during our time in mesa, we were able to hit up two different national monuments, both about an hour or so away, and both dedicated to preserving the history of native people who inhabited the area long before we did.
first up, casa grande. the big house. the kids insisted on doing as much of their junior ranger books inside the museum before we went out to the actual ruins of casa grande. so we did.
the touch table was a favorite. cotton, beans, mule deer antlers, saguaro ribs, snake skins…
and this super cool cholla cactus skeleton. (i’m pretty sure that’s not the technical name).
finally, we were ready to hit up the big house.
we couldn’t go in, but we could peer in. in it’s hey day, this was four stories tall, which was pretty insane, considering there were no building codes or safety inspectors.
hazel wasn’t very impressed at all.
the coolest part for the kids was a little area around the back that had a “secret room” with a tiny door they could pass through.
all of my attempts to get a group pic were miserable failures.
the rangers at this park were super helpful, checking in with us while we worked, telling us where to find the answers. both big kids did about twice as many activities as they needed to and everyone earned their junior ranger badges with flying colors.
before we left, i attempted to get a shot with the sign, the ruins and a saguaro cactus. i would have liked for the sun to be behind me, but i’ll take it, i suppose.
our second national monument was a little further away, off to the northeast of mesa. tonto national monument, another home for natives, this time high up in a cliff. can you spot it?
before we went into the visitor center (and hit the trail up to the cliff dwelling), we strolled around the parking lot, taking in the views, and having a snack. i only had the girls, as isaac opted out, with a bit of dramatic flair.
once we were all snacked up and hit the bathrooms and had our junior ranger books in hand, we headed up the trail. it’s only about a half mile, but it’s pretty steep. (and this is the lower cliff dwelling, there’s one further up and around the other side of a ridge, but it’s ranger-led and only on weekends, so this would have to do).
we are really loving the saguaros.
the hike wasn’t too bad, visually.
once we were inside, the girls worked on their junior ranger badges. not a bad place for school for the day.
when they were done, we did a bit of exploring in the different rooms of the ruins.
yes hazel is barefoot. she was super annoyed at the rocks getting into her flip flops.
photographer anna, making sure she doesn’t miss a shot.
one last sister pic, before we made our way down.
on the way out, we stopped for a photo op with the cliff dwelling in the background.
one last parting shot.
back at the visitor center, the girls were sworn in and collected a bit more junior ranger flair.
on the way home, we stopped at a scenic viewing area, where supposedly we could see the other cliff dwelling, but it was like a speck all the way up and tucked away. so, we did a quick drive by and got back on the long desert road home.