Monday, August 28, 2006

Sunday 23rd July: Big clouds, big holes and big rocks


20 miles outside Flagstaff, 6000 feet, 98 degrees F
coloured pencil in Moleskine sketchbook 8" x 10"

After breakfast, we travelled on from Gallup, along Interstate-40 and alongside Route 66, crossed over the state border back into Arizona and had a debate about whether we going to go and look at the Petrified Forest or visit cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon. Pressures of time meant we couldn't do both - and in the end we opted for the latter - while keeping an eye out for dead tree rocks along the road side...........

As we approached Flagstaff we saw terrific cloud formations - of a lot less worrying variety than those we had seen the previous Tuesday. I photographed and sketched them in the Moleskine and had a go at trying to match coloured pencils to cloud colours - never an easy exercise. I also started to make a record of temperatures on my sketches - the car's dashboard said it was 98 degrees outside.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is a very big hole. It's 20 miles long, 400 feet deep and a ¼-mile wide and was carved by the Walnut Creek over a period of 60 million years.

It has very steep sides in sandstone and some fascinating geological features - such as what according to the website are "the wind-scoured dunes of an ancient desert." Higher up the walls turn to limestone and contain marine fossils from the sea which appeared later in thegeologicall timeline.

After lathering ourselves with high factor sun cream, we split up. Around 100 people lived here between 1100 and 1250. Gordon and Kathy walked down a very, very long flight of steps to get half way down the canyon and see the houses of the cliff dwellers........and then walked all the way up again.

I got about a third of the way and then realised, judging by the faces of the young and athletic coming back up (they were a bit 'puffed'), that I wouldn't enjoy the climb back up and stopped, sat on a step and sketched (see left). Louise, who has got 'the wise woman' off pat by now, stayed at the top and investigated exhibits.

Leaving the canyon, just before we got to Flagstaff we turned south and headed for Sedona. My goodness, those rocks are BIG and RED! None of my photos really did them justice and it was cloudy overhead so we didn't get the impact of the light on them. I was so close to them I couldn't sketch them at all - if that makes sense. It would have been great to have been able to stop but it had started raining and we still had miles to cover. Here's a link to a site which does show just how impressive Sedona really is.

And here's something else you don't see often. In fact the peacock green McDonalds sign in the centre of Sedona is very much a one-off!

We finally landed in Prescott after a side trip to Jerome which was once called 'the wickedest town in the west' where we think we found a brothel masquerading as an art gallery - which was something we all agreed was a new one on us! Staggering views from Jerome - but one of those - 'you have to be there to see it' ones, impossible to capture on camera - well my camera!

This is one of my favourite shots of the trip - I think it's the neon lights of the theatre and the cars on main street in Prescott against the more subtle but equallystunningy colour of the sunset - behind a great big mesa!

Prescott has the nicest town square and looks like it ought to be doing auditions for films - maybe something inbetween Back to the Future and Close Encounters.

We went to bed with strict instructions from Louise that we had to be up and on the road at the crack of dawn if we were to beat the heat the next day!

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