We moved our parking spot for the fifth-wheel to Camp Navajo, a US Army facility about 10 miles west of Flagstaff, AZ on May 17 in the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks. This is a small military compound that has Army reservists, ROTC, police training, and even Boy Scouts using the facilities. There are a small arms range, a navigation course, a grenade course and an urban-warfare range. Every once in a while we hear a large boom and some rat-a-tat gunfire! We have seen elk in the campground and pronghorn antelope on the compound. We also saw a coyote (or possibly a wolf - the campground host says that Mexican Wolves have been seen in the area) on one of our hikes on the base. We have used Camp Navajo as our base while we take in the sights of the Flagstaff area. We did not visit the Grand Canyon this trip since we were there a few years ago.
On the 18th, we went south to Oak Creek Canyon (north of Sedona) to do a little hiking and enjoy the scenery. The hike turned out to be 8.3 miles.
We went to Buffalo Park in Flagstaff to hike a trail that goes into the National Forest on the 20th of May. Flagstaff has several urban trails and many lead to national forest trail heads.
On the 21th of May, we drove up to a spot in north Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest know as Old Caves Crater and hiked a little bit. Just a little short of 4 miles, we were able to get a good view of part of the city since the elevation was about 650 feet above the town. There are several old caves formed from cooling lava; however, none are open to be explored by the public. After the hike we drove a short way north to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and just a little further up the road to Wupatki National Monument. Sunset Crater is a volcanic cinder cone and is estimated to have been formed about 1065 to 1085 AD. There is a trail around the base of the cinder cone that is open to the public. This old volcano is nice to visit but pales in comparison to Capulin Mountain in New Mexico. The Wupatki National Monument is about 30 miles north of Sunset Crater Volcano. There are the ruins of many settlement sites in the park that were built by the ancient Pueblo People. Although none of those peoples still occupy the park area, the Hopi believe the ancestors who lived and died there remain as spiritual guardians. Stories of Wupatki are passed down in the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribes.
We visited Slide Rock State Park on May 22nd. It was originally a homestead that operated as a 43 acre apple farm/orchard. Now, it is owned and operated by the state of AZ. The park is named after the famous Slide Rock, a stretch of slippery creek bottom adjacent to the homestead. In my opinion, this area has some of the most beautiful areas in the state. Visitors may slide down a slick natural water chute or wade and sun along the creek. The swim area is located on National Forest land which is jointly managed by Arizona State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service. Together these areas have seen the making of many Hollywood movies such as "Broken Arrow" (1950) with James Stewart, "Drum Beat" (1954) with Alan Ladd and Charles Bronson, "Gun Fury" (1953) with Rock Hudson and Donna Reed, and a scene from "Angel and the Badman" (1946) with John Wayne.
We took the self-guided Lava River Cave tour on the 26th of May. The Lava River Cave is located west of Flagstaff and is in the foothills of the San Francisco Peaks (mountains around Flagstaff). The Lava River Cave is a 3820 foot cave formed by rapid cooling of lava from a volcano. As the lava cooled, a tube or tunnel was formed. The cave is not developed. There are no ladders, elevators, handrails or lights in the cave. The only light is sunlight at the beginning of the cave. About 50 feet down, it gets dark, dark, dark. We took three flashlights each just to be on the safe side. Crawling over boulders and rocks to get into the cave almost forced me to change my mind. After getting to the floor of the cave, walking was perilousas we had to dodge lava bombs, crevices, ripples and low ceilings to make our way 3020 feet to the end. And just think, we have to go back the way we came in. Not a good place to visit if one is claustrophobic. Also, the temperature at the entrance was 35 degree F, and the end was a warm 45 F.
The next day involved driving up Snow Bowl Road to Mt. Humphreys, at 12,637 feet, the highest natual point in Arizona. We had been looking at that mountain for days and decided to take a closer look. We took the Skyride ski-lift to the top (well, close to the top, 11,500 feet). I do not do heights very well and this lift was a bit rough on nerves but I survived. This is probably one reason I do not ski! We could see Camp Navajo from the mountain.
Today, we decided to take a hike on a trail we noticed as we were driving up to the Skyride yesterday. We did walk a little over 3.7 miles on the Aspen Loop Trail. Part of the trail intersects the Arizona Trail. The Arizona Trail is an 800+ mile recreation trail from Mexico to Utah that connects mountain ranges, canyons, deserts, forests, wilderness areas, historic sites, trail systems, points of interest, communities, and people. We have hiked on three different parts of the trail.
Well, that is enough for one post - and sorry if I bored you. The next post will come out of Colorado. We plan to start moving that direction on the 1st of June.