Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ #3
I wasn't sure what to expect at this monument. The road is starting to gain elevation just outside of Flagstaff, and then the annoying woman on Google maps says to exit. Hmm... kinda looks like home with the forest and the warm pine smells. Still nothing out of the ordinary when you arrive at the Visitor Center. As you enter the center and pay your fee you look out the back window and WOW, it's the most beautiful canyon you've ever seen!
The Canyon is filled with perhaps 300 rooms built into the walls of the canyon. Immediately, your mind refers to Mesa Verde in Colorado with the massive pueblos built into the rock, but that isn't the case here. They are one story buildings, usually only 12-20 feet deep and perhaps 6-12 feet tall. There were usually no more than 6-12 rooms built next to each other. Across the canyon you would view another small pueblo and then another, and another. The canyon provided great acoustics for them to communicate with each other. Who were these tenacious people? They were called the Sinagua (that's Spanish for "without water"). They weren't actually without water, but it was a long way down into the canyon floor to get it! While the women and children were fetching water and gathering from the canyon floor the men were "up top" on the flatland farming. After experiencing the steepness of their home's location, it seemed like a treacherous commute each day. And we think traffic is bad in Denver.
Standing on the ledge outside one of the rooms I could only imagine the horrors of raising children in such an environment! From the front door, which was basically a rug or animal hide, there was approximately 2-4 feet of walkway, before falling several hundred feet to the bottom of the canyon. How could you possibly parent in those circumstances and keep your children safe? Do you tether them in to the rocks?!? It gave me the heebie-jeebies! I thought of Anna and how incredibly active she had been. It was hard enough keeping her safe in a modern home with all the safety features. My hat is off to those brave women!
I love, love, love this monument and highly recommend visiting it, but it comes with a couple of provisos. If you do the Island Loop, which you should, be prepared to do about 300 stairs. Terrific cardio; but not good for bad knees or hips. Also, if you are afraid of heights, it may not be the hike for you. The stairs are steep, and like I mentioned the walkways are pretty narrow. There are handrails on most of the stairs down, but not many out on the Island loop. That being said, it is SO worth it!
I am sooo sorry about the lack of photos on this one! My phone died.