Casa Grande Ruins
February 3rd, 2001
@ Coolidge, AZ
All Photos © 2001 Ting Vogel
Fry's Electronics
Randy at the Wheel
View of Volcano from Dirt Road
Casa Grande Ruins

I forgot to pack the serial cable that lets me download pictures from my camera to my laptop, so we stopped by a Fry's, where we picked up a 64MB memory card for the camera (8 times more memory than my current card) and a PCMCIA card reader for my laptop. For those folks who wonder about Fry's decorative themes, this one seemed to be an Aztec Temple...we would have taken more pictures (there were some cool carvings of skulls, jaguars and eagles...), but they had lots of signs posted about *NOT* taking photographs inside the store. After that pitstop it was time to zoom down I-10 into the desert country between Phoenix and Tucson.

Once we left the interstate, the drive became much more picturesque, as the state route we followed wound up around some foothills before dropping back into the desert plain. Randy was so eager to get to the ruins that he turned into the first dirt road that appeared after we saw the Casa Grande sign.  We continued down the dirt road a few miles until we decided that the road was just a bit too inhospitable to be taking us to a "tourist trap". We stopped to check out a distant volcanic cinder cone rising alone out of the plain before turning back. It sure was a good thing that we had rented a 4-wheel drive (for sudden Randy inclinations such as this)!

When European explorers discovered the Casa Grande Ruins around 1700, they had already been abandoned for over 300 years. The explorer's asked the local Pima Indians who had built the structures, to which the Indians replied 'hohokam,' meaning 'all gone' or 'all used up'. This misunderstanding is the origin of the name given to the ancient Indian culture. 

The Casa Grande Ruins, the largest structure built by the Hohokam Indians (who lived throughout the Arizona desert from about 800 AD to about 1400 AD), is a walled village with a four-story structure. Construction of the edifice was completed about 1350 AD. The caliche walls, about four feet thick at the base, are aligned with the directions of the compass. Wood used in the floors and ceilings of the structure came from firs and other trees 60 miles away. A circular hole along the upper west wall aligns with the sunset during the Summer Solstice, and other smaller openings correspond to other astronomical events.

Out in the parking lot, I stopped to admire the cacti lining the side of the road. One particularly warped cactus caught my eyes. Despite the ravages of age, its small limbs reached just as proudly towards the heavens.

And then we zoomed off to hike on Picacho Peak!

Walking Toward the Ruins
A Small Ruin on the Side
Randy Poses
East Wall
Looking Up at the Bracing
West Wall
The Hole Above the Doorway Aligns with  Summer Solstice Sunset 
Graffiti from 1871
Randy in Front of a Side Ruin
Cosmic Rays Streaming Through
Ting Blends In
South Side
Closer Up
A Sunshade Protects the Ruins From Further Weathering
Cactus Near Visitor Center
A Warped Cactus Stands Proud