Casa Grande National Monument, AZ #6
The drive from Phoenix to Tucson was terrible, unless you are the rare bird who enjoys dust storms. I had never driven through a real one before and it was slightly terrifying. Did I mention, the air conditioner in the car decided not to work? I now have a very personal understanding of why you should never leave your dog in a hot car. Woof!
So, this is what the state of Arizona says to do in the event that you can no longer see the road in front of you during a dust storm.
1) Pull over to the side of the road; this presumes you can still see the side of the road.
2) Put the car in park, turn off all your lights and take your foot off the brake.
3) Wait to die...either from being hit by another car or suffocating in your own car.
The third one was my addition; and you thought you weren't going to learn anything from this blog.
When I approached the gate of Casa Grande National Monument. I pulled over to get the obligatory picture of the sign with Anna's teddy bear. I set him on the ground and when I turned around to get the picture, he was gone! The wind had taken him out into the cactus field behind the sign. After rescuing him and pulling cactus needles out of him and me, I got the picture.
The Visitor Center is quite good and explains the large village that once stood in this place. After being told by a ranger that The Ancestral People or The Hohokam were "masters of the desert"; I thought to myself, "You have to be or you're gonna die real fast!"
The Ancestors built canals, plazas, homes, and ball courts. They farmed, hunted and were active traders. The desert has reclaimed all but the Casa Grande. The great house is four stories tall and 60 ft. long. Each corner of the house faces either east, west, north or south. In the upper west wall resides a circular opening which just happens to line up with the summer solstice's setting sun. There are other openings in the walls that line up with other seasonal sun and moon rising and settings. Archaeologists have determined that it took 3,000 tons of caliche (mixture of sand, clay & limestone) to build the great house. The next obvious question is how do you reinforce and build levels with all that caliche? They used hundreds of juniper, pine and fir trees to accomplish this. "But there's no trees around!" They floated them 60 miles down the Gila River. My plan would have been to build the village 60 miles up the river where the trees were; but that's just me.
I apologize for the lack of pictures, but because of all the blowing dirt and sand I was having trouble even making out Casa Grande from the Visitor Center. Sorry...