Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, Painted Desert, and Petrified Forest

Today, we headed out to Sunset Crater.  A Sunset Crater is a cinder cone volcano that erupted about 900 years ago.  

We were excited about finally getting to this park because we were going to be learning about different types of lava.

We were heading to the Lava Flow Trail when we stopped here to check out the lava.

The littles are really getting into taking pictures.  They even take pictures of the same things.

You know Andrew, he has to climb on everything.

We finally made it to Lava Flow Trail.  There was supposed to be a trail guide but the box was empty so we did the best we could.

Here is a cool old tree.

On the trail, there was an Ice Cave.  You couldn't go inside because it is unstable but you could go down to the gate and look inside.  The temperature change was remarkable.  Hot above ground, cold below.

Here is an excellent example of why the National Parks need to be protected.  You can see the differences in these 2 pictures and even to ours that we took.

Some more interesting lava.

This is a piece of petrified wood that Cairn found on the trail.  We left it where we found it after we took the picture.

Here is a little friend we found before we left Sunset Crater.

During our hike, we had this family that was near us, sometimes they were ahead of us and sometimes behind us.  They had 2 young boys and a teenage daughter.  They were very loud and one of the boys dug holes and broke sticks and just generally destructive.  My kids would try to fix his holes.  And Andrew even confronted him when he was climbing on the spatter cone (from above).  The parents didn't seem too concerned and let the kids do whatever they wanted.  I was at the car with Cairn when Dad came running back, "did you see that family that was near us the entire time?"

I said, "No, they just left.  Why?"

Paul had observed them stealing rocks.  The daughter even had a large lava rock that she was struggling to carry.  We hurried everyone into the car and raced to the Visitors Center to see if we could report them and have them stopped.

At the Visitors Center, the intern Ranger didn't care about the theft but another Ranger came out and took all the information we had available.  The kids were relieved that someone else cared.  We probably didn't stop this family from stealing today but we now have a family plan for when we see others hurting our National Parks.

After, we earned our Jr. Ranger badges, we headed to another Park - Walnut Canyon.  This is where the Sinagua people lived and built their homes in the cliffs.  They lived here as recently as the 1200's, between 1125 and 1250   They grew their crops on the rim, collected water from the canyon bottom and built their homes in between.  

We took the Island Trail.

We saw this snake cross our path.  He wasn't interested in us at all, he was looking for his next sunny spot.

The Sinagua added the walls to create their homes.  Generally, the women did the plastering.  They added rooms as the families grew or as they needed more storage room.  It was incredible to look across the canyon and see homes in the sides of the canyon.

We were able to get close to this one.

This is a map of all the cliff homes in the area.  They don't have any idea how many people lived here at one time but there are a lot of dwellings.
After earning our badges at Walnut Canyon, we headed down the road to Painted Desert and Petrified Forest.  We weren't going to be able to earn our badges today but we would at least get to see it.

We drove from the Painted Desert Visitors Center where we picked up our Jr. Ranger books.  We stopped at the Painted Desert Overlooks.

The kids at Painted Desert

I love this picture because they are both in the air.

Look, all the girls are together and looking good.

This is how we found Cairn most of the trip.

We stopped at Puerco Pueblo to see the Puebloan homes and petroglyphs.

We saw this silly crow in the parking lot at Newspaper Rock.  He was very brave and approached everyone.  The funnier part is while doing some research when we came home, lots of people took this same picture of this probably same crow.
We didn't get any pictures at Newspaper Rock because they are hard to see from the overlook.

Some petrified logs are still being discovered as the soil around them erodes and they are exposed.  Then they tumble and break apart.

We made it to the Visitors Center but it was already closed so we just walked the Giant Logs Trail.

Here is Old Faithful.  Did you know that the petrified logs are actually composed of quartz and therefore, hard and brittle.  They tend to break easily when they are under stress.

One of the most interesting facts we learned while here is that the Petrified Forest didn't actually grow here.  This area was a large river and the logs traveled down the river where they probably log jammed in this area and then started the petrifying process.

We left the Petrified Forest and headed toward Gallup, NM where we were spending the night.


  1. I want you to be our travel guide, you guys went to some really interesting and beautiful places.. Looks like you have three young photographers on your hands. Great blog, love that lava. Cappy


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