Thursday, November 19, 2009

44-2009 Camp Verde, Indian Ruins: Arizona

Camp Verde

Exploring Indian Ruins (Off the beaten path)

I’ve had a whirl wind stay here in Cottonwood.  The work camping has gone well and I’ve enjoyed working with all of the staff and other camp hosts.  My newest bestest friends Bill W and John H (they wanted to be mentioned in my Blog) have been great hosts, having me over for dinner and giving me the opportunity to meet many of the locals in the Cottonwood and Sedona area as well.

Learning so much about the 7 vortexes in the Sedona area and the 7 vortex areas around the world.  Sedona is a hot bed of spiritual retreats and awakening.  People pay thousands of dollars to find their inner souls and release from stress and past hang-ups.

The time has gone by so fast, I can hardly believe it’s been a month and a half already.  I guess all the little things that fill up a day really make the time go by quickly.  Just in the past week, I’ve gone to the Cottonwood Festival (great music again this year), out to dinner and cocktails, exploring Jerome (the old mining town up on the hill) and hiking to one of the many Indian ruins in the area. Oh and being a camp host too.

I was telling Les (the Dead Horse Ranch head Ranger) that I was interested in visiting some of the Indian sites not on any of the regular list of National parks.  He was able to give me some direction and off I went on one of my days off to explore and discover on my own.  As I headed over to Camp Verde, about 15 miles east of Cottonwood I decided to stop in the Forest services new building for more information and hopefully obtain some maps as well.  What a rude awakening I had.  When I asked for some information on nearby ruins I was told flatly, “No, we can’t give you that information”.  “We don’t want you finding any of the sites”.  Understandably the Forest service is trying to keep people off the public lands so we don’t destroy these sites, but the attitude of the staff was quite condescending towards me.  Assuming that I would go in and just start destroying these magnificent sites.  Kind of turned me off.  I’ve had similar experiences with the forest service in the past when I would ask for information on campsites or hiking trails.  Often, I would be given a poorly printed map, shoved on my way with little or no insight into the size of the campsites or any additional information that might be helpful.  But they sure do have a great new multi million dollar facility.

But getting back to my tale of exploration.  Les had given me enough info to start my search.  So as I drove along hwy 260, I was looking for evidence along the cliffs of possible ruins.  I found the road Les had mentioned.  Stopped, took out my trusty binoculars and was able to see some cliff dwelling within a short span of searching the limestone cliffs.

I headed back up the road about an 1/8 of a mile and found a small parking area right off of the highway with two vehicles parked (always a good sign indicating hikers or other explorers).  And there, a small sign attached to the fence indicating that this was an historical area containing Native Indian ruins.

I grabbed my water, camera and binoculars climbed through the fence and headed on up the path.  And I do mean UP the path, as it started to ascend the desert terrain almost immediately.  Crossing a dry wash, the path was well defined for the first leg of the journey, but as I continued to ascend the hill, it became rougher, more rocks and rubble and steeper with each step I took.   Three people were indeed ahead of me and much higher on the cliff which gave me encouragement to just keep on climbing.

At one point I was pretty much on all fours climbing up the steep side of the cliff.  It wasn’t a pretty sight, but I was determined to get to the cliff dwellings that I could now see quite clearly.  Hearing bits and pieces of the guide ahead of me explaining the various rooms created from layers of rock and mud enclosing each of the natural caves in the sides of the limestone walls.  there are so many dwellings like this along the Verde Valley.  It’s been estimated that there were easily 800 to 1,000 Indians living in this area over 1,000 years ago.  Les was telling me that in the 1920-30’s that there were more native American Indians living in Verde Valley that Anglo Americans.  We so often think that these Ancient Ones disappeared, but many of their ancestors still live in the area.

As I began exploring the site and meeting the other hikers, their guide (a forest worker on his day off) was pointing out the deep wells in many of the caves, a small ear of corn about the size of your baby finger, easily 800 years old, thin cut stones that were probably used as knives, fitting perfectly into ones hand.  The walls and ceilings were heavily blackened with smoke from the many camp fires that were burning inside of these cliff dwellings.  Outside, the breathtaking views of Verde Valley stretched out below us and as I walked below the cliff dwellings I came across hundreds of pot shards.  More than likely pots would have been thrown out below the cliff dwellings after they developed a crack or had broken in use.

It was a good hike and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Off the beaten path for sure.  The Forest service guy said I was the first person he’d seen on this trail in the many times he had come exploring this site.    Nice to explore a secret site, yet within full view of the highway that now passes far below.  How many other places do we pass each day and not know that there’s a secret waiting to be discovered.

I’ve posted some pics of the Indian ruins on Picasa.

I have one more day of work camping (Friday) and then I drive down to Tucson for my Winter stay at Desert Trails Rv Park.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

43-2009 Cottonwood Arizona Revisited as a Camphost


Note:  I will not be updating the Blog on a regular basis over the next couple of months as I settle in for the winter months, except to report on possible interesting observations and sites I may visit.

Cottonwood, AZ
Dead Horse Ranch State Park

A typical day as a Camp Host.

Background.  I’d been a camp host here At Dead Horse a year or so ago and decided to travel through Cottonwood on my way to my winter destination in Tucson.  So here I am working again as a camp host for 5 weeks.

After setting up my camper in Quall Loop I began work right the next day.  My day starts around 8:30 as I drive my golf cart around each loop,  where I take my list of campsites and check each site out to ensure the folks have paid their fees, leave when their time is up, or renew as needed.  We do this three times a day, as we have to check those who have come in overnight as well and have done a self check in.  I helped clean the cabins over two days as well.

Other duties include cleaning out the fire pits at each site, cleaning the restrooms once a week and chopping wood if time permits.  All in all it’s a pretty busy 4 hour day that usually stretches into 6 hours since our last compliance check is at 2 pm.

It’s fun meeting the campers, as of course one of our jobs is talking to the campers and seeing if they have any questions.  One gal was “walking” her cat.  She would carry her cat about a half a block away from their camper, then the cat would walk back to the camper.  Never away from the camper.  She said her cat was afraid of people but he loved it when I scratched his head.  How spoiled.  I’m coming back as a cat.  One couple had flown into Phoenix from Boston and had rented a Class C camper for the week.  They had never gone camping in their life and were absolutely enjoying the whole trip.  Particularly loving the active ghost town of Jerome.  The next day I helped a guy get his car started after the battery went dead.  Today, I called the main office after seeing 4 horses without their riders.  The horses just walking through my loop and on up a dirt trail.  Come to find out the horses had thrown 4 young riders and had wondered off.  I believe the kids are alright.

I settled into my camp host site (my second one).  I’m up on the hill this time in the loop called Coopers Hawk.  I love this site.  I’m snuggled in a site that has been dug out into the side of the hill, so I have a wall about 4 feet high on two sides.  The views are spectacular of the surrounding mountains, Verde valley below and the old mining town of Jerome up on the side of the mountain.  At night the lights from the town below and Jerome up on the hill light up providing a shimmering display of twinkling lights.

The last couple of days has also brought a full moon against a clear black sky.  I leave my blinds open so I can look out both day and night.

I was sitting out on my patio today after putting in a pretty full day as a camp host.  Starting off with a staff meeting, compliance checks, bathroom cleaning, getting my golf cart fixed (it wouldn’t go into reverse) and finally closing a couple of the gates in the evening.  In between, I get breaks and that’s where sitting out on the shaded side of the patio is so nice.  Reading a book, looking out over this wonderful high desert scenery, just enjoying the quite stillness of the day before doing a few more camp host chores.

The Rangers were mostly all spared some big cuts in the Arizona State Park system, with a few of the staff moving to other parks.  Both the Rangers and the volunteers are so easy to get along with

Tip to future Camp Hosts: .  If you ever camp host somewhere, after your there a while don’t forget to ask if they have any free tickets to any of the local attractions.  There are fringe benefits that aren’t always talked about, and one of them being the free tickets.  If you don’t ask, you may never get them.

A final observation.  An interesting thing happens each time I move to a new campsite.  Although it’s the same camper, because the scenery changes outside the windows, the interior takes on a new character with each move.  The way the light hit’s the oak cabinets and floor differently.  The sun reflects against the full length mirror in the living room and cascades through the blinds partially closed to defect some of the light streaming in.  And looking out, my world view is different each time I move.  This time I have mountain and valley views.  Having lots of windows in a camper truly makes for wonderful changes of scenery.  With each move to a new campsite, the sun comes up from a different side of the camper, creating all new light patterns or it may remain in the shade of a forest.  With each move it’s almost like having a new camper.  Oh and if I happen to just be passing through an area and the commercial campground is a bit ratty looking, the semi transparent shades remain closed and I have a cocoon of soft light filtering the outside world. So whether I’m inside our outside, the vibe changes with each move I make.

Ok, one more final note.  I re-visited Tuzigoot, a hilltop adobe structure over a 1,000 years old with many rooms.  I was hoping to get in on a tour, but the NP does not have any tours of this site.  So for the $5 charge, I got a brochure that didn’t discuss the Native Indians that built this awesome site, but rather described the scenery that the Indians would have viewed from the North, south, east and west.  Woppie. Although there is a small museum, the static flat display cases were of little interest.  A few signs along the path to the ruins were informative but also very lacking in so many ways.   This whole valley was heavily populated with Sinagua Indians and the relationship between the sites must have been impressive.  I’ve reported in past reports on the other sites in the area and won’t rehash that information here.

I’ve uploaded a few more pictures of the Cottonwood area as well as a neat geodesic dome I saw traveling along hwy 40.  Until next time, have a super great day.