Recently friends and I were visiting an archeological site in northern Arizona. There are a few others nearby, but this site is a favorite of mine despite the 273 steps down to then allow us to walk the Island Trail. That hike does give you pause when you realize people who lived here so long ago did hike further down to the river to get water or returned above to farm their land and there was no concrete stairway as available to us today. I have great respect of these people and their success in living on the warm side of the canyon in winter and the cool side in summer. As we walked the Island Trail, walls of rooms and remaining alcoves are seen. With a look across the canyon, many more of the estimated 300 rooms can be seen.
As we walk this trail, it is with respect for the people who lived here. While some moved on and others stayed and died here, these sites continue to remain sacred to Zuni and Navajo people even centuries later because their ancestors had been here. I can understand and respect it all.
Stephen Mather’s name is noted on many historical signs in northern Arizona. Fortunately he had developed and conserved places for future generations to know, understand and respect our ancestors and their lives. As a result, I can visit a place, such as this Walnut Canyon National Monument, and also have the opportunity to learn about ancestral life. I appreciate what I have in my own life even more and know I too must protect what is here for the generations following me.
After walking the Island Trail, 273 steps back up to the visitor center, take time to walk the Rim Trail. Imagine farming at this level, keeping young children safe from the cliff’s edge, protecting your tribe from invaders, and what is involved for daily living when your home is down the cliff! It was with great respect, I looked down from the Island Trail where I had come and across the rim to the visitor center imagining life for these people so long ago!
If you plan to visit Walnut Canyon National Monument in Flagstaff, Arizona, here are a few things to remember. Water is most important whether in a water bottle or water bladder so you have easy access to it. Sunscreen and a hat should be worn since most the trail is in the sun. Bring a camera and take photos when you are standing still. Handrails are not along the majority of the trail. If you are uncomfortable with ledges and edges, always remain on the inside wall. But do not fear because the trail is comfortably wide even for you. This area may be at an altitude new to you so walk slowly down and even more slowly coming back up. It is perfectly fine to stop often, read the informative signs, take in a view, sit at a bench or talk with the volunteers on the trail. Allow your breathing to be more comfortable or give your leg muscles a chance to relax. Respect your needs and take care of yourself. Enjoy your lunch at the picnic area near the Rim Trail. Respect all that is here … that includes the flowers … so everyone who is visiting will see them too! Have a nice visit!