December 31, 2011

12/30/11 – Tonto Natural Bridge SP

The drive to this Arizona state park took us across the Mogollon Ridge, a climb to over 7,000’.  The road was clear, but there was still lots of snow in the forest.  The final section of the road went down a 14% grade(!) into Pine Canyon.  Definitely not camping there in the trailer...

The brochure says it’s the largest travertine bridge in the world.  (I didn’t know what travertine was either, so I looked it up in my Kindle dictionary:  it’s rock that’s built up from mineral deposits from water running over it.)  The ranger told us that people used to bring an old hat and drop it in the water—then come back a year later to see the incrustations built up on it.  Check out the top part of this tree--instant fossilization!

We headed to Waterfall Trail, down really steep uneven stairs to a platform by a misty waterfall cave, where moss & lichens are growing on the rocks.  
There's a pretty good view of the north side of the bridge.  I think some of the travertine formations look like cave decorations that just happen to be outside instead of underground. 

There are 2 other viewpoints on the north side of the bridge, one on each side of Pine Creek.  They’re cleverly named Viewpoint #1 and Viewpoint #2.
Then we walked over to Viewpoints #3 and #4, which are practically on top of the bridge.  From there you could see the footbridge across the creek below.   You can also look down through a grid to the bottom of the bridge (there's a rainbow from the waterfall spray).
Gowan Trail takes you down to an Observation Deck where you can see through the tunnel under the bridge, and another waterfall coming over the top.  They won’t let you go down onto the rocks by the creek this time of year because of ice.  No playing in the creek in the summer either—one of the minerals that leech out of the water is arsenic—just wading in the water can make you sick! 
There used to be another trail down until an earthquake fractured some of the rocks holding the stairs in 2004.  Somehow I don't think of Arizona as earthquake country. 

Click here to see more pictures of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

December 28, 2011

12/17/11 – V Bar V HS

The V Bar V Heritage Site is in the Coconino National Forest, so it’s maintained by the USDA Forest Service; it’s run by volunteers and only open 3 days a week.   (I think Coconino sounds like a drink that ought to be sold at Starbucks, don’t you?)  V Bar V is the name of an old ranch where the largest petroglyph rock art left by the Sinagua in the Verde Valley is located. 

Ranch house is gone—this is all that’s left.
The volunteer interpreter showed us how two rocks on the wall are lined up so that their shade highlights symbols for corn.  There's a lot of other cool symbols on this particular rock too.
This sun lines up at the bottom of this slot on the Winter Solstice, and the way it lines up on some rocks that are jutting out of the cliff told the Sinagua when to plant their crops--sort of the Farmer's Almanac of the 10th century.
Some of the symbols are pretty obvious.  A circle in a circle in a circle is the sun…  I have no idea what the squares are.
This thing that looks like a deer is (guess what!) a deer.  This thing that looks like a coyote riding on a deer is supposedly a mountain lion attacking a deer.  And the ones I think are frogs are probably turtles.  The birds might be herons or cranes I (I’m thinking maybe flamingos—check out that bill!)

Apparently petroglyph identification isn’t an exact science, so feel free to use your imagination too.

December 12, 2011

12/8/11 - Red Rock State Park

There are 27 state parks in Arizona.  Rather than hand over cash for entry fees every time we wanted to visit, we bought an annual pass.  (I told George it could be my Christmas present…well, it can be, but I’m sure Santa will bring me something else too.)
Red Rock State Park is just outside Sedona, AZ, with all these wonderful RED ROCKS!
Out on the trail, we crossed Oak Creek at the Black Hawk Crossing.  I really prefer bridges with handrails…
I think this looks like a prickly pear caterpillar.  (FYI:  prickly pear stickers are hard to get out.  Apparently I'm supposed to carry tweezers on hikes in the desert.)
We squiggled back and forth on the switchbacks on Eagle’s Nest Trail to the overlook.  There's a nice view of Cathedral Rock from there.
A few more zigzags on the downhill, then along the park boundary to loop back.  The trails are really well marked.
We saw the House of Apache Fire up on the hill—and hadn’t a clue what it was. 
When we got back to the Visitor Center, I asked about the house on the hill.  Turned out it had been the home of Jack & Helen Frye. He was the President of Pan Am during WWII. She lived there after their divorce.  After her death, the land was eventually traded to the state of Arizona.  The ranger said they need $1.2 million to restablize the house.  That's a whole lot of annual passes!

More pictures of Red Rock State Park 

November 30, 2011

11/29/11 – Grand Canyon NP (South Rim)

George & I had visited during our honeymoon in June, 1990, so we already knew what to expect.  It’s the Grand Canyon, and it’s, well….just GRAND!  Actually sometimes it’s grander than other times because sometimes you can hardly see it through the smog.  Sometimes it’s so crowded with bus-loads of tourists and kids on summer vacation that you can’t see it.   I highly recommend November--no smog, no buses, no kids.  Grand views! 
On the other hand, the days are shorter this time of year.  To make the most of our time, the ranger advised us to take the shuttle and suggested we go to Hermit’s Rest. 
There was only 1 other person on the bus to the Hermit’s Rest transfer—major difference from last time!  We got off at Powell Point, then walked the Rim Trail a whole .3 mile to Hopi Point.  Not a lot of exercise this time out.
Yes, I know it’s a big hole in the ground.  But it’s a pretty impressive one, possibly even grandiose.  J 

That really sank in for me when the bus driver said that the rapids on the Colorado River below were a mile long! 
Was the drive worth it?  Sure--it is, after all, the GRAND Canyon. 
Click for more pics of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

November 28, 2011

11/18/11 – Montezuma Well NM

Montezuma Well is actually a part of Montezuma Castle National Monument, but they’re 11 miles apart.  The “visitor center” is just a little trailer with a ranger next to the trail.   
The short trail to the well is paved.  The well is a limestone sink formed by the collapse of a huge underground cavern.  Continuously flowing springs keep it full, and the ancient Sinaguas used it to irrigate their crops.
There are a couple of cliff dwellings.  (There’s supposed to be one across the water too, but I couldn’t find it.   Maybe your imagination is better than mine.)
An even shorter trail leads down a bunch of steps to the Swallet Ruin.  What’s a Swallet Ruin?  It’s a house that was built next to the swallet.  What’s a Swallet?  That’s the opening where the stream disappears underground.  (This concludes the educational portion of our program.)

There’s another really short trail to the well outlet and the Sinagua irrigation channel, but be sure to stay on the trail!  
Can you read that last sign???  It says "Warning!  Falling prickly pear."  George is looking up to see the prickly pear growing on the edge of the cliff.

The trees there are Arizona Sycamore—I love their bark!   The patterns could be used for fabric or maybe a jigsaw puzzle.  (I’ll ask Charlotte to check out the puzzle idea.)
The trail back to the parking lot leads past some pueblo ruins.  (Work harder with your imagination!  I'll bet you think they just look like a pile of rocks.)
On the way out of the park we stopped at the Hohokam pithouse.  All the stuff that looks like a building is really just protection for the floor where the wall posts stood.  (You might need to use your imagination again.)

We sure didn’t get much exercise on this one, except maybe the imaginary kind.