Friday, February 19, 2010

It's A Good Thing I Have An ARCTIC Fox

What a difference a day makes! I left the Tucson area Wednesday morning and drove north through Phoenix to Flagstaff. A couple of thousand feet in elevation and about a 25 degree drop in temperature. Tucson sits along the Mongollon Plateau (don't be a tourist...pronounce it mogeeyon) and is right at 7000 feet in elevation. The low in Tucson yesterday was about the high in Flagstaff. I went from a high of 77 degrees to a high of 48 degrees. I was prepared for cooler weather but not for the snow that is on the ground. It seems as if in late January Flagstaff got about four feet of snow and about half of it is still on the ground. Check out the picture above. Some of the piles of snow that have been plowed are 5-6 feet tall! Snow is everywhere. Doesn't the Arctic Fox look perfect in the setting?I guess it would be manageable if the weather would continue to warm but once again on this trip, my timing is less than perfect. It seems as if another storm it headed this way. Flagstaff will probably get a couple of inches of snow sometime in the next few days. The Grand Canyon is at about the same elevation as Flagstaff so I'm beginning to think that I'm pushing my luck to take The Bride there for two nights before going to Sedona. The weather forecast is for the snow level to be at 5-6 thousand feet and Sedona is at 5 thousand feet so any precipitation there will most likely be rain. I'm thinkin' that my best bet is to skip the Grand Canyon this trip and head straight to Sedona.

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 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!

Tomorrow at noon I pick up The Bride and we will celebrate a late Valentines Day....somewhere...most likely in Sedona, so stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting.

1 comment:

gumo said...

Yes, the Fox does look right at home there amongst the snow and pines. I enjoyed your trip report; thanks.


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