After being boxed into Page by a weather system for the last couple of days, we finally broke out of the hotel today and headed south. Though our original plans called for going north into Utah, the weather there has been so dicey and their forecast so fraught with winter storm warnings and such, we decided to follow the way of migrating birds and go south.
Warmer weather toward the Equator, right? Well, not exactly. We left Page, which historically has an average of 2 snow days (totaling 3.4") per year (guess the last four days were an aberration) and drove to Flagstaff. At an elevation of 7,000 feet, Flagstaff accumulates an average of 104 inches of snow annually on about 34 days of snow.** Needless to say, we encountered some snow on our journey today.
As usual, the temperature dropped and frozen precipitation increased as we gained elevation making our way south on the plateau. The highest point we reached on what is now signed US-89T (temporary?) was a little over 6,000 feet. By that time, the temperature was at 31° (down from 37° when we left Page), but precipitation had diminished to almost nothing and visibility had improved significantly.
Along that stretch, we were still in the Navajo Nation, but saw only a few isolated homes, no settlements along the entire section from just outside Page until we reached the tiny crossroads labeled The Gap, where the road rejoined US-89. Though we had seen deep snow cover along the roadside at higher elevations, by the time we were back on 89, the shoulders and nearby mesas were snow-free.
In Cameron, we stopped at the historic Cameron Trading Post to track down a letterbox before continuing south to a couple of National Park Service locations—Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano. At the ruins of the Wupatki Pueblo, we saw a multi-level, high-rise structure which once had about 100 rooms. The local area provided materials ideal for the construction of freestanding masonry walls.
|Wupatki Pueblo Ruins|
We experienced our high temp of the day (39°) at the visitor center for this monument. Within 15 minutes, we had climbed some 1,000 feet in elevation, and snow was falling. But there were letterboxes to be found, so we couldn't let any adverse meteorological conditions deter us.
|Searching for the letterbox|
Continuing around the loop road which goes through both NPS sites, we came to Sunset Crater Volcano, which was largely hidden in snow and cloud cover today.
|A valiant effort, but the sun did not break through.|
Tomorrow, we'll move south to Phoenix, where we should encounter some warmer temperatures, and visit the state capitol.
**The last time we drove thorough Flagstaff, in 1995, we got stuck on I-40 for several hours in a snowstorm waiting for the uprighting of two tractor trailers that had jackknifed and overturned.
More Photos from Today
|Black volcanic soil near Sunset Crater Volcano|
|Suspension bridge over Little Colorado River at Cameron|
|Some of the widely varying rock formations roadside along US-89|
|Snow falling near Sunset Volcano|
|That bold spot of blue sky had no chance.|
|Trees wearing snowy decoration|