Sunday, July 24, 2005 - Walnut Canyon to Las Vegas then Home
Slept, oh, so awesomely last night in the nice soft bed with the luxurious fluffy pillows. Got up around 8:30 a.m. and met the gang in the lobby for coffee and a continental breakfast. After some time reorganizing the luggage for the millionth time of the trip, we left at 10:30 for Walnut Canyon National Monument, eight miles to the east.
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Walnut Canyon is a 600-foot-deep canyon eroded in a manner which formed shallow caves in the limestone walls. Over 800 years ago the Sinagua Indians bricked up many of these caves to form cliff dwellings. They lived here for over 100 years before leaving the Flagstaff area for reasons unknown. It is generally believed that the Sinagua were eventually assimilated into the Hopi culture.
Cliff-dwelling - Now with real Indians
Chris and Jacob didn't know why we were even bothering to visit another canyon after the Grand Canyon, but this was something completely different. We hiked the .9-mile Island Trail, described as strenuous, a somewhat steep path looping around a rocky plateau and passing by 25 separate cliff dwellings. The path takes you through several different plant-life zones. And as the boys discovered, the canyon has a great echo.
After the Island Trail, we decided to hike the .7-mile Rim Trail. The ranger at the visitor center thought we were highly motivated to take on both. What kind of wimps usually visit here? The Rim Trail overlooks the canyon and passes by a few more ruins. Chris and Jacob ended up liking the canyon after all.
We returned to Flagstaff and ate lunch at Salsa Brava - never too many tacos for us! After lunch our group broke up. Tom and I had to drive to Vegas to catch our flight home, while Brian, Stine, Chris, and Jake were headed to Tucson for another week of vacation. Tom and I had about seven hours to make the four-hour drive to the airport.
Tom wanted to stop in Williams, Arizona, to look around. He had spent the night here 23 years ago when he was hitchhiking around the country, and it looks about the same. The town is cool yet kitsch. It has an "Old West" flavor to it.
Twenty miles from Williams we drove into Ash Fork to pick up Route 66, but whoops, Ash Fork just has a chunk of 66, so we had to get back on I-40 and travel seven more miles to pick up a maintained stretch of the highway.
Tom and some hussy
Passing through Seligman, we saw a sign announcing it was "Seligman Days." Naturally, we stopped to explore. Oddly, there weren't many people out and about, save a few Route 66 tourists like ourselves milling around a souvenir shop. I'm glad we stopped, though, because there wasn't a darn thing to look at between Seligman and Kingman. I thought I was going to pass out from boredom. We did see a bunch of multi-engine, double-decker, extra-long trains go by, but that was it.
The most scenic thing we found to photograph in hours
North of Kingman we saw a historical marker describing a ghost town, the abandoned Mineral Park Mining Town five miles to the northeast, so we took a detour. It used to be the seat of Mohave County and was home to 700 residents, but not much is left today. There is still a mine in operation on the site. At the time we visited, it was discharging oddly colored wastewater.
The remains of Mineral Park
We reached Hoover Dam shortly before dark. Due to terrorism concerns, commercial vehicles are no longer allowed to cross the dam, and all private vehicles must stop at a security checkpoint. It looked like they were searching most cars, but they just waved us through. I hope they check well. Losing Hoover Dam would be devastating. The speed limit across the dam is 15 miles per hour. I'm not sure how that helps. A new bridge is being built to bypass the dam completely.
Hoover Dam, Lake Mead
Earlier in the day we had lots of time to kill, but we didn't realize it would take so long to cross Hoover. Our rental car was due back at 9:00, or else we would be charged an extra God knows what. We ended up racing into Vegas and got to the rental agency with five minutes to spare. In our rush, I turned in our house key with the rental car keys. Oops.
Our flight left at 11:50 p.m. In what we'd come to expect from United, there weren't even enough pillows and blankets for the economy-plus passengers, let alone those of us back in steerage. I got about three hours' sleep on the flight to Chicago and another hour from Chicago to Knoxville. Tom got even less. Our flight arrived in Knoxville at 9:22 a.m. I miss my vacation!