Posts Tagged 'Flagstaff'

Meteor Crater

I was out in Arizona to relax and refresh. When my son mentioned that the hike he picked for us was up in Sedona, my first reaction was dismay. Although I love Sedona, I was SO TIRED. Driving up and back in one day is exhausting. I’d already booked my hotel in Chandler for the entire week. But as I thought on it my attitude changed. I love Sedona. It sounded like a great hike. My hotel wasn’t costing all that much. We needed a break. I decided that we would drive up to Sedona (after all, isn’t that a perfect trip for a convertible Mustang?) AND we would stay overnight. Yes, I’d be paying for 2 hotel rooms at the same time, but I decided it was worth the cost. I started flipping through “What to do in Arizona” sites, and saw that up by Flagstaff there was something called Meteor Crater.

First stop on the rim tour

I like looking at holes in the ground. 🙂 After all, what are the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon but big holes in the ground? Okay – maybe they are more like wide cracks in the ground, but still – ‘in the ground’, not above. I liked the Ramon Crater in Israel – another hole in the ground. I suggested that we drive up to Flagstaff and see the Meteor Crater, and then drive down to Sedona for dinner and stay the night. We’d get up refreshed and go hike, hang about Sedona, then drive back to Chandler. My son agreed with that plan. (He’s actually very agreeable.)

The old mining site at the bottom of the crater – those little specs of white

I went to chat with the front desk at the hotel and told them my plans, and asked if maybe they could help me find a place at a “sister” hotel and maybe get me a better rate. They explained that they did not partner with any of the other hotels up there, not even ones owned by Hilton. But, she said, what I can do is help you out here. How about if I take off one night here for you, would that be okay? Would it be okay? It would be delightful. We had a long chat about Sedona, hiking, scenery, vacations. The folks at the front desk of the Chandler Hilton are so friendly and helpful. With this plan I didn’t have to pack up and check out and then come back and check in again. Not only that, but we’d not had room service yet. I scheduled room service for the Monday we were leaving. That way we’d come back to a nice clean room and if there were any germs floating about, they should have settled/evaporated by the time of our return. (Again – all the hotel personnel wore masks and followed all the social distancing protocols.)

Just a slight shift in position and the light changes.

Hotel rooms in Sedona are expensive and not plentiful, even during a pandemic. I checked out several and finally went with one of the less expensive ones, right near the lower center of town. It was a Hilton property as I thought it only fair. 🙂 We packed up our backpacks, made sure we had suntan lotion and water, and started out after breakfast Monday morning. *laughing* I think we ended up making 3 trips back to my son’s house for things we forgot before we finally got out to the highway.

Turning my back to the crater and looking out towards the tribal lands

Although we started out cruising with the top down on the car, we were traveling at such high speeds (love the Arizona speed limits) that I pulled over and put the roof back, and turned on the a/c. That made for a much more comfortable (and faster) drive. Route 17 goes through beautiful desert, then up to the forest, over the mountains and on to Flagstaff. I found this quote while trying to remember what we saw on Rt. 17: “You will gain more than a mile in altitude on your drive between Phoenix (1,117 feet) and Flagstaff (7,000 feet), cruising through ever-changing desert ecosystems dominated by saguaro, juniper, and Ponderosa pine.” Yep – they said it MUCH better than I did.

Making our way around the rim. It’s mostly flat except for that last bit we did.

We saw the sign for Montezuma Well and made our usual jokes. We saw a sign for Walnut Canyon and thought we might stop there during this trip as well. When I’m in NJ, I have a fairly accurate sense of how long a given trip will take given the mileage and the roads. For some reason I misjudged the distance to the crater. I kept thinking “Flagstaff” but it’s actually located 35 miles east of Flagstaff. Given our late start, and the slower driving with the top down, it was around 1:30-1:45 when we arrived. We were just in time to join the 2:10pm tour.

We’ve gotten a bit further counter-clockwise on the rim, down the steep part

Obviously the website will give a much better description of the crater and why it is so cool to see, but I’ll try to do some of that here for you folk who don’t click through. 🙂 Oh – and for one of you – “The Meteor Crater RV Park is located just off Interstate 40 exit 233, less than a 1/4 mile to the right. The large parking lot includes a Mobil Gas Station and Country Store for checking in.” The brochure says this is “the best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth. 50,00 years ago a huge iron-nickel meteorite, estimated to have been about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons, struck the northern Arizona rocky plain with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. In seconds, the result of this violent impact was the excavation of a giant bowl-shaped cavity (550 feet deep and 4,000 feet across) known today as Meteor Crater.”

At the top, to the left, about 10:00 – you see a dark spec – the museum building (just right of the tall tan peak) – gives a sense of perspective if the little white mining dots didn’t

The land is privately owned, although surrounded by much tribal land. The guide told us that astronauts have used the site for training and they have used the site for film locations as well. You can no longer go down into the crater – the change in air pressure is so extreme (it actually gets thinner at the bottom) that many people cannot get back out. When that happens they have to call in the US Air Force to medivac them. That gets extremely costly. There is a tour on the rim, but for only a small part. Thank goodness! I can’t remember the exact distance but I know there is no way I could do a hike around the perimeter.

An old furnace at the top left. Impossible to avoid all signs of other tourists. 🙂

The tour was very interesting and just long enough, although I was a bit apprehensive from the very first things the guide said once he locked the door behind us. “We are at 5710 feet, higher altitude than Denver, CO (5280 feet). ” If you remember my post last year, I discovered that I am NOT used to high altitudes and had great difficulty attempting to hike in the Superstition Mountains for that reason. I had visions of me fainting and falling into the crater, which is 560 ft deep, and a very, very rocky descent. Obviously I was alright. *grin* For me the most interesting fact was finding out what happened to the meteor. Something that big you would think would still be around. It is. Although one good sized chunk (maybe a foot long) is on display in the museum, the rest of the meteor is underfoot. The guide did a wonderful display of scooping dust and then showing with a magnet that the dust was the meteor – completely disintegrated into the dust under our feet. Definitely a fascinating discussion and explanation.

So THIS shadow is allowed because that’s me, loving the red and tan rocks

I recommend Meteor Crater. Time-wise I think you might want to allow half a day. My son and I thought we’d go to Walnut Canyon on our way to Sedona, but we overheard 3 other groups talking about meeting up at Walnut Canyon. *grin* We decided that maybe it was getting a bit late in the day for another major excursion, and we still had another 90 minutes ride to get to Sedona. We’ll get to Walnut Canyon another time. 🙂

One final look as the sun got lower

Montezuma Well

I usually try to write & post in chronological order. That isn’t working for me these days. The malaise I attribute to life in a pandemic means that I took many photos and could never bring myself to write. My vacation to Arizona has refreshed me and ‘cleared my cache’ so I can again look on the bright side of life. I’m trying to catch up with all those old photos and dreading trying to put my love of Sedona in words. Sedona is beyond words. I may simply end up with nothing but pictures. In the meantime I’m going to stick my toe in the metaphorical water and write about Montezuma Well.

Looking down from the top – little white specks are ducks.

My son and I had seen the signs for Montezuma Well last year on our way to Sedona. It tickled our fancy and made us imagine ridiculous scenarios for what it might be. We didn’t know if it was a place or a thing or both. It reminded ME of that town along Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, that is named Jersey Shore. Montezuma (or more properly Moctezuma II) was an Aztec ruler. The Aztecs were not in northern Arizona. Yet there along Rt 17, as we headed up to Flagstaff, was that sign for his well. We couldn’t stop on our way north, but we did have time to stop on our way south.

Stairs leading down to water level

Montezuma Well, together with Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot, is part of the National Park Service. They are the remnants of the Sinagua people. The well began forming more than 10,000 years ago from snow atop the Mogollon Rim. That snow melted through all the rocks over the millenia, but hit a vertical wall of volcanic basalt. This volcanic basalt acts as a dam, forcing the water back towards the surface. Ultimately (remember – millenia), it formed the sinkhole that is there today. The water remains at a constant temperature (I believe around 74 F) and near constant volume. You’d think this was a wonderful source for drinking but it is highly carbonated with a very high arsenic content. Quoting Wikipedia: “At least five endemic species are found exclusively in Montezuma Well: a diatom, the Montezuma Well springsnail, a water scorpion, the Hyalella montezuma amphipod, and the Motobdella montezuma leech — the most endemic species in any spring in the southwestern United States.” (Yes, I had to look up ‘endemic’ – native and restricted to a certain place.) Wikipedia says the water was used for irrigation, which I find puzzling because of the arsenic. I need to research why the plants do not absorb the arsenic.

Petroglyph

Besides those 5 endemic species, we saw a lot of ducks having a peaceful time paddling about the water. As always, the view from the top of the well is beautiful – flat land stretching out to looming mountains. There are 2 paths but only 1 is open currently – the path down to the swallet. (I learned a lot of new words on this adventure: swallet = sinkhole.) From the top that path looked steep and a bit rocky but I decided to brave it anyway. I’m glad I did because the top view was misleading. Although it is somewhat steep, it was easily manageable – no need to traverse it on my tush. 🙂

Water leaving the well (goes through cave to outside for irrigation)

There are interesting rocks, and views of the dwellings on the far wall, and finally you arrive at water level. There you can see where the water drains from the sinkhole into a small cave to appear above ground outside the formation to provide irrigation. There was a volunteer ranger there as well to answer questions. Down at water level it is delightfully cool and shaded, with a bench for resting. There are at least 2 petroglyphs visible on the rocks.

Dwellings in the cliff, looking up from the path

Since the longer trail is currently closed for safety reasons, our visit was perhaps 30 minutes in total. We hiked to the top, read the signs, took pictures, and then hiked down to water level. We spent a few moments there chatting with the ranger and taking photos, and then hiked back up. Although it’s a short stop, it is well worth the time. We agreed that we needed to leave more time our next time heading north so we could see Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot.


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