Walnut Canyon National Monument was a complete surprise to me, I had no expectations plus it became a real challenge to me. I am still out of shape and the idea of descending down to the cliff dwellings below gave me pause but if I was going to see them it had to be done. The 0.9 mile round-trip required a climb of 185 feet via 240 steps. I rose to the challenge which made everything else that came later easier by comparison. The decent was along the stairs on the right and then went around the top of the horseshoe island below.
The people who lived here were known as the Sinagua, a Spanish word meaning "without water", a reference to their ability to live in this dry land. They came here about 800 years ago and stayed for around 100 years. They were farmers and hunter/gatherers. It is not known why they left but it is believed that they were assimilated into Hopi culture.
Willa Cather describing a visit to Walnut Canyon, in Song of the Lark, 1912, wrote, “… a stratum of rock, softer than those above, had been hollowed out by the action of time…the overhanging cliff made a roof two hundred feet thick. The hard stratum was an everlasting floor. Thus the houses stood along in a row, like the building in a city block, or like a barracks.”
I wrote in my own journal, “As I make my way down the island trail I discover how amazing this place is and the ancient people who lived here. The sky is overcast with spots of sun every now and then. Once in a while it rains and I take cover in one of the dwellings or under an overhang.”
“One side is forest and the other high desert. As I stood in one of the dwellings I imagined waving to neighbors or a loved one across the canyon floor. “
“I am so glad I stopped here and now I move on like those who lived here long ago.”