Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Grand Canyon Road Trip, The Last Part: October 19 - 25, 2022

At our friend Sue During's suggestion, we took the scenic route from Grand Canyon to Oro Valley stopping at Tonto National Monument to see the cliff dwellings. We walked up to the lower cliff dwellings on a paved, half-mile path that ascends about 350 feet. There is another, farther set of cliff dwellings which require a reservation and a park service guide to get there. 

At least 10,000 years ago hunters and gatherers moved through the Tonto Basin area. With the introduction of agriculture, people began building more permanent structures for their homes. Around 1250 CE more people moved into the valley and hillsides. Some people lived in cliff dwellings built with adobe mud and surrounding rock. Roofs were made from wood as were door lintels. Water was gathered far below from the Salt River.

In stages rooms were added to the lower cliff dwelling alcove. At the last stage of construction as many as 17 households, or 68-119 people may have lived in this alcove.

For some reason by 1450 CE all the people living here had moved on to parts unknown.

Roosevelt Lake created in 1911 with the damming of the Salt River
Our next stop was our friend's home in Oro Valley. We met Sue Durling in 2005 on a rafting trip on the Firth River in the Yukon that ended at the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic Ocean. This was our second visit and it was good to catch up. We stayed two nights, had great meals and wandered around Tucson galleries and gardens during the day. 

Leaving Oro Valley on our way to Ajo (garlic in Spanish) we stopped at Saguaro National Park West. It is a bit of a drive from Oro Valley so our arrival time was late morning.We did some short hikes off the scenic drive and ended our exploration at Signal Hill to see the petroglyphs. To protect them, there is a barrier encompassing the top of the hill. There is also a sign that says "Rattlesnake Area" perhaps to dissuade those who aren't going to let a barrier stop them.  

As a result of the barrier, the best photo can be taken with a long lens from down below Signal Hill. 

Signal Hill Petroglyphs

Up on Signal Hill only a few of the petroglyphs are visible. We were here many years ago, perhaps the last time we visited Sue, and I don't recall the barrier, but so many people won't obey the rules and don't care about the damage they leave behind.

Our next stop was Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument which is right on the US-Mexico border. My car, although all wheel drive, isn't really made for dirt/gravel roads. The ranger said we could drive South Puerto Blanco Drive along the border but couldn't do the loop without a high-clearance vehicle. I found even just driving along the border disconcerting with THE WALL just feet away from the dirt road, but we did. Cell phone coverage was sketchy so this sign wasn't a comfort.

Here the wall is built on US territory and has a one-lane paved road on our side of it. When we were on the dirt road, a border patrol agent/vehicle was sitting on that paved road next to the fence. A few minutes later another border patrol pickup came zipping past my car with a load of migrant men (presumably).

We also came here to see Organ Pipe Cactus of which we didn't see many in the area we could travel.

Organ Pipe Cactus (left) Saguaro Cactus (right)
We stayed the night at the Desert Sonoran Inn in Ajo. Our friend Sue used to live in Ajo many years ago. Ajo is just 43 miles north of the border. It is a nice town trying to remake itself after the closing of the copper mine in 1985. The former Curley Elementary School is now the Desert Sonoran Inn. The rest of the Curley School has been converted to artist live/work spaces.  

Curley School (1919) now Artist Live-Work Spaces
A Spiked Bannister at Curley School
Immaculate Conception Church (1925)
Ajo Federated Church (1926)
Drive-In Restaurant converted to a Laundromat
There is a Saturday Farmers/Art market in the town square where javelinas can sometimes be found grazing the lawn. The present population consists of retired people, business owners, border patrol agents/families, and in 2019-2020 Wall construction workers. There is even a coffee roaster in town.

Our next destination was to visit friends (former neighbors Lee and Elaine) who have relocated to the Yuma area. On the way and at their suggestion, we stopped at the Painted Rock Petroglyph site. There are said to be about 800 petroglyphs on weathered basalt boulders scattered over an outcropping. On some boulders there are so many petroglyphs it's like the people who created them were talking over each other. 

The oldest Petroglyphs in the Western Archaic style of grids, rakes, ladders, and atlatis are attributed to the hunting and gathering culture that lived in this area between 7500 BCE and 1 CE.

Western Archaic Style of Petroglyphs
According to Wikipedia Painted Rock also bears the inscriptions of historic passers-by: "Juan Bautista de Anza passed near here during his 1775-1776 expedition; followed by the Mormon Battalion in the 1840s; the Butterfield Overland Mail; and countless numbers of pioneers. During World War II, General George Patton used this area as headquarters for tank training."

Some inscriptions left by modern visitors
The Gila Style is attributed to a farming culture that lived in the area about 300 BCE and 1450 CE. This style consists of designs of animals, human shapes, plants, circles, zigzags, and insects.

The Gila Style
Lee and Elaine live in the outskirts of Yuma and very close to the Barry M. Goldwater Range. I've seen so many of Elaine's interesting Wall photos on FB that I was hoping to see it myself. One day they graciously took us for a ride in their Side by Side out into the Barry M. Goldwater Range to see THE WALL. As this range is used for military practice, there are a lot of signs encouraging you to stay on the road. 

There is also a distress beacon that advises in both English and Spanish that if you need help to push the button and Border Patrol will arrive in 1 hour. The sign further states: "You cannot walk to safety from this point! You are in Danger of Dying if you do not summon help!"

Looking through the new wall to the old wall (Obama era)
The Old Wall
The New Wall

The new wall looks like a dark ribbon running over mountains and through the desert. It follows the contours of the landscape much the way the Great Wall in China did.

Everything about this two-week road trip was interesting. We saw things we hadn't seen before, we had great photo ops, we learned new stuff, we met up with old friends, and my car did very well.

Next stop: Home

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Grand Canyon Road Trip, South Rim: October 16 - 19, 2022

View of Grand Canyon from the South Rim (Phantom Ranch is within the trees)
The four days we were at the North Rim we usually had hazy skies and barely saw a cloud. That changed yesterday when a storm came our way through the Bright Angel Canyon and creek to where we were standing in the Village on the South Rim. The clouds appeared to be lower than the rim height. The elevation of the South Rim is about 7,000 feet (2133 meters). 

The Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch is visible on the left
By noon most of the rain was gone leaving only clouds behind and it was time to explore. From where we were staying at The Village, we walked east along the Rim Trail and the Geology Timeline.

Fluffy clouds lingered during the balance of our South Rim stay. We continued our walk east along the Rim Trail to Mather Point and the Visitor Center stopping at every viewpoint along the way. We noticed that where viewpoints could be reached via busses/cars there were always many more people. From the Visitor Center we continued east on the shuttle bus to Yaki Point then we shuttled back to the Village. 

Taken from Mather Point looking northwest
View of Cape Royal, Wotan's Throne, and Vishnu's Temple

One evening we took the shuttle bus to Hopi Point to watch the sunset. It didn't disappoint. Great clouds, great shadows, and great colors. 

A glimpse of the Colorado River from Hopi Point

On our last day and for our last hike we took the shuttle bus to the farthest point west to Hermit's Rest and walked back to our hotel. It is about 7 miles from the shuttle bus stop to Hermit's Rest. There is a slight downhill from Hermit's Rest to the El Tovar Lodge. But, we followed our usual pattern of meandering to all the viewpoints and taking photos and by the time we got back to the lodge we had logged in about 10 miles and my legs were achingly tired. We could have gotten on the shuttle bus at some of the viewpoints, but by then we were determined to finish under our own power.

Monument Creek Vista with a bit of the Colorado River
View from near the Village (the red is a small maple)

I didn't investigate whether or not the Village Store actually sells film, but "film" is rarely seen on any sign anywhere. This is where we picked up a few food items for our hiking lunches. We had a curious and persistent guest on one day.

Everything about the Grand Canyon is grand: its vast size, the colors, the shapes, the textures. When I was a kid, we drove through the Grand Canyon but I didn't understand its grandness from a brief stop. I am so glad we made this road trip and were able to spend time on both rims. It is truly a spectacular place.

Next stop: Oro Valley to visit a friend