Pleasant times and Pueblos.

2 Dec

It was inevitable that after a couple of weeks with lots to do and people around us when we were on the road alone again it would all seem very quiet! I think we needed a bit of chill time too to catch up with ourselves. We spent a whole week pottering slowly southwardseventually arriving at Lake Pleasant north of Phoenix.


This is a Maricopa County Park and the camp ground is in a lovely spot high over the reservoir. All around we had a view of the mountains near Black Canyon City to the north . We managed a short hike around the lake and the small trail from the campground to the visitor centre but mainly just enjoyed the view and the sunsets. How lazy are we getting?


With the Thanksgiving holiday week end approaching we booked a site at Dead Horse Ranch State Park…doesn’t sound promising but the reviews were OK! We took interstate 17 north on the afternoon before Thanksgiving joining many others getting away from the city.

The State Park is close to the town of Cottonwood, as we drove through I noticed an Enterprise Car Rental. We recently had a good week end deal from them and as soon as we were settled in the camp ground Robert checked out the rates and booked us a car from Friday until Monday this would give us a great chance to get around the immediate area.

Not too far distant from the State Park, we thought within walking distance, is Tuzigoot National Monument, the remains of houses occupied between 1100 and 1300 by the Sinagua people. Having enquired directions we set off to walk the Marsh Trail from the State Park which would lead us to the National Monument.


We could see the remains, almost like a hill fort, and followed the trail towards it. We came to a viewing platform on the wrong side of the marsh before we realised we had missed a turning, back tracked, crossed through some woodland and came to a barbed wire fence and a gate. The monument was tantalisingly right above us but no proper trail seemed to lead to it. We carefully picked our way through the thorny desert plants and climbed an incline (to the left of the above picture) arriving at the ‘back entrance’ to the park. We quickly made our way to the office and showed our park pass before they thought we were trying to get in for free. The Ranger was able to point out a better way for our return which was easily visible from the vantage point of the visitor centre high above the marsh.

The museum within the visitor centre had some remarkable artefacts found during the excavation of Tuzigoot in the 1930’s, these included fragments of cloth, pottery, beads and jewellery and the tools used to make them. Objects from the daily life of these people, hunter gatherers and farmers, found after archaeologists painstakingly removed many tons of earth from the ruins which had been completely hidden from view.

P1240246We walked around the hill top buildings. We had read in the museum that the higher rooms were used by the elders of the tribe and around 50 people would have lived in this settlement. This was one of around 40 similar settlements in the region and we found it fascinating enough to find out more about the others.

Looking down the individual rooms from the very top over the walls which have been reconstructed.







After we had collected our car Friday we took a ride out towards Prescott on the 89A, we had considered (pre hire car) driving haRVey this way and were thankful we had not. The road twists and turns up a steep hill to the old town of Jerome (more of this later)before winding down an equally steep slope the other side. haRVey would have been fine I am not so sure about the drivers coming towards us, plenty of them hogging the mid line on the road to avoid the edge and drop, I think we may have given them a scare, 36ft x 8ft coming towards them!

Our main reason to drive this way was because I had discovered Peaceful Prairie Alpaca Ranch had an open day….


P1240252 Around 100 alpaca are presently living on the farm, we were able to wander between  the pens observing these lovely creatures. They have such interested expressions…. and are so gentle.




This Mum and month old baby took my eyeP1240264 they are a very dark brown but the shorn fleece is deepest black! We chatted for some time with Wendy their owner who took me into one of the pens so I could get my cuddles. After an afternoon of visitors the alpaca were totally disinterested in me and apart from Luna the shoe lace nibbler, who not only nibbled my laces but my trouser bottoms before starting on my T shirt, I struggled to get a stroke of their beautiful thick fleece. Eventually we departed after buying some lovely fibre for me to spin!

The sun was going down and Jerome was in shadow by the time we got back there, the visitors were thinning so we decided to take a quick stroll to see if we should make a longer visit another day. A chill wind was blowing up the valley but the setting sun illuminated the distant red rock making a warm glow, the far distant snow capped peaks again reminding us it is almost December.


The ranger at Tuzigoot had given us a map and directions to two other ancient sites, one a world heritage site, she felt we would enjoy. 11 miles of bumpy dirt road covered we arrived at Honanki to view the ruins. From a distance the red cliff looks much the same as all the others around, below an overhang of rock however are the ruins of the ancient dwellings of another pueblo village.


Unlike Tuzigoot which has been reconstructed the walls here have had little done to them, the present day Hopi Tribe believes the remains should decay as nature would intend. Many pictographs are visible on the walls along with blackened areas from the cooking fires. As the true meaning of these pictures is unknown it is fun to draw your own conclusion, in one area near a very blackened bit of rock were lots of small animal pictures, I decided this was the menu or a reminder for the cook of what to order from the hunters!


We bumped back along the road and took another dirt road to Polatki, here we had to view the main ruins from a safe distance as recently a crack has formed in the overhanging rock above the dwellings. When, and it could be soon, this rock falls it will destroy the remains, we felt privileged to be able to view them before this happened.


In the grotto area at Palatki we were able to get closer to the pictographs, the more you looked at the rocks the more pictures you could spot. The ranger on duty explained what they thought ‘possibly’ some of the pictures might mean.


Primitive calendars, messages, doodles? who knows? fascinating to observe however.

Sunday morning we drove back up to Jerome, now bathed in sunshine it was much more inviting to wander the streets and small stores of this old copper mining town. Many of its houses are perched precariously on the rock with alarming drop offs for back garden.


P1240275In the 1920’s a population of almost 1500 lived in the town which now makes much of the more unseemly aspects of its boom years. Tourism thrives on the stories of haunted houses and bordello. We were amused by one sign which included our daughters name, even spelled correctly!

Our favourite store had to be the kaleidoscope shop where the customers are encouraged to try out the various forms of kaleidoscope which range in price from $4 to $800 or more. Many are set up on stands for easy viewing of the extremely pretty colours and patterns. We could have spent all day in here but had promised ourselves after lunch we would drive over to Sedona.


We drove out from Cottonwood on the 89A north then headed off for Cornville to pick up the 179 this took us past a Forestry Service red rock park close to  the village of Oak Creek. We stopped to find out a little more. Reading the notice board we could see plenty of hiking trails – we would be back. We then managed to take the wrong turn and miss the centre of Sedona completely only finding the newer retail west side of  town. We were well on our way back to Cottonwood, it seemed Sedona would be a visit on another day!

There was still so much we wanted to do in this area that on Sunday night we decided to extend our car hire and stay an extra day. We drove back to Sedona, this time finding the very commercial centre of the old town, we drove straight through…. we have enough T shirts thank you! It was a few miles along the road, which eventually leads to Flagstaff, before we found a place to turn, here we got out to view Beaver Creek which the road crosses at a deep gorge in the red rocks.


The rest of our day we spent walking the red rocks we had previously found near Oakwood. Following first the Bell Rock loop then onto the Courthouse Trail, we skirted around the huge rocks out into the wilderness area where the noises of the town were hidden from our ears, how wonderful to be so close and yet so far away.


These huge rocks are impressive, not quite Utah but still dramatic.

We had one last place we wished to visit before we completely left the area. Montezuma’s Castle, just off Interstate 17, is reputed to be the best preserved of the villages in northern Arizona.


Unfortunately early settlers raided the artefacts here so the museum contains few of the fascinating objects that we had observed at Tuzigoot. An influx of visitors who arrived when the interstate was opened in the 1950s caused the Park service to close the dwelling fearing it would be destroyed. Now a walkway allows distant views of the spectacular cliff side building. A small diorama also gives an insight into how the village and its buildings were used.


Viewing the time line in the museum at Montezuma’s Castle I had a thought provoking moment. I had reflected on the dwellings and people we had been learning about  thought of them as living  in a very distant part of history. The time line showed things which were happening elsewhere in the world at the same time, Notre Dame Cathedral was built (as too would our own Durham Cathedral) around the same time as these primitive buildings.

Tuesday morning, after 6 nights at Cottonwood we left feeling we should certainly like to return. Maybe in the spring as we wait for the weather to improve further north. We had understood that Cottonwood does not get lots of snow however that evening when we watched the TV weather forecast we realised our understanding may be wrong. A storm system moving in for this week end is threatening to deliver around 12 inches of snow to the higher ground of the northern Arizona mountains…… more investigation required.

One Response to “Pleasant times and Pueblos.”

  1. pamela December 5, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    We’ve got our first snow in Durham this morning, thankfully not 12 feet of it! What an amazing set of photos, such an interesting trip, thanks for sharing!
    pamela x

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