Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An Opportunity Gained

On June 21st we began our trip home after several weeks of vacation in Utah and Idaho. We have made the trip eight or nine times since moving to Tucson, and we have always made the 850 to 1000 mile trip (depending on whether we stop in Utah or Idaho) in one day. We planned this trip to be the same long, boring drive. However, as we approached Flagstaff, a large forest fire on the surrounding mountains closed Highway 89. Consequently, we were rerouted through the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, we drove 33 miles past the detour road and had to drive back to it. We noticed that the detour road had an electronic sign, but it was turned off--so 66 miles later, we drove through the Grand Canyon.

When it was all said and done, we had added nearly two-hundred miles to our trip! Tired and beat, we got a hotel room in Flagstaff, hoping to get a little rest.

The next morning we decided to visit some of the Indian Ruins in the area--Toozigoot (pronounced two-see-whoodt), Montezuma's Castle, and Montezuma's Well. We headed down the scenic Highway 89A through steep mountain valleys until we finally arrived at the Toozigoot ruins, located on a hilltop near Clarkdale with the meandering Verde River running in the fertile valley below.

Mountains along Highway 89A.

Toozigoot from a distance.

The ruins that remain today attest to a bustling culture of the Sinagua (Spanish for 'without water') society. The dwelling had 77 ground-level rooms, some with multiple stories and was constructed between 1150 and 1400, when, for reasons unknown, the Sinaguas left. At its peak, the dwelling housed a couple hundred people.

From there we made a short drive to Montezuma's Castle, where Sinaguas from the same time period build several dwellings on and along a cliff. Montezuma's castle, located near the top of a cliff and once accessed by a series of ladders, is five-stories high with 20 rooms. A larger structure, measuring six stories high with about 45 rooms, was gutted by a fire hundreds of years ago. Little remains of that structure.

Arifacts left at the site show a trade system that brought items such as shells and parakeets from a distance of several hundred miles.

From Montezuma's Castle, we drove a few miles to Montezuma's Well, a depression in the ground with a 55-foot deep pool of water in the bottom of the bowl. One and a half million gallons come from the spring each day. Additional dwellings line the cliffs that surround the bowl.

Cliff dwellings can be seen near the top of the cliff in this picture.This close-up provides a better view of the cliff dwellings at Montezuma's Well.

The water in the bowl that makes Montezuma's Well flows 150 feet underground and comes out here. This escape keeps the bowl from filling up. The park ranger invited our kids to cool off from the near-100° heat by putting their feet in the cool waters.

The Sinaguas made a mile-long-canal where the water comes out to water their crops. The picturesque canal measures three feet deep and was constructed with primitive tools. I think it would be difficult enough using a modern shovel. I can't imagine making and lining a canal of this size with stones using the tools they used. This picture shows the water flowing under a tree. A sycamore near the outlet is 300 years old.

While we hadn't planned this detour in our trip, it turned out being a great experience. We purchased an annual park pass, so if any friends and family are in the area, you're welcome to join us on a visit to some of the nearby ruins.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Different Angle

Since Gabs demonstrated that she was a very capable hiker on our trip to Picacho Peak a while back, I decided to take her to 'M' Mountain in Malad, Idaho—the small town where I used to go to school.

Since I was going to be gone for a week as a grader for Spanish AP exams, we decided that we would go to Idaho so Debs and the kids could enjoy the time with relatives in my absence. A few days before flying out to Cincinnati, Gabs and I started our trip up the relatively small mountain, enjoying what to us seemed like a hike through some hills in Ireland. After four years in Arizona . . . well you can imagine how green it must have seemed to us.

Gabs and I stopped at the top to look over the valley.

We gathered numerous wildflowers for Debs and Grandma during our hike. Perhaps the most interesting flower was one that looked identical to the red Indian Paintbrush flowers, except it was yellow. Unfortunately, I didn't get it in this picture, it's on the other side of the vase. Has anyone heard of yellow Indian Paintbrush?

This is Malad High School viewed from the 'M'.

As we came down the face of the mountain, we took these pictures.

And finally, as we were walking on the frontage road at the base of the mountain, we saw a couple deer.

Although I had a number of grueling training runs through the surrounding mountains for cross-country when I was in high school, I never made the trip up this particular peak. I enjoyed spending the time with my daughter, and it's always nice looking at things from a different angle and doing worthwhile things that you've never done before. Are there things that you would like to do or places you would like to visit that are close to your home? Are you—like me—the kind of person that hasn't visited many of the wonderful places in your neck of the woods? If so, what are you going to do to start changing that . . . if anything!?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rainbow Bridge

In 1909 two exploring parties went in search of a legendary, natural sandstone bridge in the maze of canyons that are now mostly submerged by Lake Powell. The two parties joined their efforts and found the mammoth bridge on August 14th of that year. The following year, President Taft named the arch, with a height of about 275 feet (almost the length of a football field), a national monument. Since then, thousands of people visit the arch each year--most by boat, although visitors can hike to the arch from a couple of trails starting near Navajo Mountain, but permission must be received from the Navajo Nation, since the trails are on the reservation. Loretta and Heber Black, an aunt and uncle of mine who used to work for years in schools on Indian reservations, used to live on Navajo mountain and made the hike on several occasions.

This year the bridge, located on sacred ground for a number of Native American nations, celebrates its centennial year as a national monument. On May 28th, during our trip to Lake Powell, Warren Rustand took our group through the somewhat narrow canyon leading to Rainbow Bridge. As we went he told us about Miami Vice-like races through the canyons that he has had. We had a great time visiting the place and enjoying the majestic surroundings. Some of the young men and leaders on our trip took some of the pictures included here.

These are the young men that went to Lake Powell with us.

As for what Eric Rustand is doing . . .? You'd have to ask him!

As we left we were treated to a tamed-down Miami Vice race out of the canyon. Warren gave his son, Eric, a head start before chasing him down in the speed boat.

In a part of the canyon where it widened out a little, we took the inside track and passed up the other boat.

Here is the demoralizing view from the other boat as we raced past!