Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Our first stop today is Walnut Canyon National Monument.

Archaic people inhabited Walnut Canyon at various times. Sinaguan families farmed on the canyon rim growing corns, beans and squash amongst the pinon pine and juniper forest.

During the 1100's, many of these families constructed cliff dwellings in the alcoves of the canyon walls.

Some of the advantages to living in the canyon itself are better access to the water at the bottom of the canyon, and more diversity of plant life as you descend into the canyon. Above the canyon rim, the juniper-pine forest stretches on for miles.

During our visit we were able to walk on part of the trail that encircles this "island" within the canyon. The trail had been closed for most of 2008 due to a rock slide. We were lucky that it partially re-opened less than a month before our trip.

We were able to walk around to the back of the island, and then retrace our route to return to the rim. Usually the trail would loop all the way around.

This trail is our first encounter with steep drop offs next to our path on this trip. In New Hampshire, our hikes include steep drop offs, but we're almost always surrounded by trees. I always feel like a tree would stop me from going over the edge if I fell in NH. On this trail, there's not much between me and the cliff edge.

At Walnut Canyon, we got a tiny taste of what the drop offs in the Grand Canyon might feel like. Plus we got to do 185 feet of descent and ascent. The ascent was easier than I expected. I noticed the drop offs more than I expected.

Here's the view upstream in the canyon. It's hard to believe that the people living in these dwellings would descend to the canyon floor several times a day to get water.

This dwelling with 7 rooms is the largest we were able to see on the Island Trail.

Across the canyon, we could see other dwellings, and another area of fallen rocks.

A crew was hard at work clearing away the remaining portion of the rock slide from the Island Trail.

The rock at the bottom of the canyon is striated. Some of the pottery from this region echoes those striations.

Walnut Canyon is the most beautiful and interesting site we've visited so far on this trip.

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