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mini location map2013-12-19
37 by photographer avatarAZWanderingBear
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Indian Mesa RuinsPhoenix, AZ
Phoenix, AZ
Hiking avatar Dec 19 2013
AZWanderingBear
Hiking7.00 Miles 750 AEG
Hiking7.00 Miles   2 Hrs   25 Mns   2.90 mph
750 ft AEG14 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I've had a hankering lately to visit Indian ruins. Last week was the ones just north of Chalk Canyon. Today I headed to the northeast corner of Lake Pleasant to visit Indian Mesa. Drove the Jeep to the remote but well signed (WE WANT YOUR MONEY) Lake Pleasant trailhead via Table Mesa Road. Cowboys were corralling cattle just east of the trailhead. This area is still a working ranch.

Dropped into the very dry Aqua Fria for a short distance and then took the old jeep road, still used by the ranchers and various ATVers. The road parallels the river and for the first half mile or so looks a lot like a park, someplace you'd like to camp perhaps. The trail then breaks into an open and sandy area that can be flooded by Lake Pleasant when it is high. Cockle burrs love the sand and are here in abundance. Indian Mesa looms straight ahead. Along the north side of the trail a grove of eucalyptus trees interspersed with a cottonwood or two offered a shady and aromatic resting spot.

Just beyond this little oasis the white bluffs flank the north side of the hike. The soft limestone and sands of these bluffs erode easily. The harder cap rock at the top protect the soft material below until the cap rock itself erodes, or more likely, enough of the softer material below it collapses and undermines the entire structure. Hmmm, seems a fitting metaphor for whats happening to our own country these days. But back to the hike.

The familiar sound of four big propellers broke the silence as I trudged along. A USAF C-130 aircraft was on a low level training mission roaring ever so clumsily up the Agua Fria river valley from west to east. I've ridden in the back of these beasts in a previous life. They are slow, loud and massively uncomfortable, far more suited to hauling beans and bullets to end-of-the-line forward operating bases than people, especially THIS fighter flying, missile launching, bomb dropping, gun shooting people. The guy flying it probably had a spoon stuck in the pencil pocket of his flight suit, too. Trash haulers! God love 'em cause no one else will. (OK, wife says enough of the pilot rivalry stuff, get on with the real story.)

Soon after the sandy bottom, the trail turns back northwest and begins to climb up towards the mesa. Ran into about two dozen hikers, probably some kind of a hiking club, headed opposite to my direction. Footprints later told me they'd visited the mesa ruins earlier.

Two cairns mark the foot trail up to the mesa's top and the ruins. A short steep climb brings you to the entry to the ruins, a small notch in the vertical walls that comprise the "castle" of the mesa. Besides the obligatory government sign at the top of the entry way, you notice small windows in the protective walls of the ruin. I half expected to see a pair of dark suspicious eyes peering at me as I scaled the entry into this ancient site.

The top of the mesa is spacious and has a commanding view of the river valley below and the surrounding desert, mesas and hills. Many of the fortification walls and those of some of the rooms are very well preserved. Most of the structures are along the northern side of the mesa. I explored a bit and then worked over to the southern end with its fantastic view of the river below and lake to the west. Snacked, listened to the wind and admired the view, wondering how it had changed in the hundreds of years since the site was occupied. Was the rock upon which I now rested my modern posterior a favorite sitting and thinking place for a Hohokam resident a century ago? If I could have a conversation with him/her I think I'd ask how the fishing was back then. I suspect he/she'd want to know what the heck those paddle boarders thought they were doing anyway.

Explored a bit more finding plenty of pottery shards in the main area. Nice to find them, but they belong here. Found a grinding hole, but no metates or petroglyphs. I don't think the porous easily eroding limestone lends itself to petroglyphs.

Time marches on, and so then must I. Began working my way back to the Jeep. Sidetracked across the dry river bed to explore what I think is an old rock and mortar cistern on the south side of the river. There is lots of old fencing in this area and some pretty much unused jeep trails. If there once was a cabin or ranch line shack here, I found no evidence of it. About 150 feet east I found a spring seeping under a large sandstone bluff. Lots of tracks in the sand of critters and cows watering here.

Visiting these types of ruins has always inspired me while simultaneously reminding me of my very small and very fleeting place in this vast universe. Rocks stacked well remain after a century. What evidence of me will some wanderer find a 1000 years into the future? Anything?
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