Walnut Canyon National Monument
Yesterday, we huddled around a backyard campfire in Southern Illinois wrapped in layers and sipping coffee while chatting with Mike’s parents Ron and Hazel. We are visiting family for an early ThanksChristmas get together before heading back to the Tucson area for the winter. Having skipped only one winter for sunny Tucson, we’ve discovered that we are now watered down versions of once seasoned midwestern winter survivalists. Shivering by that fire, thinking that cold weather is ridiculous, I tried to warm up by taking a mental mosey along some of the warmer paths we have experienced so far. That’s when I realized that I never shared one of our favorite treks, Walnut Island Trail, with you! (Hover over pictures to see captions)
This national monument was definitely a gem and not far from our camping spot near the Grand Canyon. The friendly staff at the visitors center let us know that there are 240 steps along the trail down into the canyon. “You can choose to take them down,” grinned a park service employee, “but you are required to climb them back out!”
Once in the 600 feet deep canyon, the narrow trail moves along a U-shaped bend in Walnut Creek. This large bend wraps around a steep, rocky piece of ground on three sides creating an “island”.
Along the trail visitors can get close to and read about the native adobe dwellings that line the canyon walls. Water carved hallows into the canyon walls in such a way that the natives could build side walls and fronts to their homes, while the canyon provided a roof and floor. It is truly an ancient apartment complex!
It is theorized that a volcanic eruption forced many natives from their homes sending them to the shelter of this canyon. Wondering along the trail it didn’t require much imagination to see natives traversing the many ladders that would have connected one layer of the canyon to another, or women and children foraging through the abundant vegetation along the ledge to gather supplies for survival. The breeze would have carried smoke from cooking fires and chatter from a collection of languages discussing the days affairs as it twisted and curled its way up and out of the canyon. I know it’s cliché, but Walnut Canyon’s Island Trail truly is like taking a step back in time.