One of the many wonders to anticipate in northern Arizona is the day in late summer when the Verbesina enceliodes, Golden Crownbeard, bursts out in this brilliant vista.
A short, easy Summer loop hike from Snow Bowl Road on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff leads to Alfa Fia Tank.
Arizona’s monsoon rains in the mountains produce a summer crop of mushrooms, toadstools, slime molds and other delights. Here are a few that have appeared already this 2014 season. I don’t know enough about fungi to attempt to identify them for you. Experts can determine if any are safe to eat, but many are deadly poison. Squirrels seem to eat some of them but I don’t know that is an indicator of human tolerance.I think they are fascinating to find.
About 237 million years ago theMoenkopi Formation rocks were deposited in a coastal plain that covered what is now northern Arizona and surrounding states. The plain ended at the shoreline of a sea in Utah. Seasonal stream beds crossing that plain deposited thick sheets of sand. Over millions of years, “another 10,000 feet of Mesozoic sedimentary rocks accumulated.”
All of these sedimentary layers have been warped, twisted and eroded, ending up being uplifted by molten lava between 70 million and 30 million years ago as a huge chunk of thick crust. This was the origin of the Colorado Plateau, a 130000 square-mile block. In time, that molten base began to erupt in the San Francisco volcanic field, creating thousands of cinder cones, long lava flows, the stratovolcano known as San Francisco Mountain, and lava domes like Mount Elden near present day Flagstaff. Volcanic activity continued, with the most recent eruption occurring in AD 1064. At that time, the Sinaguan people found that the loose cinders made a good mulch for growing crops, and they created Wupatki. They used the red Moenkopi sandstone exposed in the area along with Kaibab limestone and black basalt from the volcanic field to build substantial buildings.
Centuries later, when the railroads necessitated the creation of the town of Flagstaff, the buildings were made of wood. However, over the years the citizens learned the same lesson that many cities of the day learned, as fires consumed the town. When reconstructed, the materials of choice were identical to those of the ancients, Moenkopi sandstone, Kaibab Formation limestone and volcanic basalt.
Used copies of the Stone Landmarks are available for purchase at various booksellers. Photos are my own.