Pushing north from Tucson, our adventure had us overnighting at the Bonita Campground outside the Sunset Crater National Monument. Just north of Flagstaff, the Bonita was indeed beautiful, as its name suggests. The only problem was it doesn’t open until May. After a long day’s drive, we were understandably disappointed until learning from the Monument ranger that camping on the other side of Highway 89 (a mere ½ mile away) was permitted year round. Hallelujah.
After 10 minutes refilling our water bottles with the Monument’s spring-fed water, we drove another 10 before locating a wonderful campsite on a gentle slope of juniper trees. In yet another 10 we were set up, comfortably munching away and sipping wine in the sunset while working out the lyrics to a couple songs from our new Geoff Muldaur CD.
Sunset Crater National Monument is minutes north of Flagstaff, AZ, on highway 89 (that will take us to Page, our next day’s destination). Flagstaff has a smallish feel to it, hosts a university, and has a local ski hill and we saw several sporting goods associated with recreation. In certain respects Flagstaff resembles Ashland, with one major exception: Flagstaff is a busy railroad thoroughfare, and while searching for a place to refill our propane bottle, we were delayed a good quarter hour by an eastbound freight that must have been a hundred flatbeds long. Every car was loaded identically: double-decker container boxes probably offloaded in Long Beach, CA. Most had markings suggesting an Asian origin, starkly reminding us of the explosive growth of overseas commerce. With the exception of our GMC pick’em up, of course.
Our campground was at 7,000+ feet, and it was really cold. The following morning, however, was surprisingly pleasant when we rose with the sun. We practiced our songs, and did a little reading about the Monument and what we were going to miss. It turns out there’s a 35-mile “loop” road connecting Sunset Crater visitor center with some ancient ruins further north. On our drive an hour later, we descended about 1,500 feet before coming to the turnoff for the ruins. A good shuttle bike ride would be dropping a car at the Wakapti ruins and beginning the ride at Sunset. I wouldn’t want to ride the wrong way, that’s for sure.
Wildlife viewed during this leg of our trip include:
m. vermillian flycatcher
cordilleran flycatcher (off front porch in sage)?
curve billed thrasher
white crowned sparrow
blk. tailed gnatcatcher ?