Sunday, February 15, 2015

But MOM ... Where Is The CASTLE!!

"You said we were going to see a castle!!" said the little girl as I walked down the sidewalk towards Montezuma Castle.  "It's Montezuma castle ... well not really because Montezuma was never here" said mom ... as she continued to console her daughter who wanted to see a REAL castle!!  This historic site is off Hwy 17, North of Hwy 260 to Cottonwood.  The limestone cliffs rising 200 feet above the valley made for a safe home that has lasted over 700 years.
The Sinagua in this area are made up of basically two groups.  The Northern Sinagua lived in the Flagstaff area.  The Southern Sinagua lived in the Verde Valley, surviving principally by farming, supplemented by hunting and gathering when not building these seriously amazing dwellings.  These have been restored to some extent ... they have replaced the roofs and re-plastered the outsides to protect from rain.  "That's NOT a castle" the little blond who looked about seven stated loudly!
This particular building is 5 stories high with 20 rooms, occupying the cliff recess above the valley floor.  Ladders were made to gain access which were pulled up at night.  The only inhabitants I saw were small animals, including squirrels!!
Around the edges of this main structure were smaller alcoves used for food storage.  I wonder if anyone fell off the roofs where they spent most of their day.  Woe is the guy who is afraid of heights!!   These structures were built around 1150, reaching their maximum size in the 1300s.  By the 1400s, they were gone ... moving to greener pastures.
Further West is another larger building unit that has completely collapsed.  See all the large holes in the rocks?  That's where the log poles were placed that not only held up the roof, but anchored it to the rock wall.  There was very little overhang at this site, allowing for water to erode the structure, which eventually came crashing down.
Some other creatures have taken up residence here ... the swallows have built amazing mud nests in the top cracks and crannies, just like the Sinagua did.  They were constantly flying around squawking and being generally noisy ... like the little girl because there IS NO CASTLE MOM!  "A castle is like Tinkerbell"!!!
Another creature was pretty abundant in the cliff walls ... bees have created some of the biggest honeycombs I've ever seen.  I wonder if the Indians took advantage of this sweet treat?
What beautiful scenery the Sinagua saw every day as they grew corn, squash, beans and cotton ... yes, cotton.  I'm not sure if they figured out how to use it for clothing, but they did make strings and small ropes.  By this time, Mom was dragging the little girl back to the car, along with her brother who was climbing all over everything!!
Finally, a little peace and quiet as I sat by Beaver Creek which supplied water year round to the Sinagua.  They were so adept at farming, they built irrigation canals in the little valley at the foot of their cliff dwellings.  There are many artifacts that have been collected from these sites, none of which you can see.  They have all been taken away, which is pretty sad, but they have found corn cobs, arrows of chert and flint (which doesn't exist around here), pots from the Southern Hopi Indians and seashells.  At this site, as in Tuzigoot and Palatki, trade was an ongoing business.
Totally off the subject of the local Indians, in honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I should practice making a nice dinner, just in case someone ever comes along that is looking for a Valentine that can cook (won't THEY be surprised by MY cooking) .... so I hit the store and picked up a nice fillet!!  Since I don't have a barbecue, I used my trusty cast iron skillet.  Sometimes, if I'm lucky, it makes a mean steak!!  I found some of the lavender sea salt I purchased in Hawaii and decided to give it a try. Just when I thought it was nicely cooked medium rare, I added a tablespoon of butter to the pan, which made the best sauce EVER!!  I learned that on the cooking channel!!  LOL
With a batch of scalloped potatoes loaded with onions, garlic and cheese along with some asparagus, I had a meal fit for a king ... or queen as the case was ... and it was DELICIOUS!!  I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's day!!
Next up a big surprise at the Clemenceau American Craft Fair.


  1. I can remember as a kid traveling route 66 on the way to visit family in Arkansas. Seeing cliff dwelling along way off along the highway. I have no Idea where we were other than some place in Arizona.
    Jim M.

    1. That sounds really interesting, Jim. I'll have to check it out and see where it was!!