Ancient History

20140704_125114For the weekend of the 4th of July it would have been silly if we didn’t get out of town. The day before the Fourth I was driving back from Lake Havasu City, so we couldn’t get out of town early like we wanted to. We could have, but my sanity would have been taxed. We set out on Friday morning to Homolovi State park in Winslow Arizona. It’s just a bit off from I40, and the images made it seem like it was just a barren wasteland of a camp site. My hopes of an enjoyable camping trip were slightly low.

It seems odd for me to be pulling into a camp site during the day. I didn’t know how to handle being able to see the spot I was pulling in to. I didn’t need to carry a flashlight around to see where the back end of the trailer was heading. How am I supposed to pull into a camp site with that ball of fire in the sky. It’s just not right…

20140704_134114We had to swing by the visitor’s center to pick up our vehicle tag. No biggie. Of course, the wind picked up because of the incoming rains. It seemed to be that there was a nice wetting down of everything so the fireworks displays would go off without lighting the world on fire. The rains are very welcomed here, as there have been numerous fires, and there is a current “Red Flag” warning prohibiting non-propane fires and even smoking. Glad I quit smoking a while back.

20140704_134855Out by the visitor’s center was a specially constructed building used to test how fires worked in the old pueblo. Something odd was noted in that the fires were intentionally set by the Anasazi inhabitants. Accidental fires burned completely differently, and the room would collapse in if the fire got too hot. So when they sealed up these rooms, and the fire was set, it was done purposefully. The placard didn’t say why they burned the rooms, or why they sealed them up. No, no zombie remains were there, so it wasn’t that. I’m not ruling out alien attacks though haha.

20140704_145716We got a chance to check out the two Homolovi Ruins. With this being the off season for the site, we got to wander around with no other people to bug us. We checked out Homolovi I first, as it was closest to the camp site. I giggled as I noticed my better half walking right past all the pottery shards on the ground without even taking one picture. We got more than halfway through before I said, “How come you aren’t taking any pictures of all the artifacts for the blog?” Her puzzled look let me know that she just didn’t know what she was looking at. I pointed them out, and it was confirmed. My lovely woman would have made a horrible archaeologist.

“I thought those were rocks,” she replied. Sadly any large pottery would have been stolen decades ago. what remains are the small pottery shards that wouldn’t have been as exciting to see on a shelf. We both admitted to ourselves, that we wanted to take some of the pottery. It would have made for a great conversation piece, but the fact is, it’s better to leave them there for future generations to see. And of course there’s that Federal Law thing too…

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We moved on up to the second site Homolovi II. Unlike Homolovi I this one has a nice paved path to walk along. It has a great view of the mountains as well. It was farther from the road, and seemed fairly well maintained. Some of it was reconstructed, and some was preserved by the sands that may one day bury it all again.

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After we took in the ruins, we headed back to the trailer to have a quick bite to eat. I made salmon and broccoli, as it was a simple prep. I do most of the cooking when we are on the trips. It seems kind of strange that I would enjoy cooking while out, but frankly I do enjoy it.

20140704_200523Since it was the 4th of July, we decided to take in the fireworks at the local football stadium in Winslow Arizona(good luck getting the song out of your head). I wasn’t expecting much, because it was a small town and they didn’t have the kinds of budgets that the big cities had for this kind of thing. Before the show, there was music and a memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives. And as a special treat, we got to hear a man propose to his girlfriend. You could pay a few bucks into the fund and say whatever you wanted on the mic. That’s how they got their money for the fireworks shows.

20140704_201426She said “Yes” by the way. Congratulations to them and may their lives be filled with joy and never be boring. They had a bunch of dancing, kids giving shout outs to their family, a few moms giving shout outs to their kids serving in the military, and of course a few paying tribute to their fallen relatives. As we sat there waiting for darkness, I remembered why I loved the small towns. I remembered that in those places where everyone knows each other, they felt more connected to each other than here in the big city. There was a pride in the country that simply isn’t there in the large cities. This made the 4th special to me. Maybe that’s why the fireworks display seemed so spectacular to me and the little woman.

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20140705_163038The next day, we went out to the Grand Canyon Caverns. It was not close at all. Really. It didn’t help that my truck was having issues too. It was having a sensor malfunction, and that was causing all manner of problems. So I couldn’t keep my speed up without causing harm to the engine. Grand Canyon Caverns is a park that’s been around for quite some time. Those of you who listen to Rush Limbaugh, may have heard the term “Dope on a Rope,” well this is the place it came from. You’d pay your money and be lowered down the entrance to the caverns to explore on your own.

20140705_114729The caverns were actually called Dinosaur Caverns at one time. Aside from the dino statues out front and the skull inside the gift shop, there are no dinosaurs in the thing. The only prehistoric animal that was found there was a ground sloth that had fallen in and couldn’t get out. The whole history of why they called them Dinosaur Caverns is pretty well summed up in the term “Dope on a Rope.” It was just a way to get money. It worked too.

20140705_13284020140705_132722The caverns were discovered purely by accident. Walter Peck almost fell in the hole, and came back the next day to explore. He looked at the walls, and thought he had stumbled into the worlds first combined diamond, silver and gold mine. Well it turned out, none of that was true. Instead it was simply tin, salt and everyone’s favorite fools gold. So he figured he would just mine his gold from people’s pockets. Well… We’re people. We have pockets. So we paid for the spelunking tour.

Actually, I would like to go on record saying that the spelunking tour was worth it. It was only $70 per person, and we got to really explore the cave. We had a great tour guide Isaac who made it a fun experience. We started out walking with the tour group.

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20140705_153841The cave is a dry cave. Only about 3% of all caves formed are formed dry like this. It means there’s no stalactites or stalagmites. Even the one that is called a stalagmite is actually only flostone. There’s no water dripping. It’s so quiet and there is nothing that lives inside it. There’s even a suite which one of the selling points is that nothing lives there. They really aren’t kidding. Limestone naturally sucks the moisture out of even your lungs. So insects can’t live down there.

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20140705_135544Back in the 1960’s during the Cuban Missile Crisis many caves were designated as bomb shelters. This one was no different. They got their provisions sent to them. Which included water, crackers, hard candy, and poo bins… Personally, I would prefer the 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it to the “Sanitation Kit” which Uncle Sam provided. They included enough supplies for the whole town of Williams to survive for two weeks. Though they forgot a couple of very important things. In true government form they provided cans of supplies, but no can openers, and stuffed them in a cave without flashlights, matches, flares, glow sticks, or even two sticks to rub together. I don’t know if you know this or not, but it gets so dark in a cave that even night vision goggles don’t work(unless they also provide their own light source). But sure, lets stuff all the supplies into a cave and not provide a light. And people think it’s a new thing that the government is inept.

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Skeletons to greet us.

We split off from the tour group and the first place we went was the “Mystery Room.” It was called that because this was the location of the air that was coming into the cave. They sought out the location of the air coming in and simply couldn’t find it. Using the sophisticated technology of red smoke grenades they looked for the source. Two weeks after they had given up, red smoke appeared roughly forty miles away in the Grand Canyon. Our tour brought us to the location closest to the airflow. From there all the air to the cavern entered. And thus we got to smell the freshest air in the cave.

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20140705_145317After exiting that section we came upon Bob the mummified bobcat. After he fell in the hole he died a horrible death. He fell in the hole, and broke his back. While trying to find a way out, his lungs dried out. Because of the drying nature of the limestone, it preserved his carcass. And thus we get to look at an approximately hundred fifty year old cat. Yes, the limestone in the air will dry out lungs. Try not to stay in a limestone cave for more than a few days without water. Better make that try not to go more than a few days without water… period.

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Remember… not one can opener.

We walked around to where we could see the barrels of water. All the water in them had essentially been ruined(probably from not being pure to begin with), however they keep them there even though they brought in new water. After that we went around to the “Mammoth Dome” and over to the mummified coyote.

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The coyote was not so Wiley. He fell down the hole, broke his back and was unable to escape, and then after a few days it’s lungs dried out and it became a mummified corpse. I’m assuming it was before the Acme spelunking kit was available. But now I’m having too much fun imagining Wiley Coyote strapped to a rocket and finding himself in this dark cave.

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It’s hard to see because of all the limestone dust in the air *cough*

Our guide took us to the old entrance of the caverns. You have to cross a rickety bridge, and climb some kinda scary stairs above a massive drop. Don’t worry, it was load tested and built to strict 1930’s Corps of Engineers standards. Well the bridge was. The stairs were built by a guy wanting to sell the fifty cent tour. The old entrance was sealed in a deal with the native American tribe in the area. Well Walter kinda had to. See He found a pair of bodies in there that were buried and claimed they were cave men, and put them on display. The Archaeological Society wondered why these cave men had been buried with their saddles and their blue jeans. Turns out they were from a local Indian tribe and in order to stop the spread of the disease they had contracted, they were buried in a deep dark hole.

20140705_153410We walked around to see the sloth. This is what Sid from Ice Age was supposed to be like. But for some reason they went for the more modern sloth. The Ground Sloth was an eight to ten foot tall creature. This one fell into the open entrance, and broke her back(I’m noticing a pattern… watch your step please). Even though she died a long time before my ancestors were out of trees(Yes, I know not really trees), I still feel sorry for her 20140705_153507because the poor thing tried to claw her way out, and you can still see her claw marks on the cave wall.

I got to climb down the old water hole. This was the passage the water from the cave left through. Aside from a little twisting this was a relatively easy climb. I have to admit it was more difficult in my mind than in reality.

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That was the last stop on our tour. We returned topside, and went outside. After wandering around the cave all day, seeing the sun again was a welcome sight. There was a bit of Americana on display in their sorta-kinda Route 66 museum. Word of caution: Yes, they sell gas and diesel here. Get it ANYWHERE else. Seriously at the time of this writing, diesel was 3.70 alsewhere, but they were selling it for $5.18.

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I’ll post Sunday’s adventures soon.

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