I first found out about Tonto National Monument at the rest stop where the 87 and 188 meet. It was instantly put on my list of ruins to see. My first trip here was a giant swing and miss. We arrived at the visitor center after a two and a half hour drive only to realize we couldn't go into the lower ruin due to bee activity. What a sad drive home that was. Flash back to March 2010; the trip is set in stone. Needless to say, I'm excited.
My sister, our friend Sam, and I leave the house at 6:30, and after a few stops get on the road at 6:40. After a very nice drive, we find ourselves in the parking lot looking up at the lower ruin. We walk into the visitor center, confirm our reservation, browse the various exhibits. The rest of the people in the group start to meet up sparingly in front of the visitor center, so we join the trend. After we met up with our ranger for a quick briefing, it was adventure time.
After getting on the trail, our ranger began to explain how the park captures pictures of wildlife, along with some other information I can't remember. We make our way a little further up the trail to find Miner's Lettuce. It's just a taste of things to come. After going off trail for a more adventurous feel, our ranger explains how a rock the size of a car had fallen from one of the cliffs above, and once again, we press on. Back on the trail, we encountered a squirrel who ran right into the group - literally. It's almost as if this squirrel wanted to steal every ounce of our groups attention from the guide, and that it did.
After making our way up the switchbacks, we all sat in a neighboring alcove for a snack. It was a great time to imagine what the Salado people saw day after day. Countless thoughts of leaving the group to stay here ran through my mind. Before we knew it, it was on the the dwelling. Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I wish I could just tell the entire group to just go away so I can experience the true solitude of the area. As the ranger spoke to us, we began to start looking around for ourselves. So many things to explore; where do you start? It was weird to see the ceiling intact in one of the rooms. I always wonder what the Salado (or any other southwest civilization) would think if they knew their homes would be here so long into the future.
It seemed like we had just got there, when the tour was over. We all started heading down the trail. Excited to get back to the Miner's Lettuce, I couldn't take my time. As soon as the switchbacks were over, I jumped off trail for a more thrilling experience. I think it was a good idea considering the trail was just a few feet away, and the ranger insisted on it earlier.
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