In a galaxy far, far away… Southwestern Road Trip Day 7

After our Grand Canyon outing, we returned to the Embassy Suites hotel in Flagstaff. I forgot to say that not only was Vin’s and my room freezing (the heater was on the fritz), but there was absolutely no hot water. I had taken a VERRRRY cold shower that morning. Luckily the hot water was fixed when we got back, and the heater was sort of working (meaning instead of the room temperature being equal to the freezer temperature, it was about a very cold refrigerator temperature, which coupled with the 20 F night time temperatures (-5 C) did not sit well with us. But at least we didn’t have to wear our winter coats inside our room.

Anyway, after good night’s sleep, we got ready for another day of sightseeing. We had breakfast at the complimentary hot breakfast (yayyy scrambled eggs and hash brown potatoes!) before setting off. Basically, we went back up the road towards the Grand Canyon, then turned off – we would check out the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, and then Wupatki National Monument. We saw signs for them on our way up to the Grand Canyon the previous day, and read about these 2 destinations in our guidebook. Decided we would do these 2 sights and go back to Flagstaff for some relaxation.

So off we went!

[[image:us311.jpg:Flagstaff-Sunset Crater-Wupatki:center:0]]

We drove up to the Sunset Crater Visitor Center which was highly recommended by our guide book. We paid our nominal fee (I believe it was $3 per person or something to that extent) and wandered around the very educational Visitor Center.

[[image:us276.jpg:Mak, Abah and Vin at the Sunset Crater Visitor Center:center:0]]

There, we learnt that Sunset Crater is a hill-like peak caused by a series of volcanic eruptions almost a thousand years ago. The volcanic eruptions went through different patterns before concentrating by Sunset Crater, and the hill-like peak was created by a lava cone. The volcanic eruptions was thought to have lasted over 30 years. Amazing! Plus, these volcanic eruptions are not part of tectonic-plate earthquake-volcano link such as the Pacific Rim of Fire. These volcanoes seem to have been moving east from the west coast of the United States thousands of years ago. Could there be an unexpected volcanic eruption east of Flagstaff at any point in time? Maybe! Wait a second, we live east of Flagstaff. A few thousand miles east, but east none the less. Hmmm..

Also, aside from learning about the history of the Sunset Crater, we also learnt more about earthquakes. There was a machine that measured impact on a digital graph (looked like a heart-rate monitor, the graph). So if you jumped a little bit, the graph would be like your heart took a leap. But if you jumped up really high and stamped your feet when you landed, it sure looks like somebody had a heart attack and then died. It was cool. Vin and I jumped around to see what we could produce. Vin’s graph beat my graph silly though.

The park ranger was so nice. He then showed us the seismograph – a machine that measures earthquakes while they were happening. And wonder of wonders, while he was explaining this stuff to us, the needle went nuts and was registering an earthquake, right while we were watching! The park ranger said they measure it, but they don’t know where it happened. So it could either be a really big earthquake in Flagstaff, or a small one in California, or even a very small earthquake in the Pacific Rim. It will measure the seismic activity, but they need to get corroboration and analysis from different seismographs and geologists to determine where and magnitude of earthquake. It turned out, the earthquake we witnessed was a small one (about 4 on the Richter scale) in Southern California (the US Geological Survey or whatever they’re called informed the park rangers here a few minutes later) – an area where it’s got be really big quake to faze the population. No damage was reported. It was so minor that it didn’t even make the national news.

[[image:us275.jpg:Mak and me by the seismograph:center:0]]

The park ranger also showed us records of seismic activity – the San Francisco quake of 1989, and the tsunami-causing earthquake of 2005 (that caused all the deaths in Sri Lanka, Sumatera and other places). That graph was amazing. It was one hell of a quake.

We then moved on to the Sunset Crater trail. There was a short, paved trail that we could take, and also a longer dirt trail. After some debate, Mak wanted to see the area so we walked on both trails.

Some pictures of the Sunset Crater trail:

[[image:us277.jpg:Mak with Sunset Crater in the background:center:0]]

[[image:us278.jpg:Mak touching the lava:center:0]]

[[image:us279.jpg:Lava pushed straight up through the ground:center:0]]

[[image:us280.jpg:Scenery around the area:center:0]]

[[image:us281.jpg:Me touching the lava:center:0]]

[[image:us282.jpg:Abah touching the lava:center:0]]

[[image:us283.jpg:Abah on the Sunset Crater lava trail:center:0]]

[[image:us284.jpg:Abah and Mak, aren’t they cuuuute!:center:0]]

[[image:us285.jpg:Big-ass Downed tree:center:0]]

[[image:us286.jpg:Mak and Vin on the trail:center:0]]

[[image:us287.jpg:Abah became a tree hugger:center:0]]

[[image:us289.jpg:The trail we were on:center:0]]

[[image:us288.jpg:Downed tree with the San Francisco peaks in the background:center:0]]

[[image:us290.jpg:Lava cone:center:0]]

Those trees that were dead and fallen over on the lava probably died some time ago. They’re huge trees, too. Pretty amazing, rugged, jagged landscape. After doing the Sunset Crater lava trail, we drove on towards Wupatki National Monument.

We stopped at an area where we could supposedly see the Painted Desert (remember, from Day 1?). However, we saw a bunch of pretty trees, but the painted desert was very far away and pretty blurry from where we were. Not at all as amazing as at the Painted Desert Visitor Center.

[[image:us291.jpg:Abah with Sunset Crater in the background:center:0]]

[[image:us292.jpg:Abah and Vin:center:0]]

[[image:us293.jpg:Mak trying to see the Painted Desert:center:0]]

We went on and stopped at the Wupatki National Monument visitor center and read about the Ancestral Puebloan ruins called Wupatki, as well as the modern history of the Navajo who lived on the land and were forced out in the mid-20th century so Wupatki could be preserved as a national monument. It was really sad. The people who lived there, raised their children there, and eventually had to move to a reservation. Not so far back as to be during the wild wild west times, but after World War II. They had letters from the Navajo people who had lived there as children and wanted to come back to their land. Heartwrenching stuff, really.

After the visitor center, we walked out to the Wupatki Ruins behind it.

[[image:us294.jpg:Wupatki ruins:center:0]]

[[image:us295.jpg:Vin by the sign to the ball court and blowhole:center:0]]

Vin had been really looking forward to this ball court. He hadn’t been aware that there were ball courts that far north (I only ever heard about them in South America). But here we were, at the ball court at Wupatki Ruins north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Who knew?

[[image:us296.jpg:Abah by the ball court:center:0]]

[[image:us297.jpg:Vin by the ball court:center:0]]

[[image:us298.jpg:Mak viewing the blowhole:center:0]]

[[image:us299.jpg:Vin and me walking back to the main structure:center:0]]

It was really cool ruins, and we walked all around it, reading the self-guided tour of the ruins. After spending some time there, we got back in the car and drove to the next set of ruins, called the Citadel. The Citadel sat atop a hill, a tower-like structure. Below, another set of ruins, more along the lines of the other Ancestral Puebloan homes we’d seen on this trip. Unlike all the other ruins, we were allowed to walk into these ruins (they had been fortified for this purpose). So we did!

[[image:us300.jpg:Mak and me discussing curried jackrabbits:center:0]]

[[image:us301.jpg:Vin and me:center:0]]

[[image:us302.jpg:Abah in the ruins:center:0]]

Then Mak and Abah decided to hang out and relax while Vin and I made the trek up to the Citadel. Here we are at the top of the tower.

[[image:us303.jpg:Vin and me on top of the Citadel:center:0]]

Here’s the view of the car, and Abah and Mak, and the plains beyond from the top of the Citadel:

[[image:us304.jpg:They look small and far away:center:0]]

Some more Citadel pictures:

[[image:us305.jpg:Vin on the Citadel ramparts:center:0]]

[[image:us306.jpg:Wall ruins and the view away from the road:center:0]]

After running around volcanic craters and ancestral puebloan ruins, we had worked up an appetite for lunch! It was getting to be 2 in the afternoon, so we piled back into the car and drove back to Flagstaff for lunch. We ate at a Thai restaurant – it was deeeeelicious! We stuffed ourselves full of familiar comfort food before walking around historic Flagstaff.

[[image:us307.jpg:Mak, Abah and Vin on a cute bench:center:0]]

[[image:us308.jpg:Mak and me on the street:center:0]]

[[image:us309.jpg:Mak and Abah by a planter:center:0]]

Abah had been trying to take pictures of signboards while the car was in motion – he really wanted one that said “Grand Canyon” and “Los Angeles” on it. There were many aborted attempts. Turns out, right by our hotel, you could see the signboards. So Abah got the picture he wanted:

[[image:us310.jpg:Which way to go?:center:0]]

After a good day of sightseeing, we went back to the hotel to read and relax, watch TV, and just veg out. Felt like a luxury since we had been on the go for 7 days straight! To end the entry, some photostitching attempts:

[[image:usph39.jpg:The San Francisco Peaks:center:0]]

[[image:usph40.jpg:View at Sunset Crater:center:0]]

[[image:usph41.jpg:Lava field at Sunset Crater:center:0]]

[[image:usph42.jpg:Rugged lava landscape:center:0]]

[[image:usph43.jpg:Small lava cone:center:0]]

[[image:usph44.jpg:Wupatki in its entirety:center:0]]

[[image:usph45.jpg:Wupatki main house ruins:center:0]]

[[image:usph46.jpg:Wupatki main house from afar:center:0]]

[[image:usph47.jpg:Vin’s favorite-Wupatki Ball Court:center:0]]

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