Saturday, September 20, 2008

28-08 Show-Low to Payson and Roosevelt Lake Arizona

Arizona High Country, outside of Show-Low AZ. Nice commercial campground. Full hook-ups with small additional charge for 40+ TV channels. Cost $22 I had a discount because I had joined up with an Arizona camping group.

Houston Mesa Campground (Tonto National Forest): $18 per night, dump station available. On the edge of Payson AZ. No TV reception, Verizon cell and air-card excellent.

Roosevelt Lake, Windy Hill Campground. $6 vehicle fee per day. Campgrounds have showers/toilets and water. Many campgrounds along the lake. Each site has a Ramada (shade) over the picnic tables.

Petrified Forest, AZ

Looking at my Road Master Road Atlas, I realized the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest were on my way to my next destination. So of course I took the minor detour off of hwy 40. The painted desert portion was not all that exciting, as the mountains and canyons throughout the west are so dramatic that the painted desert was just another colored landscape.

However, the Petrified Forest had a lot to offer as I drove along this most desolate looking landscape. Just off of hwy 40, along the Petrified Forest route is a wonderful historical marker for the old section of Route 66. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of it so you’ll just have to discover it when you make the journey yourself.

Further on down the road was the 100 room Puerco Pueblo which was inhabited through the 1300-1400‘s. When the Spanish began to explore this area in 1540, there were no Indians. Remember my mentioning the book 1491? In it, the author believes that many of the European diseases spread across the Americas quickly, way before the explorers reached the more remote interiors of America. After all, the Native American Indians had extensive trading routes throughout the Americas. As soon as the first Native Indians contracted the diseases from the Spanish, they quickly spread the diseases themselves throughout the lands. Whole sections of the Americas became “empty” of Indian habitation due to the deadly Spanish and European diseases.

Well enough of that, further on down the road were pull-offs where I was able to view more Petroglyphs. One interesting one where a large bird has a man caught in his large beak.
Finally, reaching the overlooks and Museum and short hiking trails winding through the tons of petrified forests was really neat. Interesting how they were formed. If your interested in learning more, check out their official web site: Just to know that the petrified logs are over 225 million years old, a time when this desert land was once a sub tropical wilderness with some of the earliest dinosaur fossils found along with the petrified forest.

Another site I didn’t stop at and could just kick myself for missing was the historical Painted Desert Inn. At least I saw the wonderful Adobe style architecture from the outside. It of course was on the original Route 66 and has some original murals painted by a local Native Indian.

Just a note: You can purchase petrified logs outside of the park. They have been
collect on lands outside of the protected park. Just don’t take any “samples”
from within the park. It’s tempting, even the smallest samples have the most
beautiful colors of stone that eventually replaced the individual wood cell
structures creating a permanent history of a living thing.
Payson AZ. This is one of those stops along the way where I have no idea what I’ll find. It’s off the main highways in the back country of AZ. It’s called the Rim Country because there is a long geological formation called the Mogollon Rim that runs east/west across the state into part of New Mexico. We’re talking about a 1,000 ft shift upward in land mass and it’s quiet visible. Coming down off of the rim, the temperature has risen about 10 degrees so I’m now in the mid 80’s to 90 degree range and an elevation of 5,000 ft.

The famous author Zane Grey lived in the area and when his cottage burned down of property that was being developed for a planned community, the locals in Payson decided they needed to build a replica of it. So after much wrangling around, they got the money and built the replica next to the Rim Country Museum in town. So if your interested in seeing a cottage that looked like the one Zane Grey lived in, drop on by. Sometimes it just not worth the effort if you know what I mean.

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. An easy drive north and I finally made it to Tonto Natural Bridge. When I was out here a year or so ago, I drove from the other end, taking over an hour to get here only to find it was closed for the day, due to paving the main road leading into the place. I was up and early and got there shortly after they opened the gates. I was the only one there for about an hour. Did a bit of hiking along the canyon trails and down into the viewing area at the bottom of the canyon to see the natural bridge. Great views, a misty waterfall spraying over the bridge, big boulders and quiet pools of water along the creek bed. Well worth the hike down and back up into the canyon.

Here’s a little history. The Apache moved into the area after 1500, replacing the Mogollon, Hohokams and Pueblos who had already moved out of the area. Shortly after their arrival in the area, the Spanish and then the Union Soldiers began to interact with the Indians in the area. The Apache were considered hostile Indians and had to be removed so the settlers and miners could move in. Thousands were killed with only about 50 Apache remaining. They eventually moved back into the area after being herded to a reservation in southern AZ. They became known at Tonto Apache. Tonto meaning “foolish or crazy” for wanting to live so close to the American settlers. By 1972 they were finally given their own reservation (just outside of Payson AZ) of 85 acres for the now 100 Apache. In 1999 they acquired 272 additional acres from the Forest Dept. They have built the Mazatzal Casino and it now provides millions of dollars in revenue for the small Apache tribe and the local economy. One of the few success stories for the Native American Indian.

A couple miles down the road from my campsite, here in the Tonto National Forest, is the Shoofly Ruins. This ancient Pueblo structure, a mix of round houses, oval and rectangular is spread out over a gradual hill. Surrounded by Pinion pines and grasses. I drove over early in the morning and found the site overgrown and deserted. I had a feeling it would be this way. The site had been developed and excavated a number of years ago. Descriptive signs were put up. An asphalt parking lot, a few picnic tables and paths were put in. Then it was all left to go back to nature. I kind of liked it that way. It was almost as if I was discovering it again for the first time. Only low walls that surround the place and the base foundations were visible. I easily found small shards of pottery lying on the surface of the ground next to the stone walls and between the grasses overgrowing everything.

A pleasant way to spend a morning. Scavenging around a site, feeling what it must have been like to live surrounded by a forest, grass lands and the Mogollon ridge just to the north. A stillness occasionally interrupted by a lonely bird flying by. The sun already bright in the solid blue sky, promising another warm sunny day as fall gradually sneaks in the back door. A breeze coming by that says, yes this is what fresh air really is like.

I slowly walk around the site which has a large plaza that at one time was bordered by a low wall of stones. Over 800 rooms were lived in here. Anywhere else this would be considered a huge find. Out west where there are hundreds of ruins like this one, it’s just another example of the dwellings the Native Indians constructed.

I’ll be heading on down the road tomorrow to the Roosevelt and Apache Recreation Area. I’ve been told it’s a wonderful location with a dozen campgrounds around the lakes. Another place to explore.

Side note: I’ve been dry camping. No hookup at the campsites at all. The solar
panels continue to work extremely well out here with all the sunshine. I have plenty of power to run the TV, radio, computer, fans and lights in the camper. Occasionally the furnace comes on in the middle of the night. It hardly uses any power to run the furnace fan. By morning time, I’m still in the “good” range as far as power goes. I did have to purchase a couple water containers to fill up at the water spigot as there was no way to connect a hose to it to fill my holding tanks. Other than that inconvenience, it’s been very pleasant being off the grid.

I’ve arrived at Roosevelt Lake where I have had a number of campers say what a great site it is. Unfortunately, I think I got here a little early in the season, as it hotter than hates, 95 degrees. I’ve signed up for and paid for 7 days, but I may head back up to Payson which is about 5,000 feet higher elevation and about 10 degrees cooler. Roosevelt is situated in the desert, with cactus and bare mountain ranges opposite the huge lake/reservoir which I‘m told
the water level is very high. I spent the day just sitting out under the awning,
reading a book and trying to keep cool. Not an easy task.

I did head out, literally across the street to the Tonto National Monument. It is yet
another cliff dwelling. It was a half mile hike up the mountain to get to the lower Cliff dwelling, the much larger one would require a guide and is only open during the cooler winter months. The view along the hike up the steep
mountain path, covered in stately Saguaro cactus and Teddy bear cholla is just stunning. For a desert setting, it is remarkably lush in vegetation.

Later, I stopped off at the Boston Lake House Grill. There are only two places to catch a bite to eat and I think I picked the best. The owner is a Boston Red Socks fan, now how he got out here, east of Phoenix AZ is anyone guess. I didn’t ask, but enjoyed the sports style bar setting. Raised booths along one wall and bar opposite with it’s row of bar stools. A bit dark, huge TV screens around the room and lots of a/c to keep
a heated patron cool. The workers all worked in a haphazard unison that made sure
each diner was well taken care of.

Will I end up back in Payson… find out next week.

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