2014 Prescott Open Chess Tournament Sunday, Jul 20 2014 

Luke Calhoun

Luke Calhoun

The 2014 Prescott Open was held Saturday, July 19th, in the Crossroads Conference Center of Prescott College. Luke Calhoun, a Candidate Master from Sedona, was the top finisher. He earned $75 for his three wins. Bill Pace, Vail, Jim Briggs, Chino Valley, and Neil Wadsworth, Prescott Valley, split the $25 second place prize money.

A Reserve section of five new players to the U. S. Chess Federation faced one another in a round robin format. Thomas Keenan, Prescott, won $75 after winning all four of his games. Galen Dennis, who will be a sophomore at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, won $25 for clear second place for his three wins and one loss.

The last known U. S. Chess Federation rated event in Prescott was held 18 years ago. It is hoped that the Prescott Open chess tournament will become an annual event.

 

Mingus Mountain Sunday, Jul 13 2014 

Mingus Mountain

Mingus Mountain

This morning we drove to Mingus Mountain and explored two trails that we had not previously hiked. The trailhead for North Mingus Trail #105 starts at the end of the 2.5 mile dirt road off highway 89A. Several TV and radio towers and two hang glider launch sites take advantage of the 7,800 foot elevation. For about 0.75 of a mile the trail is flat but rocky. It then begins a half-mile descent of 1,000 feet through a series of switchbacks with views of Jerome and the Verde Valley. We walked about half way down before deciding to return. A fellow preparing his hang glider told me that he has used this launch more than a hundred times. Further, he shared that yesterday he used it to soar an altitude of 6,000 feet and circled the Yavapai Fair Grounds before deciding to land at the Cottonwood Airport. The Arizona Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association is responsible for this launch site on Mingus Mountain. To use the site one must be an AHGPA member and have Intermediate status. We did not see his launch, but I have since learned that the site has a 4,300 foot vertical drop. We were not aware of this recreational activity here, although we have seen paragliders in Phoenix. After driving back down the road about 0.7 of a mile, we stopped at the View Point Trail #106 trailhead. Not far from the parking area there is an overlook with another expansive view. Several of the stones used to build a short wall at this overlook are memorials for loved ones. We walked down the switchbacks of this trail for a short distance. This trail can connect with trail #105 for a loop. The fall would be an excellent time return when we might see the changing colors of aspen and oak leaves. Before departing we circled one of the campgrounds and stopped at a day use area for more scenic views. The temperatures on Mingus Mountain are almost ten degrees cooler than Prescott which translates to about 30 degrees cooler than those experienced this yime of year in the Valley of the Sun.

Walnut Canyon National Monument Tuesday, Jul 8 2014 

Walnut Canyon

Walnut Canyon

On our return from Mesa Verde National Park we stopped at the Petrified Forest National Park Visitor Center which we had not previously visited. Russian sage in bloom in front of the entrance sign made for a nice picture. As we approached Flagstaff we decided to have lunch at the Walnut Canyon National Monument. It was interesting to compare what we had learned about the Ancestral Puebleans with the Sinagua people who are said to have inhabited this area. The cliff dwellings here were also built between 1125 and 1250. They, too, were occupied for only about 100 years. It was suggested that they were assimilated into the nearby Hopi culture. After watching the video and looking at the exhibits in the Visitor Center, we walked the 0.7 Rim Trail. The trail overlooks the canyon with views of the cliff dwellings and passes the ruins of a one-room pithouse, the foundation of a two room pueblo, and a pile of rocks that was likely another dwelling. This area had three types of juniper: Oneseed, Utah, and Rocky Mountain. On our next visit we need to walk the Island Trail to more closely examine the cliff dwelling rooms.

Mesa Verde National Park Monday, Jul 7 2014 

On our way to Mesa Verde National Park we paid $5 per person to enter the Four Corners. We took one another’s picture while sitting where the borders of four states (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) intersect and used the toilets provided by the Navajo Nation. Booths surround the site where Navajo artisans sell handmade jewelry, crafts, and Navajo traditional foods.

Long House

Long House

At the Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center we purchased tour tickets for Long House, Cliff Palace, and Balcony House. We learned that the park was created in 1906 to preserve the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people. There are 600 cliff dwellings and more than 4,500 archeological sites. It took more than an hour to navigate the sharp curves and steep grades of the 29-mile park road to the Wetherill Mesa Information Booth. Our tour began with a safety talk followed by a short ride on a tram powered by biodiesel fuel to a trailhead where we then descended 50 concrete steps to Long House. This cliff dwelling has about 150 rooms and is considered the second-largest village. It was excavated between 1959 and 1961 as part of the Wetherill Mesa Archeological Project. Much of the floor sloped sharply downward making construction difficult. Expansion upward and outward tested engineering techniques. We climbed two 15 foot ladders and could see two overhead ledges, one seemed to include an overlook with small holes in the wall. An unusually large kiva seems to indicate special significance for this site. A spring is accessible within several hundred feet and steeps are located in the rear of the alcove. To exit we climbed about 130 feet. Because of the lateness of the hour and the threat of rain (which materialized), we did not fully explore the tram route to Kodak House and Badger House nor did we take the Step House self-guided walk.

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace

We started our second day with a tour of Mesa Verde’s largest cliff dwelling, Cliff Palace. There have many changes since I visited this site 33 years ago. Instead of being a crowded free-for-all, tickets are now required for a one-hour ranger led tour for 40 visitors. We were asked not to bring gum, food, or sugary drinks into the site and to respect the architecture by not touching it. We now call the inhabitants Ancestral Puebloans not Anasazi. It wasn’t until around 1200 that people living on the mesas moved down into alcoves. The construction occurred in a short period of time, only about twenty years. And, they stayed for less than 100 years. Cliff Palace continues to be the crown jewel of Mesa Verde National Park. It is located in an alcove that 89 feet deep and 59 feet high. The complex is 288 feet long with 150 rooms and 23 kivas. We needed to climb four ladders. Current speculation considers that the 100 to 120 people who lived here may have been “caretakers” who looked after the stored crops. There may have been seasonal gatherings in the large courtyards that could accommodate another two hundred people. Why the people left continues to be a haunting question.

Balcony House

Balcony House

Balcony House, with 38 rooms and two kivas in a two-story masonry structure, is physically the most challenging of the ranger-led tours. It requires climbing three long ladders (one 32-feet, and two10-feet), navigating a steep 60-foot open cliff face with stone steps, and crawling through a narrow 18 inch wide 12-foot long tunnel. This alcove is 39 feet deep and 20 feet high. The complex is 264 feet long and 600 feet above Soda Canyon. A spring at the back of the alcove was probably the main water source. We later took the 1.2 mile Soda Canyon Overlook Trail for a distant view of Balcony House.

At the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum we viewed an introductory movie and looked at dioramas and artifacts. We then drove the Mesa Top Loop. We stopped at the Square Tower House Overlook, the Pithouses, and the Sun Temple. The Square Tower House, with the tallest structure in the park, had 60 rooms and 8 kivas. Stabilization of the Tower is ongoing. The Fire Temple Overlook allowed us to see the Dance Plaza and New Fire House. As we waited for the Cliff Palace tour in the morning we heard drumming from a ceremony at the Sun Temple. During our stop there, we were able to get good views of Cliff Palace. The Sun Temple was likely going to be a ceremonial structure but wasn’t completed before the people abandoned the area. Our final stop as we exited the park was the Park Point Overlook where the employee in the fire lookout was busy looking for lightning strikes. Because of the rain we missed “one of the grandest and most extensive views in the country.” Nevertheless, Mesa Verde National Park has earned its status as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

Canyon de Chelly National Park Friday, Jul 4 2014 

Spider Rock

Spider Rock

After visiting the Canyon de Chelly Visitor Center, we drove the South Rim Drive to the Spider Rock Overlook. Spider Rock is an 800-foot sandstone spire that rises from the canyon floor at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. On our return to Chinle we stopped at each overlook. At Face Rock Overview we saw the continuation of Canyon de Chelly from Spider Rock. Sliding House Overlook displayed a twisted rock monolith formation. We couldn’t actually see White House Ruin from this overlook, but we did observe several tour vehicles starting their exit from the valley. Junction Overlook has views of Chinle Valley and the confluence of Canyon del Muerto and Canyon de Chelly. Navajo farmlands on the canyon floor can be seen from Tsegi Overlook. Native vendors offer their wares at many of the overlooks. In the parking lot of this overlook we listened to the haunting melody of Native flutist D’Von Charley and purchased his CD Canyon Voice. A trail which requires a guide winds through Tunnel Overlook.

White House Ruins

White House Ruins

On our second day we hired a guide, Leander of Beauty Way, for a three hour trip into the Chinle Valley. He shared details of his own story along with information about Navajo culture. Many of our stops were to see the ruins of Ancestral Puebloans. He pointed out pictograph and petroglyph images on the canyon walls. Our final stop was White House ruin, named for the long white plaster wall in the upper dwelling where Ancestral Puebloans lived 1,000 years ago. On our exit we stopped at weaver Kathryn’s place where she demonstrated the different steps required in making her rugs. It was interesting to see the canyon from this perspective.

Navajo Fortress

Navajo Fortress

In the afternoon we took the North Rim Drive. The construction of the cliff dwelling at Antelope House Overlook started about 700 and continued to be lived in for 600 years. The huge rock formation known as Navajo Fortress marks the junction of the Del Muerto and Black Rock Canyons. “Stairways” of movable, notched poles were positioned to reach otherwise inaccessible areas as part of this Navajo refuge from enemy attack. At Massacre Cave Overlook one can see the cave where the Spanish led by Antonio Narbona fired from the rim and killed all 115 Navajo in 1805. Mummy Cave Overlook, whose cave is also known as the House Under the Rock, is a site where mummified bodies an Ancestral Puebloans were discovered. Canyon de Chelly is well worth a visit.

Hubbell Trading Post Wednesday, Jul 2 2014 

Hubbell Trading Post

Hubbell Trading Post

John Lorenzo Hubbell bought William Leonard’s trading post in 1876. The Diné, who we call the Navajo, returned to the area in 1868 following reservation imprisonment in New Mexico and after the brutal ordeal of their Long Walk in 1864. Hubbell traded food and other commodities initially for piňon nuts, wool, firewood, livestock, and produce but later for handmade rugs, jewelry, carvings, baskets, and pottery. For more than 50 years he was known for his neighborly friendship, honest business dealings, and wise counsel to Native Americans.  Explorers, artists, writers, scientists, and notables such as President Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed the hospitality of the Hubbell family. A guide was kind enough to allow us to visit the Hubbell house which is normally open only on the hour. We learned about the art work that decorates every available wall space, marveled at the large collection of books, and noted the baskets attached to the ceiling. We admired the goods available for sale in the Trading Post and walked around the grounds. We were told that the corn seedlings this year have been devoured by an influx of prairie dogs. We learned that after Hubbell died in 1930 and that the Hubbell Trading Post stayed in the family until 1967 when it was sold to the National Park Service to be preserved as a national historical site.

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