Next we headed towards Flagstaff to see the Walnut Canyon National Monument. We got a late start so we first ate lunch at Busters Restaurant and Bar in Flagstaff and it is certainly worth another visit as this has the potential to be a favorite. Buster's started out as a seafood place in 1983 but they now have a full menu although probably best known for their steaks and seafood. We both got a grilled portabello mushroom sandwich with havarti cheese and the attention to detail that makes this place so great can be seen. The bun was excellent, the veggies (lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, and sprouts0 were all fresh, the portabello was marinated and grilled just right, and the homemade herb mayonnaise was excellent. They are open for lunch and dinner only but music to our ears was that they had an early bird menu beginning at 4:00p. We will be back to Flagstaff's Favorite Restaurant the last 10 years!!
We then drove to the Walnut Canyon National Monument about 10 miles southeast of Flagstaff just off I-40. The canyon rim lies at about 7,000 feet. We visited the Visitors Center to learn more about the canyon. There are two trails; a 0.7 mile loop trail that goes along the rim that is rated easy called the Rim Trail and a 0.9 mile loop trail that descends 185 ft into the canyon that is rated strenuous called the Island Trail. The Park Ranger that took our Golden Age Passport (free admission) said the Island Trail was not that bad.
So we took off on the Island Trail and the first thing we noticed that it was pretty cool temperature wise. Bob was in shorts and had counted on cooler temps than Winslow since at a higher elevation but did not factor in the convective cooling factor of 50 mph winds. The winds also made the narrow trail more fun than it should be. But we pushed on anyway because the scenery was wonderful and we both had always wanted to see cliff dwellings up close. The Park Ranger did say that there was a rock slide on the trail and that if we wanted to take only one side to go left since more and better cave dwellings could be seen there. Left was about 2/3 of the 0.9 mile to the rock slide but then it was 2/3 back again. We descended passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms constructed by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250 AD. We are really amazed that people could live here smack dab in a canyon wall. How they got food and water up the hill or visited neighbors is beyond us. We were on a paved trail and steps with some handrails carrying a camera and a bottle of water and were still a little unsure of ourselves.
What goes down must come up again so we then took the strenuous part of the trail and that is back up. There are a couple of pictures in our Flick album of Winslow 2011 trying to show just how far down we were. Luckily there are benches along the way which we took advantage of several to rest and to enjoy the view. Jo did not have enough energy at the Visitors Center to tell the Park Ranger it may be a good idea to NOT tell seniors that you have just taken a Golden Age Passport from that the Island Trail is not strenuous.
That being said we are glad that we can now cross cliff dwellings off our list and if the trails to future ones are as strenuous as the Island Trail was these will be the last cliff dwellings we shall see!
Pictures from this adventure have been uploaded to Flickr in the Winslow 2011 set.
Till next time,
Bob and Jo