Friday, December 26, 2014

Return To Lonesome Valley, Part 1

Humphreys Peak and the San Francisco Peaks, from the Cones.
I'd been away. Up north, exploring some same old country anew. Which, surprisingly, took me a bit further north up onto the Colorado Plateau. 

I loved where I'd been the past decade. Not that it was easy, not by a long shot. But it was getting easier. More importantly, I was learning some important life lessons. That truism about an old dog can't learn new tricks: that applies to dogs. Sometimes we humans turn out to be smarter. 

Sometimes. But back to the trip at hand.

When one returns to a place as hallowed as Lonesome Valley, one should approach it just right. To barge right in from an Interstate highway at top speed wouldn't be right. Just try it yourself if you don't believe me.

So I preferred my way. Of course, I had the time. I'd made sure to have it, but even if I hadn't I would have figured out a way to pare the route down. Something.

Having driven across southeast Utah, sort of exiting the Canyon Country, across the San Juan River at Mexican Hat. Across the northwest reaches of the Navajo Nation. South on U.S. 89, wishing I could turn right and go back up to Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry. But one thing at a time. 

Approaching Flagstaff, northern Arizona. The small but lofty mountain range called the San Francisco Peaks growing ever closer. 

Then, still way north of Flagstaff, it was time to turn off the highway. A cattle guard with a bright orange newspaper mail box posted there. Across the high plain toward The Cones. The volcanic cinder cones at the very northern fringe of the San Francisco Volcanic Field. 

I love driving across that place. So wild and high and clear sky all around. So I indulged again.
SP Crater volcano, from the Cones on the Babbitt Ranches, north of Flagstaff, Arizona.
 The sexy "black" star of the area is listed on the maps as "SP Crater". It's a huge, massive black cone of cinders that erupted a short time ago, uh, geologically, but long enough to us that we can relax and appreciate it without feeling like we have to be ready to scramble for a high speed escape at any moment.

As always, I savored driving around the crater, and the adjacent ones, all older (wiser?) and doing their best to keep melding into the landscape, vegetation wise. Let that soil sprout more grasses and forbs. Trees, too, eventually. Just look a few miles south to the forested hills and mountains around Flagstaff. 
The Cones, some of them, from the high and still wild Babbitt Ranches land.
Then it was time to continue a few more miles west. Out to 180. But, this time, not south to Flagstaff again. Not yet. Instead, up to Valle, and down 64 to Williams. Then, only then, back down off the Mogollon Rim there. Off the southern edge of the entire Colorado Plateau, in fact.

Back down to Lonesome Valley. And I would pause on the way back down. It seemed only fitting, once I was there.

Stay Tuned.

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© 2014 Stephen J. Krieg

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