Our plans in Monument Valley fell through due to a variety of less than ideal circumstances (packs of feral dogs, broken glass everywhere, nonexistent help to register for a campground that was built with a sardine can type layout in mind, etc). So we made the decision to push on to Flagstaff, AZ and adjust our existing hotel reservations there so we could have a couple of days to finish up some work and do some exploring there instead.
We spent the first full day attending to the business of being on the road and Lance plotted out a nice itinerary for doing some exploring on the second day. Our first stop was about 20 miles south in Sedona, AZ. Here, we visited the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park.
Our second stop, after driving the scenic route through Red Rock State Park and making our way back north through Flagstaff, was Walnut Canyon National Monument, which is the home of several Hopi cliff dwelling ruins and has quite an impressive interpretive trail along the cliff walls where several of the pueblos are available to explore.
We closed out the day at Elden Pueblo Ruins, which was more of an active archaeological dig just off of a highway and surrounded by businesses. Not nearly so peaceful a setting as the previous two places we visited, but still interesting to compare these ruins with those of the cliff dwellers. These were once occupied by the Sinagua between 1070 and 1275 AD.
A short two hours north of Flagstaff, our next planned stop was the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. We arrived and chose a campsite and still had plenty of afternoon light to check out the views from the top. We both hiked and drove parts of Hermit’s Rest Road and did our best to capture the grandeur with our little camera and a little evidence of smog from faraway cities on a relatively clear day.
The next day, we hiked the South Kaibab Trail from the trailhead near Yaki Point to Skeleton Point, which is 2,040 feet below the rim and over halfway to the bottom in terms of mileage (3 miles). It was even more astounding to be inside the canyon and seeing previously faraway features coming into sharper relief with every step.