Well, it was Sunny today (Thursday) and I intended to make the best use of the day in exploring local attractions. On my list was Sunset Crater National Monument and Wupatki National Monument which are both just a little north of Flagstaff.Sunset Crater is an extinct volcano that erupted somewhere between 1040 and 1100 AD. Many ancient people were living in the area at the time and you know it had to scare the hell out of them. Apparently though, the signs of impending eruption were pretty distinct and the evidence suggests that the ancient people mostly scrammed before the eruption itself.
The land for miles and miles is distinctly volcanic with hills of black pumice, areas of lava flows and just an "other worldly" look. Even after one thousand years, vegetation struggles to gain a foothold in the black pumice soil but it does cling to fertile areas. The ancient ones returned to the area after the eruptions and farmed areas that were fertile...which is where the Wupatki National Monument comes in. In the area northeast of Sunset Crater, numerous ruins of Pueblo people have been discovered. Unlike the vast buildings of Chaco Canyon, the people here lived in smaller pueblos of from a few dozen to a few hundred people. They eked out a living through subsistence farming and that farming was done without the benefit of irrigation. Dry farming is what they did. Plant a whole bunch of small fields all over the place and hopefully one or two of them would get enough rain to produce.I spent most of the day driving through and walking around some of these ruins. While Sunset Crater is at the same elevation as Flagstaff...and with the same amount of snow, the ruins in Wupatki are about 2000 feet lower...no snow and 15-20 degrees warmer. One of the benefits of the less than ideal weather was that there were almost no other tourists around. Most of the time, while inspecting the ruins, there was not another soul for miles around. Total silence. It was cool!