paved trail--suitable for strollers and walkers--leaves the parking area heading uphill on an easy grade. The site consists of two ruins.  The first is a tiny field building called Nalakihu (Hopi for “House Outside the Village”) that archeologists think was used by farmers in the 1100s.  Slabs of sandstone and lumps of black volcanic basalt mortared together in intricate layers form several rooms overlooking a stark landscape of improbable farmlands.  But farm the ancients did---using ingenious techniques like check dams to coax crops from brutal terrain.
View from the Citadel
Above Nalakihu sits the impressive citadel.  As the trail swings around the backside of the butte, a large sinkhole depression comes in to view.  This is "citadel sink" which formed when an underground limestone cavern collapsed. On the summit, a swath of geological wonders fills the horizon.  The flat-topped cone to the northwest is SP Crater---an intriguing destination for anybody looking to scale a cinder cone.  Framing the sinkhole are the San Francisco Peaks--the remains of a strato volcano that at one point towered to 16,000 feet before blowing its top Mount St. Helens-style shaving it down it its present 12,633' height.  The paved trail ends at the top of the butte, but those with sturdy footwear can enter the site (be careful on the loose rock) to check out how the citadel structure was built into the natural stone of the butte and ponder the millions of unanswered questions buried in the rubble.
LENGTH: 0.2 mile
RATING: easy, barrier free
ELEVATION: 5,380'- 5,440'
FACILITIES:  none
HOURS: open year-round sunrise to sunset
PETS: are not allowed on any park trails in buildings.  
Please do not leave pets in cars---heat can be fatal.
THE RULES: as with all archeological sites, it is illegal to take or damage anything.  Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Also, do not climb or sit on the fragile ruins.
GETTING THERE:
From Flagstaff, travel north on US 180 to milepost 444.5.  Turn right and continue  4.3 miles (or 0.3 mile past the Lomaki site) to the Citadel Ruins parking apron on the right. Roads are 100% paved.
INFO: National Park Service, 928-679-2365
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Monday, July 30, 2012

Walking Wupatki: Part 1

LOMAKI PUEBLO & BOX CANYON RUINS
One of the Box Canyon ruins

Over the next few days, I'll be chronicling my one-day hike-drive in Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater National Park. This two-park tour is famous for its multi-cultural Native American ruins, volcanic geology and outstanding Painted Desert views. Also, the park's 2,000-foot elevation variance blends desert scrublands, rich pine forests, sandstone mesas and rivers of lava for perhaps the most complex cluster of hiking trails in Arizona. 
Lomaki Pueblo
Using the 35-mile "volcanoes and ruins loop road” north of Flagstaff as the main travel artery, I made six stops for short hikes totaling 4.25 miles.  First up: Lomaki Pueblo & Box Canyon.  Located at the north end of the park on the high plains of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, this collection of red-sandstone ruins built on a gaping earth crack have not been restored, so visitors can marvel at the precision architecture and mortar work that has held up for more than 800 years.  Three main structures teeter on the edge of a narrow box canyon where the original inhabitants may have farmed and used imaginative technology to harvest rain water.  Interpretive signs along trail augment the hike with insights into pertinent archeological research.
Box Canyon ruins

LENGTH: 0.5-mile loop
RATING: easy (non-paved, some steps)
ELEVATION: 5,325'-5,350'
GETTING THERE:
From Flagstaff, travel north on US 180 to milepost 444.5 (north entrance to the parks).  Turn right and continue 4 miles to the Lomaki turn off on the left. Roads are 100% paved.
FACILITIES: restroom, picnic table
HOURS: open year-round sunrise to sunset
FEE: $5 per person, good for 7 days at both Wupatki and Sunset Crater
PETS: are not allowed on any park trails or in buildings.  Please do not leave pets in cars---heat can be fatal, even on cool days.
INFO: National Park Service, 928-679-2365

MORE PHOTOS: