Monday, September 08, 2014

Cottonwood Base

While we have been in the Verde Valley Thousand Trails rv park just outside Cottonwood AZ, we have taken advantage of the clear weather to take a few bike rides.  Most have been short ones around here, i.e. to Cottonwood for Duane's birthday dinner, or to the grocery but we did take a couple of touring rides.  One was to the city of Sedona.  This is a beautiful city surrounded by towering red rock mountains.  The city is well maintained and pretty, even in the residential and business sections.  The first of our rides took us to the old (tourist) section.  We parked on the street and walked up and down the street past the usual galleries, restaurants, and boutiques.  

street art

playable street art

We found the HD boutique store and had a cool soda in a pizza/sandwich place, then hopped the bike for Oak Creek Canyon.  This is a beautiful ride in any kind of vehicle.  The road follows the creek bottom for miles.  There are lots of little camping areas on either side.  At the end of the canyon the road veers left and starts to climb.

 At the top is a large paved area that is part parking lot with a little forest service info center, and a dozen or so booths run by Navajo artists selling their wares.  Below is the road we took to the top.  If you click on the pic and enlarge it you can see four levels of road.

After we cooled off and walked around a bit we rode through upland woodlands and meadows until we reached Flagstaff.

We rode through Flagstaff and picked up I17 to the outskirts of the town of Belmont and the Grand Canyon HD store for a browse.  Duane got a long sleeved tshirt for his birthday.

Back to Flagstaff for lunch.  Flagstaff is about 6900 ft. in altitude.  This is the highest we reached on our rides around here.

Another daylong ride took us to three National Sites.  

This is a fanciful name that stuck.  Actually Montezuma was born long after this cliff dwelling was build and probably never visited it, but the people who named it thought it looked like an Aztec building and the name stuck.

The 'castle' is actually the highest building of a whole complex.  There are hundreds of such dwellings throughout the Verde Valley.  Small structures and later pueblos (villages) rose along major streams. (The three sites we visited are situated along the Verde (Vare-day) River.
The partially restored 'castle' , 100 ft up the cliff face,  the contains 20 rooms on five levels.  The holes in the wall right, center, and left under the 'castle' are post holes that supported roofs and up to five floors of several other multi-room dwellings.  

This is a beautiful site with a nice Visitors' Center/gift shop and a paved loop walk past the ruins, down to a view of the river, around to a shelter used for picnics and ranger talks, and ends at a large diorama showing the interior of the castle.  When the Natives lived here the area between the houses and the river was farmed.

Next stop was a natural spring fed lake.

Water percolates into the limestone Mogollon Rim (in the distance) and flows as an underground stream that narrows into two springs that feed this lake.  Every day the Well is replenished with 1.5 million gallons of new water.  The water flows through a long narrow cave (at water level at the right of the pic) and reappears on the other side.  There is a trail down to the water running along the right side of the lake.

Cliff dwellings just to the left of the pic above.  More ruins appear at water level around the well and directly across from these on the rim.  There is another nice paved trail to these dwellings and down to the river on the other side of the rim.

water level ruins

People must say "I was here".  By law this graffiti is protected because it is over 150 years old.

This is where the water reappears on the other side of the rim.  The natives dug an irrigation channel for it that carried it to their fields.  Unfortunately, the water had high levels of arsenic.  It would have been better to use the river water.

For our last stop we took the scenic, 4 mile gravel road.  Other than a few teeth jarring washboards, the road was pretty decent, even on the bike.  The road joined the paved road that led us toward those hills.

This area was used as a gathering area for native Americans, principally Hopi and Navajo for hundreds of years before it became a cattle ranch and finally a National Heritage site

This is all that is left of the ranch house.  To the right is the small but very nice Visitors' Center.  To the left is the dirt trail that leads about a third mile to the pictographs.  The Forest Service is very protective of this site.  It is gated and locked when not open and only open 4 days a week.  You have to make an effort to reach the place, and probably wouldn't bother if you didn't know what it was.  It is very well kept.  There is a work camping couple and a volunteer couple that man the visitors' center and give talks at the site.

Most of these messages are a mystery.  Some Hopis have explained that the Heron, Scorpion (upper right, look like turtles) bear and other clans left their calling cards.  Some of it is story, usually circular running bottom to top counter clockwise.  Some of it is solar calendar designating planting seasons.  There are no dwellings here.  Apparently this was used as a gathering place only.

Hot but happy we exited our ruins tour and headed for Oak Creek Village, just outside Sedona.  This route was was very scenic.

This is why people visit Sedona--a view wherever you look!

Both Oak Creek Village and Sedona take great care with their buildings and houses so that they don't detract from the view.  Our route took us through this side of Sedona, then on home.

Just outside the park entrance is a packed gravel road to the left.  We took it down the hill to a little vineyard.  The vines are planted on top of the hill in the center and on the right side of the road.  The building is located behind the hill.  It houses a nice restaurant/tasting bar and gift shop.  We looked but didn't buy this trip.

Our tour time is almost over.  Soon we will be heading back to Congress to work camp and spend the winter.  If the weather cooperates, we may get in one more bike ride to one more ruin site.

Stay tuned! 

Louise and Duane