A Visit from our Sister

Arizona

Verde Valley and Casa Grande

May 24 through May 26, 2013

Our sister, AnnaMarie, flew in for a whirlwind visit over Memorial Day Weekend.  She flew in on Friday on Allegiant Airways landing at Phoenix Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. This airport is much smaller and less busy than Phoenix International.   I picked her up at the airport at about 8 p.m., and we drove  to a motel located just north of the city.  After a dinner of food and laughter at Denny’s, we headed for bed knowing that we would be getting an early start the next morning.

On Saturday, we were up and on our way to tour Montezuma Castle in the Verde Valley of Arizona.

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Montezuma Castle was built by the Sinagua People who lived in the area from about 1100 to about 1450 AD.   It is located above Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley of Arizona.   The Sinagua built the Castle out of fieldstones that are held together with a mortar of mud and clay.  A fieldstone is a rock that has not been worked or that has been worked only to the extent that it is broken off from a larger piece.  The Sinagua also used logs as support beams and covered the entire structure with three or four inches or mud and clay. 

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The name “Montezuma Castle” was coined erroneously by early white settlers who mistakenly believed that the ruins were associated with the Aztec ruler, Montezuma.  Actually, the Castle was deserted before Montezuma was even born.  President Theodore Roosevelt declared Montezuma Castle a national monument in 1906. 

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The dwellers reached the Castle via a series of ladders that were placed from level to level.  Until the 1950’s, tourists were allowed to climb up to the Castle.  It was closed to visitation due to damage and vandalism, but the sight from down below is awesome in itself.

There were also dwellings built off to the side of the Castle, and below it in the valley floor.

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The remnants of a dwelling on the valley floor

The remnants of a dwelling on the valley floor

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek

After wandering through the visitor center, we headed on down the road to Montezuma’s Well which is located about eleven miles from Montezuma Castle.

Montezuma’s Well is a sinkhole caused by the collapse of an underground limestone cavern filled with water.  More than a million gallons of water a day flow continuously through the well which measures 368 feet across and 55 feet deep.  It is fed by underground springs.  The well empties into Beaver Creek. 

AnnaMarie on the trail to Montezuma's Well.

AnnaMarie on the trail to Montezuma’s Well.

Montezuma's Well

Montezuma’s Well

The Sinagua People built dwellings just under the lip of the well and all around its banks.  They diverted some of the water flowing from the well into miles of canals used to irrigate crops.  Some of these canals are still in use today.

Dwellings just under the lip of the Well.

Dwellings just under the lip of the Well.

We also enjoyed seeing the trees and shrubs alongside the trail.

A picturesque tree

A picturesque tree

AnnaMarie and K.C. at Montezuma's Well

AnnaMarie and K.C. at Montezuma’s Well

More dwellings on the other side of the Well

More dwellings on the other side of the Well

We decided to take the trail that leads down to the level of the water.

AnnaMarie heading down the trail

AnnaMarie heading down the trail

There were many rocks and boulders showing the artistry of nature.

Nature's artistic nature

Nature’s artistic nature

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The People also built dwellings down at the water level.

A dwelling at the level of the water

A dwelling at the level of the water

We appreciated the shade down by the Well.

Ahhhh, shade

Ahhhh, shade

Some ruins show that there were dwellings in the surrounding areas too.

Ruins

Ruins

We walked along the canyon wall to see the canal that the Sinagua had built to divert water from the well to their fields.

Part of the ancient canal

Part of the ancient canal

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As we left the area, we passed the ruins of a different kind of dwelling – called a pit house.  The holes you see are where the tree limbs were sunk into the mud to support the roof and walls.

Remains of a pit house

Remains of a pit house

This is a section of the old canal system that is no longer in use.

Ancient canal

Ancient canal

After seeing Montezuma Castle and Montezuma’s Well, it was only about noon.  We decided we had time to go to Tuzigoot.  Tuzigoot is an ancient pueblo or village that was built on a 120-foot-high ridge in about 1000 AD.   Built by the Sinagua People, Tuzigoot resembles a castle or fort.  It is topped with a two-story watchtower.  Tuzigoot had 77 ground floor rooms and very few doors.  Entry was by ladders through the roof. 

AnnaMarie at Tuzigoot

AnnaMarie at Tuzigoot

A pueblo of many stories and rooms

A pueblo of many stories and rooms

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AnnaMarie walked way down there….I didn’t.  I, of course, needed to stay above to take pictures.

Look for AnnaMarie waving from way down at the bottom.

Look for AnnaMarie waving from way down at the bottom.

Holy smokes.  She's way to hell and gone now (as our Dad would have said).

Holy smokes. She’s way to hell and gone now (as our Dad would have said).

It's a long walk back up.

It’s a long walk back up.

What?!  After making that climb, I have to grind corn too?

What?! After making that climb, I have to grind corn too?

We enjoyed our visit to Tuzigoot.  As we prepared to leave, we learned that the freeway home was blocked due to a truck accident.  We decided to take a drive north through Sedona which turned out to be a rather bad idea.  Given that it was Memorial Day Weekend, Sedona was wall-to-wall traffic.  It took us about an hour just to drive through town and there was no place to park within K.C.’s walking distances.  We drove on through and took the wrong road out of Sedona.  We ended up driving north along Oak Canyon and emerged onto I17 at Flagstaff.  From there, we hightailed it south on I17, arriving at home in Casa Grande at about 8:30 p.m.

Sunday morning, we were up and on our way to see the Casa Grande Ruins.  Since I have posted information on the Casa Grande Ruins several times, I’ll just remind our readers that the ruins were built by the ancient Hohokum People sometime around 1100 to 1200 A.D.  Casa Grande translates to “Big House.”

AnnaMarie at Casa Grande Ruins

AnnaMarie at Casa Grande Ruins

Bob was able to come along on this trip.

Bob was able to come along on this trip.

K.C. and AnnaMarie at Casa Grande Ruins

K.C. and AnnaMarie at Casa Grande Ruins

The Casa Grande Ruins

The Casa Grande Ruins with Bob in the picture

We saw the great horned owl up in the rafters again.

We saw the great horned owl up in the rafters again.

There were many other dwellins and a ball court located in this area also.

There were many other dwellins and a ball court located in this area also.

After spending the morning at the Casa Grande Ruins, AnnaMarie and I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the pool.

On Monday, I drove AnnaMarie back to Mesa to the airport.  She enjoyed an uneventful flight home.  I really enjoyed her visit.  Saguaro cacti-asses will always remind me of AnnaMarie’s visit.

AnnaMarie tiptoes through the cactus

AnnaMarie tiptoes through the cactus

AnnaMarie tries to blend into the environment

AnnaMarie tries to blend into the environment

It was so fun to have my sister here.  I hope she’ll come back soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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