January 11

January 11
Montezuma Was (not) Here

This morning, we stopped at a hardware store to pick up a portable heater (the propane furnace works fine, but someone pointed out that since we are plugged in to 110 at most campsites, why not use their power instead of our propane?). Shows that we are still learning at this RV’ing game. The temperatures here at night drop down to 3 degrees Celsius, but rise to 16-18 during the day, so we are comfortable in t-shirts.

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Cliff Swallow nests

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Cliff Swallow nests

We then decided to go and see a National Historic Landmark called “Montezuma’s Castle”. It is the remains of a series of cliff dwellings, or Pueblos, built by the Sinagua Indians around 1300 AD, who lived there for a few hundred years before moving on for reasons unknown. Two misnomers here: Montezuma wasn’t born until after the Sinagua moved on, thus was never here; “Sinagua” means “without water”, but they settled in this valley precisely because there was an abundant water supply. It is believed that soldiers who had fought in Mexico during the Mexican/American War had seen the remains of Aztec buildings and thought that these looked similar, hence the name “Montezuma”. Here is a quick tour:
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Cliff Swallow nests

Cliff Swallow nests

Arizona Sycamore, used for floor and roof supports, many of which are still intact after 700 years. See picture below.

Arizona Sycamore, used for floor and roof supports, many of which are still intact after 700 years. See picture below.

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The diorama below shows what the “castle” might have looked like:
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Following an interpretive talk by a Park Ranger, we drove a few minutes up the highway to a related Historic Site called “Montezuma’s Well”; Montezuma was never here either. The water in this well has been forced to the surface by a vertical basalt wall deep below the surface, and fills the well at the rate of 1.5 million gallons daily. Water leaves the well through a fissure into Beaver Creek. Since the water contains high levels of arsenic and carbon dioxide, no fish live here. The aquatic species that do live here are not found anywhere else in the world. Again, here is a quick tour:

Montezuma's Well

Montezuma’s Well

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Original cliff dwellings. They have not been restored, just maintained enough to preserve building integrity.

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Original cliff dwellings. They have not been restored, just maintained enough to preserve building integrity.

Original cliff dwellings. They have not been restored, just maintained enough to preserve building integrity.

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We found these both intriguing places to visit, and are glad we spent the time. We stopped at MacDonald’s long enough to eat and post the blog entries for the previous two days, then returned to the campsite at around 5:00. We plan to hang around tomorrow, then, weather depending, we will head for Sedona on Monday.

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