Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Blue Lady Travels in the Red Lands. She Visits Some Places Where the Ancestors Used to Live in Arizona

Flagstaff claims three national monuments within its radar.
First of all, I had no idea how many places there are where you can spend time checking out ruins of the places that the pre-Columbian people of the Four Corners region built. I know about Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon (where I have not yet been, but I will get there!) But it turns out there are many, many places protected by the federal government, state governments, tribes and sometimes no one at all.

I had never been to any of them until this last trip when I had the chance to visit several. As I said I did not have time for several others, but I'll get back to them one day.

It does look like a castle. An amazing structure. How did they do it?
I stopped first at Montezuma Castle. This place was misnamed by the Spanish conquistadores coming from Mexico. They really had no grasp of the fact that the various people they encountered came from different cultures and groups. To them everyone was Aztec or something like that, and so this amazing structure got named after the former Aztec leader, Montezuma.

Now scholars called the people who lived here the "Sinagua" people, but that too is a Spanish name ... without water. There IS water, however, and the people that lived here found it and used it well. They had irrigation canals and were excellent farmers. Montezuma Well shows this aspect of the culture ... but the entrance on the highway came up too fast for me to be able to notice and turn off and visit it this trip. Next time.

The builders also traded far and wide because there is source for mining salt nearby ... which they did. Salt was as more valuable than gold at the time, and anyone who could supply it, could become very wealthy. (Recall how the present word "salary" is derived from the Latin word for "salt" and that Roman soldiers were said to be paid in salt.) Archeologists had found all kinds of trade goods from huge distances (way down in Mexico in Aztec territory, even)  which were all traded for salt.

The structure of the remaining castle is amazing and inaccessible to the public. Good thing because it's quite fragile now. It's very high up and must be reached by a series of ladders. How on earth it was built is mind blowing. It's five stories tall and contains 20 rooms. It's clearly defensible if that had to be necessary.
I really like the tiny people here.

Now you can sit on benches and just contemplate the wonder of it. There is also a diorama that shows what the interior looks like with tiny little dolls that demonstrate what the people who lived there might have done in their daily life.

It looks like you had to climb down into the building from the roof via ladders and the keep climbing up and down while inside. I wondered how old people managed that. Or maybe there weren't that many old people. Or maybe old people moved out to contemporary retirement villages when they couldn't manage it any more. Or maybe old people just did not develop things like arthritis or fragile bones. Maybe their overall healthy lifestyle kept them able until something like an infection got to them.

Walnut Canyon, view from near the visitor center
Next up was Walnut Canyon, east of Flagstaff. This is a later site also built by the Sinagua people. It is thought that these people eventually became what today we know as the Hopi people. Here the structures are each smaller, more like individual family homes, built into shallow caves dotted around the canyon walls. The visitor information says it is thought that women were the builders, but I don't know how they know that.

This place was protected fairly early in park service history in 1915. It had been plundered for several decades by 19th century pot and souvenir hunters, so the ruined aspects of the place are not necessarily caused by natural forces like wind and rain. Dynamite helped out sometimes.
Postcard photographers have better access to places than I do.
Today you can walk the trail around the canyon rim, doing a bit that goes down and back into the canyon if you want. The trail was a bit too uneven for me to be comfortable walking it alone (plus I was there right at high noon, and there is not any real shade on the trail either) so I just stopped at a couple of the overlooks.
The hole in the sign is like one of the doorways in the structures.

I decided I had time for a detour that day so instead of heading right to my overnight stay in nearby Winslow, I back tracked and went north of Flagstaff to Wupaki and Sunset Crater Volcano. These two places are smallish national monuments within national forest land. There is a loop drive through both. You can begin at either monument, end up at the other , and then get back onto US Highway 89 which will take you back to State Street in Salt Lake City and beyond if you want to.
Here's a place you might like to live in.
Wupaki has pueblo dwellings which are out there on the landscape, not particularly protected by natural features. Here you can actually walk on the structures and explore them up close and personal. They seem to be homes rather than ceremonial spaces.

I enjoyed walking up and inside the dwellings. I really liked the terrace features. I could imagine  sitting out there with some comfy outdoor furniture, enjoying food and drink and taking in the scenery especially in the morning and at sunset. I like to think that the ancestors did something similar, enjoying what they were able to built in such a harsh land.
Lovely view from the house in many directions
By now the day was heading into rush hour. I had gotten a sunburn on the back of my shoulders, and I was just tired. Time now to head for a place to rest. Next stop, Winslow for the B&B and a lovely supper at a great restaurant.

Invite someone over for a nice glass of wine while you watch the sun go down.

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