Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wild West Trip: Day 5 - Walnut Canyon National Monument

Cliff dwelling at Walnut Canyon National Monument
Along these canyon walls over 700 years ago lived a peaceful people who lived here over 150 years along the sides of the canyon. They dug caves underneath overhanging rocks and built walls of limestone to separate and enclose for living quarters and food storage. These dwellings were built at different levels along both sides of Walnut Canyon. The estimate is that from 75 to 400 people lived here during this time. They had crops along the Rim and collected water from Walnut Creek as part of everyday life. Imagine the trek that was made along the cliffs in doing everyday tasks, and how physically fit they must have been. Maybe it was a drought that caused the Sinagua people to move on. The creek waters today are mostly silent in the canyon as they have been diverted for use by the city of Flagstaff. Other peoples had inhabited the area of Walnut Canyon long before, including the Anasazi (who also inhabited the Grand Canyon). Designated as a National Monument in 1915, we took a hike along Island Trail to see inside the Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings up close and to see how the people lived.
The pale wolfberry
The pale wolfberry still thrives in the Canyon. Had rather a tart taste to me. Other plants we came across along the trail with descriptions included Mormon tea, rockmat, mahonia, Arizona walnut, mountain mahogany, and alligator juniper, many still used by Native Americans and now by herbalists for various purposes.
Walnut Canyon National Monument hiking medallionLocal Native Americans explaining the process of making Hopi baskets and dolls
While going through the shop I picked up a hiking medallion to add to my collection.
An interesting demonstration was being conducted by Stephanie Lomatewama who explained the process of making Hopi baskets while Horace Kayquoptewa carved ornate katsina dolls from cottonwood at the Walnut Canyon National Monument. Stephanie is a member of the Hopi tribe and belongs to the Badger clan, and teaches in Sacaton. Horace is also a member of the Hopi tribe and carves fulltime. As part of the tradition passed on, as a Hopi child matures, they get a new doll to herald their advancement in stages to adulthood. The Hopi Indians are descendants of the peoples that inhabited Walnut Canyon and is one of the reasons why it is viewed as sacred.

From here, we will venture 10 miles up the road and take Route 66 into Flagstaff where we drive around town, grab a bite, and see Jupiter up close at Lowell Observatory.

Posted by Carl Burnham at 11:00 PM
Categories: Attractions, Destinations
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