September 9 – 20, 2020
Finished with our meal, we got back on the road and began the drive to Flagstaff and we wound our way up Highway 89A through Oak Creek Canyon. As it was a Saturday, there was a lot of traffic on the road, which was lined on both sides with parked cars, particularly as we got close to the very popular Slide Rock State Park.
We continued climbing out of the canyon on winding switchbacks until we reached the summit and the Oak Creek Canyon Vista. After parking, we walked out to the viewpoint passing by a number of tables with native American vendors selling various wares. The view here is spectacular, and one can imagine how it changes with the seasons.
Moving on, and as it was too early to check into our hotel, we drove through Flagstaff and out on the I-40 to visit Walnut Canyon National Monument. Located at an elevation of 6,690 ft, the canyon’s floor is 350 ft lower than the rim and features 25 cliff dwelling rooms constructed by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250 AD.
The Sinagua, who inhabited the dwellings in Walnut Canyon, left mysteriously; it is thought that they did so because of fear of neighboring tribes or droughts. The homes were built under ledges, deep within the canyon, taking advantage of the natural recesses in the limestone cliff walls which were eroded over millions of years by flowing water. The dwellings themselves were small; a typical room might have been the home of a single family and measure approximately six feet high by eighteen feet long by nine feet deep.
We decided not to descend to the canyon floor but instead to walk on the rim trail and look down at the cliff dwellings. As we returned to the parking lot, we passed the ruins of a two-room pueblo and a pit house, indicating that some of the former residents lived above the canyon as well.
We drove back to Flagstaff as it was time to check into the Weatherford Hotel, home for the night. We have a number of fond memories of this place from our earlier trips, when it was kind of run down and operated as a combination hostel and hotel. At that time, you could run into different nationalities in the common kitchen, folks waiting to head up to the Grand Canyon.
Established in 1897, for many years it was the most prominent hotel in Flagstaff, entertaining guests such as artist Thomas Moran, publisher William Randolph Hearst, and writer Zane Grey. The hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Since our last visit long-time owners the Taylors have worked diligently to restore the facility, and much like the surrounding area which for many years was not a place you wanted to visit, it sits as the heart of a vibrant entertainment zone.
For dinner, following a recommendation from Evan, we walked a few blocks towards the University (Northern Arizona) to Beaver Street Brewery. Upon arrival we were advised of a reasonable wait to be seated, so we ordered a couple of beers and went outside to enjoy them, socially distanced from some high tops and a few scattered benches.
We were soon called and directed inside the spacious dining room to a back section and seated at a booth with high wooden backs between each seating configuration. Although we had so far avoided sitting inside, given the relative isolation and what appeared to be a lack of central AC, we felt reasonably assured that our risk was minimized.
Two other safety features were in the use, the first a QR code that pulls up a menu and sometimes is also connected to an app where one can order and pay. This way the only time you encounter a server is when they bring you your food or drink.
The second was a can with a red stripe on one half and a green stripe on the other; if you needed service, you put the green strip up; if not red strip up. Old school but an effective way to signal intent and still reduce interaction between servers and customers.
Our BBQ Chicken pizza was as good as it gets and sufficiently full, we made our way back to the Weatherford for another quiet evening.
Pre-Covid we would likely have repaired to the Gopher Hole bar, one of two in the hotel, for a nightcap, but with that option not available we made do with a bit of Jack Daniel’s Honey in our room, a medicinal product we usually bring with us in case one or more of our party gets bitten by a snake. And the snakes were biting that night.
Slide Rock State Park: https://azstateparks.com/slide-rock/
Walnut Canyon National Monument: https://www.nps.gov/waca/index.htm
Weatherford Hotel: http://weatherfordhotel.com/
Beaver Street Brewery: https://beaverstreetbrewery.com/