FRON­TIER

Sunday Territorian - - FRONTIER -

learn­ing about the lo­cal his­tory and na­ture and tak­ing a pledge to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment. My boys be­come Ju­nior Rangers at Wal­nut Canyon too, 15 min­utes from Flagstaff, which we hike the next day be­side 12th cen­tury an­cient cave dwellings, sketch­ing na­tive cac­tuses and hug­ging gi­ant fir trees.

We also go ski­ing in Flagstaff. Ari­zona Snow­bowl, an eight-lift ski re­sort as good as any you’d find back home, is just 20 min­utes away. Even in a slow snow win­ter, snow­mak­ing does the trick with 2300 ver­ti­cal feet of runs for me and ski school for the kids.

We’re back in town in time to take in the con­stel­la­tions of the north­ern win­ter sky at the Low­ell Ob­ser­va­tory, which they’ve been do­ing here since1894. We spend an awe in­spir­ing evening peer­ing through the orig­i­nal Clark te­le­scope which was used to map the moon for the Apollo pro­gram in the 1960s. Low­ell’s other hum­ble cre­den­tials in­clude dis­cov­er­ing Pluto in 1930 and the rings of Uranus in 1977. The Apollo as­tro­nauts prac­tised driv­ing the moon buggy at nearby Cin­der Lake Crater Field cre­ated by NASA for its moon-like to­pog­ra­phy.

Flagstaff is a Win­ter won­der­land hit­ting peak form at Christ­mas, although it’s ev­i­dent it re­tains its beauty all year ‘round. We wake to squir­rels and wood­peck­ers in the trees out­side our win­dow at The Lit­tle Amer­ica Ho­tel, much to my kids’ de­light. It’s these crit­ters they talk about most in the months since our visit. And the night they jumped aboard The Po­lar Ex­press.

As an­other Christ­mas ap­proaches and those mem­o­ries start to fade, a tiny sil­ver bell sits be­side their beds, and they can still hear its “sweet sound”, proof that they didn’t imag­ine a thing. Sky News Pre­sen­ter and author Jacinta Tynan and her chil­dren stayed as a guest of Flagstaff Con­ven­tion & Vis­i­tors Bureau and Lit­tle Amer­ica Ho­tel

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