Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

As soon as I arrived in Phoenix, having escaped yet another Minnesota blizzard in mid March, my husband Bill and I set out for Tucson to see the Pima Air and Space Museum, a trip which excited him more than it excited me. However, while on the way, a sign announcing the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument -- an amazing Native American Structure built around the year 1,000 A.D. when Leiv Erickson was landing somewhere along the coast of Newfoundland sent us on a several hour detour (how could I let a national monument pass without stopping?).

The interpretive visitor center at the monument is impressive with its large selection of beautifully presented exhibits on the life of the ancient Hohokam farming community that built the mysterious Casa Grande -- yet another example of the wonderful museums and interpretive centers found in our national and state parks for which I felt a great deal of gratitude.

Built without metal tools, the Casa Grande -- with four feet thick walls to support four stories, was built by ancient natives who somehow moved more than 30,000 tons of the rock-hard caliche found in the area, softening it with water and carrying it to the site where they had to work quickly to shape the huge blocks before the caliche dried. These natives, obvious engineering geniuses, also created an irrigation system of over 300 miles to carry water from a mountain lake to their desert farms – a canal system that is still in use in some places around Phoenix.

Because we stopped at Casa Grande, and because Tucson was farther away than we expected, we arrived at Pima Air and Space Museum just as it was closing. Instead of walking past hundreds of beautifully restored airplanes and bombers, we got to drive past miles and miles of junked planes on the other side of the road.

We stopped at the El Mercado shopping center in Tucson to dine sumptuously (I had an amazing combination of Mexican style seafood specialties) at El Charo on a rather strange covered terrace that reminded me of the rustic seafood huts lining tropical beaches on Caribbean Islands.

Tired but well fed, we drove the 100 or so miles back to Phoenix and toppled into our comfortable hotel beds. Our agenda for the next day (and my next post) concerns a walking tour through the Boyce Thompson Desert Arboretum State Park 55 miles due east of Phoenix.

1 comment:

Jo said...

I wish I were on the road, you make it sound so good.