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.

November 22, 2011

11/14/11 – Sedona - Little Horse Trail

Sedona is Red Rock Country, and has become a tourist Mecca.  We drove past all the gift shops and New Age stuff.  (Altho I do want to tell you that if you are so inclined, you can have an aura photo taken, go on a vortex tour, or have a past-life regression.)  We skipped all that, stopped at the Forest Service tourist center for trail info and headed out to the red rocks.

The Little Horse Trail goes up to Chicken Point.  We saw neither horses nor barnyard fowl. 
We did see a lot of young, extremely well-fit (although certifiably insane) people on mountain bikes.  You’d have to be crazy to want to ride a bicycle on this trail.  In some places it was just dirt with loose rocks; in other places it was rocks with more rocks.  Not for me, thank you very much. 
When we got to Chicken Point, there were a bunch of people there who’d ridden up the back way on a Pink Jeep tour.  I thought the jeeps were kinda cute, but I'll bet those folks got bounced around a lot in them.  Imagine what they paid for those bumps and bruises!
On the way back, we detoured to see the Chapel of the Holy Cross. 
I really like this country, and took a lot of pictures.  Here are a few--check out the link at the end for more.

November 18, 2011

11/12/11 – Montezuma Castle NM

Montezuma Castle National Monument is a cliff dwelling, not a castle.  It was built by Sinagua farmers, not Aztec warriors.  Apparently the early settlers didn’t credit the local Indians with the ability to construct a multi-storied building, so they attributed it to Montezuma.  Education can only go so far.
This is another 12th century ruin that was almost destroyed by 20th century tourists.  In order to protect it, President Teddy Roosevelt designated it in 1906 as one of the first four national monuments.  But even after that, tourists were still allowed to climb up inside the building.  Finally in 1951, it was closed to the public because people were still collecting souvenirs.
Now we can only see it from below.  It’s in a cliff alcove about 100’ off the ground.   It’s been “restored” enough that the walls look like they might have in the 1100s when it built. 
There’s another dwelling near the base of the cliff—it’s pretty deteriorated now, but it originally had 6 stories and 45 rooms.  They gave it the extremely romantic name of “Castle A”.
It’s fall.  Beaver Creek glistens in the sunlight, and the sycamores are golden against the bright blue sky.

November 12, 2011

11/8/11 - Tuzigoot NM

Tuzigoot – isn’t this a fun word?  Actually, it’s a made-up word, because they got the real one wrong!  Keep reading and I’ll explain.

Tuzigoot National Monument is in central Arizona, the remains of a pueblo built 1000 years ago by the Singaguas and used for about 400 years.  It was 2 stories tall and had 77 rooms on the lower floor.  They used ladders to climb down into it from the roof.  It’s on top of a ridge so it’s got a great view of the Verde Valley where they grew their crops. 
Since there weren’t any Singaguas alive when some of the first white explorers came through the area , they asked the local Indians what the ruins were called.  The Apaches actually didn’t call them anything, so their guide made up a name using an Apache word that means “crooked water” (think meandering river).  Everybody kind of liked that name, but the real Apache word is pronounced “Two-ze-whoot”.  In typical government bureaucracy form, some clerk messed it up and spelled it with a “g”.  Now it's pronounced “Two-ze-goot”, which doesn’t mean a darned thing. 
We arrived about the same time as a bus load of grade-school kids on a field trip.  Their teachers split them into a couple of groups, and we played do-si-do around them most of the time.
One group came into the museum as we were leaving; the other group was ahead of us going up the hill to the pueblo; then the first bunch came uphill as we were going back down.  We tried to give them lots of leeway, and pretty much tried to stay out of their way as we explored the ruins.  Little boys were walking on the wall lining the trail; little girls were giggling with their friends. 
One of the chaperones apologized to us because we had to move aside so they could head downstairs from the rooftop.  “We don’t care", I told her.  "None of them are going home with us!”  I think she might have wished for the same thing…