Saturday, 29 September 2012


It's late on a beautifully clear night with an almost full moon, DB is fast asleep and I'm busy trying to catch up with the blog which, as usual is behind.
The screen door is open to let in the cool night air when suddenly I hear the yips and howls of coyotes as the pack hunts in the wash close by.
It's amazing how fast I can move to close that door!
Have fun, we are!

Acoma Sky City, New Mexico

Acoma Sky City is the oldest continually inhabited community in North America and sits atop the sheer walls of a sandstone mesa over 300ft high.  

The Acoma people have lived on their land for over 2,000 years and their oral tradition goes back even further.   The story goes that their ancestors were told that a place a been prepared for them and as they travelled through what is now Colorado and New Mexico every so often they would call out Haak’u.   When the call was returned to them, they knew they’d found the place prepared.

The only way to visit Acoma is on a guided tour from the Sky City Cultural Centre .

Before Hollywood discovered Acoma the only way to the top of the mesa was up steep narrow path. 
With no easy way to get their equipment to the top, Hollywood asked for and received permission to build a road to the top of the mesa. 
Robert, our guide, took us through the city, most impressively he walked backwards all the way without once stumbling.   He explained that there are over 250 houses on the mesa, there is no running water and no electricity.

Some of the oldest houses on the mesa.

Only a few families live permanently on the mesa, but each clan has a home there and return to the mesa for special cultural occasions.
Some the houses have high doorways and were accessed by ladders which were drawn up at night for safety.
In the mid 1500’s the Spanish Conquistador, Coronado passed this way searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, when he saw Acoma from a distance he thought he’d found them, not realising that it was the straw in the adobe shining in the sunlight.
San Esteban del Rey Mission was built in the early 1600’s and although you can visit, photographs of the inside of the mission or church yard are not allowed.
Enchanted Mesa was once home to the Acoma people and was only accessible via a steep ramp of fallen stone.  While the people were working in the fields below a great storm passed through and the people watched in horror as the ramp was washed away.

Acoma Legend says that 3 old women and a young boy who were left behind and were rescued when a great thunderbird carried them down to the valley.   Another version of the legend says that a young girl and her mother were stranded and rather than die of starvation leaped from the top of the mesa.
Enchanted Mesa is a sacred mountain a not even the Acoma set foot on it.
Looking towards Enchanted Mesa.
We had a really interesting visit to this very special place.
Have fun, we are!

Travel at your own risk!

It’s 10 years since we were last in Grants, New Mexico and during that time a lot has changed, we looked in vain for a great little diner we ate in several times only to find out that it had been a victim of the recession.

One of the reasons for staying in Grants was to revisit Chaco Culture National Historical Park

To get to Chaco from Grants is a long drive, on paved roads, but, the last section from either Pueblo Pintado or Seven Lakes is on rarely maintained rough dirt and neither route is really recommended by the National Park Service.  

On our last trip we’d driven the Pueblo Pintado route which is about a 200 mile round trip including 33 miles (each way) of rough, washboard dirt.   I remember very few road signs and the ones that were there said encouraging things like ‘impassable when wet’ or ‘travel at your own risk’!

A couple of times back then on a beautiful sunny day with no sign of bad weather we thought we were lost.  Satnav is worse than useless and will more than likely to take you off down an even worse road into the middle of nowhere where it will probably blithely tell you you’ve arrived at your destination and then switch itself off.

The ‘road’ (and I use that term loosely) has washes that fill up in seconds, dirt that turns to sticky caliche mud and even with 4WD is practically impossible to drive on.   With a forecast of afternoon monsoon thunderstorms we decided it made sense for us to postpone our return to Chaco until we can either travel in good weather or take the recommended route from the north.
As it did rain in the afternoon on the day we'd planned to go we were glad we changed our plans and weren't out on those dirt 'roads'!

Have fun, we are! 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Homolovi Ruins State Park

Homolovi Ruins State Park isn’t far from Winslow and has been on our ever lengthening ‘to visit list’ for a while, this year we finally made it.
Arriving at the visitor centre, we were surprised when the ranger on duty told us there were a lot of mosquitos about so to be sure and use bug spray.   Apparently beneath the sand there is a layer of clay which holds the water and makes an ideal breeding ground for the pesky little critters.   Liberally covered in the stuff we followed the road to Homolovi II, we were the only ones there.

Pot sherds of all different sizes and colours are everywhere and much to our surprise the ranger said it was okay to pick them up to look at them as long they were put back.
Homolovi II has an unusual square kiva we’ve never seen one like this before.
Sadly there are also huge holes where illegal pot hunters have dug trying to find pots to sell on the black market.
After spending some time looking around, we drove back to the Tsu Vo Loop Trail, it’s only a short trail and there are some very faint petroglyphs on the rocks.  I could only find these, although that was no surprise as the ranger said they are very feint and difficult to find.
There were also some very large piles of sticks that looked to be some sort of nests, when I checked with the ranger I was told that the trail is closed in spring and autumn as eagles nest there.
Our next stop was Homolovi I which is closer to the Little Colorado River, as we approached we could easily see the river and signs warned of quicksand and fast moving currents.
There are also two sites on the opposite side of the river, but these are only open to the public on ranger guided tours details, more information  and dates are on the park website.
As well as being an interesting place to visit Homolovi Ruins State Park is sacred to the Hopi people and should be treated with respect.
Have fun, we are!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

One of our favourite hikes

Whenever we’re in Williams we head off to the Grand Canyon to take one of our favourite hikes.
Heading up the trail 
First glimpse of the canyon
Fabulous Views

The Colorado River and Horsehoe Mesa
We stayed in our favourite spot for about an hour, watching the clouds drift in before heading back to the truck.

At one of the viewpoints along East Rim Drive we watched as an afternoon storm as passed over the North Rim.

The colours were just amazing.

Have fun, we are!

Parades & Rodeos

We were in Williams over the Labour Day weekend so we enjoyed watching the Labour Day Parade.   The parade was led by Veterans
and the Grand Marshall
Some of the other participants in the parade, this little organ was really cute and cheerful 
Buckskin clad Bill Williams Mountain Men
It was only a small parade and didn’t last long but we really enjoyed watching it.  From there we headed off for coffee and then walked over to the rodeo grounds just in time to eat before the rodeo started.
As with all rodeos the US Flag and the State Flag were ridden round the arena and everyone stood for the national anthem.

Some of the action we enjoyed during the afternoon, ouch!

Display riding
Barrel racing
Bull Riding
Ladies steer riding, we’d never seen this before and I really don’t think it’s something I’m ever likely to try!

As we walked back afterwards a monsoon storm rolled in and we just made it back before the first raindrops fell, how lucky was that?

Have fun, we are!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Return to Dog Town Lake

When our trusty Williams guidebook took us on our first hike around Dog Town Lake a couple of years ago the water lapped close to the edge of the forest.  

On this trip the water level was probably 100ft lower, that’s an awful lot less water!


Back then when we reached Dog Town Wash, we had to backtrack into the forest for about ¼ mile as the only way to cross would’ve been to swim.  This time the only way we realised we’d arrived at the wash was a pool of water and a barely visible trickle of water leading down into the lake.

Dog Town Wash 2010

Dog Town Wash 2012
As for the head of the lake, well back then, we met  a couple who had their boat on the shore just below the tree line and were fishing, then when we got to the head of the lake we had to find a way across very boggy ground.   This time the head of the lake was well below Dog Town Wash.

Don't think you'd catch many fish there now.
Back then our hike was about 2½ - 3 miles, this time it was closer to the 1.8 miles mentioned in the guide book.   On our first hike although it was monsoon season we never saw a cloud, this time we just made it back to the truck as the thunder rolled and the lightening split the sky.

What a difference a couple of years makes.

Have fun, we are!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

It's out there somewhere?

We walked part of the Beale Wagon Road on another trip to Williams when we went to Laws Spring.   This trip we decided to hike the section on Government Prairie.
Following the reasonably good dirt road from Old Route 66, through the small settlement and across grassland covered in wildflowers
we arrived at the parking area which is marked by a stone marker.   The marker tells how Lt. Edward Beale was charged with developing a wagon road from Fort Defiance (now in Arizona) along the 35th parallel to the Colorado River.   Beale used camels to determine their suitability for use in the deserts of the American South West, Beale loved the camels the cowboys hated them.  However, with the advent of the Civil war the experiment was dropped.

Following our trusty trail guide we headed off along the trail passing the remains of an old building

before arriving at the wooden trail marker.   At this point the trail we were following left the wagon road heading out across the open prairie to the forest where after just over a mile the trail came back onto the wagon road on the prairie.

Checking our compass we headed off in what, according to our guide, appeared to be the right direction, no sign of any trail or trail markers anywhere, we retraced our steps

And set off at a different angle, still no trail markers, so back we went to our original spot.
We thought third time's the charm so we'd try what we thought was totally the wrong direction and guess what it was!  So once more back we went to our original spot beside the marker.

Hmm……. so now what?   We could see the afternoon monsoon clouds starting to build and one thing we have learned in all our years of hiking in the US is that forests here are huge so we feel much safer if we have a proper trail to follow.  

The trail is there, somewhere, but unusually for us we just couldn’t see it, I bet if we come back another time we’ll find it straight away, this time however we decided to give it a miss.   Good job we weren’t in charge of a wagon train!

Have fun, we are!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Bearizona, Williams, Arizona

On our last few trips to Williams I’ve wanted to visit Bearizona but DB has always been worried about taking his truck through in case it got scratched by any of the animals.   He’s thinking of the safari parks at home when years ago the monkeys used to sit on your bonnet (hood) and dismantle the windscreen wipers!
Having been reassured that we wouldn’t suddenly find a bear sitting on the bonnet (hood) doing the same thing, we paid our entrance fees and off we went.   The best time to visit Bearizona is in the morning or the evening when the animals are more active.
Our first stop was the 3.00 p.m. raptor show, I wasn’t at all sure what was meant by a ‘free flight’ show, but I soon found out.  It means that the birds fly inches above your head, if you’re like me and don’t particularly like birds, you’d be better off sitting outside that area.   I was ready to move but DB assured me I’d be fine, I was I closed my eyes and ducked!
George the owl
They have some cheeky crows who snatch a $1 bill from you
 and drop it into a collecting box. 

I tried to take photograph of DB handing the crow a $1 bill, but boy do they move fast!

After the raptor show we went to see the bear cubs, they are so cute you really just want to hug them, although it probably wouldn’t be such a good idea.
Obviously on the drive through section doors and windows have to be locked and if the animals start to move towards you, you’re advised to move on.

Some of the animals we saw were:

White Bison

and a very sleepy rather large adult bear, I wouldn't have wanted to disturb his beauty sleep!
There’s lots more to see and we had a great visit, although as we drove out DB did give a huge sigh of relief that we’d made it through without a scratch on his beloved truck.
Have fun, we are!