The iconic formation called Ship Rock sails like a stately clipper ship 1,700 feet above the surrounding desert of northwest New Mexico. It’s the craggy remnant of a volcanic explosion that occurred about 30 million years ago, with long dikes extending from its base.
Nine hundred years ago the eruption of Sunset Crater volcano must have been a brilliant spectacle. Ultimately, nearly 750 square miles of northern Arizona were blanketed in cinders and ash. After the destruction, life slowly returned.
Long before Europeans arrived in the Western Hemisphere, turquoise was an exceptionally prized stone—used in jewelry and masks, for example. But the blue-green mineral doesn’t occur naturally in many of the same places where such artifacts have been found in the Southwest.
“Few countries in the world present so marvelous a variety of scenic features as Arizona,” wrote author George Wharton James almost a century ago. “What a wonderland of wild cactus growth, of solitude, of mystery, (and) of silence it is!”