And the road goes on forever...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Ruinous Day

Despite Marc’s lack of sleep, we say goodbye to Mark & Bobbie after a slow Sunday morning of getting ready to leave our boondocking spot. We plan on heading to Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, just down the road apiece, and also thence north to Cottonwood and the Tuzigoot ruins. Both were built by the Sinagua people in the ancient past; around the 1100-1300 time period. Montezuma’s Castle is a cliff dwelling, much like the much more famous Mesa Verde National Park ruins in Colorado, but on a simpler and smaller scale; it is estimated only 35 people lived here. Although it’s nice to see, it’s not something we were overwhelmed with and it occupied us for a mere 30 minutes. However, this park will forever be etched in my memory as the place where I picked up one of the best deals about growing older: the Golden Age Pass which allows seniors (and up to three people with them) free lifetime access to all national parks, monuments, wildlife and BLM facilities for only the $10 onetime fee. My money will stay at Montezuma’s Castle since whatever park receives the payment gets it for improvements.
We wandered towards Cottonwood, another 15 miles north of Montezuma’s with the idea of settling in for a night of paid camping at Dead Horse State Park. There were no non-electric sites so we ended up with a water and electric pull through site. As an aside, Marc seemed to have difficulty in negotiating the correct loop road to access the pull through spot we had been assigned, which required two entire trips around full circle. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when we returned later in the day from further touring he again picked the wrong loop road which put the Freightliner at the back of the rig instead of the front, requiring yet another tour around the entire one-way loop. As we pulled in I told him if this time he wasn’t correct to let me out; that I was too embarrassed to ride around the loop anymore with him… as if he were showing off the truck and looking like total newbie’s! I finished up by laughing and quipping “You don’t even know how to negotiate a campground!” We stay in one so seldom—if it doesn’t involve dirt roads, ruts, and crossing washes and gullies, he’s lost his touch! 

Early afternoon found us touring Tuzigoot, a larger ruin of approximately 235 people built in late 1300’s on a small hill overlooking the very scenic Verde Valley just east of Clarkdale. Looming over us on the western flank of the Mingus Mountains was a large copper smelter which long ago spewed yellow tailings over this entire area which created a decidedly unhealthy and dusty experience for ruin visitors. Since, the company was required to do cleanup by placing dirt over the tailings and planting native vegetation so there is only a faint trace of yellow left to the soil. Wild burros graze on it today.
Tuzigoot has a small loop trail which allows visitors to circle the ruins, with one section of wide stairways which accesses an interior room, highly reconstructed, and access to the roof which affords 360 degree expansive views. We find it slightly more interesting than Montezuma’s Castle and the views of the countryside are engaging as the smoggy air has finally cleared due to the high winds we’re having.
From the ruins we decide to walk the streets of the charming historical district of Cottonwood, dating from the 1930’s. It is surprisingly filled with many wine tasting establishments, funky shops, and antique stores mixed in with civic offices. Marc can’t help himself from a stop at the candy store where we indulge in a pound of taffy, although it is not the coastal “salt water” kind we are used to. Even Marc is captivated by Larry’s Antiques, which boasts over 2 acres of antiques and seems to fulfill that billing with a mix of various rooms, buildings, nooks and crannies and outdoor areas. I found prices to be quite reasonable and offer up several items which particularly caught my eye.
Our day ends quietly in the campground after I had made a final purchase at a rock store of an additional book I have been wanting , The Gem Trails of Arizona. Although we didn’t plan on any rockhounding this trip and didn’t bring our tools, this reading will supply me with new ideas and locales for future trips. No time soon however—it’s just about time for the rattlesnakes to emerge.