In 2005, my parents, myself, and my friend Brittany went on a trip out west for 2 weeks.
During that 2 week period, we visited 12 U.S. states (New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada), and went to a ton of national parks, and landmarks… I’m talkin’ Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Sequoia National Park, Mariposa Grove, Kings Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, Mt. St. Helens, Crater Lake, the Grand Tetons, Lassen Volcano, Mt. Rainier, Meteor Crater, Devil’s Tower, the Crazyhorse monument… you name it.
It was the trip of a LIFETIME. We saw so much of what makes this country beautiful and amazing.
There was one place we went though that we will never forget because of on overly passionate visitor center employee, and our blatant immaturity.
Walnut Canyon, Arizona.
Walnut Canyon is a national park that is dedicated to the preservation of 80+ indigenous homes left by Native Americans. These homes were inhabited by the Sinagua between 1100 – 1250 AD (which is also known as ‘common era’… aka, our current time frame. Lol), and were built underneath a cliff edge – shielding the people from the elements. The canyon itself contains over 500 archeological sites, but this one is the big cheese. The people who lived there mysteriously just packed up and left one day without a trace. It’s not known why they did this.
Before I go further, I just want to say this: I PROMISE I am a cultured individual on a normal basis… You need to know that at the time, I was 16, going on 10. This post is riddled with stereotypes that I know do not reflect Native Americans. I know they are stereotypes. I need you to remain calm.
I remember us pulling up in the parking lot of the visitor center in our rental van. I asked Daddy what this place was, and he told me it had ‘cool Indian stuff.’ #WhitePeople
Little did we know that once we stepped inside this visitor center, our lives would change forever.
We walked inside, and we were greeted by several infographics and exhibits. The diorama’s in the museum demonstrated how these people would use the top of the cliff to farm on.
If I remember correctly, they theorize that they used a pulley-system maybe to hoist each other up the cliff to the farmland above. They made really good use of their resources. Ancient people were not stupid in the least bit.
Brittany and I were in the middle of looking at this diorama when an old woman walked up to us that worked there. I remember she looked a lot like grandmother willow. LOL. She was white, resembled a raisin, and had long white-ish/blonde frizzy hair pulled back with an aztec hair clip.
She began telling us about the diorama we were staring at in PAINFULLY passionate detail. Enough to be overly-dramatic with just a pinch of creepy.
Whenever I see this display, I can just envision a father hoisting his son up to the farmland above. The amount of trust the boy must have had to put in his father, as he rose higher and higher… hundreds of feet above…. the dwelling…
We were stunned at her passion.
Can’t you just envision the father with his child?!”
Her passion for this place was… off. It was almost like she desperately wanted to have sex with these ancient people. It was beyond your normal “I love history and I’m really into my job” thing… it was uncomfortable.
You had to be there to understand.
The WAY she said it was just not normal.
She kept following us around, giving us weird real-life scenarios like this… Lol
Now picture a mother, great with child, having to descend the cliff with her other child clinging to her breasts, as she carries 3 baskets of corn to her home below. She will then prepare a meal, and then will give birth alone in the woods and will welcome a warrior into this untouched land, still yet free of Caucasion influence.
Like OMG how uncomfortable… The cringe percentage was off the charts. Even my mom whispered, “Omg what a weirdo. She a little TOO into that father…”
I don’t know if she thought, “Oh look some kids. I’m gonna get them into this,” or what she was doing, but the way she looked… combined with her actions… and her voice… it was too much.
I felt tears rushing to my eyes.
I was going to laugh.
I had to get out of there.
I rushed out the back door that led out to a concrete path. It led out to where you could view the cliff. I remember it was a steep decline down many flights of stairs to get down to see it better. Someone was talking in the museum earlier about how someone had to be life-flighted out because they had a bad asthma attack going back up the steps. That freaked me out a little bit.
Then… there it was.
THE CLIFF DWELLINGS.
Which was basically just a bunch of primitive brick walls.
“That’s it?” I said. “Are you kidding me? The way she talked, I expected more.”
Brittany replied, “Yeah for real man, what a letdown.”
That woman in the visitor center had built it up like we were going to see the tomb of Jesus or something!
We were expecting something cool like Mesa Verde in Colorado (pictured below):
But nope… We were looking at the Dollar General version.
Regardless, we still descended those stairs into the canyon quite a long way to get the best view we could given the timeframe we had. (The view never got better. This was it. In all it’s glory. Lol)
While we were walking down those stairs, I remember we were laughing our HEADS OFF about the woman in the museum.
We started making up dumb scenarios of our own.
I can just see the father with his child as he rises miles above… the dwelling.
(from perspective of son) I remember when I used to cultivate this land with my Father… before he was sacrificed on the hungry mountain (Volcano). I now have to gather this corn alone, because of my Father’s sins. The sins of my Father…
It got STUPIDER and STUPIDER the more steps we took downward.
An Eagle cries in the distance as it flies over a wild mustang eating grass below… The mustangs soul is called up by the ghosts of the native people to run in the direction of the plateau. “There” the ancestors whispered to the beast, “you will find a young woman named Nambe who will be gathering water from the cistern. You will offer her a dead frog as an offering to her gods and they will tell her to take you to the Chief. You will lead the Chief and his people to victory against the invading tribe that plan to destroy this years bean crop.”
I remember the situations got so stupid that we were crying.
My mom was like, “SHUT UP!!!! LOL”
It has been nearly 16 years since, and we STILL remember how insane this woman was.
I’m sure Walnut Canyon is historically significant, but the weird woman ruined it for me. At least THIS dude on youtube seemed to enjoy it: