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James and I are trying something a little out of our comfort zone… the whole “spontaneous” thing.
I’m sure you’ve heard us talk about our Binders of Fun; you know, those extra thick 3-ring binders we fill with each trip’s plans down to the most minute details…
So, when the BNR rally ended on Sunday, we had no clue where we’d be camping that night. According to our more spontaneous RVing friends, this is supposed to feel like, and I quote, “sweet freedom”. To me it just felt inconvenient.
I’m all in with trying new things so bring on the inconvenience…I mean the sweet freedom.
Thanks to my buddy Campendium, we ended up heading to a boondocking spot off “Bloody Basin Rd” north of Scottsdale. Now, Arizona is known for creative names…but this one takes the cake. I have no clue how a chunk of treasured public land got stuck with such a gory name, but we cautiously headed there anyways, half expecting to see bloody wash bowls along the road sides.
Turns out, the area was lovely.
Score one for spontaneity.
That was only a quick overnight, and by Monday morning I was looking forward to hitting a nearby National Monument: Montezuma Castle.
Montezuma Castle is one of a string of pueblos constructed in central Arizona around the 12th century or so, and being James and I are both fascinated by ruins, we were curious to stop and check it out.
I called Montezuma Castle before heading there (I KNOW, ‘not a spontaneous move, Stef’), and got some bad news. The ranger apologetically told me they don’t allow RV parking during busy times, and this week happens to be spring break… and very busy.
So visiting Montezuma was out, and I was sad.
After all, I had spent the evening before doing a bunch of reading on the ancient Sinaguan people and I was totally prepared! I mean wait… not ‘prepared’ as in opposite of spontaneous. More like ‘educated’. Phew this spontaneous stuff is hard.
Good thing I did my research though.
Because what I learned is there’s a lesser visited National Monument called ‘Tuzigoot’ not even an hour away that also features an ancient hilltop pueblo of the Sinaguan Indians.
A quick call and they enthusiastically said, come on down!
So guess what we did:
Unlike the RV parking restrictions that kept us from being able to visit Montezuma Castle, parking was no trouble here at all.
Tuzigoot is a small National Monument about 20 miles south of Sedona, and just a few miles out of the touristy town of Cottonwood.
The Tuzigoot visitor’s center is pretty impressive, and you can easily spend a good hour in there chatting with the friendly staff, reading the informative displays, and seeing the multitudes of artifacts that were found at the site back in the 1930’s when it was excavated.
My first question, upon arriving, is what does that strange name, Tuzigoot, mean?
Turns out it means “crooked water”, and back when Tuzigoot pueblo flourished, the Verde River’s course flowed right along its western border.
The pueblo itself sits on a hilltop, and there’s a short wheelchair-accessible trail that encircles it getting you right up close and personal.
Tuzigoot wasn’t all built at once; more was added as the population increased. There were around 225 people living at Tuzigoot in its heyday, and the pueblo had around 100 rooms.
Since the average height of the people at the time was 5’2”, the ceilings were only about 5 1/2 feet tall and each family had a mere 200 square feet of space. Those rooms must have been pretty dark, too. Thinking about what that must have been like I can’t help but wonder… was claustrophobia a thing back then?
Tuzigoot is only one of at least 40 villages that flourished in the Verde Valley between 1000 and 1400. It’s estimated there were 6,000-8,000 people living within the network of loosely connected villages.
The people in the area were unified in defense and actively traded with each other for around 300 years or more… longer than the US has been a country!
It’s interesting what people find most fascinating in visitors’ centers like this. For James, he was fixated on the lack of doors.
For me it was the pottery:
Apparently, Tuzigoot people made pottery that was pretty plain and utilitarian. But they did seem to appreciate more artistically made pottery from other tribes because imported pottery was found on-site.
Tuzigoot was abandoned by the 15th century.
It’s unclear why it was abandoned; perhaps drought, disease, or war, but it was at the same period of time when all of the major civilizations in the southwest mysteriously collapsed.
And hey… if you’re a bird-watcher, here’s another reason to put Tuzigoot on your radar. Tavasci Marsh sits just downhill from Tuzigoot. The Audobon Society has named Tavasci Marsh and the areas adjacent to it an Important Bird Area.
There’s a path down the hill from Tuzigoot that meanders around the marsh, so bring your binoculars! Now me, I can hardly tell a sparrow from a robin, but it’s a skill I’ve always wanted to hone. I do love spotting birds even though I have no clue what I’m staring at.
So there you have it. Our Trip of Spontaneity so far, so good.
And since it’s time to roll on, I better start the ‘sweet freedom’ process of figuring out where we’re going next and what we’ll be doing.
I’m not having binder of fun withdrawals, I’m not having binder of fun withdrawals, I’m not having binder of fun withdrawals…