Originally published 23 February, 2014
Desert as far as you can see
I'll say this....our campground is very centrally located to the places we're seeing! Most of the places we've been, we had to drive a considerable distance to get to things. Our first stop this morning was about 3 miles from the motor home. The next was about 3 more. The next was about 5. We got to see several things, simply because we didn't have to travel so much.
We started out by going to Montezuma's Castle, which is a national park. It and Montezuma's well have nothing to do with Montezuma. He never came here and had nothing to do with either place. The Spanish thought they were Aztec...thus the name. They were wrong and they're trying to get it renamed to something more appropriate. We had seen the cliff dwellings at Gila in New Mexico and really enjoyed going through the places that the ancient inhabitants lived. We thought the castle would really be cool as it was like an apartment building built into the cliff.
We were excited about exploring it.....paid our 5 bucks each to go in the park.....and found out you can only look at it from a trail below. It was a bit disappointing....kinda like that let down when you paid your money and go in the freak show.......and find out it's not that big a deal. We wandered through and took pictures and read about things. We had read about the place on the net....but everything we read never mentioned that you couldn't actually go in it. If you're considering going...be aware of that. It hasn't allowed visitors actually on the cliffs in the castle since 1951.
Kokopelli at Starbucks!
We leave there and head back towards the interstate, where we go north a couple of miles and take off the interstate to our next stop. Luckily, along the way, there was a Starbucks so we could get lattes. No reason to be uncivilized about this whole thing....
We drive to Motezuma's Well. Everyone said that it's not as impressive and not that big a deal, but it's free so go take a look. I personally liked it much more than the castle. It is a small lake, set down in what looks like a quarry. In the prehistoric desert, this is prime real estate. There were small cliff dwellings in the cliffs around the lake. It's maybe 300 yards square. You can wander the paths down into the well, look at the dwellings up close, and see where the water that bubbles up into the well goes.
Millions of gallons of water a day bubble into the well, and run off the top. It goes through a thin part of the hillside and pops out on the other side. The ancient indians channeled this water to irrigate their fields and help grow food. There are no fish in the well as the water oddly has a very high CO2 content and won't support fish. This doesn't mean there isn't life in the water....as millions of fresh water leaches live under it's surface. Nice. There are ducks in the water too....probably eating the leaches and arthropods.
Because of all the water, down in the well is something seldom seen in these parts......lush green grass. Probably the first I've seen in this state not on a golf course. There's also a little graffiti that they left on the cliffs. When you see the pic of it, you'll understand why.
Water begets green, very rare here.
We hike back out and over the back of the hill where the water off the top of the well exits the channel in the mountain and was routed for the indian's crops. It's nice and cool there and the abundant water has caused some major growth in the trees surrounding the spring. At the exit, in the middle of the desert, are two of the largest Sycamore trees in the state of Arizona. They are hundreds of years old and they are huge......because there's plenty of water.
Laurie really liked both sites as there were extensive signs and information about the plants. The natives knew the plants and how to use them medicinally and for food. Laurie says at that time, the indians were better versed in the medical properties of the plants in their environment than the people in Europe. While there were rituals and such that have no basis in fact and only in faith, there actually was a genuine knowledge in how to use plants to treat diseases. She's pretty smart.
One man's graffitti is another's history
We hike back to the parking lot and head to our next destination, the V bar V ranch. It was an actual working cattle ranch until the 90's, at which time it was either donated to or acquired by the U.S. Forest Service. On a cliff on the ranch is the largest collection of petroglyphs I've ever seen. We parked and walked to the cliff, about a half mile one way.
When we get to the cliff, a docent is going over what everything is and what it means. I go the other direction and sit down on a stump and start studying them. There are hundreds of images and all are supposed to tell a story. A fairly recent study has come up with the idea that it is a calendar related to agriculture. They make some pretty convincing arguments and their logic seems pretty solid. As for the other petroglyphs and their stories.....they're all very quick to say no one knows....and your interpretation is just as valid as anyone elses.
Laurie is intently listening to the discussion and lecture the docent is giving. I am quite happy to sit on the stump and study. I sit there for probably 30 minutes studying them.....and notice that as the light changes, others appear...and the ones you just saw...disappear. It has to do with how the light hits it and how it shadows. It's pretty cool....kinda like looking at a painting and noticing something you didn't see the last time you looked at it.
Our faithful steed
The docent, while not my main focus, was very good. It's a small site and I could hear him even though I wasn't right where he was at. He was quite knowledgeable and explained things well....and was able to answer many questions. It was a lot of information, but presented in a way that wasn't dry and boring, and was able to keep your interest. While Motezuma's Castle is the big draw here...the other sites are in my opinion, better.
Looking off to the horizon
We leave the ranch and instead of turning left back towards the interstate, we get out the topo map and see what's to the right......and that's the direction we head. We take a nice ten mile trip out through the desert, off the beaten path. We stopped a time or two to check things out and take a look at things....just wandering and exploring. We popped out on the main road and a hawk flew in front of us. I told Laurie it was a red tail and we should wait to see what he's up to. He landed on a power line and Laurie took a pic.
We headed back towards the RV, stopping in the "city" of Camp Verde. We saw a store which I took a picture of.....simply due to what it sold. We also went in an antique/tack store and checked out what they were selling. It was not cheap. I guess these were the California prices.
Drive thru liquor and archery store!
Laurie and I were discussing the fact that we had not seen a single javelina this trip...and they're supposed to be everywhere here. We rode from the town, past the casino, and crossed the interstate......where a javelina walked right across the road in front of us. Silly us, wandering out in the boondocks looking for critters. We should have stayed back by the interstate.
End of day hot tubbing!
We ended the evening with a dip in the hot tub. Laurie has few nerve endings and I've always thought she could endure water temperatures that weren't human. She got in the jacuzzi, and I put the camera on the table and started the timer. I ran over and jumped in the hot tub to make the picture. Big mistake. Lobsters are cooked in cooler water. Laurie saw the pic and couldn't quit laughing....demanding I post it on facebook. I did, but under protest.
Tomorrow...we're off to see more stuff! It's supposed to be gorgeous where we're going.....up in red rock country.
Quote of the day: Bill to Laurie as we exited an overprices antique store: "That guy isn't looking for customers. He's looking for victims."
Song of the day: The world ain't slowing down-Ellis Paul
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
Click on any of the boxes below to go to a specific day of our trip!