There are a lot of benefits to living in "Flyover Country." Although you give up easy access to a mall (wait....isn't that one of the benefits??), you gain access to some of the most beautiful country in the world. Yesterday, we spent the day outside, surrounded by that beauty. We, along with my Aunt and Uncle, went off-roading on 4-wheelers. My Uncle has lived here his entire life, and has worked outdoors most of that time. He "KNOWS" "Flyover Country." He took us to an extremely remote, absolutely beautiful area, to see a Native American cultural site. (For those of you who are concerned with preserving cultural sites, my Uncle is a professional who respects those sites, and wants to preserve them....as do I. We are NOT "pot hunters.")
Anyway, we rode the 4-wheelers through some very scenic country...staying on a primitive, but extremely fun, road. We started the 4-wheeler trip higher on the mountain and followed the road down toward the desert. The road followed a deep gully, carved by a year-round creek, which flowed around (and sometimes through) red sandstone cliffs. Every turn of the road brought a new vista that took your breath away. After "a-ways" (which is a measurement of distance here in "Flyover Country") we got off the 4-wheelers and hiked to the cultural site. The hike was interesting, to say the least! We had to climb up a natural cleft in a rather steep hillside (I'd call it a cliff...but I've seen real cliffs that are much more sheer). Here's a picture of the cleft we climbed.
After the scramble up the cleft, we reached a ledge that ran around the side of the hill about 800 feet from the flat where we'd parked the 4-wheelers. The views were incredible! Here's a view of the valley from the ledge we followed, looking westward. Notice the primitive road in the valley....to give you a sense of scale....
We followed the ledge (more or less) around the side of the hill to a point where the hillside faced east. There we found the cultural site. The site was high up on the hillside, protected on the west with a 7-8 foot sort-of-semi-circular sandstone formation. The first thing you noticed was the multitude of flint chips scattered over the dirt. The chips were definite evidence that, at some point in time, people sat in that area and worked on tools; like arrowheads or other stone tools. They were all over the place, and you could tell from looking at them that the stone was worked.
The next thing you saw was a small rising-sun etched into the sandstone formation. If you looked more closely, you could see a flat stone with a smooth, oval indentation....something the ancient people used for grinding their grain or corn. Just sitting there, you could imagine a group of people, friends or family or both, coming to this place (where they could see miles in each direction) to visit while they worked or played. It was pretty cool!
It was easy to see why the ancient Native Americans chose this area to live. It is fertile, beautiful, and easily defensible. The ancients in this area built houses (sometimes even towns) and farmed where they could find water. When they left, rather abruptly, they left behind pictures etched or painted on the rock and granaries (sometimes full of corn) high in the surrounding cliffs. They also left other evidence of their daily life, if you know how to look for it, including evidence of their homes, evidence of how they ground their grain or corn, and evidence of how they made tools (like arrowheads or axes).
Just to the east, a short hike away, was a cliff-side granary. Although the ancients' storage facility was in ruins, you could still see how they used stone, branches, and mud to make a secure storage area inside a cliff-side alcove. You could still see the charred wood used as beams of the storage area's roof. You could still see even the indentations of the branches in the mud that was used to cover the storage cache. What was really awesome, was that you could see where the ancients who made the granary used their fingers to press the mud onto the stone. Cool!
After leaving the cliff-side granary...and leaving everything in place...we hiked over the top to the south side of the hill. The views to the south were just as incredible as the north-side views. After finding a way through cliffs and ledges, we finally made our way around the north-side of the hill to a "saddle" or lower-spot on the crest of the hill. Just before making our way over the saddle to find the cleft down the side, we came upon something that, in its own way, was just as amazing as the cultural sites....we found the remains of yellow, green, and black balloons; all tied together with ribbon, that had flown over "Flyover Country" from someone's birthday party or homecoming game and come to rest in the branches of a tree. Not something you see everyday in the wilds...miles and miles away from the nearest mall.
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