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Roadside Ruin And Glyphs
Lying on top of a little hill overlooking highway 188 is another in a series of Salado ruins in northern Tonto Basin, near the tiny village of Jake's Corner. When I lived in Jake's Corner, I'd planned many times to check out the top of this hill. "Well, maybe tomorrow," I always thought. On a beautiful spring afternoon after moving from Jake's Corner to Payson itself, the opportunity presented itself for a ruin hunt and exploration.
After parking at the corral along forest road 184 just north of Jake's Corner, I decided on climbing the north slope of this unnamed hill. As I plowed up the rocky slope through the jojoba and mesquite, the words of an archaeologist friend came to mind. "Ancient people were not that different from us. They chose their home sites based on the availability of food, water, shelter, and safety." This hill satisfied those requirements in my mind. As I neared the top of the brushy hill, I noticed how much taller it seemed than when I'd studied it from the bottom. Arriving at the top, views of the Sierra Anchas and Mazatzals surrounded me, with lesser hills of pinkish dirt below them. Suddenly I noticed the work of man: a wall of ancient black rocks stacked waist-high among the jojoba bushes. Then more walls and remnants of rooms began to appear among the jagged outcroppings of black schist and high desert scrub. I was not the first person in modern times to come up here, as I noticed that some of the rooms had been dug up by pot hunters, sadly. This ruin was probably the fortress's size atop Black Mountain, which was visible to the north. After enjoying this old dwelling in the high desert, I began my descent of the hill and soon reached the corral again. A short distance away, a sandy wash ran through a miniature slot canyon at the hill's base. Curious as to whether the village's ancient inhabitants above me had made any use of this notch at the bottom of their hill, I set off again.
Passing the aptly named Mud Spring site, walls of ancient black schist began to rise above me on both sides. Unknown persons had carved their initials into the rock walls long ago, one of which was dated '89", looked to have been carved in 1889. Near the far end of the little slot canyon, I came across what I had been looking for: petroglyphs. Carved into a squared-off boulder was a variety of plant, animal, and geometric shapes. Worn into the bedrock below the boulder was a metate and a flour grinding hole. After taking some photos and studying the glyphs, I returned to my truck at the corral with a feeling of satisfaction after having indirectly met my ancient neighbors.
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