Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Visits to Winslow, Petrified Forest National Park and Walnut Canyon National Monument

No visit to the northeastern quadrant of Arizona is complete without a stop in Winslow. Perhaps best known for its mention in the 1972 Eagles song Take it Easy we just had to stop by to “stand on the corner”!
The town itself is nothing to see. The town is long past its prime with boarded up and run down buildings lining the streets. The highlight of the town really is the one block area around the “Standin' on the Corner Park” which has some nice bars and businesses nearby.
The corner itself is pretty cool with a statue of a man standing next to a lamppost and another of Glen Frey who co-wrote the song along with Jackson Browne.
Glen Frey statue

We had originally planned on driving right through after our photo op but when we heard friends John and Pam were spending a few nights at Homolovi State Park just outside of Winslow we just had to stop by and visit for one night. What a hidden gem this state park is! We would have never known about it had John and Pam not stopped here. There are several archaeological pueblo ruins built sometime between approximately 1260-1400. The incredible thing about these ruins was the amount of  clay pottery shards in the area.

The Brain Trust contemplating life.....

Some of the pottery shards we found

Scattered among the ruins were a variety of lizards sunning themselves on the rocks.

The park also has a very small cemetery containing a handful of grave sites from a Mormon settlement. It was sad to see how many of the sites were of infant children who never made it to their first birthday.

They spelled Illinois a little different back in the day 
Of course Pam wasted no time spoiling Daisy and Dakota who will now look for her at every campground we stop at!
Daisy and Dakota has a new best friend!
The next day we moved on down the road to the Petrified Forest National Park. The Crystal Forest gift shop outside the south entrance of the park offers free dry camping so we set up there before we explored the park.
We had both seen petrified wood before but never a whole forest of petrified wood! Absolutely incredible, whole trees that look like they were frozen in time.

According to park information.....Over 200 million years ago, the logs washed into an ancient river system and were buried quick enough and deep enough by massive amounts of sediment and debris also carried in the water, that oxygen was cut off and decay slowed to a process that would now take centuries.

Minerals, including silica dissolved from volcanic ash, absorbed into the porous wood over hundreds and thousands of years crystallized within the cellular structure, replacing the organic material as it broke down over time. Sometimes crushing or decay left cracks in the logs. Here large jewel-like crystals of clear quartz, purple amethyst, yellow citrine, and smoky quartz formed.
Logs dotted the landscape

A whole log broken into several pieces

The colors were incredible!

It was a little windy!
The Newspaper Rock site within the park contains over 650 petroglyphs dating back 650 to 2,000 years ago.

This one seems a little suspicious to me.....looks like a character from a Mad magazine when I was a kid
 The last leg of this adventure found us driving back through Winslow towards Flagstaff where we found a great boondocking spot ( 35°10'52.78"N 111°29'42.78"W) in the Coconino National Forest just outside the gate to the Walnut Canyon National Monument.

San Francisco peaks in the background

A closer look.....
The Walnut Canyon NM is our second favorite ruin that we have visited in the last week (behind Montezuma's Castle). The Island Trail takes you by 25 dwellings occupied between 1100 and 1250AD . Although only a mile long, the park lists the hike as "strenuous" due to the elevation (~6,700 ft) and the ~350 stairs you are required to descend and ascend during the 1 mile loop. 
Headed down the stairs with the island on the right

Many of the structures were damaged by looters in the early 1900's

Smoke char can still be seen on the ceilings
Getting this close to these dwellings was incredible. You can get a sense of what life might have been back in the day. Even more so as the sounds of crying children echoed off the canyon walls.

There were even more dwellings on the opposite walls of the canyon that you could see from afar as you walked this trail.
Dwellings on the opposite canyon walls

Notice the several layers of dwellings above and below each other.

 By the time we climbed our way back up to the Visitors Center we were huffing and puffing and ready for a few relaxing days on Lake Powell.....stay tuned!!!!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Boondocking and Sightseeing in Cottonwood Arizona

How did they construct this almost 1,000 years ago?

As the temperatures in southern Arizona start climbing into the upper 80’s and low 90’s snowbirders head north in droves. This week we joined the migration to cooler climates. Vowing to slow down and enjoy this journey we reviewed our route to take full advantage of the sights along the way.

As we left Tucson the temperature was 84, by the time we passed through Phoenix it topped out at 94. Not good as we were planning on boondocking off of Bloody Basin Road (34.296318, -112.138756)  south of Camp Verde. One thing I really don’t like is boondocking in heat to the point you cannot sleep at night. Luckily as we climbed the mountains north of Phoenix on I-17 the temps started dropping into the lower 80’s with a nice breeze.

Now one might think boondocking someplace called Bloody Basin would not be a great idea but it was not too bad. Maybe a 6 on a scale of 1-10. Mainly because there was only one spot where we fit and even that was a little rough. That and all the trash people leave in these areas. Why can’t people clean up after themselves?!?!? If not for the trash we would have given it an 8.
The next day we drove a short 45 minutes to the town of Cottonwood where we camped on some free 14 day BLM area on Thousand Trails Road (34.668865 -111.96154). There are several camping areas on the road that are clean and big rig friendly. If you are in the area we would recommend this spot over the Bloody Basin Road area.
The main reason we stopped in this area was to see some of the ancient ruins. We were fascinated by some of these ruins after seeing them in other peoples blogs. When we saw that there were several on our way north we made plans to stop and see several. The first three we stopped and saw were  Tuzigoot, Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Wells.
All three were interesting, some of  these ruins were inhabited dating back to as early as 700AD.  Of the three Montezuma's Castle National Monument was the most impressive. With an entrance fee of $10/person you can walk the short loop near the ruins.

Occupying a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley floor this 20 room 5 story structure was believed to have been built between 1100 and 1300AD. It is fascinating to look at these structures and think that they were constructed almost 1,000 years ago with very primitive tools.

Montezuma Well National Monument (free) is a sink that was formed when the roof of an underground water cavern collapsed creating the lake. Early inhabitants (1050) created irrigation ditches to water their crops.
The well with the ruins in the upper left corner

Another ruin near where the water flows out of the well

The Arizona Sycamore trees here are huge!
Tuzigoot National Monument ($10/person) has 87 ground floor room site along the Verde River built between 1000 – 1400AD. Absolutely incredible!

With the afternoon temperatures reaching into the mid 80’s we walked each of these ruins before noon each day so we weren’t leaving the dogs unattended in the rig during the afternoon heat. One afternoon we took them to Black Canyon Day Use Area. This was our first time we have had Dakota in the water. We were told that she loved water but up to this point we have not let her in as we did not want to deal with a wet dog in the rig. Since it was so warm and she would dry quickly we let her loose and she went absolutely crazy!!!! She ran and jumped into the river like she was one of those dock jumping dogs you see on TV. From that point she swam continuously for almost an hour. Swimming, getting out running around and running back in. She was like a little kid.
We threw the dummy a few times and both Dakota and Daisy would race to it to see who could get to it first. Dakota won most of the time. On one occasion Dakota swam right over Daisy and it took what seemed like several seconds for Daisy to surface again. In actuality it was probably one a second but she popped up like a bobber and continued on after the dummy.

Speaking of Dakota, we had an interesting incident when all four of us woke up the other day. Barb and I woke up to the sound of urumff, urumff, urumff.......When we figured out what it was we all jumped up (Daisy included) just as Dakota started throwing up near Barb's pillow! Luckily she sleeps on a large towel and I was able to scoop up the towel before anything soaked through. Talk about a rude awakening! 
Of course to trip to a large town is complete without checking out the local brewery! That Brewery located in old Cottonwood is very small and quaint. They don't serve any food but had a nice variety of brews. None of them made the top of our favorite brews but it was nice to quench our thirst.

Our goal for this area complete we are headed down the road to check out another place we have had on our list for a couple years. As the song says it should be "such a fine sight to see...."