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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Eight Hundred Years Ago

~Monday, March 21, 2022~

Day 645

About 20 months ago when we spent our short time in Sedona, we took a drive just a few rough road minutes from our campsite at Loy Butte Rd. to a set of old Indian ruins at the Honanki Heritage Site. Today, we visited its sister site called the Palatki Heritage Site just east of Honanki. The Palatki site is an appointment only, guided tour as opposed to Honanki’s self-guided approach. Luckily we nabbed the 2 tickets that were remaining for the 1:00 tour (they close at 3:00). Docent Sarah was insistent that we arrive on time due to their limited 12-person grouping. Even if you’re one minute late, they’ll give away your spot, on the spot. We were 20 minutes early, allowing us a little time before the tour to peruse the modest library and tiny museum. Sarah mentioned that today’s weather was a far cry from yesterday’s when they had to get everyone off the mountain because of lightning and thunder. I guess we timed that perfectly.

Our tour guide Bob gave us a little introduction about the former home, owned by Charles Willard, that is the present day visitor center. But prior to Willard farming the land, Charles’ grandfather homesteaded the area back in 1923, transforming the property into a 5,000 fruit tree orchard.

But it was the Sinagua people who first occupied the area, constructing one of the largest prehistoric pueblos in the Verde Valley from about 1,100 AD to 1,300 AD. The Sinagua (ancestors of the Hopi) were skillful at making tools from stone, leather and wood, as well as successful hunters and farmers. It was to the west of the dwelling where the Sinagua planted their crops of squash, cotton, corn and beans. The red banded sandstone as their backdrop to their cliff dwelling, provided the perfect source of heat during the mornings and a source of shade on the hotter afternoons. The cantilevered mountains above have helped shelter and protect the structure below for hundreds of years.

After getting a close up view of the puebloan village, we headed over to The Grotto, an “indoor” structure resembling a cave. It was here that we witnessed numerous, somewhat faded pictographs.

Our second docent Larry, gave us the historian’s interpretation of what these “pictures” were thought to express and reminded us of the differences between pictographs and petroglyphs as we’d forgotten. The Grotto is very well protected, allowing visitors like us to get a glimpse of these amazing images;

quite an array of colors too, as if they had Crayolas back then. Obviously they didn’t but one of the ingredients they used in making pigment was animal fat. Because of the fat, the soot from numerous fires adhered to the walls creating large black markings on the walls of the cave, still visible today. Just beyond The Grotto was what appeared to be another cliff dwelling but was in fact the former “shelter” of Charles Willard between 1923 to 1925, while he was waiting for his permanent home (the visitor center) to be built. All that remains is a tangled mess of chicken wire that originally supported the roof. Eventually, the property was purchased for cattle grazing, until the U.S. Forest Service took it over.

When we got back to our campsite, our neighbor Sol was out doing his thing…..woodcarving.

Since Jeff and I have a huge appreciation for art, we enjoyed hearing all about his technique and seeing the many samples bolted to the bed of his Dodge, i.e. eagles, dolphins, bears, pelicans, etc. One of his most impressive pieces was a caricature he carved resembling an RV park owner that they had met on the road. The result…..the spittin’ image of the man himself, though the gentleman didn’t think his nose was quite that big. Sol insists it was a pretty accurate interpretation. 🤭Seriously though, he liked it so much, he ordered additional pieces. You can check out Sol’s gallery at

It was a great night of cornhole, which lasted until dark, again! It turns out our new friend Amy, who completely downplayed her talents, stole the show with her 4 or 5 cornhole shots! She swears she hadn’t played since her college days. I wonder how she’d do against our cornhole king brother-in-law? (remember him? The “Star Wars” themed video we put together in tribute of Tim’s raw talent?) If you didn’t catch it, well here ‘ya go……

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