To get away from the 110 degree summer day, Brad and I took a day trip to Flagstaff. We heard that is was at least 30 degrees cooler there and we needed to get out of the heat. We learned that an RV air conditioner will only cool the RV 20 degrees less than the outside temperature, which is fine for 90 degree days, but when it’s over 100, it’s too hot to stay in the RV.
It took us two and a half hours to drive to Flagstaff. The main road was hilly and windy. Add the heat to that and our truck was working hard. Signs along the road encouraged us to turn off the air-conditioning when going up the mountain to avoid overheating! The scenery changed quickly from flat desert with cactus to dirt mountains to mountains with trees. It was so wonderful to feel the cool air and to see real trees again! We even saw a herd of elk eating grass on the side of the highway and enjoying the day. It made us think of where we lived in Washington.
Lightning has caused many forest fires near Flagstaff. When we stepped out of the truck, we could smell the smoke in the air. A small town, Flagstaff is big on skiing in the winter. With nothing much to do in the town besides grab lunch, we headed to Walnut Canyon National Monument and Montezuma Castle National Monument after we’d eaten.
Walnut Canyon is a large U-shaped canyon created by volcanic eruptions and erosion thousands of years ago. Less than 1000 years ago, the ancient Sinagua Indians lived in the canyon. The homes they built are deep within the canyon under ledges and can still be seen today.
There were two small trails to view the canyon and the homes, one being easy and along the canyon rim, and other—a .9 mile loop with 240 steps—leads to a little “island” in the middle. We did both and the mile loop descended steeply to the island. The fun part was climbing those stairs back up! Along both trails, we could see the cliff dwelling ruins across the canyon and had great views of the cliffs and mountains. The park service has preserved a home on the trail for all to see.
The next stop was Montezuma Castle National Monument, which was on the way back to Phoenix. As soon as we got out of the car, we could feel the heat as we were only an hour from Flagstaff. This National Monument is very small and has only one small trail leading to the castle. The castle, or cliff dwellings, was again built by the Sinagua people. The castle is five stores tall, has twenty rooms, and took three centuries to build! It is one of the most well preserved structures in North America, partly due to being in an alcove and protected against the harsh elements. Historians can only guess why the Indians built a castle high up in the cliff. It might have been done to escape the threat of annual flooding from nearby Beaver Creek.
A short, paved trail leads to the castle and along the way, signs are posted detailing the history of the area. A small museum has historical artifacts from the era.
We will see where we go next to escape the desert heat.