Hear (or see) the word Monument, and you natually think of…a thing. It may be small, like the Liberty Road markers in France, but usually it’s big. Like the Washington Monument in DC. It may even be a group of big things like the stone monoliths that fill Monument Valley in the American Southwest. Whatever and wherever, there’s one constant: a thing. An object. Whether natural or man-made; right? Well today I found the exception. The Agua Fria National Monument lacks this fundamental element.
According to Wikipedia:
“Over 450 distinct Native American structures have been recorded in the monument, some of large pueblos containing more than 100 rooms each. Petroglyphs are scattered across the numerous Puebloan ruins, which were built between 1250 and 1450 A.D. when several thousand Native Americans, known as the Perry Mesa Tradition, inhabited the region. The petroglyphs depict animals, geometric figures and abstract symbols and are found by the thousands. Numerous ruins of agricultural terraces and irrigation devices indicate that farming was widespread during this period. Other historical entities that are found include 19th century mining features and Basque sheep camps.ch. The enhanced protection status also provides greater habitat protection for the numerous plant and animal communities.”
Sounds neat. Well, I gotta tell ya, I drove the entire length of the single dirt road that went back 11 miles from the highway (including up and down some real white knuckled cliff-side portions) and saw none of the points of interest detailed by Wiki. Now I’m willing to revisit the area because it was a beautiful area, and according to other research I’ve done, there really are ruins, ghost towns and other cool things to see. I obviously need to find a map. But before you pack your bags, there are several point you should keep in mind.
First, the area is high-desert. Located on the Mogollon Rim (pronounced muggy-on and named after Don Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollón, the Spanish Governor of New Mexico from 1712 to 1715). This is a nice area to visit especially during the height of the Arizona summer, but its beauty lies in its vastness, its expanse. The mountain views, the cattle ranch, the sweeping plains. Bring plenty of food and water (nice spot for a picnic) and dress appropriately – hat, sunscreen, etc. if you plan to hike around. There are only two rest areas in the entire 70,900 acre area. Otherwise, there are plenty of bushes, if you get my drift. As for ruins, obviously I cannot direct you. I encountered an information hut, but even that offered no clue as to the aforementioned pueblos, petroglyphs or plants. Rather disappointing.
As for vehicles, I was driving a Toyota Rav4 and while it was up to the task, I would have preferred a 4×4. As I was leaving, I saw a guy entering in a Corvette – insanity!
If you a cyclist, quad rider, or a biker this is a fun area for you. As I said earlier, it’s 11 miles from the entry point off the freeway to the end where Google Maps indicate is the location of the “monument”. On a motorized vehicle it would be a blast! On a bike it would be a phenomenal workout.
So a bit about the area. The Monument (which should really be called either a preserve or a park) is located in an area known as the Bloody Basin so called due the conflict between the Native Americans, and the whites. I offer the following from Loretta Benore in her In Days of Yore article entitled The True Story of How Bloody Basin Got its Name. She writes:
“The Tonto [Apache] were most feared by the Whites, who were looked upon as interlopers by the Indians.
The Tonto-Apache were highly mobile and unpredictable—the same tactics used by their cousins the Chiricahua under Geronimo. They were scary.
In early March, 1873, a band of Tonto-Apache attacked and killed a party of 3 Whites, killing all 3, but torturing one before he died. The atrocity spurred a punitive expedition under the specific command of Capt. George Randall, and the general command of General George Crook.
The Apache were tracked to Turret Peak, a Yavapai stronghold in central Arizona. In late March of that year, Randall and a group of soldiers and scouts crept up Turret Peak at midnight.
He had the men crawl to the crest on their hands and knees to be as stealthy as possible, not disturbing rocks or stones.
At dawn they attacked. The Natives were so taken by surprise that they panicked, many of them jumping off the mountain precipice to certain death below. Those who resisted were quickly killed or surrendered.
Estimates run between 26 and 57 Indians killed, with many more injured. No soldiers were killed. Several of them were later awarded the Medal of Honor. Two weeks after the battle many of the Indians surrendered to General Crook at Camp Verde and were removed down to the San Carlos Reservation, not to return until several decades later.”
OK. Mystery solved. That just leaves Moore’s Gulch, Bubble Bee Trail, and Horse Thief Basin (just to name a few) for future exploration and explanation.
Arizona is a Mecca for hikers and one could spend a lifetime exploring all the trails, ghost towns, and Indian ruins that are scattered throughout the state and the Southwest as a whole. It is one of the aspects of the area that I find most endearing. I have often fantasized about taking my laptop out to one of these areas, free from the distractions of traffic, phones, and the internet. And just allow my thoughts to flow through my fingers onto the screen. Perhaps my muse is an Indian princess, or a Navajo warrior. Perhaps the secrets if the Superstition Mountains or Black Canyon would reveal themselves to me then. This is truly a magical area, one I look forward to discovering, and if allowed, sharing. Until then,
May you walk in beauty
In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk
Beautifully I will possess again
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk
With dew about my feet may I walk
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty
It is finished in beauty
-A Navajo Blessingway Prayer — May You Walk In Beauty