Friday, 16 March 2012

Tonto National Monument

A view of the upper ruins of the cliff dwellers from the trail below
AZ Mistletoe - apparently the berries are edible
Well this very likely will be our last post before heading home in 10 days time.  We've had a wonderful trip and 8 months to the day from leaving home, we will start heading back home -  March 26, 2012.  We are ready and looking forward to being home again.

Many of our stops while in Canada included National Historic sites so it is only fitting that we should close off with a USA National Monument (the USA equivalent to our Ntl. Historic Sites) - namely the Tonto National Monument - the Cliff Dwellers dating back to 1250 - 1400 AD.  The Salado Indians - a blend of other Southwest migratory natives at that time - inhabited this area at that time. 

This was a reserved hike, and we had to be accompanied by a park guide.   Our guide gave us an excellent overview of how the 'people' utilized resources - plants and cactus in the area for their survival.  Only 15 people are allowed on each hike up to the upper cliff dwellings - a 600 foot climb through a riparian area then a dessert area of many switch backs.  Killer bees were in the area but our guide assured us they were just the worker bee variety (non aggressive)- and that they were loading up on water for their hives.  This was a huge leap of faith for Sandra who has had a bee phobia from early childhood.  Well our guide was right - we strolled through the stream bed and ignored the bees and they ignored us!  Whew!

The beginning of our hiking trail in the riparian area

Vines in the riparian area

Sycamore trees in the riparian area.  Apparently the bark of these trees turns an awesome shade of green wen it rains

Wash areas on the trail - our guide told us that one year when they'd had  a big rainfall (a day or so) this was a raging river - with boulders tumbling along in the water.  Amazing!  Your don't want to be caught in these back country washes during a rain storm.

A younger and older saguaro - note the rubs if the  deceased saguaro supporting the old  saguaro!  These Saguaro ribs are very strong and were utilized by the 'people' in the construction of their dwellings.  Saguaro ribs make for an excellent walking stick too.

The Upper Ruins - almost there!

Looking out from    within the ruins - multiple rooms. 

A cistern in one of the rooms that apparently held ~ 100 gallons of water

Food grinding tools - a metate (bowl) and mano (oval rocks)

One of the rooms in the ruins - structures up to 700 years 0ld.  The floor could very likely be a ceiling to a room below.

Roofing structure inside one of the rooms - note the saguaro ribs for strength

Outside view of the ruins

View of Theodore Roosevelt Lake from the upper ruins.  Apparently there are ~ 70 ruin sites in the Tonto basin.  Most have not been restored.  T Roosevelt created the Ntl. Monument in 1906 to protect the historic ruins.  The lake now covers much of what would have been the historic agricultural area of 'the people' at the time this area was inhabited.  It is projected that as the resources to support the' people' were depleted, they likely took to the hills and the cliff dwellings may have been a defensive move for survival.

Starting our hike down!
The pictures can tell the story!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Box Canyon & Martinez Canyon

We are getting into early to mid March now and it is heating up.  We are very aware that the rattlesnakes etc are also coming to life along with the fresh spring foliage and flowers.   We think it is time to come home!

Trail head into Box Canyon and Martinez Canyon - looks pretty easy - just wait!

OK we can handle this

Group photo op

Amazing dessert grasses along the canyon floor

Just to prove that we were there!

Barry blazing a more difficult portion of the trail

Hmmmm - how are we going to do this now?

Thank goodness for one of our hiking leaders literally pulling us up with his hiking pole!

Some of the back country ATV and Jeep trails - you really need back country GPS tracking skills if you are on your own out here!

 A back country off road jump site.  Sadly there was a cross and memorial just below this where a young adult lost his life!

Sharing the trail

More sharing of the trail.  Barry decided ATVing is way too dirty and not for him - Whew!  One thing off his bucket list.  He's still undecided about a jeep!

Queen Valley Golf Course - just down in the village below our RV Park.  A beautiful and very challenging little golf course.  We take carts as the  back 9 is very hilly and long - and challenging!  Our weekly hikes make up for not walking our 18 holes of golf.  Sandra's military golf - left, right, left - means she still gets lots of walking in spite of taking the cart.

Barry Teeing off on the 13th hole on the back 9.  Sandra has donated lots of balls to the golf Gods on this hole!
We took a longer drive to get to this trail head for this hike - closer to the town of Florence.  It is amazing though, as one drives off the highway on some side road that leads up into the hills and voila - there is this amazing setting in any number of canyons for a hike or an ATV or Jeep ride.  We would never have known these sights were if not for our hiking guides.  These two canyons get very crowded with back country adventurers - on foot hikers, horseback riders, ATVers and those in Jeeps (Sandra is nervous that Barry is going to want a Jeep or an ATV!).  We met all of them on this hike.  The pictures will tell the story.

Queen Valley Park Area Hikes

Every Wednesday our hike leaders take us on a different hike and many trail heads are just a short distance from our park.  We still drive - usually over a dessert trail requiring a high wheel clearance and/or 4 wheel drive - to a staging area and then strike out on the specified hike.  We often encounter other back country trekkers - whether on foot, on horseback, on ATV's or in Jeeps.  Lots of recreational opportunities in this area - and the people in our park and in the village proper are certainly a busy and active bunch!

Our hiking group on another trail in the Elephant Butte area.  We enjoyed sharing some of these hikes with friends Mori and Sheilah Stelmaschuk.  They were in our park for about a month before heading off on other adventures.

More Petroglyphs on the Elephant Butte hike.

A glistening Teddy Bear Cholla cactus - looks fuzzy soft - NOT!

One of many Inukshuk trail markers on the Mill Creek Canyon trail - and we needed them - if fact we got lost driving to the trail head and had to turn around and find our group.  We were in target practice area - just East of our Park - and were grateful that there wasn't any target shooting this day!

We shared this hike with some horseback riders

A Grand Daddy of a Saguaro - this cactus does not get it's first arm until it is 80 years old.  this specimen has to be pushing 200 years old or more.  One arm has looped down and is supporting the main plant.

A Cactus Wren nest in a Teddy Bear Cholla cactus

This hike was awesome due to the abundance of dessert blossoms - dessert poppies in bloom!

Yellow dessert poppy with another white flower - not sure of the name

Blooming Survivors!

Dessert Poppies and a Cholla

Dessert Lupine - interesting to compare the size of this lupine with those that grow wild along the roadside in PEI - and which can be close to 4 feet tall or more!

Coming down the Mill Creek Canyon trail - and here was this incredible freshly leafed out tree - the contrast was so neat!
More pictures!

Peralta Trailhead Hike etc.

To date we have logged around 32,000 km on the truck (Big Blue)!  And Barry has driven most of it.  Needless to say it has been very pleasant to just sit still here in one spot for the last two months. We've enjoyed a number of Park sponsored entertainment venues plus attractions generally in the valley - and of course golfing on a variety of courses in the area.  Our calendar is full to overflowing every week so I guess it is not fair to say 'relaxing' - but different and a nice break from all that driving / packing up and moving on.

Our park has a very active hiking group - something we've been wanting to do - but reluctant to do it on our own - as it is very easy to get lost in these hills.  We joined the hiking group and every hike has a leader (with GPS etc) and a tail gunner - all of whom know the area well. We are a close drive to many trail heads and a lot of trails very near to our park.  So far we have not hiked the same trail twice. The most spectacular hike was the Peralta Trail up to a summit where we had a great view of Weavers Needle.  The trail was steep with many switch backs and large boulders in places that we had to climb up and over or around.  Sandra's short wheel base creates a bit of a challenge - but we managed.  The views were spectacular.  This is likely the Signature Hike in the Superstition Mnts.

Besides our group hikes every Wed. we've taken advantage of other area attractions - specifically the Renaissance Festival and the Arizona Opry.  The Festival is very entertaining - the workers are all dressed in period costume as are many of the attendees.  Many damsels were cinched tightly into corsets with plunging overflowing necklines much to Barry's viewing pleasure!  :)  The Festival is a bit like the Fringe in that there are numerous entertainment venues - some better than others.  We spent a full day there strolling around and soaking up the ambiance.

The Opry is a must see for us every year - as they have new shows each season.  It is a dinner (they serve a hot meal to over 500 people in less than a half hour) followed by an excellent 2 hours of musical entertainment by a variety of artists.  Excellent value for the money - only $32 a person.

Signature Hike

The gentle beginning of the hike.  We call trail portions like this a 'highway'!

Onward and upward

The Mountains almost look painted against the blue sky!  Our group of hikers is winding along the trail.

Climbing over boulders

Enjoying the Peralta Trail and catching our breath!  Our Diamond Willow walking sticks attract some attention by a few hikers we meet on the trail.  Many people here have walking sticks made from the strong ribs of the Saguaro cactus.

Still climbing and now we're closer to this interesting rock formation.  Wouldn't want to be on this trail if there was a minor tremor!

Weavers Needle - the summit of our hike - about 7.5 km round trip but a 1600 Ft. climb.  More hardy hikers can continue on from this point - for example - the lone tree up on the right - a trail from this point leads up there.  We paused here and had our packed lunch then started our descent in half the time it took to reach this spot!

The Festival has permanent buildings out in the middle of the dessert just East of Apache Jct.  The Festival runs from mid Feb. to April 1 each year.  Many get caught up in the pageantry - entertaining to just walk around and view all the antics!

Renaissance Festival attendees or workers in period costume - and it was a hot day!  There is amazing traffic grid lock East from Apache Jct. every weekend during the Festival - but they have an amazing system of traffic control and routing in place!

A small selection of horns on the stage of the Opry.  All are ready to played and some are at each performance - honoring previous artists who owned them - such as Al Hirt etc.  The show is a family affair.  The Barleen Twins have carried on the business started by their Father.  Many of the spouses, children and extended family are part of the show - likely a prerequisite to be in this family - musical/singing/performing skills!

A Base Sax that weighs 90 lb. apparently.  There are only 4 in the USA and 14 of these in the world.  This fellow playing the Sax was the lead singer for the Tokens who sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".  He sings this number at every show and every time it gives us goose bumps! 

A Harris Hawk sitting in the tree behind our trailer
The pictures will elaborate!