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.

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