A Visit to Salado Ruins

Happy April First “this post is no joke”

About 700 years ago, when the expansion of the Mongol empire was under way, on the other side of the planet people discovered a series of caves, formed in tuff, with a favorable location in a south facing cliff near water.  Tuff, a rock formed from volcanic ash, is hard, brittle and soluble in water.  From these properties this series of caves formed.  The southern exposure provided excellent climate control for people, like those we now call the Salado, who understood how to exploit the location.

They constructed from local materials (mud, plants and rock) rooms in the upper cave just far enough inside to be warmed by the winter sun and protected during the summer when the sun’s sky-path was higher.  Who knows how long the Salado lived in what must have been this paradise or why they left. 

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Rogers Canyon

In March 2006, after returning from a nine-day backpack trip to the remote eastern Superstition Wilderness I used a four-wheel vehicle to reach the Roger’s Trough trailhead for a day trip to this site in Roger’s Canyon.  The advantage of Roger’s Trough is the high elevation that leaves “just” about 1,100 feet of climbing (2,200 total) for the day.  As it happens, it is downhill to the ruins though there is plenty of ups and downs plus scrambling over rocks.

I started late morning and a returning party met me on the way out and warned against leaving packs unattended.  It seems they were victimized by pack rats.  My timing was lucky and I had the site to myself.

First (refer to the “Roger Canyon” photograph,  above) I climbed the cliff opposite from the ruins to set up a tripod an telephoto lens to shoot through the trees to capture the main building inside that very interesting looking tuff (see below).  That central column (to the right) divides the cave opening and there are views from inside, up and across the canyon.  In season, the cliffs are occupied by nesting birds and, higher up, there are fascinating caves in locations too high and steep to reach without the proper equipment.

As it is, climbing into the upper cave requires an exposed rock scramble.  By “exposed” I mean the climber is exposed to falling.  That is an intact wooden lintel of the visible structure opening and the larger structure, to the right, has curved walls.

Salado Cave Ruin

I then explored in and around the site.  The location of a lower cave made it useful for storage, it was walled off and the sturdy structure still stands today.  By the way, I inverted this view for artistic purposes.

Lower Storage Room

A lower cave is opened and accessible.  Looking out, I felt the original inhabitants were with me and then a raven started calling over and over and over.

Lower Cave

I was so fascinated by the possibilities of the site that time got away from me until this incessant cawing of a raven made me notice the lengthening cliff shadows.  Here is a view (see below) of my way home, back up Rogers Canyon.  My last shot before packing up.  It took just over two hours to get out, at a steady pace.  It was twilight as I approached the Rogers Trough trail head.

By the way, my posting before this one (“Finding Circlestone”) includes a shot of White Mountain.  In that view, these ruins are on the other side of White Mountain.

View up Rogers Canyon from the Ruins

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Finding Circlestone

Ancient Ruins

The Searcher’s Tale

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I first learned about Circlestone from stories The Searcher told during my first backpack into the eastern Superstition Mountains, on the Tule trail, April 2005.  I described this in “Riding from Pine Creek to the Reavis Valley” where the Searcher described a stone circle, overgrown with Alligator Juniper, on the slopes of Mound Mountain.  He pointed south toward a peak and foothills that rose from the valley floor and said, “follow the fire trail east from the southern Reavis Ranch valley.”  There were strange happenings associated with Circlestone (as he called it) and he’d never taken the time to go there.  “There is a book full of stories.”  I eventually sought out Circlestone on the web and in books, but after I found it on my own using only the Searcher’s directions and advice from friends met on the way.

Sunset from Castle Dome

Backpacking with my sister

In 2006 I explored Circlestone twice along with my sister, Diane, who accompanied me.  First for nine days early March 2006 using the Reavis Ranch trail from the north and the second for five days in November 2006, coming us the same trail from the south.  Our first trip was Diane’s first “real” backpack adventure and we took it slow with a camp at Castle Dome where there are flat areas and exceptional views.  Above, is the sunset from our second night (I camped the first night next to the car…we took it very, very sloooowwww).

Four Peaks Sunrise

Castle Dome

Then, there was morning of our third day.  Here is the Four Peaks Wilderness in the first rays of dawn.  These are green, rolling foothills of grass, low shrubs and a few juniper.  If you know where to look, there’s an unmarked trail to Reavis Falls (the highest waterfall in Arizona).  I found the trail and visited the falls on a later trip.

Castle Dome Sunrise

After enjoying the Four Peaks, you turn around and see Castle Dome in the morning light, as in this photograph.  Remember the same of the “dome”, because it is visible from the ultimate view from Circlestone.

Reavis Valley and White Mountain from the trail to Circlestone

The Trail to Circlestone

Our camp was in the Reavis Valley, one of the first sites along the creek coming from the north.  There were fantastic rock formations across the creek.  Not far from there, the land falls away into steepness and then Reavis Falls.   The Searcher told me about going that way, once.  There is no trail down to the falls overlook and deep canyon carved by the water.

This photograph, above, is from a lovely forest of pinyon trees that grow along the trail to Circlestone (described by the Searcher as rising from the southern Reavis Valley).  You can see the valley, just to the right, and a longer and steeper valley that rises from it up to White Mountain.  That way is the southern legs of Reavis Trail.  I have a movie clip from this same spot of the pinyons moving in the breeze and may post it at a later time.

All of the trail to Circlestone is a climb.  You pass over “Whiskey Spring”, named for a still kept there in the 1800’s and over a steep defile gouged from the rock.  The trail is well marked and I am told that, sometimes, there is no cairn marking the trail to Circlestone.  If you are desperate to get there, look-up some excellent hiking directions available on the web.  I have even found the circle on GoogleEarth, since I know where to look.  If you like a challenge and the adventure,  go from the directions the Searcher gave me.

Four Peaks from Circlestone

From the fire line trail, the unmarked branch to Circlestone climbs steeply and follows a ridge through Alligator juniper, punctuated by stalks of century plant, to a broad way that rises to Circlestone as though to a monument overgrown by the same juniper.

My Circlestone Mystery

There was an unusual experience on our first trip, on this portion of the trail.  We were winding through the Juniper and, as it happened, Diane fell behind.  After awhile I missed her and waited and, after a minute, went back to look for her.  I found Diane sobbing uncontrollably, deep in grief over our father who passed away eleven years before.  We talked about it until she felt better.  She said it was as though a door opened and she could feel out father.  What makes this exceptional is Diane is not given to anything like this and I ascribe her deep grief to the nature of the site.  It is a mystery to this day.

At Circlestone, that first trip, we explored and experienced the site.  You cannot see the entire wall at any point and need to wander through and over it, being careful not to disturb anything.  Here and there, in the outer wall, are openings like the one in this photograph.

Site-Hole in the Circlestone Wall

At Circlestone

I call it a site hole because, on your knees, it is possible to look through and see the distant view through the trees.  As you can see, the stones are a striking red color with green lichen growing thick.

On the second trip in November, knowing the way and having great weather, I brought my cameras to capture the exceptional views, one of which is above.  I’d dearly love to come back to camp just below the ruin and do some work in the evening and morning light.  For now, I can enjoy those views from Castle Dome.

Three Horsemen and Castle Dome

Can you see the dome in the middle distance.  I did a portrait of three horsemen who road up to Circlestone in November.  We came to know them pretty well, that afternoon and the following morning down in the valley.

Three Horsemen

I carted up a tripod, so you can see Diane and I in the same spot.

Mike and Diane at Circlestone
Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills, All Rights Reserved

Homecoming Remembered

In town for a University of Arizona event I gazed from the Marriott before dawn to remember painting “A” mountain with the Sophos service club a half century ago. The tradition continues.

The view to the southwest includes University Neighborhood, downtown Tucson skyscrapers, “A” Mountain (painted red, white and blue November 2010), Tucson Mountains.

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Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Lake on Early Spring Afternoon

Out of Season Dandelion

A willow, nurtured by Cayuga Inlet waters, with a bench.

All photographs are from the Apple IPhone 14 ProMax, raw format and perfected on the phone.

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Stenciled on asphalt pavement along the Cayuga Lake Inlet, the white paint delimits dandelion flower stalk and seedhead, mostly denuded, with floating seeds held aloft by the pappus.

A circular bench that has seen better days, a hollowed out tree trunk repurposed as a children’s playgound house, picnic benches and, in background, a portion of the Farmer’s Market pavilion, to the right is Johnson Boatyard, Cayuga Inlet and lake. This is the Steamboat Landing, historically the southern port on Cayuga Lake. The entire area is long overdue for a facelift.

Painted on the side of restroom building, various shades of blue, black outlines, something or other holding a trident surrounded by fanciful fish.

On the trail to Lighthouse Point, this tree is in fine winter form on this early spring afternoon in March. Newman Municipal Golf Course

Cayuga Lake Views from Lighthouse Point

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Anniversary Tableau and Cards

Trunks Entwined

Pam created this tableau in our den to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.

My card to Pam is on left, Her’s to the right. Pam presented these ceramic elephants to Michael on their 14th Wedding Anniversary, Monday, March 20, 2023. Ivory is the traditional gift for the 14th.

Pam’s card is a illustration of solid and variegated  tulips, a spring flower.

On Michael’s card is a Spine-cheeked ClownFish. This fish species lives among the tentacles of the Bubble-tip sea anemone, also in photograph. “Both organisms form a symbiotic relationship: the clownfish will rarely stray more than a few yards from its stinging tent of protection. The anemone benefits from the darting antics of the clownfish, which protect the anemone from its predators.” Quote from the Sierra club. Photograph on card by Mike Bacon.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Anniversary Floral and Card

Fourteenth

I created this floral arrangement for Pam on Monday, March 20, 2023 for our 14th Wedding Anniversary.

All photographs are from the Apple IPhone 14 ProMax, raw format and perfected on the phone.

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The arrangement is composed of Pussy Willow, “Lollipop” chrysanthemums, Blue Larkspur (Delphinium) and an unidentified pink flower the grows from a spike, like the Larkspur.

On the card is a Spine-cheeked ClownFish. This fish species lives among the tentacles of the Bubble-tip sea anemone, also in photograph. “Both organisms form a symbiotic relationship: the clownfish will rarely stray more than a few yards from its stinging tent of protection. The anemone benefits from the darting antics of the clownfish, which protect the anemone from its predators.” Quote from the Sierra club. Photograph on card by Mike Bacon.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Typha

cattails

These two views of Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity across Sapsucker Woods Pond on a March afternoon are separated by 12 months, a year. Wilson Trail, Sapsucker Woods, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York.

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2023 using the IPhone 14 ProMax triple camera, raw format, edited on the phone

In the foreground is the cattail plant, the North American species Typha latifolia.  There are over 30 species in this useful genera. 

2022 using the IPhone 7 back camera

Culinary

Many parts of the Typha plant are edible to humans. Before the plant flowers, the tender inside of the shoots can be squeezed out and eaten raw or cooked. The starchy rhizomes are nutritious with a protein content comparable to that of maize or rice. They can be processed into flour with 266 kcal per 100 grams and are most often harvested from late autumn to early spring. They are fibrous, and the starch must be scraped or sucked from the tough fibers.  Baby shoots emerging from the rhizomes, which are sometimes subterranean, can be picked and eaten raw. Also underground is a carbohydrate lump which can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked like a potato. The plant is one championed by survival experts because various parts can be eaten throughout the year. Plants growing in polluted water can accumulate lead and pesticide residues in their rhizomes, and these should not be eaten.

The rind of young stems can be peeled off, and the tender white heart inside can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten like asparagus. This food has been popular among the Cossacks in Russia and has been called “Cossack asparagus.” The leaf bases can be eaten raw or cooked, especially in late spring when they are young and tender. In early summer the sheath can be removed from the developing green flower spike, which can then be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. In mid-summer when the male flowers are mature, the pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement or thickener.

Agriculture

The seeds have a high linoleic acid content and can be used to feed cattle and chickens. They can also be found in African countries like Ghana.

Harvesting cattail removes nutrients from the wetland that would otherwise return via the decomposition of decaying plant matter.  Floating mats of cattails remove nutrients from eutrophic bodies of freshwater.

Building material

For local native tribes around Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia, Typha were among the most important plants and every part of the plant had multiple uses. For example, they were used to construct rafts and other boats.

During World War II, the United States Navy used the down of Typha as a substitute for kapok in life vests and aviation jackets. Tests showed that even after 100 hours of submersion, the buoyancy was still effective.

Typha are used as thermal insulation in buildings as an organic alternative to conventional insulating materials such as glass wool or stone wool.

Paper

Typha stems and leaves can be used to make paper. It is strong with a heavy texture and it is hard to bleach, so it is not suitable for industrial production of graphical paper. In 1853, considerable amounts of cattail paper were produced in New York, due to a shortage of raw materials.[33] In 1948, French scientists tested methods for annual harvesting of the leaves. Because of the high cost, these methods were abandoned, no further research was done. Today Typha is used to make decorative paper.

Fiber

Fibers up to 4 meters long can be obtained from the stems when they are treated mechanically or chemically with sodium hydroxide. The stem fibers resemble jute and can be used to produce raw textiles. The leaf fibers can be used as an alternative to cotton and linen in clothing. The yield of leaf fiber is 30 to 40 percent and Typha glauca can produce 7 to 10 tons per hectare annually.

Biofuel

Typha can be used as a source of starch to produce ethanol. Because of their high productivity in northern latitudes, Typha are considered to be a bioenergy crop.

Other

The seed hairs were used by some indigenous peoples of the Americas[which?] as tinder for starting fires. Some tribes also used Typha down to line moccasins, and for bedding, diapers, baby powder, and cradleboards. One Native American word for Typha meant “fruit for papoose’s bed”. Typha down is still used in some areas to stuff clothing items and pillows. Typha can be dipped in wax or fat and then lit as a candle, the stem serving as a wick. Without the use of wax or fat it will smolder slowly, somewhat like incense, and may repel insects.

The flower stalks can be made into chopsticks. The leaves can be treated to weave into baskets, mats, or sandals. The rushes are harvested and the leaves often dried for later use in chair seats. Re-wetted, the leaves are twisted and wrapped around the chair rungs to form a densely woven seat that is then stuffed (usually with the left over rush).

Small-scale experiments have indicated that Typha are able to remove arsenic from drinking water.[37][38] The boiled rootstocks have been used as a diuretic for increasing urination, or mashed to make a jelly-like paste for sores, boils, wounds, burns, scabs, and smallpox pustules.

Cattail pollen is used as a banker source of food for predatory insects and mites (such as Amblyseius swirskii) in greenhouses. The cattail, or, as it is commonly referred to in the American Midwest, the sausage tail, has been the subject of multiple artist renditions, gaining popularity in the mid-twentieth century. The term, sausage tail, derives from the similarity that cattails have with sausages, a name given to the plant by the Midwest Polish community who had noticed a striking similarity between the plant and a common Polish dish, kiełbasa. 

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Pinelands Connections III a repost

Great Uncle Charles Wills (repost)

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Today I spiffed up the Google Maps entry for this spot. Click the link, above, for more of this story.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Winter Magic

a meditation

Found along the Hoyt-Pileated Trail, Sapsucker Woods, Sunday, March 12, 2023.

Text of plaque reads: Andy Goldsworthy; British, born 1956; “Sapsucker Cairn” (formerly New York Cone), 1995 – 2008; Llenroc and other local stone; Gift of Sirje Helder Gold and Michael O. Gold, rededicated in memory of their beloved son Maximilian Arnold Gold; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

A sculpture transformed by a March snowfall. Notice how the stone, warmed by sunlight filtering through the leafless trees, melts surrounding snow.

Llenroc (Cornell spelled backwards) stone is a type of bluestone that is quarried in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It has a mix of blue-gray and rust color and is traditionally used on Cornell University’s campus. Llenroc is also the name of a Gothic revival villa built by Ezra Cornell, the founder of Cornell University.

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Copyright 2018 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Balcony House Tour

Climb the Ladder

Overview

A visit to Balcony House is a 0.25-mile (0.4 km) hike. The tour requires walking down a 130-step metal staircase then, (1) climbing up one 32-foot (9.8 m) ladder to enter, two small ladders, and 12 uneven stone steps within the site.

(2) crawling through an 18-inch wide (46 cm) by 12-foot (3.7 m) long tunnel as you leave the site.

(3 – 5) ascending a 60-foot (18 m) open cliff face with uneven stone steps and two 17-foot (5 m) ladders to exit. Mesa Verde National Park, near Cortez, Montezuma County, Colorado.

Photograph and caption (above) is from the US Park Service, Mesa Verde, Balcony House tour web site

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On the Mesa Rim

We purchased our timed tour ticket at the visitor center at the foot of the Mesa, essentially a flat top mountain rising dramatically from the surrounding plain. In the second photograph we are looking over the mesa rim overlooking Soda Canyon.

The tour is a small adventure, starting with a climb down into Soda Canyon and a climb up a 32 foot ladder. The ladder is solid and we had plenty of time to climb with one person ascending at a time. I was a bit overwhelmed by the experience and had my equipment tucked away for safety. I had to leave my sturdy tripod in the car. A more adventurous photographer captured the following ladder photograph.

photo: Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0

Masonry

Here we are looking back to the entrance, where visitors crawl on hands and knees to enter.

Here is Pam twenty two (22) minutes into the tour. The structures are build into a naturally occurring cleft in the mesa cliff, below the rock shelf of the mesa top. The rock shelf is the roof above Pam.

Looking up to the ceiling above a rock and mud wall. The structures have been carefully, lovingly, conserved since the rediscovery of Mesa Verde in 1884. The conservation work began 1910.

The 38 rooms and two kivas house up to 30 people. The cliff northeast facing cliff provided little warmth from the sun in winter. At 7,000 feet and 37 degrees latitude, the mesa is cold wintertime — the average low being 18 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 Celsius). As other locations offer a southern exposure, the warmest side for the northern hemisphere, why was this site chosen by the ancients? The answer is found in the two water seeps emerging from the ground at the juncture geological layers where the water gathers and finds a way from surface rainfalls. The high desert climate here was dry then and now.

The walls demonstrate an enormous variety around basic patterns.

Plaza

I had enough time to capture these “fine art” views of Balcony House, looking back toward the entrance. The round, in-ground structures are kivas, ceremonial and communal gathering spaces.

Possibly the most adventurous and potentially frightening tour component was the end, crawling on hands and knees along an 18 inch wide (46 centimeters) 12 foot long (3.7 meters) tunnel followed by a climb up a 60 foot (20 meters) open (exposed to falling over) cliff face.

Copyright 2023 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved