May 24, 2011
We left our Phoenix motel about 6am and were able to find a Starbucks for Jeff and Darla before heading north on our first day of exploration. Our first scenic goal was Montezuma Castle, the remains of a five-story cliff dwelling. We drove about 75 miles north to on I-17 from Phoenix to reach it. Our plan was to then visit Sedona and Red Rock State Park on the way to our accommodations for the night at Williams, about 40 miles west of Flagstaff.
Elyse wanted to see cactus, and we saw some along the highway, but she got to see cactus close-up at the visitor center for the Montezuma Castle National Monument. It was a well-developed and pleasant little park along Beaver Creek below Montezuma Castle. We walked along the paved walkway beneath the cliffs that overlooked the creek.
The published information suggests that these cliff dwellings were built about 700 years ago in the early 1300s by the Sinaquas. For unknown reasons, this tribe abandoned this habitat in the Verde Valley in the 1400s.
The site Arizona Leisure has the comment "Interestingly, the name Montezuma Castle was a mistaken name. Early settlers who discovered the cliff dwelling ruins erroneously connected them to the Aztec emperor Montezuma, but in-fact the Sinaqua ruins had been abandoned a hundred years before Montezuma was even born. And the dwellings weren't a castle at all, but a multi-family 'prehistoric high rise apartment complex' ".
They had a nice model of the cliff dwelling and good information about the natives who lived there.
The Sinaqua had to scale the high cliffs to carve out a recessed area into the limestone walls to erect these strongly built dwellings. ... It took ladders to climb to Montezuma Castle and as the Sinaqua reached each level, the ladders were pulled up behind them, making it difficult for enemy tribes to penetrate the natural defense of straight-vertical barriers.
|Elyse, Ashleigh and Jordan by two of the huge sycamore trees in the valley below Montezuma's Castle.
This particular tree is called the Arizona sycamore but it is very similar to the ones I grew up with on the Arkansas farm.
Jordan and Darla with a background of Beaver Creek that runs through the valley.
The girls, and Jeff as well, enjoyed the beautiful sycamore trees that grew along the creek.
Jeff and Ashleigh on one of the sycamores close to the creek. They were not easy to climb - the bark was slippery!
Elyse got into the fun as well, even though she wasn't tall enough to reach the sycamore limbs.
This was a really unique collection of large sycamore trees. It would be interesting to know how old they are.
It was a beautiful morning and a good time for just relaxed goofing around. But it doesn't help with climbing these slippery tree trunks if your Dad is poking you with a stick!
Even though these trees were too big and slippery to climb, Elyse seemed to have a great time playing around their trunks.
Even though Montezuma Castle was our rationale for coming here to this very nice park, the sycamore trees along Beaver Creek definitely trumped it in terms of our enjoyment of the area. Perhaps it was these trees and the creek that brought the Sinaqua here in the first place.