Saturday, May 30, 2009

Eastern Intrigue

The main route out of town to the east is Interstate 40, which skirts the southern end of the Navajo Reservation and ultimately leads to New Mexico. Along the way are great examples of prehistoric native cultures and interesting natural phenomena.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Just a short 7.5 mile drive east of the city is the first of three National Monuments located within 20 mile radius of Flagstaff - Walnut Canyon National Monument. 700 years ago native peoples lived in cliff dwellings in this narrow canyon, where running water provided the foundation for life. Several trails explore the site, including a long steep staircase into the canyon. To get here, Take exit 204 off of I-40.

Meteor Crater

The idea of an object from space hurtling through the atmosphere to strike the planet is one we don't contemplate much, although a visit to this landmark brings the possibility to your attention. As one of the best preserved impact craters around, Meteor Crater has been studied and analyzed for what it tells us about our planet's past and likely future. The crater was also used by NASA during the Apollo space program to prepare astronauts for the physiography of the Moon. To see this natural feature, turn off the interstate at exit 233 about 35 miles east of Flagstaff.

Homolovi Ruins State Park Here lies a little known and seldom visited collection of archeological sites dating from the early ancestors of the Hopi people, commonly referred to as the Anasazi or ancestral puebloan people. Settlers here depended on the Little Colorado river for their survival, farming in the floodplain before eventually migrating northward to the mesas. Homolovi was one of the few safe places to ford the river, and as such became part of a significant trade route with other native peoples of the region. Located near Winslow about 58 miles east of Flagstaff. Take exit 257 north to Highway 87, then left on Honani Rd.

Petrified Forest National Park

Set in the badlands of the Painted Desert, the Park preserves a wealth of treasures including colorful petrified (fossilized) wood and ancient ruins. The setting is one of desolate beauty, and silence and solitude are easy to find in this stark landscape. Located about 120 miles east of Flagstaff, take exit 311 off I-40 to visit this remote and fascinating area.

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