The Ancestral Path in Flagstaff

After my Grand Canyon trip, I was making my way down to Prescott to see Karin and Andy.  They generously offered me the chance to shower and to do laundry. And to catch up with them of course!

But first, I made the scenic way back and took the longer drive that would encompass the Wupatki and the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments. And once at the outskirts of Flagstaff, I’d be able to also see the Walnut Canyon National Monument.

Wupatki is a place I have read about for a while now.

The Sinagua (without water in Spanish) lived in a transitional zone between the Chaocoan / Ancestral Pueblo culture to the north and the Mesoamerican influence culture further to the south.

Looking to the San Francisco Peaks.  Some of the peaks have restricted access due to being sacred to the descendants of the Sinagua people.

Not only did trade goods from both areas show up in this transitional zone, but the cultural influences were apparent here as well.

T-Shaped door found in Ancestral Pueblo structures north of here

As the name of this cultural group suggests, the area was dry. Only some inventive dry farming techniques during a relatively wet time of Southwest US  history allowed the people to live in this area.

The stone structures were impressive. Even a hundreds of years later, the artistry and craftsmanship that went into these works were impressive.

The highlight of this national monument for me was seeing an example of a Mesoamerican ballcourt.  Quite possibly the one furthest north [1] and at the edge of the Mesoamerican influence. It is a place I read about a decade ago. And I was rather pleased to see this archeological site for myself.

After this visit, I made a visit to the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. The explosion of this volcano was deeply intertwined with the traditions of the ancestors of the natives of this area.

Edge of the volcano field and looking toward the San Francisco Peaks.

An excellent place to stretch the legs. Due to too much use by hikers, the crater rim access has been closed since 1973. Still, the volcanic rocks and black dirt were a fascinating glimpse into the recent geological past.

Moving on, I went to the Walnut Canyon National monument with its magnificent collection of cliff dwellings. Located just outside of Flagstaff, this small National Monument was a gem and perfect way to cap off my Flagstaff area national monument tour.

What was once an isolated canyon is now on the outskirts of a good sized city.  From what the park literature indicated, only a handful of the dwellings are accessible to the public. A change from my more open trip of last month.  However, what I saw in this canyon did tantalize. A thriving culture that lived and celebrated their lives among these canyon walls.

I then made my way to Prescott. After nearly a week without a shower, washing off the road grime was welcome.

More trips to Ancestral places ahead in the coming days are planned.

All the photos

[1] A ranger at the monument indicated a handful of ballcourts on private and USFS lands are slightly further north. Either way, the one at Wupatki is at the rough edge of this influence. And the most well-known.

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