Published: June 25th 2012June 23rd 2012
Ho, hum ... another day, another crater, but this morning we set out to visit a volcanic crater at Sunset Crater National Monument which is located within the Coconino National Forest just 15 miles from Flagstaff. Our annual passes saved us the US$5.00/person entry fee.
You used to be able to hike to the rim of Sunset Crater, but that path has been closed to protect the fragile environment of the cone. However, you are able to hike to the rim of nearby Lennox Crater so, once again, undeterred by the extreme heat, altitude, etc we set off. It was a steep and difficult climb over loose, volcanic ash. Very much a case of two steps forward, half a step back!
I don't know how I found the breath to talk as I climbed but, as we made out ascent, we were talking with a young family from New Jersey - Greg, Laura and their daughter, Sydney. As we climbed we were treated to an excellent view back over Sunset Crater and, at the summit, we enjoyed the spectacular view of the San Francisco Peaks.
On the way back down (which was very slippery in the loose footings,
but much quicker!) Greg expressed some interest in our Route 66 undertaking. At the bottom I gave Laura the details for our blog so that they can check out our experiences before deciding whether to make their own Chicago to LA pilgrimage some time in the future.
There is a loop road that connects Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument to the Wupatki National Monument (two National Monuments, only one entry fee!) so we decided that we might as well do the loop before returning to Flagstaff on Highway 89. Before we crossed from the Coconino Forest we were treated to yet another Painted Desert Vista. It was quite pretty, but nowhere near as impressive as the area east of Holbrook.
The Wupatki section may have been somewhat wasted on us because we decided not to stop at any of the pueblo ruins ... a bit of a case of having seen enough pueblo ruins over the last few days! Still, the change in terrain and vegetation from forest to prairie over a relatively short distance was quite a surprising contrast.
On the way back into Flagstaff we stopped at the mall for some lunch and to look
in Sears for another bag to accommodate our burgeoning luggage. We have probably needed a third bag since Osage Beach, but we just hadn't made the time to look for one!! We found an excellent duffle-styled bag that folds up into a toilet bag-sized pouch when not in use. And, the toilet bag-sized pouch can, in fact, be used as a toilet bag. Two bags for the price of one really! When fully stuffed (and it will be) the duffle bag can be carried, slung over one shoulder or back-packed. Very versatile.
We have been to Flagstaff twice before, but we have arrived late, slept the night and then moved on without ever having ventured into Historic Flagstaff. As it was on our way back to the Comfort Inn we decided to brave the one-way streets and take a quick turn around the oldest part of the city. Apart from the photogenic pink church on Cherry Street and the County Court House we were pretty disappointed.
For dinner tonight we walked to Taverna - a Greek restaurant nearby. Whoa, it was a pyromaniac's paradise!! We thought that it would be exciting enough ordering an entree of saganaki 'flambeed
at the table', but that was tame compared with the floor show put on by the staff. It started predictably enough with a bit of Greek dancing between the tables, but then the restaurant's resident fire breather started blowing huge gouts of flame out over the bar area. OMG, we nearly sat at the bar. It was warm enough where we were sitting without being any closer! It was very impressive though. Oh, and the gyros and the souvlaki were good too. No photos, because the digital SLRs were back at the motel and Bernie's not very good with the iPhone camera!!
There are more photos below