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Monday, June 16, 2014

Hanging out with the Tour Groups at Montezuma's Castle

We visited Montezuma's Castle on a Wednesday morning.  This little yellow bird watched as we ate breakfast at the picnic tables. The variety of birds here in Arizona is awesome.  After breakfast we went inside the visitor center, looked around the small museum, then continued out back to look at Montezuma's Castle, just as a few tour busses pulled up. 
Montezuma's Castle is south facing in a cliff just above Beaver Creek.  It looks pretty cool, but that's about all you can do there is look.  The National Park Service stopped giving tours of the ruin quite a few years ago, so now you walk about 1/10th of a mile down a wide concrete path from the visitor center, read a few of the signs and take a few pictures, then wander back.  It was quite crowded, and seems to be a popular spot for tour busses to visit.  We joined the throngs of traveling snowbirds, Japanese tourists, and college students to take the customary picture and move along.  Yes, the ruin looks cool, but to me it was more of curiosity to view from afar than it was a place to experience, and therein lies the disappointment for me.  I actually enjoyed the smaller subset of the monument, Montezuma's Well, located a few miles northeast, much better.
Just past the famous castle, there is a more weathered ruin of a pueblo built against the cliff face. In one of the crevices of the cliff, bees had built a nest.  We could see them buzzing, as well as some of the honeycomb hanging from the top.  They were far enough away that a simple sign alerted us to their presence, but far enough away that we didn't bother them nor they us. 
The pueblo was lived in about the same time the castle was, but it held more people at the Pueblo.  The white rocks blend in with the cliff really well, but walls are visible as you look.  The Sinaguans who lived here had fields in the flood plain of Beaver Creek and were part of a larger network throughout the Verde Valley.  We saw numerous other sites where they lived as we looked around as we drove through the area.  Cliff dwellings in overhangs, small pueblo ruins on top of hills, and other sites, such as petroglyphs are extensive throughout the region. 

Nearest City: Camp Verde, AZ
Location: N° W°
Time Needed: 1 hour
Difficulty: very easy
Kid Friendly: yes (but they might get bored too)
Additional Info: Montezuma Castle National Monument Website

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