Every move brings with it frustrations and delights. The nearest town with big box stores or an adequately stocked natural foods store is an hour's drive away. The largest cities are a four-hour's drive away. The little towns in which we are house-hunting have nothing to offer like our little cottage on its acre of land in Abita Springs, Louisiana, tucked away privately as it is on a dead-end road yet within walking distance of the Abita Brew Pub, the Abita Cafe, the Tammany Trace, my doctor's office and my dentist, yet within a fifteen-minutes' drive to a Target, World Market or Home Depot. And I will surely miss the English Tea Room.
The economic crisis of 2008 did not hit southeast Louisiana as badly as it did other parts of the country. As our real estate agent drove me around these Arizona towns, she pointed out the "failed golf course" and the many empty lots around the fairway. Lots that had once gone for $80,000 were now being offered for $20,000 or so, she said, and one man had recently purchased the golf course and remaining lots, perhaps hoping for another boom in the area's economy when the lots could then be sold for a good profit.
One of the two towns in the area seems to have most of the commercial base and the other most of the population. The second town is spreading out into the juniper-covered foothills of the White Mountains. People retire here or buy a second home or cabin to escape the extremely hot weather of Phoenix (reaching the 90s already in March!) for the cooler air of the White Mountains. But there are signs that the towns have seen better days. Many businesses are empty, for sale, or falling into disrepair. We were excited to see a nice coffee shop with great online reviews, only to discover that the shop has recently closed. One man at the RV park where we are temporarily living told us that he could recommend only one restaurant in town. (Fortunately, we discovered that his recommendation was short-sighted. There is at least one other good restaurant, but it seems that the food is too spicy for a lot of people; Tom and I have really enjoyed eating there, however.)
This past weekend we took a tour of the Casa Malpais ruins near Springerville, Arizona, which can only be accessed by driving along private ranch roads and thus are open to the public primarily through these tours offered by the Springerville Heritage Center. The city of Springerville purchased the site in the 1990s, and the Heritage Center has a nice room-sized museum that displays the artifacts that were discovered during archeological digs. The Zuni and Hopi tribes seem to have some say in how the site is administered, as our tour guide told us that the tribes allow digging only in previously disturbed areas. Both tribes claim the ancient inhabitants--mid-1100s to mid-1200s--as their ancestors. The Spanish stamped their presence on the area with the name by which the ruins continue to be known: "Casa Malpais," or "House of the Badlands," the badlands referring to the jumble of volcanic rocks in which the ancient homes were built.
|Casa Malpais ruins from the top of the ancient volcanic flow that rims the Little Colorado River plain|
|ruins of a great kiva|
|South Fork of the Little Colorado River, with remains of the Wallow Fire of 2011|
- Don't just look up and down the trail before dropping your pants in an area with little cover; look across the river, too!
- Don't grab wild rose for support on a steep trail slippery with mud.
What are our chances we will run across these guys again in this area of about 5,000 souls!
Thus we end our first two weeks in the Round Valley of the White Mountains.
|Tom leans against a Ponderosa pine on the South Fork of the Little Colorado River|
|pollinating bee-like fly on a pussy willow bloom|