Canyons & Craters – Part II
“I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see.It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me”
Do those lyrics ring a bell? If they do, then you know they are from the very popular song “Take It Easy”, written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey and made famous by “The Eagles” in 1972. Winslow was once a thriving town on Route 66 until 1979 when it was the second to last town to be bypassed by Interstate 40, “bleeding Winslow dry” like so many other Route 66 towns.
The tourist industry was the hardest hit causing many small businesses to be lost, overnight it became a forgotten town frozen in time. Twenty years later in 1999, the town reclaimed its fame commemorating those lyrics by creating the “Standin’ On The Corner” Park which contains a bronze statue of a life-sized man with a guitar from the Eagles song, a bronze statue of Glenn Frey who died in 2016 and a red flat bed truck. Today an estimated 100,000 people from all over the world flock to Winslow to grab a bit of nostalgia by standin’ on this famous corner at the intersection of corner of Second and Kinsley Streets.
Winslow would be our home base for three days. Not only did we stand on the corner but we also spent time standing on the rim of a crater and visiting pueblos in a canyon. Since we were staying at the Meteor Crater RV Park, it made sense to visit the nearby Meteor Crater, aka the Barringer Meteorite Crater first.
Approximately 50,000 years ago during the Ice Age a hurtling iron-nickel meteor measuring 150 feet across, weighing several hundred thousand tons and traveling about 40,000 miles per hour crashed into Earth with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. In seconds a crater 700 feet deep and over 4000 feet across was carved into the flat rocky plain displacing over 175 million tons of limestone and sandstone, creating a debris field covering a distance of over a mile. The crater is privately owned by the Barringer family through their Barringer Crater Company, which proclaims it to be the “best preserved meteorite crater on Earth” because due to the local climate, erosion is relatively minimal here. Despite its importance as a geological site, the crater is not protected as a national monument, a status that would require federal ownership, however, it was designated a National Natural Landmark in November 1967.
The fully air-conditioned modern Visitor Center features an 80-seat widescreen theater where “Impact, The Mystery of Meteor Crater” is shown twice per hour, indoor crater viewing area, crater trail access, interactive discovery center, artifacts and exhibits, gift shop, and a Subway® restaurant. Admission to the Crater is $18 for adults, seniors age 60 and older $16 and juniors age 6-17 $9.00. If you stay at Meteor Crater RV Park they will give you a coupon for another $2 per person off the entrance fee.
After viewing all of the exhibits and watching the movie, rather than taking the self guided tour, we opted to catch a guided rim tour which is included in the admission fee. The tours begin at 15 minutes past the hour from 9:15 to 2:15, weather permitting. Although they warn that the hour long tour can be a bit strenuous, it wasn’t that bad, just a small slope or two to climb and a few steps, however, the weather was relatively cool during our visit and might be a different story in the intense summer heat.
The entire rim trail was paved. Our tour guide, Jeff, was excellent, extremely knowledgeable about the history and the geology of the Crater. Besides all the facts and figures, he told us several stories including one about a plane crash – apparently pilots don’t realize the heat generated within the crater reduces lift and once a plane descends too far inside they don’t have the power to get back out. Luckily this particular pilot survived but pieces of his plane were later thrown down one of the mine shafts to get rid of the debris – imagine how puzzling that might be to some distant future archaeologist! He also mentioned that several movies (ie Starman) have been made here over the years, but movie production has since been banned due to the damage the film crews cause with their equipment.
We almost didn’t visit here thinking it was probably just another kitschy tourist trap, but much to our delight the displays were very well done and the guided tour was awesome!
It is tough to top the experience of standing on the rim of a huge hole caused by a meteorite, but our next sightseeing expedition did just that! Located about 10 miles southeast of Flagstaff, the 600 foot deep Walnut Canyon National Monument was carved over millions of years by flowing water. Now just a small seasonal stream, Walnut Creek flows east eventually joining the Little Colorado River en route to the Grand Canyon.
During the 12th to 13th centuries the local Sinagua (Spanish for “without water”) people constructed cave-dwellings beneath water carved limestone ledges high above the canyon floor. Many of the ancient dwellings were built around a U-shaped bend in the canyon, where the creek circles around three sides of a high rocky plateau, creating an ‘island’ of sorts. For more info on the inhabitants see the NPS website. Those that lived here needed to be well versed in rock climbing and were certainly not afraid of heights!
At the Visitor Center, the entrance fee is $8.00 per person (age 15 and under free) but since this is a National Monument, visitors with the America the Beautiful, Senior Pass and Access Passes can enter for free. It was here that we learned that there are two trails, the least strenuous of which is the 0.7 mile Rim Trail, which traverses relatively flat land along the canyon rim and ends at a viewpoint on the edge.
Most popular, and a little more challenging for those that have a fear of heights (like me), is the somewhat more strenuous 0.9 mile Island Trail, a loop path that descends steeply (by 185 feet) via a series of 240 steps. Say what? 240 steps! Yikes! Maybe if you don’t count them it won’t seem like so many! Although I wasn’t looking forward to climbing all those steps up, going down didn’t seem too bad although I was sure to hold on to the railing all the way down!
The number of steps soon faded from memory once we reached the bottom where the trail became relatively flat (except for a few small slopes), passing alongside the remains of about 20 separate dwellings, several of which are still mostly intact, including a front wall with rectangular doorways.
It was totally awesome! But so hard to imagine what life must have been like for the people who once lived in these cliffs. Along the trail were numerous signs explaining the room functions, how they made their homes more comfortable, what they did for water and identifying the various plants along the way. Across the canyon, we could see other dwellings in the limestone.
After walking the entire Island Trail, it was time to begin our ascent back to the Visitor Center. Oh joy! For those of us sea level dwellers not used to it, the 6690 foot elevation provided an extra challenge. But by taking our time and making frequent stops to sit and rest on the occasional benches, it didn’t seem all that bad. Could it be that we were getting used to the altitude?
Once at the top, the Rim Trail beckoned to us. It was still early and too nice of a day (although a little windy) to leave. It was along this trail that we saw the remains of a two room pueblo and a pit house used as a storage room built around 1100. What a great park! highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.
Back at the RV park we enjoyed some beautiful sunsets!
AWESOME!!! That painted skylight on the next page is magnificent; and I could get lost in that store for weeks!
BTW – no comment section on Painted and Petrified page.
Thanks for your comments. That store was totally awesome! Would be so easy to spend a lot of money there – luckily we didn’t! Somehow we accidentally turned off the comment section for that particular post – it has been fixed. Sorry about that!
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