It has been a little over two months since my move to Flagstaff! In that time I have adjusted to a new work schedule, a new sleep schedule, rafted the upper half of the Grand Canyon, been biking in Moab, visited 3 National Monuments and 2 National Parks, and moved houses twice. Not too much blog time in there. So now I am officially recommitting to this project. Let the back-blogging begin!
First up is Picture Canyon: a beautiful, secret spot nestled in the woods behind the Flagstaff mall, wastewater treatment plant, and the Purina dog food factory. For one of the area’s Colorado River Days events, sponsored by the local environmental education organization, I went on a naturalist-led hike to get to know this part of my new world better.
Picture Canyon is absolutely charming. Not only is it green and lush (the wastewater treatment plant sends out a year-long flow of clean water), it was also surprisingly quiet and secluded-feeling for being so close to I-40 and a very industrial part of Flagstaff. The little creek cascades over small waterfalls, collecting into deep pools at the bottom of a narrow canyon. It’s probably only 20 yards apart at it’s widest.
I was even able to spot a new species of bird for me – the acorn woodpecker. Acorn woodpeckers store food for the winter by jamming acorns into holes that they make for them. There was no shortage of standing snags for storage space, and looking across the canyon I could easily spot 4 or 5 woodpeckers moving from tree to tree, in that unmistakable woodpecker flight pattern.
Picture Canyon had even more secrets to reveal. This particular site was home to a group of Sinagua people sometime between 700AD and 1300AD. We were able to see petroglyphs along the canyon walls, and in rock groups farther away from the canyon proper. (Picture Canyon gets it’s name from the wealth of petroglyphs there). Our hike leader also took us to the site of several un-excavated pit houses. Pit houses were dug into the ground as opposed to the more iconic free-standing pueblos. Today the are filled in with 800 years of dirt, awaiting cataloging and exploration by archaeologists. The ground around these houses was littered with ancient pottery shards that were very cool to look at and leave for future hikers to wonder at.