Arizona Trail: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 4

Welcome back to Aspens Tracks, thruhiking the Arizona Trail from Utah to Mexico. Hopefully this wilderness account is helping you get through your coronavirus-related distancing and isolation, and giving you hope for what adventures may yet come in the post-COVID-19 future for you.

Wrapping up at Walnut Canyon National Monument. After finishing up the fantastic Island Trail, the Rim Trail yields some great sites as well, including an unexcavated site and several pueblos. The views of the canyon itself are pretty amazing too. Some kind visitors in the parking lot also give me some snacks when they hear about my attempt to hike across Arizona. One can always trust fellow parkies to help out! All in all, well worth the side trip here. I underestimated this stop and I am now running a little behind schedule, so it is time to head back and pick up the trail toward Flagstaff again.

Cliff dwellings visible from the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument (one of 22 national parks in Arizona)
Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument (one of 22 national parks in Arizona)
Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument (one of 22 national parks in Arizona)
Archeological site on the rim of Walnut Canyon, Walnut Canyon National Monument (one of 22 national parks in Arizona)
Archeological pueblo on the rim of Walnut Canyon, Walnut Canyon National Monument (one of 22 national parks in Arizona)
An unexcavated archeological site on the rim of Walnut Canyon. Leaving such sites in place helps preserve the artifacts in as close to natural condition as possible. Walnut Canyon National Monument, one of 22 national parks in Arizona.

Walnut Canyon National Monument protects over 80 cliff dwellings of the Northern Sinagua people. Named for the historic Spanish name for the general region, Sierra de Sin Agua, or “mountains without water,” the Sinagua people built the dwellings between 1125 and 1250 CE. The dwellings are, as the name suggests, located in Walnut Canyon, a 20 mile long, 400 ft deep and quarter mile wide canyon carved by Walnut Creek in the Mogollon Plateau southeast of Flagstaff. Most are near the Island Trail that rings a peninsula of rock that Walnut Creek bends around, connected to the north rim of a canyon by a narrow ridge of rock, giving the peninsula the appearance of an island. Each room, built under limestone ledges, might have housed a family. The ledges afforded protection from the elements – they kept the dwellings cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They were also easier to defend against invasion. Prior to building the cliff dwellings, the Sinagua lived and cultivated areas on the rim of the canyon. In a dry, semi-arid landscape – though not as harsh as some found further south – the communities relied on the intermittent flow of water in Walnut Creek for sustenance. It is not clear why the dwellings were abandoned around 1250, but suspected reasons include drought and relations with neighboring tribes. National Monument also protects natural resources, including 387 species of plants as well as marine fossils remaining from when the area was located under a sea. Views from the canyon rim include the volcanic peaks around Flagstaff, including Elden Mountain and the San Francisco Peaks, as well as landmarks such as Mormon Mountain to the south, all rising out of the extensive ponderosa forest covering the Mogollon Plateau.

Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument (one of 22 national parks in Arizona)
Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument (one of 22 national parks in Arizona)
Cliff dwellings along the Island Trail, Walnut Canyon National Monument (one of 22 national parks in Arizona)

4 thoughts on “Arizona Trail: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Part 4

    1. Yes, I am. My mother’s side is from greater Boston and we have a place on the North Shore that I get up to when I can. We had an annual tradition of taking my legally blind grandmother to a game whenever we visited. One time we sat something like 6 rows back behind home plate. If you know James Taylor’s song “Angels of Fenway” – that was pretty much my experience going to games with her growing up, and is a rare song that gets me emotional as a result.

      I used to have season tickets, too, until work started to interfere. But I still made it to many games in the 2013 playoffs, including ALCS Game 6 when they clinched the pennant and World Series Game 1; and I was at Ortiz’s final game in 2016, both regular season and postseason. I also had the opportunity to have dinner with Luis Tiant at Fenway once. I often tell people that games there are about as close to a spiritual experience as you can get in sports, it is such an organic and intimate environment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! We were at ALCS game 6 as well and at WS game 6 when they won the series – magical to say the least! This will tell you how old I am – I was at Yaz’s last game.
        My mom grew up in Boston and Lexington – here parents were Bostonians – Boys & Girls Latin School, etc. etc. Our youngest son lives in Somerville and works in Boston.
        My wife and I really enjoy your posts and photos. Stay safe!

        Liked by 1 person

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