Our last day in Flagstaff we woke up later than the previous day. We talked about going to the Flagstaff Arboretum but instead headed to Sunset Crater after eating breakfast at the hotel and checking out. A. wasn't too sure about the crater, but she's pretty game for anything and didn't object, so we set out.
I plugged our destination into our cars GPS (the closes thing I have to a computer when I'm away from home LOL), filled up with gas and pulled onto I-40 E. Things were going along really well. We're driving and talking and having a good morning. GPS tells me I was to turn right, so I turned right, onto a Forest dirt road. That's ok. I remember driving on lots of dirt Forest Service roads growing up. There was signage to Sunset Crater, it must be the way. We're driving along and before we know it our dirt road becomes bumpy, then steep and kind of washed out. It was still passable but it wasn't exactly what I'd call the best road for a mini van. :) We continue along bumping and braking and very carefully inching our way along these roads all along I'm thinking, "Thank goodness it's not raining right now or else we'd be in trouble!" Arizona has a stupid motorist law for people who get caught in flash floods. I could see A. and I on the news being rescued from a flash flood on this crazy road we were on with the reporter mentioning that "Stupid Motorist" law. LOL
We finally picked our way through the miles until, like a voice from heaven, our GPS tells us to make a sharp right turn in a quarter mile. We begin to make out the road through the trees and cinder. As we get closer, the road becomes clearer into view. A little bit further, we see the road perfectly and discover it's a beautiful, smooth paved road complete w/ painted lanes! Our GPS took us through the forest and through the woods for no good reason. Up the road a few miles further there was a perfectly good state route that we could have taken and saved the undercarriage of our car, not to mention a few extra gray hairs in my head.
We made our sharp right onto this beautiful road paid for by AZ tax payers, thank you all, and drove just a little further to Sunset Crater National Monument. Along the way you begin to see lava runs, which are really, really cool.
We made the short loop along the trail, A. w/ her sketch pad in hand. I was reading the brochure at each stop point but A. kept on walking. We made it half way around and I asked her if there was anything she wanted to draw. We're in the middle of this ancient lava flow w/ the most amazing rock formations around us, Sunset Crater looming over us on one side and the San Francisco Peaks towering in the distance on the other side and she declared, "There is nothing to draw here." Ah, perhaps the first glimpse of my preteen daughters attitude a few years down the road. This was the first time she complained about anything on the trip, which took me by surprise. Not the lack of complaining but the sudden complaints. She really, really, really didn't like Sunset Crater! LOL
|A. in front of the lava flow and Sunset Crater behind
We decide we'd go ahead and head further down that beautiful paved state route to Waptuki Indian Ruins. The sign said it was only 12 miles further. The sign lied.
Up to this point we were still thinking we'd make it back to the Arboretum for the Raptor show, which is what A. really had her heart set on and which is why I think she had a little attitude about where we were. I told her there was a show at 2 we'd probably be able to make instead of the noon show if we just take a quick trip over to see the ruins. Turns out, I lied. Only my lie wasn't intentional, it pure and simple ignorance. LOL
In our ignorance we blindly followed the state route thinking 12 miles is nothing on this beautiful paved road and drove on. We saw the backside of Sunset Crater and then as we crested a hill we saw the Painted Desert ahead of us in the distance. We continued on and on and on, about 12 miles until we came to another state route that had us turn north to continue our jaunt over to the ruins. The Painted Desert loomed to our right, beautiful vistas and rock formations were all around us, it was a really pretty drive, even if it was longer than 12 miles. ;)
|Painted Desert in the distance
We came to another ruin before Wupatki, called Wukoki, and decided to pull in there and take a look. A. was pretty antsy about now, really wanting to go to that raptor show and here I have her out in the middle of N. Arizona talking about going further and actually seeing the Painted Desert. Totally not what she had in mind. I told her if she was really not liking this whole ruin thing we would go to this one then head back down into Flagstaff for the arboretum. Once we got out and she was able to go to the ruin, her whole attitude changed. She really liked it. :)
|A at Wukoki
|The Big House
After walking around, on the trail, we got back in the car and drove over to the main ruins in the area, Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki is a whole village and has been part of the parks service for decades. There is a nice museum with all sorts of artifacts from the area and a lot of information about the people who lived there. I asked A. if she wanted to do the Jr. Ranger badge there and we got the sheet to fill out. We both really enjoyed walking around Wupatki. This time, when I read the info off the self guided tour map, A. stopped to listen and asked questions.
|A and Wupatki
|Looking down to the Kiva and far right is the ball court
Her favorite part was the blowhole.
|A enjoying the cool air coming up through the blowhole
With another storm moving in, we decided to keep moving along. The rain started to fall just when we finished our tour around the ruins. A. finished up her ranger badge pages and got sworn in. :)
|The Citadel w/ storm cloud
|The Painted Desert through sunglasses
|Same view through my sunglasses :)
It was a wonderful, fabulous 3 days spent with one of my most favorite people in the world. I am tucking this special time I've had with my sweet daughter into my heart where I can pull it out through the years and remember with great fondness our special trip away together.
I love you sweet A. Thank you for making our vacation together extra special just by being you!