The open BLM lands around the Vortex area call my name once again. During my past few trips I’ve stumbled across signs pointing one to the Palatki ruins of the ancient Native Hopi Indians. Today I follow the signs along the dusty and desolate road to their destination.
Arizona truly has many hidden oasis areas. You seem to be in the middle of nowhere, when suddenly lush beauty presents itself just around a corner. Nestled under the protection of towering red rocks, you’ll find guides to take you to two different along two different trails to get a glimpse of Hopi life back in 1150 AD to 1350 AD.
Remains of Hopi homes, cooking and spiritual areas, along with some truly unique pictographs still are found here. You can turn around and look out over the beautiful Verde Valley and imagine it full of green cottonwood trees when the waters were flowing abundantly.
Crossing over to the westward trail we climb to the other site. Here you find more intricate pictograph stories, as well as the remains of an old prospector’s shelter.
Neither trail is more than a mile round trip, and with the BLM requiring that you go with a guide not only reduces crowds but ensures that these areas remain protected from vandalism for future generations to enjoy.
It’s mid-afternoon when I leave Palatki, and head west along the dirt road, seeing if I can locate the ancient cave that is out here somewhere. I’ve been looking for a few months now, with no luck thus far.
No cave, but what I do stumble upon is the Dogie trail that looks to take one deep into the Sycamore canyon wilderness area. I start hiking, only to discover snow and ice still on the lee side of the trail. It is precariously slippery, and so I forgo exploring more of this trail today, but make a mental bookmark to return here next weekend.
I need to set up camp before nightfall. I climb a rocky road to a nice desert plateau, and find a perfect open spot, complete with an intact fire pit left by another camper. I get to work building a fire as the sun is quickly setting.
I start to pitch my tent, then realize I forgot to bring the tent poles. Sleeping in the truck it is then. The quiet of the evening puts me into a trance as the wood crackles and burns. The stars start to make an appearance as the temperatures plummet.
I wake early to true pitch black darkness, and quietly meditate, waiting for the sun to rise.
When the sky starts to lighten, the fire gets going again. Coffee percolates as the day begins again out here in the empty.