One Month in Flagstaff, a Photo Journal

About a month ago I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona — a Northern Arizona mountain town of 70,000 residents, nearly a third of whom are Northern Arizona University (NAU) Students. The town is young not only in population but also in age: it was incorporated in 1928, two years after Route 66 started running through it. Old western hotels and Mexican cafes dot Route 66; a part of the historic highway even belongs to the 800-mile, cross-state Arizona Trail.

Legend has it that “Flag” got its name from a band of Bostonian prospectors who passed through (and passed up on!) the area on July 4th, 1876. In honor of Independence Day they crafted a pine flagpole and raised a US flag. Then they left. Or so the story goes. By the 1880’s Flagstaff was a growing railroad town. To this day trains run through downtown, interrupting traffic:


In the old days people came to Flagstaff for work or travel on the Pacific Railroad, which connected Albuquerque to Southern California. These days tourists pass through Flagstaff on their way to Coconino County’s more spectacular children: Sedona to the south or the Grand Canyon to the north. Flagstaff is outshined by its siblings. Which is fine with me.

Upon arriving in Flagstaff my first stop was Buffalo Park, which is a local hub of sorts. After work the park’s trails team with runners, hikers and dog walkers (Flag is a dog-crazy town!):


Not yet acclimated to living at 7,000 feet above see level, I nevertheless immediately biked two thousand feet higher. This first ride (an attempt to mountain bike fifty miles around the San Francisco Peaks) was a spectacular disaster. July’s infamous monsoons rained on me for a solid hour.

Appropriately named “Waterline Road”:


By the time I got to Inner Basin trail, the rain had let up a little, allowing me to enjoy the aspens:


In the weeks that followed I joined biking groups. One ride ended below an ominous statue of NAU’s mascot, Louie the Lumberjack:


While my riding companions and I were sprawled out beneath this menacing figure, I got a call from the Chair of the NAU philosophy department: I would be teaching two sections of Introduction to Philosophy. Louie took mercy on me!

Soon I familiarized myself with the campus. The new Honor’s College is a little like having a liberal arts college inside a state university: on-campus housing, small classes and independent study with an emphasis on interdisciplinary learning and civic engagement.

New student housing for the Honor’s College:


As is the case in many small college towns, student housing is, well, an “issue”. There is not enough of it. Locals are resistant to it. Rents are high. Personally, I have my eyes on a little RV park just outside town, nestled in some pine trees. 🙂 It has my name all over it.

Until relatively recently, NAU was relatively small. In fact, it started as a teacher’s college and, despite being a research university, it still puts a huge emphasis on undergraduate teaching:




Recognizing this principle, we of the Arizona State College faculty dedicate ourselves to maintain the highest standard of professional efficiency in a campus atmosphere of scholarship and friendliness. Furthermore, we feel that within and without the classroom the line of communication between the student and the faculty must be kept open. And the individuality of the student must be preserved.

So, this is what I have to live up to! After all, I would not want to anger Louie the Lumberjack. Did I mention that NAU is known for its School of Forestry? 🙂 It might have something to do with all those trees.

View of Lake Mary Valley from Fisher Point:


Yes, trees. Lots and lots of trees. And clean air.

In addition to biking and trail running with new friends, I am doing a book promo event with a new local independent bookstore, Bright Side Bookshop.


Athletic training has not really been happening, but I have found a great running spot near my roommate’s house. I have a habit of running there at sunset, barefoot. I blame my lack of training on the sun setting too soon. Campbell Mesa:

campbell mesa

More soon!


Author: sarahruthjansen

Sarah Ruth Jansen is an American scholar, philosopher, writer and outdoor adventurer. Between trimesters teaching philosophy in Minnesota Sarah bikepacked the Colorado Trail (Denver to Silverton) in 2014 and completed the cross-country Tour Divide Race in 2015. In 2016 Sarah won the Arizona Trail Race. You may contact Sarah at

2 thoughts on “One Month in Flagstaff, a Photo Journal”

  1. Sarah, so glad to read about your life. I went to school at NAU for one year and then got married and worked up in Flag for a yr. I am sure you will love it. Sonny and I think of you often.


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