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.


fawndear said...

I remember seeing pictures of Montezuma's castle when I went to school. Nice to know a detour let you see the real thing.

Wow, it's been way to long since I've seen your blog. Love the pictures, the adventures you've had.

Richins Family said...

I love your optimistic attitude about an opportunity gained. Love the pictures and all the information. Makes me want to go and visit. Never been there. I'll be adding it to my list. I love visiting Indian Ruins. Maybe I should wait until the temperatures drop though. Not a big fan of hot weather. It was great seeing you while you were up. Your kids are darling and you are great parents. Hope you recover from your long vacation and trip. Get better soon.