Cathedrals of Time ~ Sunset Crater & Wupatki Nat.l Monuments, Arizona

“Ruins are the cathedrals of time” ~ Marty Rubin

Winding up our summer travels with the grandson, we set out for one last hurrah to Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument before returning him to his Mama in California.  We originally planned to RV in Sedona, but 25 miles out, our A/C failed. Naturally, with triple-digit weather, we returned home and made plans to visit Flagstaff.


Advice from a volcano and a Grandma: go with the flow and have a blast!


Sunset Crater Volcano was decreed a National Monument in 1930 by President Hoover after a Hollywood film company planned to detonate explosives on it exterior for a movie. Thank goodness for public outcry and a concerned president for saving this beautiful, historical and interesting land.


Each time a volcano erupts, life begins anew ~ NPS

Sunset Crater is located just outside of Flagstaff and is the youngest in a string of volcanoes related to the nearby San Francisco Peaks.  I’ve passed the exit for this monument many times during my I-40 travel and never thought to stop and visit.  


Exploring the 1-mile Lava Flow trail

Due to severe erosion from past volcano-climbing visitors, you can no longer climb to the top of Sunset crater, but you can climb the nearby Lenox Crater and Doney Mountain cinder cones. We considered the 1-mile Lenox Crater trail, but with extreme humidity and a steep ascent, we opted to explore the 1-mile Lava Flow Trail instead.


The grandson checking out a hornito, or spatter cone alongside the trail.

Spatter cones are one of the main types of volcanic type landforms and are made from lava that was ejected from a vent []. Don’t I sound scientific, ha, ha! We just thought it was cool.


“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek” ~ Joseph Campbell

Oh, darn, access denied! At one time this ice cave could be visited, but it closed after a partial collapse of the lava tube. I’m discovering Sunset Crater National Monument is quite interesting and educational.


“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure” ~ Rumi

Keep driving the 35-mile dual park loop and you will reach Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki is abundant with ancient dwellings dating back to the 1100s, including the above Wukoki Pueblo.


“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens” ~ Carl Jung

Surprisingly, you are allowed to walk upon the ruins. The short door ways are more for protection and don’t depict the occupants height.  For me personally, these are the largest and most well-preserved relics that I’ve ever visited. I’m so impressed with this park!


“A storm was coming, but that’s not what she felt. It was adventure on the wind and it shivered down her spine.” ~ Atticus

The day turned stormy and humid; but the thunder and lightning did not deter us from continuing our travels. While the hubby opted to stay in the car, the grandson and I had no qualms about getting wet or dodging the lightening ~ it was an adventure on the wind.


Wupatki Pueblo

The park was named after this antiquity, the Wupatki Pueblo. Thought to have housed over 100 people, these remains are one of the larger villages dotting the parks massive landscape. The Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo are descendants of the original dwellers.


“Modesty is the citadel of beauty” ~ Demades

Atop the Citadel Pueblo. The lightening was getting a little too close, so the grandson headed back to the car. If you take the time to look,  you can see an array of pueblos in the distance from the Citadel.


The landscape in the park is so diverse; we walked through pine trees at Sunset Crater, then desert at Wupatki.  In the distance are San Francisco Peaks, which are on my must explore list.


Regrettably, I ran out of battery prior to arriving at the Lomaki Pueblo and left my spare at home.  Lomaki has a .5-mile walking path that leads to multiple dwellings sitting above a dry box canyon. It’s desolate, but I really got a feeling of community here.


I truly underestimated the wow-factor of Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monument.  Many times we bypass those little brown signs on the side of the freeway directing us to the lesser-known monuments or historical places of interest for the more renowned national parks. If you’re ever in the Flagstaff, AZ area, stop and check out these monuments, it is worth your time.


Finding Beauty Everywhere…..Grand Tetons NP


“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere” – Vincent Van Gogh

Our first glimpse of the magnificent Grand Tetons 

It’s not hard to find beauty everywhere in the Grand Teton National Park. Today’s journey is devoted to these renown statuesque peaks. Thanks to Nature’s layout, these beauties can be seen in every section of the park.  I am in awe………


Colter Bay

Our first stop, Colter Bay Village.  We’re not much on visitor centers, but we needed a pit stop and a map since we somehow missed the park’s entry station.  Notice the Tetons in the back?


Grandpa and Grandson

This simple trail circles the lake, what a glorious place to stretch your legs. Fill your water bottle up at the visitor center with clear, delicious alpine water right out of the faucet – yum!


Tetons cast on Jackson Lake

“The beauty you see in me is a reflection of you” – Rumi.  If Mr. Rumi is right, I’m a tall, strong, majestic woman with a little snow on top. Quite an accurate observation, old sage.


Thomas Murphy barn & homestead @ Mormon Row

One of my aspirations was to visit to Mormon Row and photograph the old homesteads. I’m posting the Thomas Murphy barn in place of the noteworthy Moulton barn, which has been photographed a great deal.


I believe this is part of the Moulton homestead

I can’t imagine enduring winters in the shadows of the Tetons. It really took a community and a pioneering spirit to survive and prosper. Unfortunately, I missed exploring a section of the community, which resides to the left.  Sounds like I need a return trip.


The family @ the Jenny Lake Overlook

We bypassed the extremely crowded South Jenny Lake junction in favor of the less populated North Jenny Lake loop. North Jenny has a relaxing scenic loop drive and a spectacular overlook and lake trail. Make sure to use your Forest Gump voice when you say, “Jenny.”


Time for a picnic

Most of the picnic areas reside near the visitor centers. We were lucky to find this spot with the Tetons in eyesight and Cottonwood creek running alongside. As the title to this post suggests, a trip to the Tetons will have you finding beauty everywhere you stop.




The Lewis Falls, Yellowstone So. Entrance

Not wanting the day to end, we made one last stop and admired the spray and sounds of melting snow flowing down Lewis Falls. The grandson and I climbed to the top, sidestepping the slick snow still left on the ground.  The timing is right to see waterfalls in Yellowstone; they are overflowing this season.


The Lewis River, Yellowstone South Entrance

Turn about face from the falls and you have a post card picture view of the Lewis River.  The Teton and Yellowstone landscape is so surreal, it feels like Shangri-la.


Snack time!

A trip to Yellowstone isn’t complete with out a run-in with a bison. We were lucky – eating distracted them every time we drove through the park. On our first day in town, we heard park travelers were deterred for two hours by a bison roadblock.

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What can I say about Day two?  The Tetons were spectacular….. stunning…… breathtaking…. awe-inspiring and return worthy.  Next time though, I’m staying in the park, bears or no bears. If you have the opportunity to visit Grand Tetons National Park, please do it and remember to always take the scenic route.

Yuma Territorial Prison

I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight (I love cheap thrills) – Sia

Who says you need a lot of cash to have a good time? Not this Grandma.  With my Arizona State Park pass in hand, the hubby and I took a little road trip to Yuma to relive the past within the walls of the Yuma Territorial Prison.


An annual state park pass is a good investment for folks who enjoy camping, boating, hiking, or just day tripping to historical sites. The cost is low and the pass pays for itself quickly. All you need is a tank of gas, some change for lunch, and you’re on your way.


The last remaining original cell blocks  – 1875

We started in the court-yard with a friendly docent with a head full of prison knowledge.  I recommend taking advantage of a docent, they know some interesting history about the prison. There’s plenty of time to wander afterwards on your own.


1930s taggers

After it closed in 1909, the prison became Yuma High School, the County Hospital, and in the 1930s, squatters from the Depression made the prison home. Seems graffiti and tagging were even popular back then. Who knew?


Six to a cell

The original interior wall stopped at the end of the three-story bunks. Although you’d never imagine it, the prison was referred to as the country club of the Colorado because of its many modern amenities (i.e., electricity, a library, sanitation, and a prison band).


The Dark Cell

If you were really bad, you were sent to the Dark Cell – stripped, chained, and fed bread and water. No lights, no sanitation, and for fun the guards would drop scorpions and snakes on you through the ventilation hole in the ceiling. Oh, and the occupancy rate capped at 12.


Prisoner’s cemetery

Very few of those incarcerated in Yuma died violently – about 50% died of TB and 33% of natural causes. Seems prisoners weren’t worthy of a headstone; a plaque added later list the names of the deceased.


I didn’t do it!

The only thing I’m guilty of is having fun! The mirror is an original and was used to take mug shots. The striped shirt is a replica of the 1870s prison attire. Women weren’t imprisoned in Yuma until 1878, and even then it was common to use your “feminine wiles” to obtain parole or reduced sentence.

Well thank goodness in 1941 the city turned the site into a museum and saved the remaining sections of the prison. Nearby is another state historic park, the Quartermaster Depot, which we’ll visit another time. We had an interesting day and enjoyed learning about the Wild West and the history of the Yuma Territorial Prison.

On the Road Again!

Hitting the road for a couple of days in the Sonata for some fun and relaxation at the Lookout Lodge in Tombstone, Arizona; and an overnighter on the way home in Tucson to explore the Saguaro National Park.  Extra camera batteries–check!  Manual, charger–check, check! Now if I could only find my tripod. Looking forward to a spirited time in Tombstone and a cactus lined sunset in Tucson.  Put me on the highway…………….

Watson Lake and Downtown Prescott

Today will be spent locally, exploring the Prescott area.  Prescott is a popular weekend destination and downtown was quite crowded when we arrived, so we’re hoping the masses have gone home and vehicle and foot traffic will be lighter today.  After a few cups of coffee and the hotel’s free breakfast, we’re off to explore Watson Lake.

075Watson Lake is a man-made reservoir created in the early 1900s and preserved as recreational land by the City of Prescott in 1997. The lake is surrounded by an interesting geological feature called Granite Dells, which are large rippled boulders of billion-year-old granite and bedrock.   The Dells attract climbing enthusiasts, but it was the kayakers maneuvering their brightly colored canoes around the exterior of the rocks that I found enticing.

057The husband and I walked the lake trail, stopping to climb a boulder or two, until we came to an iron bench overlooking the water.  We sat for a while, enjoying the breeze and display of weathered rocks, created in a land before time.  What a deal.  Two dollars for the opportunity to hike, bike, climb, kayak, boat, picnic, and enjoy the serenity of the outdoors.  Although it was time to move on, I vowed to come back one day and kayak this beautiful lake.

Our next destination is the Sharlot Hall Museum in downtown Prescott.  Sharlot Hall was an early Prescott historian, poet, and journalist and the first woman to hold a governmental position in Arizona.  The museum grounds are surrounded by historic buildings, such as the Governor’s Mansion and the Fremont and Bushford residences, all acquired to house her collection of artifacts related to Arizona pioneers and earlier inhabitants.


This is a lovely and interesting museum to spend a few hours exploring.   Local docents are available in many of the buildings ready to discuss the history of Prescott, the houses and their famous historian, Sharlot Hall.  Each house displays vintage items of the period and the WPA building overflows with historical relics from the area.

106After departing the museum, we decided to walk down to the historic district and the infamous Whiskey Row on Montezuma Street.  I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the old brick-faced Hotel Michael or Hassayampa Inn, whose guests once included Georgia O’Keeffe,  D.H. Lawrence, and Clark Gable.  There’s something about an old brick structure that I find intriguing—actually, I just love old buildings no matter the medium.

099We walked Whiskey Row, stopping in a gift store or two, and snapping up pictures of historic places that today sell fine art, knickknacks, and clothing.  We passed the Palace Saloon, an establishment that in the late 1870s served Doc Holiday and the Earp brothers of Tombstone fame, and peeked inside.  I could have wandered these streets all night in historical bliss, but it was time to head back to the hotel and prepare to go home.  Prescott, we’ve enjoyed your gifts and hope to return soon—with kayak in hand and some Sketcher’s GoWalk shoes.

Exploring Jerome, Camp Verde, and Oak Creek, Arizona

Jerome_Ft Verde_Sliderock 001

Up early and on the road by 9:30 a.m., we pulled into Jerome and met up unexpectedly with my Canadian cousin Luba and husband Dick for a cup of coffee.  This is a rare treat for me since 98% of my relatives live in Canada and I grew up in the U.S., I don’t often get the opportunity to get together with extended family. After a short, but fun visit, my cousin descended down highway 89 en route to Havasu while my husband and I set off to briefly explore Jerome.

Jerome is an old mining town perched on the side of Cleopatra Hill just outside the Prescott National Forest.  No longer filled with minors, the area is a mix of artists, alternatives and bikers.  The streets are narrow, uphill, and one way—parking is limited.  As an admirer of historic buildings, Jerome has many, and most in original condition.  Unfortunately, the streets of Jerome were overly filled with people–thanks to the government shut down, so I took this as a sign to move on.  After snapping a few shots of the Hotel Connor (in honor of my grandson), we descended down the hill into Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde.

Jerome_Ft Verde_Sliderock 027Built in 1873 and once an active military fort, Fort Verde was created during the times of the Indian Wars to protect settlers from the raids of the Apache and Yavapai Indians.  Abandoned and sold at public auction in 1899, the Fort was owned by private citizens until the mid-50s then dedicated as a state park in 1970. Out of the 22 original buildings, all that remains today are three nicely preserved officer’s quarters, the original administrative building, and the parade grounds.  Each building is open to explore and furnished with period furniture and accessories. The administrative building doubles as a museum and contains interesting military and native american artifacts from the era.  The staff at Fort Verde was very friendly and knowledgeable of this interesting and well-preserved time in Arizona history.

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Our last excursion today, Slide Rock Park, is located in Oak Creek Canyon just outside red-rock heaven—Sedona, Arizona.  Once privately owned, it became a state park in 1987 and is one of the most popular tourist spots in Arizona—even in October.  As returning visitors, we chose to walk the Cliff Top Nature trail in lieu of braving the steps again to Oak Creek.  We sat for a bit above the creek admiring both the view and courage of swimmers braving the cold water slide.  After snapping a few more pictures, we headed to the car as the park closed and back to Prescott, tired but content from the visual and historical experiences of the day.