07/29/12 - Exploring Flagstaff - Kathy & Candy

Exploring Flagstaff

7/29/12 - At the end of July we spent a few days in Flagstaff (of Route 66 fame). It is about 2 1/2 hours from Chandler but about 6000 feet higher in elevation, so it is a cool haven in the summer for many of us who live in the Valley of the Sun. It's a rather small city, centered around Northern Arizona University, and has that university-town feel to it. It gets lots of rain & snow, so it is lush & green, & pretty hilly. It is home to the largest continuous Ponderosa Pine forest in the world, thus encouraging the growth of the logging industry in the late 19th century. We were reminded of Ithaca at some times, and of Provincetown at other times.

We tried to do quite a few things that would let us get to know the area. This included visiting the Riordan Mansion Museum, exploring Walnut Canyon, visiting Meteor Crater and riding the Snowbowl ski lift up into the San Francisco Peaks. You can see photos here. There is much more to explore in the area, so we're sure we'll be back. The Riordan Mansion was built in 1904 to accommodate two brothers who made their fortunes in logging. It is actually 2 separate, identical houses, connected by a common room. It is in the Arts & Crafts architecture style, with over 40 rooms and 13,000 square feet of living space, including servants' quarters. One side of the house is set up with original furniture (mostly Stickley), photos and personal items that the family has donated. The 6-car garage is now the visitors' center. It is a great example of how the rich and famous lived during the early 20th century in AZ!

Walnut Canyon is a large canyon where the Sinagau (translated as "without water") native people made their homes in the cliffs between 1125 and 1250 A.D. There are around 80 cliff dwellings and visitors are allowed to wander through 25 of them along a 1-mile trail looping into the canyon. Of course, in order to get to the cliff trail, one has to descend 240 steps, and then climb back up them after the mile-long hike! It was well worth it though; it was fascinating to visualize how the people used the space for living & storage, while perched on the edge of a cliff.

Meteor Crater is about 35 miles west of Flagstaff. About 50,000 years ago a meteor hurtled towards earth at 26,000 miles per hour. The meteor, estimated to be about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons, struck earth with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. The result was the excavation of a giant bowl-shaped cavity 700 feet deep and over 4000 feet across. Presently, the crater is 550 feet deep, equivalent to a 60-story building. The crater is over 4,000 feet across and 2.4 miles in circumference. It's hard to get a sense of how big that is until you actually see it. There are telescopes on several platforms above the crater that allow you to see objects at the bottom or along the sides of the crater. Even once you know the objects are there, you still can't even see them with the naked eye.

Since the Flagstaff area is at such a high elevation, they get lots of snow in the winter (an average of 21 feet). There is a ski area called Snowbowl on some of the mountain peaks outside the city. During the summer they operate the largest ski lift from the lodge to the top of the highest peak (11,500 feet), so visitors can see the beautiful vistas from the top. The lift takes 30 minutes each way and it is a quiet peaceful trip. Although we were both a bit nervous about the lift, we enjoyed the experience and the views for the top. Luckily, we took the return trip down just before a thunderstorm came through…our innkeeper had warned us that some previous guests had gotten stuck up on top for hours while a storm raged on.


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