Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A summer trip north...

I love Flagstaff. The entire area is chock-full of interesting places to visit. On this trip, I visited some of my favorite places: Wupatki National Monument, Lockett Meadow and Sunset Crater. Summer just wouldn't be the same without a look at these beautiful places. 

I spent the first night in Pumphouse wash north of Sedona. I looked for a waterfall I'd seen from Google Earth, but the creek wasn't running and I made camp after ending my search. I spent the night in my tent with the dogs. It was quiet, calm and cool. 

I woke before sunrise, broke camp and headed north. I went looking for a wetland in the Kachina Village area, but didn't find it. I've looked for this spot a couple times now to no avail. If I look for this place again, I will have exact directions and it located on a map.

So, on to Sunset Crater I went. I drove in the backside through the Cinder Hills Off-Road Recreation area. I ended up on trail 777. Big mistake! It was a never ending series of undulating whoops. Mile after mile I plowed through this difficult terrain. The cinders weren't a big problem as long as I kept up my speed so as not to get bogged down. I did bounce around pretty severely a couple times and would find out later that I'd damaged my catalytic converter. 

It took over an hour to get back on the main road to Sunset Crater. I stopped on the north side to take some shots.

Sunset Crater

The light was soft with good cloud cover. I've shot from this vantage point several times and am still not entirely happy with the image. This ancient volcano erupted over 500 years ago and must have been a sight to behold by the local population of ancient Pueblo people that lived in the area. 

On to Wupatki. I stopped at Wukoki first. This is the first dwelling you reach as you drive in from Sunset Crater. This is my favorite of the dwellings. Built on top of the rocks, it's a cathedral of stone and ancient engineering. 

Wukoki at Wupatki National Monument

I've shot this location many times. This may have been the best day of all though. Clouds made the images much more interesting than previous trips. The light shifted from bright early morning light to a softer feel. 

I climbed inside the ruin though a series of impossibly small doorways. Getting my big body though with my gear and bag was fun. The inside room is probably 12'x12' and 15' tall. A series of holes and remnants of wooden poles indicated there must have been a second story floor. 

Inside Wukoki

Windows on 3 of the 4 walls at a variety of heights must have provided good views and cross ventilation. This place really stirs the imagination. What was life like 500 years ago? What was living in this dwelling like? Life must have been a day-to-day affair. On top of the obvious hardships of daily living, there was a volcano erupting just a few short miles away. Hard to imagine.

Wukoki Window to the World

After finishing up at Wukoki, I drove up a side road alongside Deadman Wash. I turned around, parked alongside the road and walked to the edge of the wash. The area is an interesting mix of red sandstone, sage and scrub with black cinder mixed in. 

I was doing my thing taking copious amounts of photos when a park ranger appeared over my head on the cliffs above. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I thought I'd heard something moving around above, but couldn't be sure. When you visit these types of places, it's easy to be on edge. I'm not sure if I sensed the spirits or the energies or it's just a bit spooky, but I"m always hyper-conscious of my surroundings. 

Deadman Wash

The ranger explained I was trespassing and did I not see the sign that said off road travel was prohibited. Most of the time this means don't drive around off the main road. This time it meant, keep in your car, no walking around off the road. I apologized my ass off and he was very nice. He was mostly concerned about whether I was collecting pottery shards. Apparently, I wasn't the first person he'd approached out there. We had a nice conversation before I left. He checked my I.D. and didn't issue me a ticket, thankfully.

After my brush with the law, I passed on the park headquarters. There were a ton of cars in the parking lot and knew it would tax my patience trying to shoot the main ruins. So, I drove to my next favorite stop, Lomaki.


This is another dwelling you can walk around in. I did a panorama of the interior of the main room along with a nice one of the exterior.

Inside Lomaki

After spending some time here, I went on down the road. The morning light was finished and it was getting hot. The road winds though the hills created by volcanic activity along with more red sandstone formations. I had to stop one more time along a stretch of the road in a grassland. Sometimes the most simple landscape is also very beautiful. It was very windy and the grasses were laying down in a very pleasing way.

Wupatki Grassland

I had lunch in a day use area before deciding to go see Lockett Meadow. It was around 1pm when I arrived. The cloud cover was still doing its thing. Mid-day is not the best time to shoot, but it was still working for me. 

The Tank at Lockett Meadow

Some reeds that have been growing there for a few years had gotten pretty tall. I have a series of photos now, showing their steady progression. The colors were a very nice mix of greens from the algae to the reeds, grasses and mountains. Soft light made the mid-day shot possible.

I walked the dogs around the circular road of the meadow and settled in a campsite to relax for a few hours. I was sore from bouncing around in the Cinder Hills earlier. I had a cocktail and kicked back under an enormous Ponderosa pine.

Under the tree in Lockett Meadow

It was a good day and it felt wonderful in the cool mountain air. I eventually had to put my fleece jacket on. I'm such whimp living in the desert like I do. Being cold in the middle of August is always a treat. I ended up driving home. The storm front moving in was very entertaining the entire way back into the valley. 

© G. Reid Helms / Arizona Panorama. All reproduction rights reserved.

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