Tonto National Monument Cliff Dwellings


It’s snowing here today, in Ontario, Canada – not the usual weather for this time of year. It’s a perfect day for doing some mind travel, back to the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.

Jim, Karen and I set off in the morning for our final adventure of the season. Our primary destination was to climb to the cliff dwellings in Tonto National Forest, in the Superstition Mountains. It was already noon when we reached the entrance to Monument Park where the caves were located. Unfortunately we hadn’t packed a lunch. We had expected to find a restaurant or at least a snack bar somewhere close by, but there was nothing. The small visitors centre offered only a few types of energy bars at $4.00 a piece and a water fountain. Outside there was a vending machine that provided only pop.

There are two areas of cliff dwellings – the Lower is a half mile hike away, the Upper a mile and a half hike up the mountain. It was the Upper Cliff Dwelling that we wanted to see. Knowing that we would find it difficult to make the climb without some food in our stomachs, we purchased some bars, Jim and Karen got pop and I refilled my water bottle at the fountain before heading to the trail. There is usually a $3.00 fee (good for seven days) requested for the tours and reservations are needed. But, since this day was National Heritage Day, there was a free open house, and self-guided tours were permitted to both the Upper and Lower Dwellings.

At the base of the trail a few native American artisans displayed their craft and demonstrated dance and costumes; some birds and other wildlife were on display.

Native Dance

Native Dance

Young Grey Horned Owl

Elf Owl

Red tailed Hawk

Red tailed Hawk

The day was comfortably warm and breezy. The terrain was rugged. We took our time, stopping often to photograph or just catch our breath. The dwelling looked a very long ways up; however, switchbacks made the climb relatively easy even for those of us who aren’t accustomed to frequent climbing.

Hikers at Tonto Monument

Other hikers up above us

Part way up we were warned by the Park Ranger that it would get very windy the higher we climbed. We made use of the ties on our Tilley hats, and sometimes thought that if the wind had been blowing in the opposite direction, it might have swept us over the edge of the cliff.

enduring the wind

Karen and Jim enduring the wind

It was all worth the effort though.

The views became more and more awesome as we climbed.

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View of the Valley

Views of the Valley from part way up

The soft melody of a flute could be heard in the distance.

In just over an hour we reached the remains of the 40-room Upper Cliff Dwelling. Situated in the northeastern part of the Sonoran Desert, these well-preserved cliff dwellings were occupied during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. There are many theories as to why the Salado people began building here. Protection from the elements is one possibility as the cave is dry even during the worst weather, and receives the full benefit of the morning sun in winter and cooling shade in summer.

We spent a half hour wandering through the eight accessible rooms. Some reinforcement restorations have taken place to allow public visits to continue, but a Park Ranger was there to insure that no one sat or walked on the ancient and now delicate walls. The source of the flute music turned out to be a young native playing softly in the highest of rooms. A feeling of amazement and peace encompassed us as we stood there on the side of the cliff.

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Looking out through a "window"

Looking out through a “window”

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Cliff Dwellings

Upper Level Cliff Dwellings

The hike down was a little quicker than going up. Upon our descent we got back into the car and continued on around the mountains. We stopped to look at Roosevelt Dam.

 

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Roosevelt Dam

Roosevelt Dam

About Roosevelt DamOnce past the dam, the road narrowed, twisted and the pavement disappeared.We held our breath as we hung on the side of cliffs on the now very rough road, and we sighed with relief when we reached pavement once more.

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Rough and Windy Road

We enjoyed dinner at Tortilla Flat, and indulged in one last Prickly Pear ice cream cone before winding our way back down to Mesa and home.

Tortilla Flat

Karen in front of the wall of money

 

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Let’s keep the talk going for Clara Hughes


This was originally posted by my good friend who had the opportunity to interview Clare Hughes when she was in Kingston.

With Humour and Hope

Olympian, Humanitarian and Motivator Clara Hughes is as beautiful and captivating in person as she is on television. Her smile is just so infectious that you cannot help but be charmed. More importantly, her passion shines through. She was a passionate athlete and now she is a passionate advocate for a better mental healthcare system.

On Monday, March 24, I joined more than 500 local residents to welcome Clara to Kingston as she rides 12,000 kilometres around Canada talking about breaking the stigma surrounding mental health. Kingston was Day 10 on the ride, which will end after 110 days on the road, on Canada Day in Ottawa. Before then, Clara and her team will have “rolled in to” 95 communities, large and small, and Clara will have spoken to thousands of Canadians at more than 200 community events. The event in Kingston also featured presentations and discussions by local mental…

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We’d Rather be in Arizona


The motor home is in the driveway; the bike is in the garage. “Will the time until we go back pass as quickly as the time we were there?” Jim asks.

After six days on the road, through cold weather, some rain and very high winds, we arrived back in Peterborough wondering if we would be able to get into our driveway. We’d been kept informed about the terrible winter the area had experienced, and there were still piles of snow when we hit town. Thankfully they were all on the lawns and not in the driveway. Our backyard pool is still a floating ice rink, but today the temperatures are rising. The wind is also howling again, as much as it was when we were “camped” in the parking lot of Sandusky Mall on our last night of our adventure. At least now we are on firm ground and not rocking with the gusts!

As promised, today I begin to fill you in on our last couple of weeks in Arizona.

Two Views of Sedona

During the week of March Break (in Canada) we were thrilled to have Jim’s daughter visit us, but with bicycles and the motorcycle being our only means of transportation, we thought our time would be spent mainly within the resort. However, we gratefully accepted the generous offer of our great neighbour to lend us her car so Karen could accompany us on the completion of a couple more things on our Bucket List. One of these was a drive towards Sedona to see the cliff dwellings in Verde Valley, the most obvious structure being Montezuma’s Castle, part of a larger community. We saw remnants of another eight to ten pueblo rooms. Because of the bountiful resources small farming communities developed in the area between the years 600 to 1100 and the natural formations of the rocky hills lent themselves well to the creation of safe shelter.

Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma’s Castle

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Pueblo Rooms

Other Pueblo Rooms on this hillside

From Verde Valley we continued on to Sedona and the brilliant red rocks that seemed to be formed into castles and temples and a very large bell.

Bell Rock

Bell Rock

Cathedral Rock is the most impressive and is a popular hiking destination.

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock

We decided to climb it.

Cathedral Rock

Still only at the base!

I admit that, about a quarter of the way up when we reached a very smoothly rounded mass with not much to hold onto, I called it quits, while Jim and Karen carried on up another quarter of the way.

Hello Up There!

Hello Up There!

My camera was dangling around my neck, and rather than risk bashing it on rock, I took advantage of my lofty-enough position to capture the surroundings.

Lofty Homes

Lofty Homes on a distant rock

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Vistas

Vistas and vegetation

It was starting to get dark and our stomachs were telling us it was time to eat by the time we all returned to the car, so we retraced our path along the highway until we found a quaint little BBQ place to replenish ourselves for the drive back to Mesa.

When we left Mesa Regal on March 30th for our journey home, we took the detour off I-17 to complete the drive through Sedona.

Driving Through Sedona

Driving Through Sedona

Scenic Highway

Scenic Highway

Driving Through SedonaOn the far side of town the wide road became a beautiful tree lined, but narrow road often edged by salmon coloured cliffs that appeared all too close to the side of the motor home!

A narrower road

A narrower road, the winds were picking up

Close encounters

A little too close for comfort, especially with the high winds

To add to the adventure, a small tree branch brushed the side of our vehicle and soon the awning began to rattle. As soon as we came to a pull-off Jim got out to check it. The wind was so strong that it grabbed the door nearly out of Jim’s hand as he attempted to exit the RV. He discovered that the blow from the tree had dislodged the awning lock and part of the canvas had come unrolled and was flapping in the wind. There was no way that we could battle the winds to get the awning down, but with some effort, Jim managed to get it rolled back up and locked into place using the long armed hook. We then wrapped Velcro straps around the arms to make sure they didn’t come loose again. We carried on as the road became more twisty with several switch-backs, until we were back onto I-17 and then I-40, heading towards Flagstaff. It would have been an exciting trip on the motorcycle. It was a little scary in a large vehicle, but well worth it.

Switch-backs

Yes, that’s where we just were!

Leaving the Warmth of Arizona Behind


The last few weeks in Mesa were so busy, and the internet connection so poor that I didn’t get to write about all the new and wonderful things we saw and did. Now we are on our way home, so I will fill in the other stories later, and complete the trip now.

Winslow Arizona

“Standing on the Corner in Winslow Arizona” is where we were late on the first day of our trip home. After battling high winds most of the day, Jim was ready for a break. It was a Sunday so the streets were nearly empty, but we took pictures of the man “standing on the corner” with his guitar and the “girl in the flatbed Ford,” lines from the popular Eagles tune Take It Easy that put this little town on the map. One shop was open, allowing us to pick up a couple of souvenirs before getting back on the road.

Standing on the Corner

Standing on the Corner

Girl in Flatbed Ford

Girl in Flatbed Ford

Amana Iowa

For the last few days we’ve kept on “truckin’”, partly because the weather has been too cold and wet to do any sightseeing, and partly because we have things we need to take care of at home. But today we did make another stop along the way. Jim had read about the Amana Colonies in Iowa, a group of seven villages that were established on 25,000 acres of land by several hundred True Inspirationalists of Germans, Swiss and Alsatians who fled Europe in 1854 to pursue Religious Freedom. They originally settled near Buffalo New York, but when that area became too crowded they purchased their acreage in the Iowa prairies, near the town of Victor. Since we were passing by the turn off from I-80 that would take us to them, and it was lunch time, we decided to make the ten mile detour.

It was well worth the time. We first stopped into the Schanz Furniture woodworking shop in South Amana, where we viewed the beautifully hand-crafted wooden creations and had a peek at works in progress. The friendly staff equipped us with a map and directions to find the several restaurants in the first and largest village of Amana. What a beautiful, old style village! We enjoyed a home-style lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn before climbing back into the already cold motor home, and getting back onto I-80. We managed to get ourselves to Princeton, Illinois before calling it a day.