Venturing through the Many Southwestern Ancient Pueblos

Once BigBlue was all fixed up with two new tires and two new inner tie rods from Litchfield Auto Repair, I headed down to Tucson to finally catch Saguaro National Park, the place where my two-month-van-repair-detour started on Ash Wednesday! While on the way there I got a ticket for distracted eating, or was that, distracted driving. Either way, it was costly and truthfully, seemed injust on the small scale of things. I was driving safely doing all things right, except having my hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock position because I was eating a cracker! But as the officer said as he approached my window to give me a ticket…”I see you are from out of town…”

bird on saguaro

A bird unto of the tallest type of cacti in the world…the Saguaro (catching sites like this was worth the price of the driving lesson!)

Well, bless that poor man’s heart, because as one who always wanted to be a police officer from the time I was in 7th grade, I know the dream wasn’t so I could be handing out tickets to people munching on a cracker while driving down a 3-lane interstate in the middle of Arizona staying in their lane, wearing their seat belts, driving one mile below the speed limit whose last time they touched alcohol was in 1992 (well, save for communion)!

sunset at saguaro

I don’t know how this came out so purply because the sky was an inky glowing blue, but I like it either way! This is sunset at Saguaro National Park, where the sun set on all our troubles and state trooper encounters!

So I pray for that fellow and other policemen like him who have to do things like this perhaps to meet a quota, and other things that just were never part of their dream of making the world a safer place. May they get to experience real job satisfaction for accomplishing their dream rather than for putting in their 8 hours.

fill saguaro

A rare sight for sure. This is a frill saguaro where all of its arms are on top of their heads (or we could say that they are not arms anymore but a crown!). Only about 1 plant in 250,000 Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) cacti produce this strange deformation

Saguaro National Park, divided into two regions and surrounded by mountains, was a beautiful time of hiking and finally catching the first blooms of the state’s wildflower on the saguaro cactus’! An interesting fact about this tall old cactus is that its scientific name was given in honor of Andrew Carnegie (Carnegiea gigantea). It takes 75-100 years before one grows its first arm, and those that never do grow an arm are called spears. More arms means more reproduction and fruit. And every once in a great while there is a frill Saguaro whose arms are on top of their head!

saguaro in bloom

I caught the first bloom of the flower in the beginning of April! Gorgeous flowers and then it will turn into a bright red fruit in June which can be harvested or left for the animals! (the red flowers around it are from another tree)

Once more I returned to Ken’s for one last Hollywood shower and laundry stop as well as to celebrate my nephew Austin’s birthday.


Celebrating Austin’s birthday with his friends and family…yummy food and cake! Happy Birthday Austin!

I then headed northward towards Flagstaff via beautiful 89A. Definitely my favorite highway so far! I stopped by Cottonwood again to see Charlie and Stan and see how Charlie’s van/home was doing. It was all fixed and back on the road again.


But interestingly, Cottonwood Walmart had changed their policies within the two weeks I was last there and there is no overnight parking allowed anymore! My van is stealth enough but their vehicles are evidential enough that they are no longer staying their nights there. It is is the goal of each “homeless” van dweller I meet…to discover where they can park their home without having to pay a fee or getting a tap on their window from security.

charlie's van

Charlie’s van is all fixed and ready to go…but has to find a new place to park since Walmart changed their overnight policy. I stayed the night hoping that my minivan was stealth enough!

After crossing Midgely Bridge just north of Sedona, the drive through the 27-mile Oak Creek Canyon in Coconino National Forest began, taking me through red-rock desertscape of Sedona and Slide Rock State Park up to the ponderosa pines of Flagstaff in the shadow of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks. About 8 miles out of Flagstaff was the Oak Creek Overlook which gave a grand overview of the beautiful valley! BigBlue handled the scenic drive like a champ.

midgley bridge

Bridge just north of Sedona along highway 89a called Midgely bridge. Gorgeous beginning to the scenic Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive

After a night in Flagstaff on the eastern side of Humphrey’s peak, I headed to Walnut Canyon National monument to see another beautiful 25-room cliff dwelling by the Sinagua people around 1100-1250ad (contemporaries of Tuzigoot and Montezuma). The 600 foot deep canyon contains Walnut Creek (as well as walnut trees) that flows into the Little Colorado River en route to the Grand Canyon. It seems that the many native American dwellings all seemed to have been evacuated within a hundred or two years from each other, and the reason still remains a mystery.


The overlook towards Walnut Canyon dwellings. They are the dark spots which are the niches and carved out dwellings with the Sinagua people lived 1000 years ago. It would be awfully tough to carry the water up the bluffs to get it home for the family!


Continuing eastward on historic route 66 took me past Meteor Crater (which I visited in 2010…and once was enough!) and Winslow, AZ on my way to the Painted Desert which is part of the Petrified Forest National Park.


On Historic Route 66 on the corner of Winslow Arizona where there was also a commemorative sculpture for those lost in 9/11. It was two beams from the World Trade Center.


The colorful rock formations and hundreds of impressive petrified logs dotted the 28-mile journey southward towards hwy 180 (and gift shops)! Also, along the way was newspaper Rock full of petroglyphs, layered-rock teepees, an old petrified tree bridge, and Blue Mesas (bluish tinted rock to give a wee relief to all the pinks and reds!).


BigBlue behind a colorful (though it doesn’t show up so well in this photo) petrified log out in the middle of the desert. They were strewn all over the place.


At the southern end of the the Petrified Forest 28-mile tour drive are two gift shops who allow travelers to set up camp for however long for free! They even have 30- amp hookup and bathrooms. But one of the fun features was they also had plywood teepees set up where one could sleep! I didn’t give up my comfy van for it, but it was fun to watch the kids giggling and having a good time “living” in a teepee for the night!


Free camping at the southern entrance of the Petrified National Park and that with all the amenities one could want while camping…even a teepee to sleep in!

Just east of the San Francisco Peaks is Sunset Crater Volcano National monument which is a 1,000 foot high symmetrical cinder volcanic cone with a reddish orange hue to it (hence its name!). This critter was active as recently as 900 years ago, leaving lots of ash and lava in the surrounding areas.


BigBlue in front of some black lava beds in the foreground and Sunset Crater in the background. From the west side looking eastwards towards it, it has a sunset colored hue more than it does on this side of it. No one is allowed to climb it so it saved me some energy to just click it from below!


Continuing on 89 north of Sunset Crater through 18 miles of cinder and lava-covered hills is the Wupatki Nationall Monument which are the ruins of the ancient Sinagua people. They community and buildings were probably abandoned due to the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano at the same time period. The homes ranged from one-story stuctures to multi-level high-rises as well as a community center. John Wesley Powell marveled at the well-preserved pueblos!


Wupatki Ruins National Monument with San Francisco peaks in the background. Looked like it was a gorgeous place to live and have community but the eruption of Sunset Volcano 900 years ago seems to have caused them to abandon it.


At this point I had a date with my brother and his family to meet up at Twin Arrows Casino. Boy were we in for a glorious weekend! That will be in the next blog posting!


The old twin arrows turn off….boy have things changed for them…keep an eye for the next post to see the new updated version!



4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by JesusGeorgePaige on May 12, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Deborah you are unforgettable. Your messages & photos remind us of how much we all miss you. And yet how much we must remember we have to share you with others on your trip.


  2. Posted by Sherrie on May 12, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Deb, Wow, love the photos and all the info you have on them. Miss you but keep the blog going. We are living vicariously through you.


  3. Posted by Dan Lein on May 12, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    Your blogs always bring a smile to my face. 🙂


  4. Posted by Deborah Phillips on May 18, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Finally got a chance to catch up with you, Deb. Love, love,love your writing! You have a good eye for capturing fantastic, historical shots. Your photography is wonderful, too. Sorry you got that ticket! The most infuriating thing about it (besides the cost) was the comment about being from out of town. I guess you weren’t in Philadelphia–as there was no thought of “brotherly love”! Keep up your newsy, chatty way and, thanks for sharing! -Deb and Frank


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