Secret Passage Picture of the Month

Secret Passage - The only door between units that I noticed was this one.
Secret Passage – The only door between units that I noticed was this one.

I’m going to shake the box and change the format of this week’s post because I want your advice on something. This is the last photo from Walnut Canyon, and I’m sure you’re tired of my bellyaching about stairs, so I’ll start with the background of this week’s picture, and then we can go into the conference room for the other thing.

This week’s picture shows a doorway between dwellings at Walnut Canyon. Since it’s hidden in plain sight, you probably wonder, “What’s the secret?” Well, as I hiked past ruin after ruin, this was the only inter-unit doorway I noticed. We may never know the secret— why weren’t there more of them.? Sinagua built their dwellings with shared walls, like our present apartments. I wonder if neighbors were extended family or strangers. The door suggests that family shared these homes—but it could also mean that the Sinagua Rockefellers lived here, and this unit was their equivalent of a south-facing Manhattan penthouse overlooking Central Park. As usual, there’s a larger version on its Webpage that you can get to by clicking here.

“Now, for something completely different” – Monty Python

I use my favorite coffee cup religiously in the mornings, and when I can’t find it, I panic. I search everywhere until I see it in the microwave. It was in there because I was heating yesterday morning’s dregs and forgot about it. I had it custom printed with one of my photos, but the picture is worn after six years of use. Reluctantly, I ordered a new one.

New Cup - On the front of my new coffee cup, I printed my photo of Dos Cabezas Mountain.
New Cup – On the front of my new coffee cup, I printed my photo of Dos Cabezas Mountain. Now that I’ve used it several times, I won’t order the black trim again. In the early morning, it’s hard to see where the coffee is with sleep in my eyes.
Coffee Cup Back - On the back, I put the title and some advertising.
Coffee Cup Back – I put the title and some advertising on the back.

When it arrived, I thought, “These could be great little contest prizes.” In the past, Queen Anne and I sponsored contests and gave away a photo as a prize. That’s how we got a name for Anne’s Mazda and our famous campfire treats. Now my brain is nagging me to work on another idea.

The second component is my annual calendar. As some of you know, I assemble pictures into my calendar and offer them for sale at cost. Because I usually print less than a dozen, their price is much higher than a Costco calendar, but I typically get a few subscribers that want one. After several years, I’ve figured out a system to make them come out as planned.

The next ingredient is these weekly posts. Over the years, my articles have evolved into a dependable format. Each month I pick a location, shoot pictures, and then publish the best photo each week. As Emeril Lagasse used to say, “I think I can kick it up a notch; Bam!

My idea is: What if I added a picture of the month (POM) to the mix, and you helped choose them? Let me explain. At the close of each monthly project, I include a survey (like the example below), and you choose the picture you most liked. Of course, I could be the Supreme Leader and pick what I want and be done with it, but over the years, I’ve learned that my taste isn’t the same as the public’s. So a poll makes it more like the People’s Choice Awards instead of the Oscars. After three days(?), we tally the survey; I’ll lay out a design and print the winner on a mug—like a trophy. Then when calendar time rolls around, I will already have a dozen winning images selected.

What’s in it for you? I already have too many coffee cups, so I’d like to give them to you. The problem is that I don’t know how to give them away equitably. Each computer (or phone) gets one recorded vote with this survey app. The polls are anonymous, with no tracking, so I don’t know who’s voting. I can’t say, “The fifth voter wins the cup.” I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out a solution, but it pulled a synapse and passed out. I need your ideas.

Another question that I have is how limited the cups edition should be. I can’t imagine that any of you would pay $12 plus shipping for a $5.00 Walmart mug, but who knows? I am inclined to print one and be done, but I could limit it to a low number—such as five—if you prove me wrong.

I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts. Does this concept interest you? Should I grow messy white hair like Einstein’s or shave it off like Curly’s? Would you vote for a cup? What’s an excellent way to pick a winner? You can share your opinions by leaving a comment below, or if you want privacy, then use my Contact Form (the answer to the robot question is “5” if you can’t figure it out). I’ve included a poll so you can see how simple this is. Pick your favorite and click the Vote button. There’s no cup this month, but see if you can break the survey in beta testing.

Till next time
jw

Corner Unit Picture of the Week

Corner Unit - I found this unit at the end of a row of homes. It shows all four walls inside and out, so you get and idea of how large these home were.
Corner Unit – I found this unit at the end of a row of homes. It shows all four walls inside and out, so you get an idea of how large these homes were.

“283 steps” were the first words out of the park ranger’s mouth when I asked about the Island Trail. “It’s 283 steps down to the loop, and there are 67 steps around the island,” (that number could be wrong—I stopped listening after 283), “and then back up those sane 283 steps.” I thought, “It’s the cool of the morning, it’s cloudy, I’ve got water, I need pictures from the trail, so let’s do this.” Then I walked over to the top of the staircase.

Although the Island Trail is less than a mile, it’s the harder of the two in Walnut Canyon National Monument. You’d be correct to believe it went down to the creek with that name. Instead, it drops 185′ to a land bridge where you cross to an unnamed promontory that you circle counterclockwise. The trail is asphalt paved except for the sandstone steps.

The path is on a shelf where the limestone sits above white sandstone, like found in Zion National Park. The limestone erodes faster than its foundation, and like an ice-cream scooper, that erosion has gouged shallow caves into the white stone. Here is where the Sinagua built their homes. While descending the stairs, I could see dwellings on the opposite side of the creek. They’re spaced apart, so I thought that I get to shoot one or two of the rock dwellings. I was wrong. The canyon’s far side faces north—not the ideal winter location. On the island, the homes were south-facing, which helps keep them warm. As soon as I rounded the first bend, rows of rock dwellings were there for me to explore and photograph. But, I had to sit down first and rest a while—I was still shaking from coming down the stairs.

Before I got to the pictures, I had another interesting observation. I thought that since I had made it a third of the way down the canyon’s bottom, I would be able to catch a glimpse of the creek. With the heavy monsoon we’ve enjoyed this summer (yey), the foliage growing on the canyon floor was so thick it completely obscured the creek bed.

I took this week’s picture—that I call Corner Unit—at the end of several homes. Since they run into one another, they usually share a common wall—like our modern apartments. So, this one has two exterior walls, which is unusual for this neighborhood. Since the Park Service didn’t fully restore the walls, you can see the cave’s overhang and back wall. With it being open to the outside, you can get an idea of its area. The Sinagua people must have felt comfortable with this size because it’s representative of them all. If you think about it, this is a perfect size for a man cave. There’s room for a corner TV, and you can grab a brewski without getting out of the Barkalounger. Once again, however, you’d be stuck at home all day waiting for Larry to show up.

The problem with the man-cave theory is that the women built them and were primarily concerned with keeping in the warmth. In the second image, you can see where they left a vent near the ceiling. These vents allowed them to have small fires inside and let the smoke out. They were their chimneys. The families could survive the high-altitude winters by draping an animal skin or rug over the door and building a small fire.

Fire Vent and Clay Finish - The Sinagua People built vents into the walls so they could enjoy a fire and not suffocate. They also stuffed clay into the rocks to seal the rooms from drafts.
Fire Vent and Clay Finish – The Sinagua People built vents into the walls so they could enjoy a fire and not suffocate. They also stuffed clay into the rocks to seal the rooms from drafts.

The second picture also shows another innovation the women used to make winter life bearable. They hiked to a place up the creek where they could dig gold-colored clay (the color’s not essential—this isn’t The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills), then they packed it in baskets, lugged it back, and smeared it over the rock walls—inside and outside. Like caulk, the clay sealed the wall gaps and stopped drafts. The women put a lot of thought and work into their homes—the men were too lazy to take down the Christmas decorations.

After I finished my tour of the loop and got the needed photos, I was back at the foot of the stairs leading to the visitor’s center. I found out that the ranger lied. Somehow while I was out of sight exploring ruins and taking pictures, the park service snuck in and doubled the stair count. How do I know; math, simple math. I knew I would have a tough time with the climb, so I devised a system where I would climb 50 stairs at a time—then stop for water and catch my breath. Instead of five rest stops, I made 10, and I drank both of my water bottles dry. Near the top, where I could finally see the building, I made one last effort; one, two, three, four, twelve, fifteen, thirty-five, fifty. I need another rest.

I hope you enjoy seeing the ruins in Walnut Canyon. You can view the Web version of Corner Unit on its page by clicking here. Next week, I’ll have another shot from the Island Trail for you to see, but please don’t make me go down there again.

Till next time
jw

Sinagua Pueblo Picture of the Week

Sinagua Pueblo - A two room stacked-stone ruin that the Sinagua people used for ceremonial purposes.
Sinagua Pueblo – A two-room stacked-stone ruin that the Sinagua people used for ceremonial purposes.

When Queen Anne and I married, we lived most of a decade in a second-floor condo. Besides living in cramped quarters, the thing we most disdained was lugging groceries from the parking lot and up those stairs. My right knee cracked with each step. We swore then that we’d never live in a two-story house.

The Sinagua people would’ve considered us Snowflakes. Imagine your family living in a small cave with a plastered rock façade built on the side of Walnut Canyon. They scaled the canyon walls (without stairs) to get to work. Once on top, the men tended small patches of fertile soil along the edge. They grew drought-resistant crops because their name means Without Water. At least, the Spanish called them that when they first visited the canyon. For protein, they hunted deer, elk, and big horn sheep. After butchering the game, they stuffed the meat into Safeway plastic bags and lowered it on ropes.

Given my extreme age, my most significant anxiety would be getting up in the middle of the night for a glass of Water. As it is, I struggle to find our kitchen in the dark, much less climb down to the creek and back. Of course, their local wise man was in his thirties, and he knew when to stand up and declare, “Today is a good day to die.” Then as he tossed his blanket over his shoulder, he’d tromp out of the camp to the nearest mountain top, where he’d sit for weeks until dying of starvation. Once again, I’ve proved that exercise is unsuitable for you.

There are many disadvantages to living on a cliff-side cubby hole, but for me, it’s the TV reception. It’s lousy down there. You’d need to get cable or a satellite dish. Then you’d waste time waiting for the cable guy to show up.

There are two trails for you to explore when you visit Walnut Canyon National Monument. Both are under a mile long. The Island Trail is a loop that drops into the canyon, past several dwellings, and then climbs back to the rim. We’ll explore it next week. The Rim Trail stays on top of the mesa and is easier to hike. It goes past some old crop fields and a couple of ruins. I took this week’s picture on the Rim Trail.

The image that I call Sinagua Pueblo shows a two-room stone building of generous size. This structure was probably a communal building for ceremonies and grain storage, like your condo’s community center. Here is where the Sinagua unloaded their trucks after a Costco run. Surely you realize that I’m joking. Flagstaff doesn’t have a Costco. Recovered artifacts show that the Sinagua traded with the villages at Eldon Mountain, Wupatki, and Homolovi—after a short train ride to Winslow.

As you quietly stand and admire the pueblo’s stonework, you can hear Sinagua ghosts laughing, smoking peyote, and chanting with the rhythm of deerskin drums late into the night—until the neighbors come by and yell, “turn down those damn drums.” More cowbell.

I hope you enjoy seeing the pueblo at Walnut Canyon. You can view the Web version of Sinagua Pueblo on its page by clicking here. Next week, we’ll explore the Island Trail and show those photos—if I can only make it up this last flight of stairs.

Till next time
jw

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