Pines on the Moon
Nestled neatly between Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, the Strawberry Crater Wilderness Area and Wupatki National Monument is a unique place. Just twenty-five minutes from downtown Flagstaff on the back side of the San Fransisco Peaks and spread-out directly under the shadow of O'Leary Peak lies O'Leary Basin. Elevation, slope and aspect coalesce here. Juniper trees give way, as if a line was drawn in the landscape, to the mightier ponderosa pines. The tall, orange-barked pines grow among the black cinders; a product of the volcanic cones that form the topography here. Almost a thousand years ago the cones spewed forth layer upon layer of black ash and cinder to give the land it's current moonscape-like character.
The mighty Pondo likes its elbow room.
Looking toward the San Fransisco Peaks.
My father took me here almost ten years ago. It was his favorite place for escaping the snow, ice and crowds that can sometimes make the popular winter trail heads closer to Flagstaff uninviting. I immediately took a liking to the place for many of the same reasons. The cinders drain well (no mud), they are dark in color thus absorb the sun's heat and melt the snow faster and it is far enough from town that only the more adventurous tread this way. The Forest Service roads that criss-cross the spacious landscape offer plenty of running options.
Typical running terrain on the moon.
Zoroaster, my running partner, found the cinder coals were good for warming her belly post run.
It was good to be back running among the pines on the moon.