"Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~ Mark Twain
Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...
I left Grand Canyon National Park heading East/Southeast on Highway 64 - very pretty drive. I saw a few scenic view signs for "Little Colorado River Gorge," and while I rarely turn down a view, I've been camping and sightseeing in the Grand Canyon - the ultimate!
I turned onto Hwy 89 South back toward Flagstaff, where I had forgotten some computer cables at the hostel where I was previously staying there, and it was cheaper spending the money on gas there and back, than to have to replace them brand new. On the way there I took a left off the highway for Wupatki National Monument. "Scattered across 56 square miles of a sun-baked landscape of rolling hills, rocky mesas and dry, sandy washes, lay some of the world's most intact and culturally revealing archaeological sites and a glimpse into history where several cultures of ancient peoples converged in the 1100s to thrive in an otherwise desolate land. I stopped at the ruins of the Lomaki Pueblo, Citadel Pueblo, and walked the 1/ mile loop through the crown jewel - a multi-level "high-rise" known as Wupatki Pueblo, at one time boasting about 100 rooms, a large kiva, and "ball court."
I continued driving the 35-mile loop road to Sunset Crater National Monument - 800 square miles of black cinder fields, cones and hills, amidst the thing forests of ponderosa pines. "Erupting fairly recently, between 1040 and 1100, the now 1,000 foot high volcano began to form when molten rock sprayed high into the air from a crack in the ground, solidified, then fell to Earth as large bombs or smaller cinders, forming spatter-cones and two large lava flows. I had a picnic while contemplating the huge, black, crater before me, nearly being taken away with the high winds that gusted through the area (7,000-ft high elevation up here).
A Cinder Hill at Sunset Crater
Next I got back onto Highway 89 S to I-40 East a couple of miles to Walnut Canyon National Monument, for a mile loop hike through limestone cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people, who inhabited the area and built hundreds of these homes into the stone alcoves and ledges nearly 900 years ago (built as early as 1125)! It was fascinating walking the same footsteps through the same doorways as the people of a distant past. It really gives a person perspective, you know? And I read a quote on one of the displays that stopped me a minute - "They built their homes close to one another, so that they were reminded to love each other." Nowadays we reference "Good fences make good neighbors." No doubt they would sigh in disappointment at such a mindset.
Cliff Dwelling at Walnut Canyon
After my monumental day (hooray for dry humor!), I picked up my forgotten things from the hostel in Flagstaff, revisited Honda for an oil change, and picked up a couple of memory cards for my thirsty camera, before heading back up to camp at Grand Canyon South Rim's Desert View Campground.