Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Adrift in the SouthWest Again - Part V
By Monday the 23rd Guitar and I had been at the Cactus Country RV for six days. We were getting antsy to move on. Antsy-ness certainly had nothing to do with the hospitality of our hosts or the RV park. We simply had a long list of "wannas" and needed to work on that list. You can see some of the antsy-ness on my face in the picture above....Note the new "soft" western hat.
Our first "plan" was to go north from Tucson, through Globe and spend the night somewhere around Payson. We were on the road by 8 am and were in Globe around noon. We spent a little time looking in antique stores and taking pictures of old signs. After a quick lunch we headed out for the Tonto National Monument.
I mentioned in my last post that up until this trip I had never seen Saguaro cactus before. Saguaro National Park around Tucson was filled with them but once you got outside the park the habitat changed. The road we took on Tuesday morning Arizona Highway 77 passed through miles and miles of Saguaro terrain. It really gave us that deep SouthWest flavor.
Tonto National Monument, north of Globe and south of Payson, contains a number of ancient cliff dwellings. The only one we had time to inspect was a 1/2 mile hike from the visitor's center. 1/2 mile doesn't sound like much but this hike is almost straight up! The picture above was taken pretty close to the visitors center so you can see what the climb was like. It was very worthwhile however as the scenery was spectacular on this gorgeous spring day. Temps were in the 80's.
We took our time looking at what we could because we had planned on stopping relatively early in the Payson area. As we were driving towards Payson we decided that if we went a little further we could camp on the Mogollon Rim. The Mogollon Rim is an escarpment that runs for hundreds of miles in a NW to SE direction through the central part of Arizona. The idea of camping at the edge of the rim, looking down on the Saguaro forests was too much to resist.
Little did we expect while driving through the cactus forests with temps in the 80's that weather would put a dent in our plans. When we reached the rim which is about 7000 feet in elevation, we found snow....and lots of it. In some places there was at least 4 feet of snow on the side of the road. All the campgrounds were closed of course so we resorted to a backup plan.
The hastily concocted backup plan was to drive through to Winslow, AZ and camp at the Homolovi Ruins State Park. We had two things on our "to do" list for this area but it was getting late so it was all we could do to get to the campground by dark.
As I mentioned the campground was in the Homolovi Ruins State Park. This is a very interesting State Park that was created in 1990. The park protects several ancient pueblos that are sacred to the local Navajo tribes. Neither of the publeos has been excavated so you have to use your imagination to visualize what the pueblos looked like 800 years ago. You did not have to use your imagination to get an idea of the pottery that these ancient people used. The ground was covered with shards. In many areas pieces had been gathered and placed on a stone as a kind of offering to the spirits. We assumed this had been done in ceremonies by the local Navajo people.
While we were at the park we heard that it possibly would close after this year due to budget problems. We felt lucky that we were able to visit this special place while it was still possible to do so.
After touring the park on Wednesday morning we headed for "downtown" Winslow. If you are of my age and are in the Winslow area a must do is to "Stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona"....a classic lyric from the classic song Take it Easy by The Eagles. Even if I didn't want to do this there is no way Guitar would have let me pass this by.
It was pretty clear to both of us that this was one of the few things keeping this small town alive. The only other thing going for Winslow was La Posada Hotel, the last of the great Fred Harvey hotels and a true architectural masterpiece. Guitar and I spent about an hour looking through the gift/jewelry shop and looking around the stunning public rooms in the hotel.
Winslow was the spot where we would turn east and head into New Mexico but I'll leave that part of the story for later...Stay tuned.
Thanks for visiting.