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Published: March 7th 2012
Between Grand Canyon and Wupatki I
More canyons on my way from Grand Canyon to the Wupatki National Monument.
When I arrived in Flagstaff from Phoenix, I went straight to the Lowell Observatory on Mars Hill, right above the town. It was founded in the 19th
century by Perceval Lowell, an astronomer, because there was not hardly any pollution by light in the area, and it was at a high altitude. A number of important research projects have been going on at the observatory during the last century. When the observatory was founded, Percival Lowell did research on canyon on Mars. The background of this research was the idea that if there was water, there could also be life on the Red Planet. Later on, researchers at the observatory started looking for the ninth planet because the movements of Uranus pointed to the fact that there was another planet beyond Neptune. When they eventually found it, it was named “Pluto”.
I have always been a great fan of astronomy, so I took a number of different tours. Through a telescope, visitors were given the opportunity to observe sunspots. So far, I had only seen photos of them, it was exciting to observe them “live”. I watched a movie explaining the history of the observatory, and I took two tours in
Between Grand Canyon and Wupatki National Monument II
Flat land, straight road, few cars. View towards the San Francisco Mountains.
which a volunteer explained the different telescopes to us. It was very interesting to see how the telescopes and roofs of the buildings could be adjusted. I would have stayed a lot longer, but eventually, I decided I’d better leave for Grand Canyon. I took the straight route through the San Francisco Mountains and arrived at the Grand Canyon in the evening. I wrote about my experience there in my last post, so I will let you know how I eventually made my way back to Flagstaff.
On my last morning at the Grand Canyon, I had a wonderful breakfast at the El Tovar, the fanciest hotel at the Grand Canyon. Then I set off to the east along the Desert View Drive, where I had already been two days before. After leaving the Grand Canyon National Park, I drove downhill and enjoyed the view of more canyons that suddenly opened up in the area. Getting out into the flatlands, I entered the Painted Desert and could easily see where its name comes from. It really looks like painted. The rocks and sand there are red, yellow, and black, and there are green bushes and little trees. It looks
Wupatki National Monument I
Little Canyon where there are still ruins.
as if some giant had painted the whole desert in bright colours.
I made several stops at the Wupatki National Monument. It consists of a number of ruins from Indian people, the Anasazi and Sinagua. The buildings are located in canyons or on top of rocks. The Indians were very successful at growing various plants in the very dry area, such as corn, and manufacturing pottery, clothing, carpets, and other pieces of art.
My next stop was at Sunset Crater. That is a volcano that erupted about 1,000 years ago. There is a bizarre landscape consisting of lava all around the mountain, and only few trees have started covering its slopes. The eruption changed the local peoples’ lives a lot. They had to move and change their lifestyles.
When I left the crater, it was still early enough for me to drive to Meteor Crater, a crater resulting from the impact of a meteorite some 50,000 years ago, about 50 km east of Flagstaff. The crater is about 1.6 km in diameter and 4.5 km in circumference and is well preserved. For a while, it was controversial whether it really resulted from a meteorite, or whether it
Wupatki National Monument II
Ruins with the San Francisco Mountains in the background.
had been caused by a volcano. Now it is widely accepted that it is the result of a meteorite impact. There is a museum that once again showed me how much better the Americans are at presenting information in an interesting way so that you can really learn something from it and enjoy the museum. There are pictures and texts that explain what happened so that it is easy to understand. But there are also short movies and areas in which you can try things out yourself, or you can take a quiz and find out what you already know. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to check everything out. But at least I got an impression.
I drove back to Flagstaff and checked in at my hotel, then had dinner in historic downtown. The town is a dark skies site, meaning that illumination at night is kept as low as possible so that the observations made from the observatory are not affected by too much light. Because of this, it is rather dark in the town at night, but still, it is a nice little place.
The next morning, I drove to the Walnut Canyon National
Wupatki National Monument III
The citadel, a ruin located on top of a rock.
Monument, a canyon in which Indians used to live in houses built into the rocks. The houses were really smart constructions. In winter, when it was cold, the air circulated in the rooms, it came in through the door, moved towards the fireplace in the back of the room, where it lifted, and then moved out through a hole above the door. Thus, the rooms were kept warm during winter. To keep them cool in summertime, the walls were built in such a way that the rock above them would form a roof that would keep the walls in the shade. Environmentally friendly airconditioning!
When I came back into Flagstaff, I had just enough time for a walk through the roads of downtown, then I headed off to the airport to catch my flight via Phoenix to Las Vegas. Again, I was “randomly” picked: The security officers checked my suitcase for firearms. Do I look so suspicious or do I look so harmless that people think that there must be something wrong with that girl? Of course, they did not find any firearms, and I could proceed to the security check. When all of the passengers had gone through
Wupatki National Monument IV
The biggest pueblo ruin in the area, in the middle of the Painted Desert. See all the colours? Red, black, yellow. Bushed in green, blue sky.
the control, we were informed that our flight was cancelled because the plane could not leave Phoenix due to a technical problem. We would have to take the next flight to Phoenix, which would leave about four hours later. We all had to leave the area in front of the gate again. I only had one hour for changing planes, so I proceeded to the check-in counter and asked if they could rebook me onto another flight to Las Vegas. I had just handed my boarding passes to the clerk, when he announced that the airline would send another, faster plane from Phoenix, and that I would make my flight. All the passengers had to go through security control again, and finally, we could board our plane and landed in Phoenix almost on time. I easily made my connecting flight to Las Vegas and arrived in the craziest place I’ve ever seen in the early afternoon. More stories to come!
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