Flagstaff, AZ: Chocolate + Walnut + Cake

The three months of Summer ’22 have flown by. 3,459 miles have ended in Flagstaff, Arizona, just a few hours north of our sticks-n-bricks home. We’re here for three things that all sound mighty delicious: chocolate (falls), walnut (canyon), and (birthday) cake.

CHOCOLATE FALLS

Visiting Chocolate Falls has been a dream of ours since we started traveling. We’ve never had the chance because it has limited viewing possibilities, running only occasionally! It only runs a few times a year after periods of heavy monsoon rain. So we got really lucky to see it!

Basically a massive surge of flowing mud, Chocolate Falls is actually called Grand Falls. It’s located on the Navajo Indian Reservation about 40 miles north of Flagstaff. From the top, it doesn’t actually look like much … just a big muddy puddle.

Creeping a little closer, ooooh it’s getting better now ….!

But swing around to the opposite side of the canyon, and wowza! Now that’s quite a view!

And thennnnn if you hike down into the canyon, you’ll be rewarded with the best possible views EVER!

That’s right, it’s a FFF: Flowing Fondue Fountain!

If you’re planning to go down, wear clothes you don’t care much about, because that foggy mist you see is, well, misty mud! And it will get ev-er-y-where, floating through the air and coating everything nearby! We’re still cleaning splatters off camera lenses and sunglasses and water bottles and sneakers and backpacks!

The easiest way to find out if it’s a good time to visit Chocolate Falls is to call the tribe nearest to this area, the Leupp Chapter House, at 928-686-3227. They can advise about current Grand Falls and road conditions. The majority of the route is paved, but the last 8 miles are washboard gravel. If you get the chance to go and the conditions are right, you simply won’t believe your eyes! Check out this video and the power of the falls (speakers on for full effect!).

WALNUT CANYON NATIONAL MONUMENT

Walnut Canyon preserves dwellings sheltered by overhanging cliffs for the Sinagua Native Americans that lived here over 800 years ago.

The canyon builders — WHOM ARCHEOLOGISTS HAVE DETERMINED WERE PROBABLY THE WOMEN (girl power!) — took advantage of natural recesses in the limestone walls. See the little cliff dwellings below? Up to 750 people at a time lived in this area in natural, multi-tiered condos like that.

We were curious why the main trail down (and down .. and down … and down) was called the Island Trail. There are no tiki bars, no grass skirts, no fruity cocktails, after all!

Turns out the Island Trail goes out to a rocky “island” jutting out into the canyon. This takes you on a nice tour around the Island.

Cleverly, they built two sets of houses. One on the sunny side, for cold winters. One on the shady side, for shelter from the hot summer sun! Genius, but not unlike Bill Gates having a mansion in Washington and a horse ranch in Florida.

The majority of activities would take place outside, but rooms were designated for storage, family groups, certain activities, etc. Inter-dwelling doorways, above-door smoke vents, and evidence of a life well lived, way back when, are preserved.

You can see the strong, and ever-changing, wind patterns in the rocks. Every swirl going a different direction is from the effects of long-term winds passing through Walnut Canyon. The current winds mean a surprising number of hawks were swooping and gliding past our heads.

Now, if you’ve been to amazing Native American ruins like Mesa Verde National Park, or Bandelier National Monument, Walnut Canyon definitely cannot compare. That being said, it was a fun and interesting little detour!

Heading to Flagstaff from the East? Be sure to stop off at Meteor Crater! nearly one MILE across, 2.4 miles around the rim, and over 550 feet deep! It is a seriously impressive place to see. Read about it here.

BIRTHDAY CAKE!

My beautiful mom just had a milestone birthday and we all gathered to celebrate. My brother and his wife also returned from their summer RV travels, and our kids/spouses surprised their Gigi by also showing up for the occasion. After all, you don’t turn 80 every day! There are four generations of family in this photo.

That’s Gigi in the front left. Isn’t she a beauty?

Grandson Connor, who is 16 months, had a blast running all over the campground and through the woods and of course Papa and Gran (Philip and I) were tickled that he remembered us, after being on this most recent RV trip for over three months. Don’t you just love his little Happy Camper shirt?

FAT MAN’S LOOP TRAIL

Finally, because chocolate, walnuts and cake have a lot of calories, we did the short but steep “Fat Man’s Loop Trail” right out of the KOA Flagstaff campground.

It’s always surprising to see wildflowers anywhere in Arizona in the summer months, but they have been having lots of monsoon storms, so the trail was surprisingly alive with color and beauty.

This trail joins many others around the country called “Fat Man’s Pass” and we’re trying to hit them all, eventually! Getting stuck between a rock and a hard place can be fun!

We’ll be summarizing the “Best Of” this three-month summer trip in a final wrap-up post soon!

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