Back towards the beginning of spring, we realized we would need to *slightly* plan our route for the coming seasons. In July and August, monsoon season takes hold in the southwest, allowing the skies to pour down on a daily basis. Instead of our normal go-with-the-flow directions, we decided to map out an S-curve around Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. This meant that after our visit from Sarah and Anthony, we were set to head northeast- directly towards the cluster of monuments and must-see’s of the Flagstaff area. Over the weekend, we managed to visit Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument, Meteor Crater, and the famous Route 66 in Winslow, AZ.
Yes, it was busy. But those are the best kinds of weekends, right?
To backtrack a bit, we started the weekend with an unexpected snowstorm in Flagstaff. Trust me, I know how crazy it sounds to those of you back in moody Buffalo, NY. But you read that right. A snowstorm, in Arizona, in the spring. I’m fully admitting my naivety here, but I had no idea that even happened.
After a snowy-yet-cozy night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot and subsequent breakfast, we made our way to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We immediately realized the irony of visiting the monument right after a snowfall, but luckily the snow had already begun to melt, and the vibrant red earth bore through in sharp contrast to white.
Since the monument was fairly small, we were able to enjoy a quick hike near the base of the volcano. Certain national monuments will provide short guidebooks with points of interest or unique features around the trail, so visitors are able to learn as they walk. We scooped one up for our walk and enjoyed learning all about the intricate features of the cinder cone.
After a full morning at Sunset Crater, we decided it was time to keep the party going. It was Earth Day! From monument #1, we made our way south to monument #2: Walnut Canyon National Monument. Admittedly, we knew nothing about the monument, but had the whole afternoon to check it out. This turned out to be the highlight of the weekend! WCNM was small and quiet, but the hike throughout was amazing. Climbing the stairs in and out may make you break a sweat, but getting to meander through cliff-side dwellings of ancient Native American tribes makes it all worth it. We took our time along the mile loop, reading about the land and lives of the past and imaging what it must have been like to live in such a beautiful place.
Two national monuments made for a sleepy evening, where we enjoyed some delicious Navajo food and proceeded to pass out with the lights on in the Twin Arrows Casino lot. Don’t judge us.
Our sights for that Sunday were set on a special place that Andy had wanted to visit since high school- Meteor Crater. In case you aren’t familiar, Meteor Crater is in the middle-of-nowhere northeast Arizona and is the world’s best preserved meteorite impact site. After learning about the site in college, Andy knew he wanted to see it from the get-go. What we didn’t expect was the $18 price tag (per person!) to enter. Like most other people on the internet, we felt this was a bit high, but decided to check it out anyways. While it was fun to see, I don’t think we’ll be making a return trip.
Disappointed with our visit to Meteor Crater, we made our way to another famous location. Only this time, the location was famous because of one certain Eagle’s song instead of a geological wonder.
Any guesses? Anyone?
Well, I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see….
TAKE IT EASY, TAKE IT EEEEEE-AAASSSSYYYY
Of course, the instant I start singing that song my mind flashes back to childhood. Maybe it’s just one of those songs, but it brings back memories of family parties and lots of laughter. Everyone’s got a few, right?
Now you should all know, there really isn’t much in Winslow, but it was worth the quick stop. We didn’t get a chance to check out some of the restaurants or coffee shops, but the corner is fixed up with statues and gift shops and murals and such. Plus, there’s that warm, nostalgic feelings that comes over you as you look at the giant Route 66 painted on the street and hum the song in your head.
Along with the corner and sentimental memories, Winslow also offers up a free city park for visitors. We took advantage of the reservoir camping and set up Tig on the waterfront. During our time there we met Derek, AKA Subaru Vagabond. We spent our last night learning each other’s stories and sharing tales from the road. It was interesting and eye-opening to understand how he lives out of just a Subaru Outback! Serious props to Derek for that, and we hope to see him again on our travels.
The week that followed was our typical work-week, and Friday couldn’t come soon enough. We were both dying to see yet another national monument: Petrified Forest.