We left the Grand Canyon in mid-afternoon and took a different route back towards our base at Flagstaff. You might recall that I love old abandoned buildings so when, somewhere near Cameron, we drove past an abandoned motel and gas station, I had Mr Pict do a U turn so I could go for a quick explore. I don’t think the motel had been abandoned too long ago so real decay had not had time to take hold. However, three of my boys and I had a brief wander around to stretch our legs and have a poke around. We especially loved the artwork on the gas tanks.
Our proper detour on the way back was to our fourth National Park of the vacation. Sunset Crater Volcano is a cinder cone volcano that erupted a little before 1100 AD, which is the most recent volcanic eruption in that plateau. I have been to many an extinct volcano and one active one (Vesuvius) so far but this was my first ever experience of visiting a lava field – albeit one that had solidified 900 years ago. We took the designated trail across part of the Bonito Lava Flow, a trail on the ash at the base of the volcano itself, and it was instantly like being in an alien landscape. The rubbly, black volcanic rock was definitely different from regular rock (can you tell I suck at geology?) and the whole field – somewhat barren and monochrome – was at odds with the surrounding landscape of trees and fertile fields. There were a few ponderosa pines growing and even the odd flower but otherwise it was a pretty desolate landscape and I really rather liked that about it. We had a wonderful time clambering our way across the trail and the younger boys found dozens of lizards which kept them content.
I wanted to press on a bit further along the road to the Wupatki National Monument to see the preserved pueblos built by the Anasazi and Sinagua people. I think, after a full day of looking at landscapes, I was desperate for something to do with anthropology, ethnology, just humans. Mr Pict was the sensible parent this time and suggested that extending our day any further might just lead to a mutiny from the children. He was right. The kids looked hot, grubby, tired, and hungry. I really very much wanted to see the pueblos but reluctantly I agreed to be sensible. We headed back to Flagstaff, had a nice home-cooked dinner, and the boys lazed in the hot tub while we read on the deck.