14 April 2009

Travels around Arizona


Lisa at outlet, originally uploaded by ivoryblushroses.

On Monday, I took advantage of the beautiful day and went exploring. Arizona has many National Parks and Monuments, many of which I have not visited. Recently I made up a list of day and overnight trips that I could make over the next few months to see them. For Monday's trip, I made a loop to see Montezuma's Well, Montezuma's Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments and then drove up through Jerome and Prescott before heading back to Flagstaff. There are more pictures on my Flickr account if you want to see more of my travels!

Desert around Montezuma Well
My first stop of the day was Montezuma Well. The road meanders from the highway through the small town of Montezuma. Near the well, the desert rises up a bit and the trail heads up the hill.

Path to the Ruins
What a suprise to come up over crest of the hill and see this well of bluegreen water below! It was still early in the day when I arrived and for a long time, I watched the muskrats and ducks as well as a sunning turtle. By the time I started to take photographs, the sun was higher and the animals were all taking shelter from the midday sun. The well's water source is unknown, apparently seeping up from far below through the limestone. The limestone fills the water with CO2 and prevents fish from surviving in the pond, but there is an abundance of other life that forms a unique eco-system that is quite fascinating.

Cliff side dwellings
Around the rim of the sinkhole, there are ruins of cliff dwellings. Down near the water's edge where the water seeps out through the rock, there are more ruins in a cave. There is 130 year old graffiti too, where people left messages in black paint on the walls over the ruins in the late 1800's.

Path to Outlet and ditch
After viewing the well from the rim and the trail down into the well, the main trail leaves curves down around the hillside. A sidepath leads to the "outlet". Here there is a nice path between a small cliff and the 1000 year old irrigation ditch that still flows today.

Montezuma's Well Outlet
At the outlet, the water seeps through the rock and fills the irrigation ditch to a constant level. In this shaded, damp environment, pristine maidenhair ferns live at the water's edge. It's a beautiful and serene spot. While enjoying the setting, I watched a large swallowtail butterfly dance around another visitor wearing a bright pink shirt. It was delightful to watch them!

The Castle
My next stop was Montezuma Castle, a stunning cliffside dwelling in a white limestone cliff. The overhang above is so large that it has protected the ruin and the mud plastered walls are still in pristine condition.

White limestone walls
There is a nice path under the Arizona Sycamores that leads past the main ruin and some smaller ruins. These are amazing simply because they are built of white limestone, so white that it dazzles in the sun. Quite a contrast from the usual reddish sandstone ruins that one expects to see in the southwest.

White Arizona Sycamore
I think that what I loved most about Montezuma Castle National Monument was walking underneath the spreading sycamores with their pristine white bark. Overhead, the song of migrating warblers filled the air and I spent a lot of time sitting and listening to them.

ruin walls
The last big stop of the day was at Tuzigoot National Monument. Here, a large ruin crests a hill that overlooks the Verde Valley to the south and east. It is a series of large stone walled rooms.

Ruin and Verde Valley
I must admit that while the size of it is impressive and it's views, somehow this ruin didn't draw me in the way the ruins at Wupatki National Monument have in the past or even those of Montezuma Castle and Well. I wandered through, took a few photos and got on my way.

For the last leg of my day's journey, I drove up through the mountain side town of Jerome, over Mingus Mountain and across the Prescott/Chino Valley to Prescott. Here the mountains, instead of being volcanic basalt and sandstone/limestone in origin, are now granite. I've put the area on my list of places to visit again and spend more time.

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