Thursday, October 15, 2015

Exploring The Flagstaff Area

Flagstaff will be our home base for the next couple of weeks.  Our campground has tall ponderosa pines, it is quiet and convenient to many services.  Located on Route 66 and close to downtown Flagstaff, it's also centrally located to many of the places we are interested in exploring.  One of the first places we wanted to check out was the 
and the 
Both Monuments have very interesting and informative Visitor Centers.
When you enter the Sunset Crater National Monument, you immediately notice the dormant volcano.  It is estimated the eruption occurred somewhere around 1040.
The barren landscape looks surreal with few plants and trees that survive in the harsh rock and soil.  That's Ronnie in the lower, right corner.
The Loop Road, through both parks, winds around the lava fields and provides for an interesting drive.
The lava flow came from the base of the volcano.
There are hiking trails and visitors are strongly encouraged to stay on them.  Walking around all those sharp lava rock can be dangerous.

The Loop Road that travels around the dormant volcano also transports you to the Wapatki National Monument.  It's about an18 mile drive through lava fields and dry, desert land. There are some groves of juniper and pinion pines along with low scrub brush.  These Ruins are believed to be the home of "Ancestral Puebloans", ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni and Navajo people.  These puebloans were excellent masons.  Archaeologists estimate these ruins were built around 1100, shortly after the eruption of the nearby volcano.
It is suspected that this ruin could have had as many as 100 rooms.
The pathway around the ruins allows for a good up close view of the rooms and the masonry work.

You can even walk inside some of the rooms.

Interesting how they worked their bricks around that rock.
This ball field was also built by the pueblo people.

Further down the Loop Road one can see more ruins, some of which have not been excavated or explored.  One that is available for public view is the Wukoki Ruin.

You can also walk around and explore the interior of these rooms as well.

This pottery, recently excavated in 2009, is evidence that this area still holds much to be learned about the Ancestral Puebloans.

Another site we were interested in visiting was the Lowell Observatory.  We selected a clear day to visit because your ticket also gets you into the evening telescope viewing activities.  The Lowell Observatory is most noted for the discovery of the planet Pluto.  We learned a lot about this event as well as the exciting news of the New Horizons Space Probe that has just flown by Pluto.  
We were able to see the sun through a specialized telescope.
The Rotunda Museum held many interesting photographs and exhibits.  We found this Michelin Tire, from the Space Shuttle, that was made in Norwood, North Carolina.  Who knew??

This is the Pluto Telescope Dome, built in 1902.
We were allowed to touch and even move the astrograph (a type of telescope employed to exclusively take pictures).  This is the scientific instrument, located in the Pluto Telescope Dome, that was used to photograph Pluto.
Our guide, Emily was very knowledgeable.  She holds a degree in astrophysics.  Here, she is showing us the film plate and where it was placed on the astrograph.  It was here that Pluto was first seen as a dot of light.
The Clark Telescope Dome was built in 1896.
The 119 year old Clark Telescope 

We were fortunate that this restored, historical telescope was available for their evening telescope viewing open house.  Ron and I were able to view a nebula that was 7500 light years away.  The Lowell Observatory had other telescopes out for night viewing too.  We were able to see the planet Saturn and the Andromeda Galaxy.

To the left, Hubble Telescope's
view of Pluto.  To the right,
New Horizon's view of
the planet Pluto.

More later..

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