It’s hard to go wrong with a schedule that opens with Mass in a beautiful old (for this part of the world anyway) church filled with friendly people and a spirit-filled pastor. Lots of people at the 0800 Mass and a choir that actually sang 3 part harmony (rare in a Catholic Church anywhere, let alone in a small Frontier town in Arizona). I had hoped they might have a “coffee klatch” afterwards, but that was apparently a step too far.
Cathy whipped up some pancakes on the stove in STella, and I hungrily enjoyed them with some apples and coffee. We did more than the usual amount of map recon as we had been told by some of the east bound bikers that a portion of the route we had planned taking had been deemed “too dangerous to ride” by the folks at Adventure Cycling. I admit I hadn’t been checking the “addendum” that ACA sends out periodically with comments on the route that had been relayed to them by riders on the scene. Sure enough, there was a warning not to use the section of the route that was still listed on some older maps (like ours from 2015). So, we would adapt to the new route, which will add quite a few miles before we get to Phoenix, but the important thing is to GET to Phoenix.
The ride out of Globe on a perfect March day was so blissful, I caught myself thinking how great it would be if all my Ragbrai and riding friends could be along at this moment to enjoy this wonderful experience. The scenery and the road and the temperature were perfect.
By the time I got to the top of the Salt River Pass, I’m not sure how many of those friends would still be friends. 😉 It was about a three mile grind, but I knew from the elevation map that once over the top, it would be a six mile down into the next town. Then they’d be friends again. 🙂
Also on today’s route was another of the Cliff Dwelling sites. Again, it was a long hike up to the caves and we thought of those people who lived here doing this walk over and over on paths much less amenable than the switch-backed, smooth concrete walkways we were using. These were the Salado People and their dwellings were continuously occupied for at least three centuries. Changing conditions in the Indian world (Apache expansion), changing climate conditions (much more frequent flooding of their fields on the Salt River), and the economic “pull” of trade routes that criss-crossed their valley, all seem to have led to the abandonment of their homes in the caves. The caves have stood empty for over 600 years, and they would be mostly standing as they had been then had it not been for the deprivations of scavengers and vandals and souvenir hunters of the early 20th century.
The area where the caves are found has enjoyed some bountiful rainfall recently and the canyons and hillsides are remarkably green. The desert plants and grasses have erupted with blooms and growth. They have adapted so well to the desert environment that they can put on leaves within three days of a significant rainfall. It is just so nice to be here at this verdant time.
The Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River has created a very large reservoir and it is visible from the caves 700 feet above the valley floor.
We had decided to try and secure a campsite somewhere along the lake shore. Failing that, we would take anything that was available. Which is why we’re at Butcher Hook Landing, and happy to be here.
Hope you’re all happy, too!