Having shown daughter Ivy the whole flat-brimmed national park experience, we set sail south through Navajo country. Past ancient ruins and extinct volcanoes. we found a snow field on the side of the San Franciscos that served to give a glimpse of how we’ve been living – Life, Unplugged!
The road south across the Navajo reservation was lined with deserted trinket shops and single-wides with windmills. Eventually we got out of the painted deserts and into the high chaparral, winding down into Wupatki National Monument.
Here were found the ruins of ancient pueblos, posted like sentinel houses on the tops of low mesas. Surprisingly well preserved for 800 year old dwellings, the Wupatki people were able to eek out a living from this land of constant wind and little water.
The byway eventually turned east and into the Sunset Volcano National Monument. The Hopi called it Palatsmo, The Place Where It Burnt. Between 800-1000 years old, it’s likely the Waputki witnessed its eruption. From flatland to 1000′ probably took 2-3 months to form, as it spewed lava and smoke high into the air.
We ran up the Coconino Forest roads north of Flagstaff, and at the foot of San Francisco Mountain. It didn’t take much upclimb until we were into the snowline. Ivy got a bit tense as I jammed it into 4WD and left the dirt road for no road in particular, eventually tucking into a stand of mountain junipers.
That night was Ivy’s last with us. I stepped out just long enough to drive back down to the volcano in order to snap this shot of sunset over the four peaks of San Francisco Mountain. A great dinner of my famous salmon with tomato remoulade followed by oatmeal cookies, and we were all ready for bed.
As the sun began to set across the northern plains, the idyll spot we’d picked out just seemed, well, boring. By morning we had packed our bags and were setting off for a little city time in the Flagstaff KOA for a refreshing shower and a water refill. Where we were going, we knew we’d soon need both!