Tag Archives: travel with kids

Sinagua Style Sky-Boxes

Narrow ledges served as both pathways and playgrounds for the Sinagua people during their 100 year stay in Walnut Canyon.  Walking to the neighbors on a starless night would have been quite an adventure as would have been managing a tottering toddler, but their homes, built into the recesses of Walnut Canyon’s cliffs, provided both protection (from the elements, wildlife and enemies) as well as access to essential food and water. From their cave homes, the Sinaguas could monitor and prepare for approaching strangers. Yet directly above them was the flatter land of the canyon rim where they could grow beans, squash and drought-resistant corn and hunt deer. Six hundred feet below, Walnut Creek provided precious water for part of the year. Good water conservation and storage, supplemented by snow melt in the winter allowed the Sinaguas to live in relative comfort in the semi-arid climate.

The cramped cliff residences brought to mind primitive arena style sky-boxes -minus the plush seating and catered meals. Built by the Sinagua women from limestone rocks and gold clay, the walled cave homes were finished with a clay plaster. Situated to insulate, shelter and shade, the rooms had differing purposes. The larger rooms were most likely housing, and the many smaller rooms would have been used for storage. Children probably didn’t need much prompting to “go outside and play” with such cramped living quarters.

Within 100 years of their arrival, the Sinaguas moved on, eventually integrating, it is thought, into the Hopi tribe. Why they left is addressed by theories ranging from the ecological to the religious. What they left behind is more tangible: it is essentially a cliff side memorial to the men, women and children who once made Walnut Canyon their home.

Updated from May 19, 2010.


Flagstaff Things To Do


Missing in the Mangroves

Because the route is generally within view, it’s hard to get lost in a kayak. On a lake, a river or in the ocean —there’s always a landmark or watery path to guide the paddler. While surprise thunderstorms and hail can be problematic (yet another story), to actually lose one’s way seems almost impossible. But it can be done.

When we paddled out from Islamorada last month, we had two destinations. The second one was visible to the northeast under and beyond the Overseas Highway: Indian Key State Park. First however, we planned to explore the extensive mangroves to the southwest of our launch point. Slathered with sunscreen, armed with an old map (the rental shop had run out of the updated ones) and prepared to make a day of it with drinks and a picnic lunch, we launched.

Stingrays, horseshoe crabs and schools of fish danced freely beneath us in clear cyan blue water. Sea birds perched on weathered posts, and mangrove shoots dotted the placid surface. We rechecked the map frequently to be sure we didn’t overshoot the entry points for the water trails and aimed carefully for an orange trail on the furthest western side of the mangrove map.


After a few false turns (which were just as fascinating and enjoyable as the correct ones), we found what had to be our orange trail. It looked a little too easy though. No overhead canopy, no leaning in or ducking down to avoid entanglement with branches and vines. We couldn’t see fish anymore either as the water appeared to have dramatically deepened. The chief navigator (me) looked at the map again and finally deciphered the orange trail to be a blurred sentence: DO NOT ENTER! There were more slurry indecipherable words, but by then as double deck ocean cruisers approached from both sides, abruptly cutting their motors to chug on by our diminutive kayaks, we figured out that we’d wandered into a boat channel. None of the boaters said a word. But we got the message and quickly pulled ourselves back into the twisting mangroves just as the fourth boat cranked up its speed to make up for lost time. Embarrassing? A little. Funny? Uh huh.

Since I had painstakingly aimed for the one place forbidden to us, I’m not sure that we were actually “lost.” It was more like we were missing from the correct path. And since it was all within the same ocean, I’ve simply filed it all as a minor technicality —and a great adventure.

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Into “The Narrows” (Zion NP, Utah)

UTAH: Zion NP; Hiking the Narrows (Virgin River)

“The Narrows” was the perfect plunge into vacation mode (July 2008).

After dropping off luggage, we hopped onto the seasonally mandatory shuttle bus and rode toward its uppermost stop, the Temple of Sinewava. Each curve of the road took us deeper into the intriguing walls of Zion. We craned to see rocks that stretched up like skyscrapers, sipped water from our Camelbaks and constantly nudged one another to “look at that!”

UTAH: Zion NP; Navajo sandstone fills the biggest space amongst Zion’s nine layers of vibrant rock. A shifting of the earth’s crust some 200 million years ago sloshed ocean water over giant sand dunes that rose far above our modern day dunes. The sea minerals cemented the sand grains, transforming those ancient wind-swept dunes into permanent fixtures. Subsequent motions in the crust lifted and tilted the newly-formed rock, draining the sea but leaving rivers behind to further embellish the landscape by carving dramatic canyons and eroding honeycombed crevices and caves.  Hiking “The Narrows” would give us a first-hand glance at erosion in action.  And be a LOT of fun…

UTAH: Zion NP; Hiking

To access “The Narrows,”  we first walked the one-mile “Riverside Trail” to its finish at the chilly Virgin River. After slipping my camera into our dry bag, we began our hike by simply walking into the clear waters of the river.

Absolute exhilaration.

There’s not much better than a river hike on a hot day. You expect to get wet and maybe a little dirty. There’s no need to step over puddles; instead, you aim for them. It’s the perfect kid hike (for the kid in all of us).

UTAH: Zion NP; Hiking

Debra, a part-time employee at the Cliffrose Lodge had thoughtfully provided us with the necessary hiking sticks (her own) to remain upright in the swift current and over the slippery rocks. As we made our way upriver, the canyon walls enclosed us, blocking all direct sunlight and sheltering us from the sweltering heat. Water trickled and occasionally gushed down the sheer walls sustaining hanging gardens of green that clung to the sandstone. The occasional stretches of deeper sandy-bottomed river prompted challenges between Hannah and Matt to achieve full submersion in the chilly water (I made it up to my ear lobes and counted that a success).

UTAH: Zion NP; Reliving

We didn’t make it the whole sixteen miles. Next time…? We met a couple of guys from Georgia at Zion’s backcountry permit window the next morning who planned to do the hike with an overnight.  Sounded like something fun to aim for…

By 8:30 hunger and darkness sent us back to dry land.  Invigorated, covered in wet sand and fully “on vacation…”

From July 2008.

Springdale Things To Do


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