Whirl Wind AZ National Park Summer Tour!

I get these “itches” where I just can’t sit still and crave the great out doors. This weekend was a prime example. The stars aligned for me and the National Parks had FREE admission to all the parks on Saturday! 🙂

We actually left Friday afternoon. We picked up Jared from work since he was on the way out of town. The kids and I packed up the car and hit the open road! 🙂

Our first stop was Montezuma’s Castle in Camp Verde. Saturday was the fee free day, but we ended up getting in free here as well since we showed up 30 min. before closing and they had already shut down their cash registers!! Hooray for FREEEE! 😀

I’m amazed at how they lived in the cliffs like this. It must have been a very difficult life. The Sinagua (meaning without water) Indians lived here in the 1100’s CE (Common Era). It was originally thought to house Aztec, hence the name Montezuma Castle after the Aztec Emperor. However, that was not the case.

We really did decide last minute to take this trip. After we left Montezuma’s Castle we headed up to Flagstaff for dinner and to find a place to sleep. I didn’t reserve anything! We must have called 15 hotels to check for an availability for a room and they were all BOOKED! We finally found a Travelodge a little bit out of town that had a room for us. It added to the adventure! 😛

 The next morning we were up bright and early and drove over to Walnut Canyon!


Walnut Canyon was really cool. It’s just east of Flagstaff. It has a pretty major trail that’s a mile long and and descends 185ft. at 7000ft. elevation. It takes about an hour round trip and kicks your butt. We went maybe a quarter of the way and we were pooped! 😛 My foot is still not great and I just physically couldn’t do it. Walker wanted to soooo bad so I think we will go back sometime and try again. Maybe after we’ve all hit the gym more…LOL!

It was really windy in the Canyon and Alayna got cold. Eli was very sweet and let her wear his sweater. Perhaps she needs a bit more practice dressing herself..LOL!

The kids made a new friend, Armondo the Lizard. They really wanted to take him home. 🙂

Soooo many steps!!!

The kids trying out Cliff Dwelling Life. 🙂

 It’s been over 700 years since the Sinagua Indians lived here.

Our next stop was Sunset Crater, just north of Flagstaff.

This volcano erupted roughly 900 years ago. The Sinagua people must have been warned by the warming of the earth and tremors. There is no evidence any one died as a direct result of the eruption.

This is called a squeeze-up. As new gas vents opened, spatter cones sprouted from the ground-like miniatures of the volcano. Partially cooled lava, pushed through the cracks in the crust like toothpaste from a tube. It solidified into wedge-shaped squeeze-ups, grooved from scraping against harder rock. 
You can take an easy/moderate hike pretty close up to the volcano. It was another favorite for everyone. 🙂
As we drove on to our next destination we entered the Painted Desert!

We were telling the kids about the desert and how it got it’s name. However, Alayna just couldn’t wrap her head around it and kept asking if we were going to go into the painting and would we get wet from the paint! LOL! It was pretty cute! 😀

Our next stop was the Wupatki (“tall house” in Hopi) Ruins.

Can you tell the kids were getting tired of posing and really needed some lunch?!? 

This was the coolest ruin we saw. It is also north of Flagstaff. It is the largest pueblo in the area. It was a 100 room structure that had a community room and a ballcourt. They estimate 85-100 Hopi ancestors lived in this pueblo.

The Community Room. They probably had ceremonies and meetings here.

The Ballcourt. This structure may have had multiple functions: a place where special ceremonies were held, where competitive games took place for socialization, or where children played a game with a stick and ball, similar to hockey. After rains, it may have served as a reservoir. 

It also had a Blowhole..or The Breathing Earth. This was so awesome! The blowhole is a crevice in the earth’s crust that creates the impression that it’s capable of breathing. It connects an earth crack, an underground passage formed by earthquake activity. The hole reacts to barometric pressure above ground. When the air is warm and light above, the cold air from below blows out with such force it can make your hair stand on end!
We left the Wupatki Ruins and grabbed some lunch before the troops rebelled. Then we were on our way to the national park we’d all been waiting for…..The Grand Canyon!!!

Jared and I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon since we were kids and our kids have ‘never’ been! It was fun to see it as a family!

Nothing really prepares you for how immense it is. The Canyon is one mile deep and 10 miles from the south rim to the north rim. It really is breath taking! 🙂

There is this new fad called “Planking”. It’s where people go to random places and plank. It’s very weird! Well Eli got the idea he should plank at The Grand Canyon, and we documented it! LOL! He cracks me up!!! Hahahaha!

It was a Whirl Wind tour of several national parks. We had a lot of fun and learned so much about the history and culture of the people who lived here so long ago. We were hoping to get to the Petrified Forest and the Four Corners…but that will have to be another trip. The next Free National Parks Day is in Sept. If we can wait that long we’ll probably go then…if not before! 😀

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