In last week’s post (Part I) I suggested that instead of making a near non-stop head long rush to your winter home in the Southwestern Desert, you instead take some time to visit some short side trips along the way. This week I follow with the next highlight following Wupatki pueblo that I wrote about.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument
From Wupatki, continue on the loop. You will pass Sunset Crater (photos), Lava Flow, and Lenox Crater Trails before arriving at the visitor center, which is two miles before rejoining 89. Lava Flow Trail, a self-guided loop, depicts a variety of volcanic features, while Lenox Crater Trail is a more strenuous climb up the side of a cinder cone, two miles round trip. Sunset volcano erupted in AD 1065 and displays in the visitor center illustrate various volcanic phenomena, such as squeeze ups, where the lava is forced upward through cracks, and hornitos, strange hornlike protuberances.
Ranger Stephen Nycz explained some of the geology of the area. “From the visitors building we see the same top layers as in the Grand Canyon–250 million year old rock–before there were dinosaurs, trees, or plants, and before the separation of the continents.”
Road pullouts, some with trails, provide access into the strange volcanic landscape. The cinders–rough, black rocks–have a strange feel as you walk across them. This crater is the youngest of the few prehistoric volcanoes in the world that can be accurately dated. After the eruption, 800 square miles lay buried under black volcanic ash. The eruption took place before the masonry pueblos were built about 1150 AD, although some Sinaguans lived in pit houses at the time. The volcano actually showed signs of life for over 200 years.
The loop road, though narrow, is suitable for all types and sizes of rigs and adequate parking is available at the view sites and visitor centers. Due to the fragile nature of archeological sites, it is best to stay on designated trails and leave any artifacts where you find them.
Bonito primitive campground at the Sunset Crater visitor center can accommodate rigs to 35 feet and, weather permitting, stays open through October. Additional camping and RV resorts are available in Flagstaff.
Now don’t you feel better for taking that little side trip? I know you could have been to your winter digs two days ago, but look at what you would have missed. And soon it will be too cold for that excursion. Enjoy your winter.
For more RVing articles and tips take a look at my Healthy RV Lifestyle website, where you will also find my ebooks: BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (PDF or Kindle), 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck (PDF or Kindle), and Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (PDF or Kindle), and my newest, The RV Lifestyle: Reflections of Life on the Road (PDF or Kindle reader version). NOTE: Use the Kindle version to read on iPad and iPhone or any device that has the free Kindle reader app.