June 21, 2012

Trip Start Apr 28, 2012
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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Thursday, June 21, 2012

Today we had planned a full day of sightseeing. Our first stop was at the "Montezuma Castle" National Monument.  This is a very large 5 story, 20 room cliff dwelling that is in a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley.  Early settlers believed that because of its size it was Aztec in origin, and so they named it Montezuma Castle; Montezuma never lived here as he didn't come this far north.  We took a short walk around the area viewing the reconstructed dwellings and the foundations of other dwellings.  Our next stop was at “Montezuma Well”, several miles north of “Montezuma Castle”, this well was associated by early settlers with the “Montezuma Castle”, hence the name; although the prehistoric people that inhabited the “Castle” did not live at the “Well”.  More than 10,000 years ago the waters from underground springs eroded an underground cavern until its roof collapsed and created the sinkhole that we see today, allowing a lake to form inside the walls of a cavern.  The lake surface is about 100 feet from the rim of the crater and .5 miles across.  The inside walls of the crater also contained several cliff dwellings.  While in the middle of the desert there are springs that continually flow producing 1.5 million gallons daily, and was used by the prehistoric occupants of the area to irrigate their fields.  This was truly a natural wonder when you consider its location in the middle of the desert.  Our third stop was at the “V Bar V Petroglyph Site”, because yesterday, June 20 was the summer solstice an expert on the petroglyphs was at the site giving a lecture on the meaning of the drawings, and we were lucky enough to get there when he was explaining the calendar petroglyphs.  About one half hour into the lecture the sun moved into position to cast shadows onto the wall intersecting the calendar markings depicting the summer solstice; it was amazing.  We then headed north on I-17 and east on I-40 to the “Walnut Canyon National Monument”, a large area within Walnut Canyon containing cliff dwellings.  Unlike “Montezuma Castle” where there were many rooms contained within a single structure, the dwellings or rooms here in Walnut Canyon are in small groups of 4 to 10 rooms each that are scattered throughout the canyon.  Here we took a hike into the canyon that took us down 204 steps and through the canyon, at time we passed right next to the cliff dwellings, and were able to climb through them.  Others were too far away to climb into.  This hike was very challenging because of the heat, altitude and the number of steps that we had to climb.  It is amazing that a culture could live in the area for hundreds of years.

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