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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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