Arizona Sojourn, Part Five

September 9 – 20, 2020

Our plan for this day would be to have breakfast nearby, then head to Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments and finish by driving to Kim and Marty’s in Henderson.  After checking out of the Weatherford we managed the short distance back to the area we’d visited the night before to park and eat at Tourist Home Café.

Flagstaff to Henderson

It was busy that morning and so we waited for less than 30-minutes, sitting in the car in the parking lot, before being buzzed one of those devices places use to alert one their table is read and were seated outdoors at a covered picnic table.  Having read many positive reviews about the place I was looking forward to one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast at a restaurant, an imaginative omelet.  So, I was a little disappointed to learn (I foolishly hadn’t checked out the menu in advance) that likely due to Covid choices would be limited and not include any omelets. 

That Quite Good Cruller

Our server first inquired if we’d be interested in a freshly made cruller and of course we responded yes, and then ordered the Brioche French toast with fresh berries for Joanna and the classic breakfast (sausage patty, tots, and eggs) for me.  The food arrived and it was all good, but still, I missed the magic of a good omelet. 

Classic Breakfast and the Brioche French Toast

We settled up the tab at $41 including tip; it’s interesting on how much pricier what was once one of the most reasonable dining options has become.  Then again, reduced capacity in restaurants has to be offset somehow and slightly higher prices are the price we need to pay to keep our eating establishments in business during the crisis. 

The Loop Road

We drove north on Highway 89 out of Flagstaff, turning off onto the park’s loop road to enter Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.  A cinder cone, Sunset Crater is the youngest in a string of volcanoes (the San Francisco volcanic field) that is related to the nearby San Francisco Peaks. 

Lava Flow Trail

Recent geologic and archaeological dating indicates that it was formed around 1085 AD.  The eruption produced a blanket of ash and lapilli covering an area of more than 810 square miles and forced the temporary abandonment of settlements of the local Sinagua people.  The volcano is extinct.

A Portion of the Lava Flow

Damage from hikers forced the National Park Service to close a trail leading to the crater, but the short Lava Flow trail at the base remains.  It skirts the substantial Bonito Lava Flow which is black and appears fresh as it has devastated the forest in its path.  It is a stunning sight, particularly backdropped by a gorgeous blue sky, the San Francisco mountains rising sharply in the distance. 

San Francisco Mountains in the Distance

Back in the car we continued on the loop to a side road that took us to the Wukoki Pueblo, one of several ancient pueblo communities within Wupatki National Monument that were inhabited by the Sinagua Indians from about 1100AD to 1250AD when they mysteriously left the area.  The pueblo when it was used had a three-story tower and a total of six or seven rooms that may have been home to two or three families. 

Wukoki Pueblo

The open area adjacent to the tower was a plaza used for daily activities such as pottery making, basket weaving, and other chores.  The surrounding view may have been the motive for building on the sandstone outcrop as it offers an unobstructed observation for miles around. 

Plaza and View from Wukoki

We backtracked to the loop and made our way to our final stop of the day, the ruins at Wupatki.  Established by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924 as a national monument, it now contains additional pueblos and other archeological resources on a total of 35,422 acres.  First inhabited around 500 AD, it means “Tall House” in the Hopi language and is a multistory Sinagua pueblo dwelling comprising over 100 rooms, a community room and the a ballcourt, creating the largest building site for nearly 50 miles.

Wupatki Pueblo

Nearby secondary structures have also been uncovered, including two kiva-like structures.  A major population influx began soon after the eruption of Sunset Crater in the 11th century which blanketed the area with volcanic ash, improving agricultural productivity and the soil’s ability to retain water.  By 1182, approximately 85 to 100 people lived at Wupatki Pueblo, but by 1225, the site was permanently abandoned.  

Section of a Wall

The dwelling’s walls were constructed from thin, flat blocks of the local Moenkopi sandstone, giving the pueblos their distinct red color.  With more than 100 rooms, this ruin is believed to be the region’s tallest and largest structure for its time period.  The monument also contains a ball court similar to those found in Mesoamerica and in the Hohokam ruins of southern Arizona; this is the northernmost example of this kind of structure in North America.  

Ball Court (By Dspetc – Own work)

We walked around the site, marveling at the edifice and contrasting it to the many we’ve seen over the years, in particular with our recent trips to Egypt and Mexico.  Here the contrast of blue sky and red rock walls made for a powerful sight, one that sticks in your memory as you climb back in the car and begin the afternoon drive to Henderson.  We’d return to civilization shortly, but the past would remain with us for a long time. 

Sunset Crater (By NPS)


Tourist Home Café:

Sunset Crater:

Wukoki Pueblo:

Wupatki National Monument:

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