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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Pueblos and Beer

~Saturday, March 26, 2022~

Day 650

Nothing like being awakened by a power drill and a power washer, inches from your trailer at 9:00 a.m. Our neighbors on one side were breaking down their rig getting ready to move on to their next location, and the guy on the other side was getting his Class A all sparkly clean at the tune of $200. This mobile car washing service must make a killing in this park as every rig but ours looks like they’ve never left the sales lot. Believe me, I was tempted to ask for a quick wash on Hank since a car wash is on our to-do list while we’re here. In the 22 months that we’ve been on this trip, there are only a handful of places that have allowed us to wash both the trailer and truck. It is a rarity, especially in the desert.

Now that we’re wide awake, we’re off to Clarkdale, Arizona to explore another pueblo ruin called Tuzigoot National Monument. We joined about another 30 tourists to explore this small, but very well preserved site. But what drove the Sinaguan people to this region? The area of Verde Valley had the perfect recipe for settlement…….ample water from the river and streams, fertile land alongside waterways, and sufficient game, including deer, antelope, rabbit, bear, muskrat and duck to enhance their heavily reliant corn diet.

We learned as with many ruins, that the signal to begin any excavation is if something looks disrupted. In this case, many rocks appeared broken or fragmented indicating to archaeologists that something significant occurred here. What they found were artifacts which indicated that the Sinaguan people were more interested in function than decorum. Tuzigoot (Apache for “crooked water”) is the remnant of a Southern Sinagua village built between 1000 and 1400 A.D., at the summit of a long ridge rising 120 feet above the Verde Valley floor.

The original pueblo was for the most part, 2-stories high with 87 ground-floor rooms. Entry into each space was by ladders through roof openings which also functioned as an escape for smoke. Over the years, the Sinaguans continued to expand their cluster of rooms. But what drove them away remains a mystery. There are several theories: 1. They were nomadic people ready to move on; 2. Their habitat may have become overpopulated; 3. There was a depletion of resources or 4. Conflict. We would like to think that it was for the first reason.

After 2 years of excavation between 1933 and 1935, the archaeologists from the University of Arizona decided to halt their digging so as not to disrupt or further damage this historical site. Most of what we saw were partly-preserved walls only a few feet high. In other words we weren’t seeing the whole enchilada, but saw enough of the footprint of each room to get a sense of their size. At one time, the settlement was home to around 250 people. We were impressed with one of the spaces which had a reconstructed ceiling, giving you a sense of the cool refuge these rooms would have been during those hot summer months.

As we made our way to the ridgeline of where the pueblo was located, we read interpretive signs about the Verde Valley below. Though this was a thriving billion dollar copper mining region in the early 1900’s, it left behind an environmentally damaged landscape in its wake. Around 1927, The United Verde Copper Company started pumping slurry through miles of redwood pipes to roughly 65 acres of floating tailing ponds located near Tuzigoot. The toxic smoke and fumes from the smelting operation resulted in deforestation of most of the large, wooded vegetation in the surrounding areas, severely impacting the cropland by local farmers. Thanks to the University of Arizona, they spearheaded a program in 1955, to add dikes and berms to prevent the waste from infiltrating the nearby Verde River, encapsulating the waste, if you will.

But it’s sad to witness just how long the recovery process is. After all these years, the damage and lack of vegetation is still visible. On our way out, we made sure to check out the small but informative visitor center which had quite an array of artifacts from the site.

Then it was some fun-time for our Sadie girl taking her to the Verde River for a little swim time. While there we saw about 10 kayakers enjoying the beautiful sunny day, including a Verde River ranger who asked for our assistance in helping him dock.

Next, we stopped at dog friendly That Brewery in Cottonwood for 2 thirst quenching beers……Jeff’s IPA usual, and me a strawberry pilsner. We’d give both an 8 out of 10.

Can’t think of a better way to end the day than talking with family. We had an hour FaceTime call with my mom, sister and brother-in-law followed by a delicious leftover dinner of homemade chili and cornbread.

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