Volcanic Sands and an Escape from Solitude

**These hikes took place on Akimel O’odham, Yavapai Apache, Hopi, Pueblo, and Tonto Apache lands**

A couple of weeks ago we were fortunate enough to get a visitor! My sister came out for a long weekend and we absolutely loved having her. Kirk had a three day weekend and I had plenty of PTO so it was a fun and relaxing visit.

We, my sister and I, spent our grade school years living just outside of Chicago and are all about Chicago-style pizza and Portillo’s chocolate cake so for her first night in town we brought in Lou Malnati’s pizza. In the morning we headed out to Tom’s Thumb trail. It’s a bit of a strenuous hike but we had a good time and saw plenty of people on the trail. My sister was coming off a long work week so we headed to the pool and spent a few hours there reading and relaxing.

The next morning we all slept in and wandered down the street for brunch before heading to the aquarium. Museums in the Phoenix metro area just started opening up during October. In addition to the mask mandate they were only allowing a certain number of people in each hour. The aquarium was neat. Probably not a place that we would go back to unless children were visiting though. Afterwards we headed back to the pool and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

In the morning we drove up to Flagstaff to go to Walnut Canyon National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We got to Walnut Canyon NM just as they were opening. After parking we headed down the 240 stairs to the Island Trail where we got to walk through and past some of the dwellings. The inhabitants of Walnut Canyon (and Montezuma Castle) were the Sinagua people who are ancestors to the Hopi people. Even though these sites are not lived in today they hold religious and cultural significance to the Hopi people, and other tribes, who come to visit them regularly.

After learning about the Sinagua people and seeing the cliff dwellings we headed to Sunset Crater Volcano to see the lava fields. The first trail that we took was sandy and short so we headed across the street to climb up to Lenox Crater. A very hot 1.5 mile trail. On the way up we theorized about why trees were only growing on some parts of some of the surrounding hills but since none of us are geologists or volcanologists all we had were educated guesses. Still wanting to hike a bit more we started down part of the Lava Flow Trail before returning to the car to locate some food. Since it was a holiday we had a few less options than usual for the town but eventually got some beers and a good meal.

Tuesday was just my sister and I so we headed to Old Town Scottsdale for coffee and breakfast. Then spent a bit wandering around Old Town before the heat hit. After seeing the Arizona Falls we headed home to hit the pool. It was a laid back last day of her trip and all around a good visit and much needed break.

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