The Patio Area is the very southeastern tip of the Sierra Estrellas. Historically, it was the most visited place in the mountain range. For Gila Trail travellers, this marked a rest spot after "short-cutting" the Gila River from Pima Butte, near the junction with the Santa Cruz river, to rejoin the Gila River near present day Gila Bend. They would stop at the Maricopa and Pima villages for rest and water before starting what was considered hardest part of the trip - the 40 mile desert, from the Indian villages, across the southern end of the Estrellas, through the pass in the Maricopa range and then back to the river at Gila Bend. Starting in the late 1840's white settlers going west would use the same trail, stopping at Maricopa Wells and then following the old path west, cutting south of the Estrellas. his route would save them 2-3 days of travel (with wagons!), compared to the easier route following the Gila River north around the mountains.
For all travellers - Native American or Anglo - a mandatory stop was the small flat area at the end of the montain, directly under what is called Montezuma's Head. It was here that people checked their supplies and rested before heading west. Often the trip was made at night to escape the heat, hence the name "jornada de las estrellas" (journey of the stars). The Patio Area is a jumble of large and small rocks piled on top of each other. There are dozens of covered areas under and between rocks where people have sought shelter from the elements. Here they carved hundreds of figures figures in the rock, called petroglyphs, and ground native corn, creating bedrock morters still found in abundence.
The bad news is that people are rapidly destroying the figures or carrying anything than fits in a pickup!!. In the 50's and 60s the site was very clean, now broken glass and trash is everywhere. Some idiots have even used spray paint on the rocks, causing terrible damage to the petroglyphs. This is Reservation land, and if the Indians were to shoot anybody with a paint can, it would be fine by me. As John Annerino said in a book, ours might be the last generation to see these figures (or whats left of them!) More info on this area is in the pages on Maricopa Wells. See => http://www.brazilbrazil.com/patio.html
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