I mistakenly thought the National Park Ranger’s tin container had marijuana in it, along with the necessary paraphernalia to smoke this afternoon.
However, inside was a dried string bean, an ear of corn, a shard of Obsidian, and various other rocks native to the Sedona valley – instead of the wacky tobacky.
I’d later learn that these objects served as powerpoint-like support for the talk we received from a guide at the Palakti heritage site*.
To be fair! If you saw how he slyly opened the container right after the lung-puffing-trek up those forty red rock steps, you might have thought a smoke would follow too.
So anyway, we learned that due to the 12% humidity and the sandstone rock’s protection, the conditions are close-to-perfect for preserving artifacts, like food and pottery.
Or inserting the ranger’s joke for impact. “They say don’t bury a body here unless,” hearty laughter, “You want to get caught.”
To clarify the “native” doesn’t apply to Obsidian, as it was likely was carried in.
Park Ranger: “No cars! Or horses even. This is pre-Spaniard times after all. The Sinagua people – 4’7”, with a 35-year life span – brought it in from over a hundred miles away, on bare or sandaled feet.”
Make the letter “C” with your hand, and that’s the length of corn 1,000 years ago, and the exact time the Sinagua people built brick-like homes into the side of the rock wall – the same ones we saw today. (See below)
Up next was the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. Not to be confused with Tucson, which unfortunately I did (insert inside joke that’s not funny here. And one I don’t want to tell).
For our reservation to hold, we needed no clouds. And yet up until about two hours before, it was snowing with clouds thicker than pea soup. Then, as only a desert can do, the sky cleared.
We stood with Jeremy, an astrophysics major at Northern Arizona University, in 24-degree weather for close to an hour. He plugged in coordinates, and we’d check out nebulas, dying stars, and the 42nd brightest star in the sky, Polaris. The brightest? Sirius.
Up next for Jeremy? A Ph.D. at Dartmouth and then being a professor somewhere. His relaxed, intelligent college kid persona – with his pockets full of hand warmers – never let on that it was his first private star tour.
Up next for us? Bed.
Thanks for reading.
*National Heritage Site: these sites receive the highest level of protection from the park service