Sunday, February 9, 2014

Upper Cliff Dwelling, Tonto National Monument

On a recent morning when the rest of the country was preparing to watch the big football game, I was heading east toward Globe in search of ruins. I had made reservations for the Upper Cliff Dwelling tour at Tonto National Monument. A two-hour drive leads to the park, about 25 miles outside of Globe (though GPS thought it was 17 miles). The ranger and other tourgoers were nice enough to wait for late arrivals. Ranger Jen Harper suggested using the restrooms first and meeting up with the rest of the group along the trail. That was excellent advice given that the tour lasted more than three hours and involved a 3-mile hike.

The ranger stopped often to tell us stories and show us plants we could use to make a salad if we had lived in the area at the time it was inhabited by these tribes. At one point we went off the trail so she could show us a vertical sedimentary rock that had fallen from a nearby mountainside.

She said the Salado people would scrape the orange part of the rock off and put it on their gums to treat infection. 

We hiked along a shallow creek, so lots of mud got on our shoes. Walking sticks are a good idea. 

Ranger Jen led the tour to the gate at the Cliff Dwelling, where she suggested a 15-minute snack break before touring the ruins. Eating is not allowed in the ruins because squirrels will often dig in search of the food. There's a historical marker from the park's early days nearby. (It says USDI for U.S. Department of the Interior.) 

As you walked through the terraced ruins, you wonder what life was like for the people who lived here. This room above was sealed, which was a clue that its contents were valuable, and that the people planned to return. You can see Roosevelt Lake in the background. Apparently the lake's water level has been lower since some of its water was used to refill Tempe Town Lake after its dame burst in 2010. 

 We learned that what look like windows are actually doorways.

Inside the cave is a cistern. There is also a small hole where food was likely stored.

Tools used to grind corn were left behind in this room. 

We also toured the outer rooms of the Cliff Dwelling. One of the rooms had the imprint of a corn cob on the wall.

We entered a room with a low roof that was made with different types of wood than the other rooms. The ranger said this could have been because wood was becoming scarce.

We soon said goodbye to the ruins and headed back down the trail at our own pace. 

At the creek we heard an intense buzzing and noticed hundreds of bees flying over the water. The only way out was to walk through them slowly. I am terrified of bees, so the encounter was nerve-racking. I couldn't get off the trail fast enough. I was thrilled to be back at the visitors center looking at pottery. 

The Lower Cliff Dwelling, which can be seen without going on a tour, is visible from the parking lot.

And finally we took one last glance at Roosevelt Lake.