Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chimney Rock and Palatki Ruins

Today was our last day in Sedona. Tomorrow, we return home on the long, long plane ride. What a great trip it's been: Grand Canyon on the first day, Montezuma and Tuzigoot on day two, Red Rock State Park on day three, and the grand finale, Palatki on the last day. Thank you, Kathleen and Ed, for the wonderful hospitality and for the great adventures.

Before I begin to describe the day we had today, let me describe what happened last night at about eleven o'clock. I had been in bed for a couple of hours already. Ed and Kathleen had gone to bed, and so had the boys. Becky was still up, reading in the living room. Suddenly, this loud caterwauling, like a cross between a dying dog and an alien police klaxon started, right outside my window.

I was confused by the heaviness of sleep, and I first thought it was some kind of fire alarm. Finally, I got up to investigate and crept into the living room in my skivvies. As I rounded the corner, I saw Becky looking out the window, also wondering about the noise. Everybody else was still asleep.

As she turned around, I startled her by asking what the noise was. It was crazy-loud and very unusual. Finally, we could pick out yip-yaps and what sounded like a woman's scream. Turns out, they were coyotes, and they were right outside our house.

Life in the desert is definitely not like life in Virginia!

This morning, we left early for a wonderful sunny morning hike around Chimney Rock. This was a pretty easy hike, but the weather was phenomenally good--sunny, mild, and very fresh. The hike took us 1.7 miles around the signature rock outside Ed and Kathleen's rental house, circumnavigating an area of 71 acres.

Then, after lunch, we took off for a very special visit to Palatki. Palatki is the site of some very ancient petroglyphs. The scratchings and writings date from a variety of prehistoric ages, from pre-ice age (yes PRE ice age!), to post-ice age up through the time of Christ and to (unfortunately) modern times (as recently as two weeks ago, sadly).

Our guide was a retired geologist and now full time archaeologist, and he volunteers on site. He had a wealth of knowledge about the writings, and it was a real treat to hear him tell his stories.

Palatki also contains more cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people, and we briefly toured these as well. The bonus of Palatki is that at this site, the rangers will let you enter the dwellings, provided you behave yourself, and touch nothing.

It was another wonderful day in a pretty fantastic place!

As usual, here are a few of my favorite photos (from the 500 I took just today... thank God for digital):

  1. Setting out on the Chimney Rock trail.
  2. This scat ain't as pretty as what Ella did! Evidence of a javelina.
  3. Some blue agave. I can almost taste the salt on my glass.
  4. Trudging onward.
  5. Chimney rock in silhouette.
  6. Further evidence of javelina. The javelina's favorite food in this area are the prickly pear cacti. I'm told they have special enzymes in their saliva to break down and digest the fibrous cactus. These bites were less than a day old.

  1. Eddie gets brave and shows us how he can touch the cactus.
  2. A view of Thunder Mountain (left hand side only) from the trail.
  3. A scraggly desert tree (a Joshua tree, perhaps?)
  4. Posing in front of Chimney Rock. Yes, Adolfo, this photo has people in it! (Just for you!)
  5. Taking a little breather near the end of the trail.

  1. Onward to Palatki on the most primitive road I've seen. It took us an hour to get 12 miles.
  2. A scrub jay.
  3. The view of the hills from the parking lot of Palatki. You'd never know there are cliff dwellings up there.
  4. Enthralled by our archaeologist guide.

  1. Sinagua (pre-Hopi) writings. The "alien" is, in fact, a depiction of a ready-to-be-married girl wearing traditional butterfly head-dress, still worn today.
  2. Glyphs showing the Mother Earth giving birth to various animals. Glyphs of this type are very rare, we were told.
  3. Also striking were the various lichens that grew on the rocks.
  4. More lichen.
  5. Hiking up to the cliff dwellings.
  6. Our guide at the cliff dwellings, a nice lady from Philadelphia.

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