Arizona may be one of the last to officially become a state in the United States, but if the #TravelingTalleys could rank states it would be pretty close to the top on our list! The amount of recreational opportunities that are available, the breathtaking views, and amazing changes in the landscape that you don’t get in any other state that I’ve seen so far – that is true Arizona.
One of the best parks to view in Arizona is Tonto National Monument. Surrounded by the Tonto National Forest, a visitor could easily drive by the entrance if they weren’t paying attention! Lake Roosevelt is just around the corner and one of the largest attraction in the area for recreation users. Tonto National Forest is huge, and butts right up to Coconino National Forest. While the drive to the monument may seem long and a bit out of the way, trust me– it is worth the detour. From Page it takes about 3.4 – 4 hours depending on where we end up camping. We’ve had great experiences driving up from multiple different locations, including a large loop that included Petrified Forest National Park!
Tonto National Monument is the only monument in the United States set aside to preserve and protect the cultural history of the Salado people. Geographically, the monument is located on the southeast facing side of a steep hillside within a well protected natural cave that overlooks the Tonto Basin. Originally the Salt River flowed from the White Mountains through the area on its way to the Gila River, leaving it well established and fertile for civilizations to possibly form around. In fact, there are other remnants of prehistoric cultures in the monument besides the Salado. The Salado lived in the Tonto Basic between 1250 CE and 1450 CE. As a true culture melting pot, the Salado culture arose from the many different civilizations that moved into the Tonto Basin – Ancestral Puebloan, Ancient Sonoran Desert People, and the Mogollon. Early in the fifteenth century the Salado abandoned their villages for a sudden, unknown reason. As they left, however, other native people used the valley. By the 1500s the Spaniards had arrived, followed by the pioneers. What we see today in Tonto National Forest is very different than what the native peoples may have seen, but luckily in 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Proclamation 787, which created Tonto National Monument. This proclamation allowed the national monument to protect the Salado impact on the valley and preserve the culture that they created.
The Salado culture was a combination of different native populations and the evidence is extraordinary. Ancestral Puebloan and Mogollon multistoried adobe and masonry structures are cultural characteristics that are obvious with even just a quick glance of the area. Pottery, ground-stone tool design, residence location, and mortuary treatment are all evidence from Mogollon groups in the north and east. The term “Salado” is not necessarily what the people called themselves, but rather it is a Spanish name for the Salt River. This particular cultural group constructed two dwellings in the caves while taking advantage of the surrounding desert resources. The Salado people created elaborate pottery and wove exquisite textiles while obtaining vital water and cultivating crops such as cotton, corn, and beans. Negative climate change, stressful environment, and resulting depletion of crops and population affected the Salado culture and people immensely in their decision to leave.
There are a few ways that you can visit the park, but each of them involve getting out of your vehicle! There is no scenic drive – the whole park and drive up to the park is the scenic drive! The Lower Cliff Dwelling is what Clinton and I visited. We came too late the day before so we planned to arrive the next morning bright and early – which was a great idea! Thanks to the helpful Rangers in the Visitor Center (open 8 a.m. To 5 pm., and there is a gate to access the park) we arrived in plenty of time to hike up with no one around! The hike is only 0.5 miles but it is almost completely uphill. We were able to take the dogs, but they are not allowed in the Cliff Dwelling themselves – there is a sign where to stop. Clinton and I were able to trade off who held the dogs while the other looked. You must start your hike before 4 p.m. and it is highly recommended to start the hike before noon during the summer months. It is hot and there are not a lot of shade spots! There are tours offered to the Upper Cliff Dwelling November through April Friday – Monday. While we have not been on one of these tours personally, it looks like a next great adventure!
Preserving culture and history is important because once that voice is gone, if it wasn’t heard or recorded…it’s gone. It is important to take time out of your travels to research the local history, know the local customs, and try to learn something new that you can share with others. While we may only have pieces of pottery and abandoned adobe structures, they still tell the story of our world. Share your experiences with other and take time to be outside! You won’t regret it. 🙂
When Clinton and I moved from Little Rock to Baltimore we had more of a larger home situation to start the conversation about getting another dog. After searching the local shelters, kennels, ads, etc we found our beautiful princess Kiraly. She was about two months old sleeping away the day without a care in the world for the people or other dogs around her. It was so cute waking her up to see if she wanted to play with us, which of course she did! We instantly loved her and knew that she was ready to go home. We bundled her up and drove her back to the city and introduced her to her new brother, Kyzer. Kyzer was such a sweet boy welcoming her into the house. In that instant the Talley family unit was officially complete!
Kiraly is almost the exact opposite of Kyzer. She is much more caution, doesn’t quite like making friends with everyone instantaneously, and very much so loves her tennis ball (so don’t take it away from her for long!) But when you get her outside, she is a completely different girl! She adores chasing after her big brother and loves being out in the middle of nowhere exploring. There are many poisonous animals in the desert so we’ve started a regiment where we keep the dogs moving – no sniffing too long in a bush in the desert! Kiraly is not as interested in sniffing as Kyzer is, her favorite thing is running back and forth between all of us and giving kisses whenever possible. We take a lot of precautions with the dogs, though, and take a lot of time trying to be as educated as possible about the landscapes we visit. Here in the desert it is very dry, there are less places for shade, and many conveniences are located hours if not days away. When we pack for a weekend camping trip we pack a gallon water per person/animal and always pack about a days worth of food extra just in case.
Mostly we try and take as many breaks as we can with the dogs so they can have a little snack or at least a cup of water. We try not to give them too much water as we hike through the day, but we also remain conscious of the fact that they can’t really tell us when they are exhausted so we need to really pay attention to them. One of the best times is when the four of us are hiking outside! Kiraly loves to run ahead of everyone, run back and bark at Kyzer (as if to say “I won!”) and then run back up the hill/across a crazy ditch/into a creek/etc. One of the funniest situations was the Wiregrass Wash hike. 12 miles round trip. Kiraly was ahead of the pack until the last few miles. Just like the rabbit and the turtle, Kyzer had kept true and stead the whole time. Kiraly of course made fun of him the entire time for being last…until he suddenly found his second wind after steadily plodding along for 9 miles. It was Kyzer who started going back and forth “making fun” of Kiraly as she was tired. Don’t worry – we helped her out when we could. Little Kiki made it back successfully.
When we first got Kiraly we went camping out in West Virginia and had a great time in the woods. She followed whatever Kyzer did, which was adorable, and snuggled up at night when we went to bed. We always set a perimeter around our campsite so that they know the boundaries once it starts to get dark. Nothing is worse than getting into a great conversation, looking around and not seeing your dog. Well behaved dogs are essential to trips that involve the outdoors. We’ve trained our dogs so that they do not leave the immediate area once it starts to get dark. When we go to bed we have a separate area of the tent. We got a bigger tent which is a lot of room for two humans and two large dogs, but once it starts to get dark and quiet those dogs just want to cuddle up with you so you lose the room anyway! Having two dogs may be a handful, but we love it each and every day! Kiraly is the last piece of our family’s puzzle. It’s already been three wonderful years with both of the dogs and each day is another fun experience!
When Clinton and I headed west to Page we mainly stuck to I40 so that we could make time and have an easy drive. We did head out to National Park during out trip so that we could learn more about the landscape and to experience a different perspective of history. One of these trips led us to Washita Battlefield National Historic Site.
Washita Battlefield protects the sit where the Battle of Washita occurred – or more importantly, a small peaceful villiage of Souther Cheyenne of Cheif Black Kettle. Early in the morning on November 27, 1868 the village was attacked by the 7th US Cavalry under Lt. Col. George Custer.
Historically, pioneers and Native Americans consistently collided on the Great Plains during the decades before and after the Civil War. In 1864, four years before the Battle of Washita, troops under the command of Col. J.M. Chivington attacked the destroyed Chief Black Kettle and Chief White Antelope at Sand Creek. Black Kettle’s band had flown an American Flag and a white flag and considered themselves at peace. In response to this massacre, a federal Peace Commission was created. Indian Territory was established in present day Oklahoma and US policy forced Native Americans across the country to relocate to these reservations. In October 1867, the Peace Commission assigned the Cheyenne a reservation in the new Indian Territory.
Native American raids across the plain terrified the settlers. The soldiers mounted campaigns to meet the resistance of forced settlements. Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Big Mouth went to General William Hazen in Fort Cobb November 1868 to ask for shelter an protection. Their request was refused. Disheartened, Black Kettle still believed that he was safe and refused to move his encampment further downriver closer to the other larger encampments who were also wintering. The massacre began early the next day, with Chief Black Kettle and his wife among those killed.
It is so important to visit places like this to get a full 360 view of topics in history, even if they are painful. We were able to take some time and watch the introduction video in the Visitor Center. Afterwards there was a question on the board: Would you go to war? After reading the history, watching the video, and hearing the testimonies it was a powerful statement. Answering it may differ depending on your perspective of course, but it was a great and unobtrusive way of explaining a horrific part of American history. We were unfortunately unable to walk onto the battlefield because dogs were not allowed and we did not want to leave them that long in the car, but if you get the time when visiting it is recommended! Watch the video and drive a little through the surrounding grasslands to get a true understanding of this great area.