Friday, August 11, 2017

Marketing genius

It's gotten to that time of year where we're harvesting new potatoes from the garden. We didn't actually plant any potatoes this year -- what we're digging up are from feral spuds, plants that sprouted from potatoes we missed when we cleaned out the garden last year. There aren't a huge number of plants, but that's okay. We don't eat as many potatoes as we used to because we're supposed to be watching out potassium (one of the joys of aging is you start having to worry about stuff that not many years earlier you were blissfully unaware could ever be a problem). Usually two-thirds of the garden is potato plants; this year we've got a large section that's planted in clover and is going to be fallow for a year or two.

Anyway, because we're just digging up a plant or two at a time, I'm basically picking everything that looks big enough to count as an actual potato. You know, tubers that are bigger than marbles, although in some cases not by much. Picking those midget potatoes, the tiny stuff that if this was a normal year and I'd planted potatoes on purpose I'd be tossing over the fence for the chipmunks to enjoy, reminded me of an example of marketing genius we spotted at Econo Foods a few weeks ago.

Anyone who's ever grown potatoes know the little ones are a fact of life. Doesn't matter what variety of spud you're trying to grow, there are going to be some midget tubers when harvest time rolls around. Those used to be the ones that got shunted to one side to be fed to the cows or marketed to companies that process spuds into instant potatoes. They did not get sent to the supermarket to be sold to ordinary consumers. The assumption for decades was that people wanted potatoes big enough to actually look like potatoes, not marbles.

Then some genius decided, hey, how about if we quadruple the price over what ordinary potatoes sell for and give them a cute name? End result: what used to be the reject potatoes, the ones that were culled from the production line before the spuds on the belt got to the baggers, are now the high dollar specialty potatoes, the gourmet "gemstones," "baby" potatoes that merit being sold for $5.99 a pound. Or maybe a little more. According to the Melissa's Produce website, that tiny one-and-a-half pound sack of infant tubers goes for $11.99 online. Plus shipping, no doubt.

As for just how large those gemstone spuds are, the first photo is of similarly sized babies I pulled out of our garden  the other day. Of course, the midgets were in the minority -- most of  our spuds were a respectable size instead of resembling dirt-covered marbles.

In any case, sheer genius on the part of Melissa, whoever she might be. Not only did her company figure out a way to use every single spud that came out of the ground no matter how tiny it might be, they figured out a way to charge more for what used to be the throwaways than for the normal sized potatoes. Only in America. . .

P. T. Barnum would be proud.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

So much for good intentions

I had semi-vowed to start scaling back on doing stuff at the museum. I was going to focus a tad more on other stuff at home and a tad less elsewhere at anything that involved lots of time and effort. No ambitious plans, no applying for large amounts of grant money, just some gentle coasting for awhile.

Well, so much for that plan. The building has an exterior window that was put in because the original design for the museum included at some point tacking on an ell. The door into it would go through where the oversized unnecessary window currently is. Or so I'm told -- the skeptical part of me says, well, if they'd planned to put a door through there they really shouldn't have run the hot water heating system along the base of the wall or run electrical wiring through it, but that's the type of skeptical thought I generally keep to myself. (The window is in the area to the left behind the switchboard pictured below; you can see the natural light flowing in. We are going to lose a great view of The Lake when that window vanishes. Of course, if we really want to see The Lake, all we have to do is step outside.)

In any case, once we close for the season, more or less (at our last meeting we voted to stay open on Saturdays September through May), we're blocking that window. Closing it off will eliminate a source of unwanted natural light (something that a museum should have a minimum of) and provide another section of wall for displaying stuff. Simple project. No big deal. Just need to get enough bodies together to be able to lift the humongous window out and moved out of the way. Once the window is gone, it won't involve much time or effort to plug that hole.

Except, of course, if we're removing the window, we need to get all the stuff that's in the general area of the window moved. As it happens, that's the museum gift shop area. Well, if we need to get the gift shop items out of the way, we might as well relocate it all entirely. We'll move it to the traditional gift shop location in a museum: it'll become the last space you walk through before exiting the building. That is the classic placement: you amble through the exhibit spaces and then get spit out right by the souvenir racks.

Which in turn means moving the objects that are currently in the space where we're going to put the gift shop. Okay, if we're moving them, what do we do with them? Some will go into storage, no doubt, but if we're moving the rest, what's the most effective way to use them? At the moment, we have no actual dioramas in the museum. We have exhibits that are collections of stuff, but they tend to be a hodge podge. You know, our logging exhibit has a lot of tools and photos and models and whatnot, but it's not like a slice into logging camp life. It's bits and pieces. Ditto everything else. We'd tossed around the idea of editing the area where the Monarch wood-burning kitchen range sits to make it look more like an actual circa 1900 farm kitchen, but then a better idea hit me.

We have a really old switchboard that belonged to Baraga Telephone (photo above). Baraga Telephone began in a local family's front parlor. We could take that switchboard, dress a mannequin in  Edwardian era clothing, set her at the switchboard, and do a for real diorama that highlights an important piece of local history and incorporates a lot of the stuff that as it stands now is just kind of there, i.e., parlor furniture and knickknacks that always make me feel like the ladies who set it up 10 or 20 years ago were having a good time playing house more than they were thinking about historic preservation or educating the public. We have a living room/dining room set up that's no particular time period or place but does have some really pretty tea cups on the dining table. The nice thing about the time period when Baraga Telephone was first up and running was the typical middle class parlor was rather cluttered. We can disguise a vaguely-Victorian looking 1960s arm chair with an afghan, set out the Franklin Mint collectible tea cups, and in general get the feel for the era without being 100% accurate. The key thing will be positioning the switchboard so it's the piece most visible to visitors. The rest is just set dressing to emphasize Baraga Tel started out in someone's home.

Even better, we can set it up in a way that keeps visitors from touching anything. I could finally get the exhibit of my dreams: one that is totally hands off. I'm psyched.
S.O. putting up pegboard to block off view of the attic.

Okay. Moving on. Blocking a window, moving the gift shop, shuffling things to create a diorama. Well, if we're shuffling stuff, why not take the logical next step? Let's make the path visitors follow a true circle. Let's put a door in the hallway wall so no one ever has to back track. The museum has an awkward floor plan, the result of changes in design as they ran out of money 25 years ago. As things stand now, if people want to look at a display of historic photos they walk down a hall that they then either have to walk back up or cut through the office to get back to main exhibit area. Way too many people opt for cutting through the office. Not good. So we'll cut a doorway into the hallway wall. It would come through close to the corner shown above. Not a big deal.

Except, of course, then we run into having to shuffle more stuff around, including rearranging the photos on most of that wall. Rearranging the exhibit area space near the proposed opening wouldn't be bad -- there is a display case that will have to be moved, but that's a fairly minor issue. And now that I'm thinking about moving the display case, other things are occurring to me. One thing does indeed lead to another. . .

I think my first step had better be creating some empty space in the storage building. We're going to need it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Headline I did not want to see

"Sanders keeping door open on 2020"

What the hell is wrong with these aging politicians? Bernie Sanders makes some great progressive arguments, by why would anyone who is barely a month away from turning 76 imply that he's just fine with being a candidate three years from now? I have the same reaction to Sanders hinting coyly that he might okay with running again that I do with every other geezer in Washington who refuses to admit it's time to step aside. I am really thoroughly sick of seeing the country run by a bunch of wrinkled codgers who are so wrapped up in their own ego trips that they can't take the time to cultivate a younger generation to carry on after them.

After all, Bernie isn't exactly unique. Dianne Feinstein is 84, up for re-election in 2018, and is still dithering over whether or not to retire. It's like the remarkably evil Strom Thurmond set some sort of precedent and ever since then, when the man managed to stay in office long after he looked like he should have been in the ground instead of being wheeled out occasionally to prove to the voting public he was still breathing, they all want to go for way more terms in office than any sane person should aspire to. Whatever happened to the joys of being the elder statesman who went off to make a fortune as a figurehead for a lobbying firm and got paid ridiculous honorariums for spouting platitudes and sound bites on Sunday morning news shows?

 I don't care what your political affiliation might be -- left, right, somewhere in the middle -- but if you actually care about the ideologies you supposedly espouse, isn't there an obligation to ensure that there are people coming along behind you who will also support those policies or ideologies? What's the point in being in office forever if you're not mentoring anyone or promoting the next generation of leaders and policy makers? One of the reasons I despised (and still despise) Hillary Clinton is she was more interested in feeding her own ego than she was in cultivating a younger generation. Instead of promoting her own eventual candidacy when she lost in the primaries in 2008, she should have looked at the calendar, done the math, and tried to build a bench for 2016. Did she do that? Nope. End result? A remarkably weak Democratic field and eventually a Human Yam in the White House.

I'm not much of a fan of term limits. We've had them for awhile in Michigan and the consequences have not been good. I am, however, beginning to lean more and more toward the idea of mandatory maximum ages for candidates and mandatory retirement ages for the geezers already in office.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Life's little disappointments

I had the first round of cataract removal done Thursday afternoon. It was remarkably boring. You don't actually get to see much when you're strapped to a table with a surgical drape over your face. 

Oh, the flashing lights and weird psychedelic effects in the eye that was getting sliced and having a introcular artificial lens implanted were moderately entertaining, but overall the experience made a person feel more like one of those chocolate bonbons in an old "I Love Lucy" episode than anythng else. I was halfway hoping to hear some Beethoven as the nurses adjusted the eye speculum and got stuff ready in the operating room but, nope, nothing but idle chatter about what the weather's been like and how ridiculously expensive ground beef has become.

It really was an assembly line operation. Patients checked in, were parked in recliners in a holding pen, had their vitals taken, eye drops to cause dilation dropped into whichever eye was about to be sliced, and were handed a Valium to mellow them out. Every 10 or 15 minutes or the occupant of a recliner would be led into the OR, be gone for not much time at all, return to the relciner just long enough for a blood pressure check, and released back into a regular waiting room. None of the recliners stayed vacant long.

The Valium, incidentally, was the only sedation. I had a vague memory of the S.O. being given more drugs to mellow him out, but maybe not. I was relieved. I always dislike the rohypnol variety of sedation, the stuff that keeps you conscious at the time but leaves you with a blank space in your memory. Mellow, strapped down, but mentally present was fine with me. They dripped enough numbing material into the eyeball to block any pain that might be associated with the actual surgery, and that was the important part. For that matter, there may have an injection of something, too. If there, things were already numb enough that I didn't notice.

The S.O. netioned having some pain after his cataract removal, but about all I noticed was more of a dull ache, kind of like my eyelids were protesting having been forced wide open for longer than they would have liked. On the 1 to 10 pain scale, it was way over on the low end. An annoyance, not actual hurting, and it didn't last long. Now that it's been almost 48 hours, about the only thing I'm noticing is a vague dry, itchy feeling, which hopefully won't last much longer. I'm keeping the eye shield on 24 hours a day until that vague itchy feeling goes away. I got told to wear it while sleeping for two weeks, but I'm paranoid enough about accidentally rubbing the eye too soon that I'll live with it on all the time. I sprang for the high dollar intraocular replacement lens in the hope that I'll be able to do counted cross stitch without wearing glasses. I have no desire to screw that investment up.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

No winemaking this year

Concord grapevine reachng for the sky
Once again the deer are now doing a nice job of trimming the grapevines. Things have finally dried out enough that we've been able to do some weed whacking around the grapes and some other plants. It was immediately clear that the deer have not lost their taste for grape leaves. The vines are in no danger of dying, but they're also not likely to bloom and produce grapes.

Oh well. I can live without stomping my own grapes. And if I really want to make grape jelly from scratch I can always buy a few pounds of grapes from the fruit stand later this summer. They usually get some locally grown Concords in, although not a huge amount. The U.P. is not exactly Napa Valley. Summers are a tad too short here for grapes to do well. I may fantasize about getting some home-grown grape juice, but I'll be happy just manage to train the vines to grow along wires and form a natural-looking fence. The Concord doesn't seem to grasp that concept. It prefers to send a zillion vines rocketing off in all sorts of directions. Last summer we kind of lost control of it, and I swear it had decided to try blocking the driveway. It grows like crazy, but not in the way I'd like it to.

In other gardening news, the peonies are finally blooming. Yep, it's the second week in July and I have peonies. Every where else peonies are a late spring, early summer flower. Here they're midsummer. Or do they count as autumnal because it's after the 4th of July? They're doing the opposite of the grapevines. They're trying to kiss the ground. As soon as they're in full bloom, the stems decide the weight is just a little too much for them to bear and they flop over. What is the point of breeding flowers where the plants can't support their weight? I've got some daffodils that do the same thing -- they were bred to have amazing double blooms, but once they're in full bloom they flop over. It makes no sense. . . Unless plant breeders love slugs, because that's what blossoms attract as soon as they touch the ground.
Slugs may like peonies, but deer don't. The deer change their preferred browse every summer -- one year they love Asian lilies; the next summer they ignore them and eat phlox instead -- but they've never eaten peonies. They're also smart enough to avoid the foxglove, and have never shown any interest in annuals like snapdragons and petunias. 
 My mother used to have an amazing flower garden every year. She planted all sorts of old-fashioned stuff I can't find seeds for anymore: bachelor's buttons, baby's breath, nasturiums, ordinary pink cosmos. You can't even find the seeds for some of the old-fashioned flowers in catalogs, which strikes me as odd. Why would bachelor's buttons go out of fashion?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Holy wah, the stupid is running deep

I screwed up recently. I joined an RV discussion group on Facebook.

Now I already knew, thanks to having been a campground host, that some of the people who take to the road in motorhomes or drag travel trailers around aren't the brightest examples of humanity on the planet. We've seen people do some remarkably stupid stuff in campgrounds. To be honest, we've done some dumb stuff ourselves through inexperience or ignorance, although I'd like to believe nothing that comes close to plumbing the depths of stupid I'm seeing in the questions people ask.

For example, it floors me to read posts from people admitting in a public forum that they just dropped $150,000 or more on a leviathan (class A motorhome) but they have no clue how to back it up, level it, or even figure out what some of the cabinets are for. Here's a clue, people: if it's an empty storage space, you use it to hold stuff you don't want sitting around out in the open. For some people, that might be board games and DVDs. For others, it could be extra bedding. The whole point of an empty cabinet is that you can fill it with whatever items you personally need to stash somewhere. You don't need to ask the Internet for permission to use any empty cabinet to store your Captain Crunch, your DVDs, or your sex toys.

But I digress, at least a little. In the last 24 hours I have seen a person ask about getting a 50 foot extension cord to connect a 50 amp service because they can't back into a space and there aren't any pull-through sites, another person inquire about jacking up a leviathan to "get the back wheels off the ground and level the motorhome," and a third blockhead inquire about whether or not a 1-ton diesel pickup was powerful enough to tow the giant 5th wheel trailer he plans to buy. The person who wanted advice on leveling was apparently unaware that the brand new motorhome she'd bought had self-levelers. She was at a Corps of Engineers campground so there couldn't have a whole lot of slope to the site. The self-levelling should have been more than enough. For sure she didn't know you can buy plastic blocks to place under your rig's wheels, kind of like adult legos, at any Walmart. How can anyone invest in an RV and not even know where to buy accessories for it?! (Personally, we carry pieces of scrap lumber, but the S.O. and I are notoriously cheap frugal. We are, after all, the same people who decided a free used llama stall mat makes a great patio rug.)

In any case, these are all people who are apparently planning to go straight from never having owned an RV into playing around with the largest, most awkward to use equipment they can find. No intermediary stages of owning a pop-up camper, a conversion van, or a small travel trailer. Nope. Straight from being couch potatoes to living the good life in the biggest RV they can finance.

And then having made that decision instead of actually going to an RV dealership and talking with experts, you know, maybe looking at the 5th wheel of your dreams and then asking the sales rep "Just what does it take to tow something that big?" you decide to consult the collective ignorance of a Facebook discussion group.

Jesus wept.

On the other hand, the cheerful ignorance does explain why there are so many ads out there for not very used equipment, leviathans with only a few hundred miles on them and travel trailers that were used for less than 4 months. If you go into something not having a clue just what it is you're doing, it's not going to take you very long to decide it was a colossal mistake.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Time to build an ark?

I don't know if it's been raining more than usual lately, but I do wish we'd get a long enough break between the deluges for things to dry out enough for the S.O. to mow. It's getting to where instead of the bagger he should be dragging a baler behind the mower. We have a lot of area to mow, and most of it needs it now.

I was thinking we'd manage to get some yardwork done this weekend. A few days ago the long range forecast was showing today as partly cloudy and tomorrow as actually clear and sunny. Now today is something like 80 percent chance of rain and tomorrow is partly cloudy and looking ominous. So is Tuesday. And Wednesday. I shouldn't complain. Rain and temperatures in the low 60s definitely beats the day after day of temps well over 100 the Southwest is experiencing, but it would be nice if it stayed sunny long enough for things to dry out enough for it to be safe to use the electric weed whacker.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Is the insurance industry working on making itself extinct?

I've been following -- sort of -- the discussions about repealing most of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The one thing that seems guaranteed no matter what version of a montrosity of a bill eventually wends its way over to the White House for The Donald's signature is that the end result will be that health insurance costs will climb even more.

Economists have been saying for quite awhile that the current system isn't sustainable. There's a simple reason why: The more costs climb for a product, the fewer people there are going to be who can afford to buy it. It doesn't matter what the product is -- unless you're giving it away, there will always be people who can't afford it. We all know there will alwys be a lot more people around who can afford to wear Faded Glory* than to wear Versace. In a rational world, if you want to make money you've got basically two choices: sell a lot of widgets at the lowest possible price that still allows you to make a reasonable profit, i.e., go for quantity and make your money based on volume of sales, or sell just a few at a super high price. Mass production versus artisanal.

For various reasons, all predicated in some way on the fact that trying to buy good health is a lot less of a discretionary purchase than picking up some new tee-shirts or even a new car, the healthcare industry -- insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, doctors and hospitals -- have been busily jacking up prices to the point where fewer and fewer people can actually afford them. Back when the Affordable Care Act passed, the insurance companies viewed it as a giant gift. So do Big Pharma,. most doctors, and almost all hospitals. It provided them with guaranteed customers. Even better, the ACA included guaranteed payments -- to ensure that people could actually buy the insurance they were being mandated to acquire, the ACA includes subsidies.

So what has the Republican Congress decided to do? Jerk out the financial props for the ACA. People are still going to be told to buy insurance, but they're not going to get much help doing so. And you know something? Despite the fantasies of some politicians on the right, telling people they're going to be fined if they don't buy insurance or punished in some other fashion isn't going to make a bit of difference. Premiums are going to climb, fewer people will be able to afford them, and the customer base for private insurance is going to shrink. You know why? Because if you don't have the money, you don't have the money. Some people will give up on the idea of health insurance reluctantly; some will struggle to find a way to buy it; and some will just run the numbers and realize they're screwed so they might as well learn to live with uncertainty.

I'm not going to get into moral issues or the healthcare is a right debate or even the obvious need for a universal government-funded and managed system ("Medicare for all"). Nope. I'm just wondering why no one in any of the walnut-panelled office suites for Big Pharma or Aetna or any of the others has sufficient brain power to realize their customer base is shrinking. Instead of pushing for ever-higher prices, they should be working hard on trying to lower costs. Their short term greed has blinded them to the reality that the system they've created is doomed to implode. It's not going to happen any time soon, unfortunately, but give it a few more years and the fecal matter will hit the fan. I just hope things don't get too unpleasantly dystopian before the paradigm shifts.

*And isn't it a sad commentary on my life that the Walmart store brand is what immediately sprang to mind when thinking about something cheap? So much for my posturing that I never shop at the Evil Empire. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tonto National Monument

Or, how my kid tried to kill me by dragging up a hill to look at a cliff dwelling.

Okay, so maybe she didn't actually try to kill me. Going to Tonto National Monument was my idea, not hers. It was March, it was Spring in Arizona, flowers were blooming, the sun was shining, and we were going to be hitting the road to Colorado soon. So spending one last Saturday collecting NPS Passport stamps seemed like a good idea.

Tonto National Monument is near Lake Roosevelt more or less north of Globe. It's about a two hour drive from Safford. The S.O. decided to pass on accompanying us on this particular expedition. He had hit the point where one crumbling pueblo or cliff dwelling looked pretty much like every other crumbling ruin we'd seen.
I, on the other hand, had spotted a flyer at the Canyon de Chelly (another NPS site I'll do a post on one of these days) the previous month noting that among the many events happening in Arizona in honor of March being Archeology Month was an Open House (translation: no admission fee) day at Tonto National Monument. I do not object to paying admission fees, in fact I will sometimes pay them even though the S.O. has a geezer pass because I believe in supporting the National Park system, but I am also half Finn -- and every so often the incredibly cheap frugal Finnish side emerges. So the kid and I decided we'd do Tonto on the free day.
At this point I thought we were getting close. I was wrong.
Tonto is an interesting little park. It has two noteworthy cliff dwellings, one fairly close to the Visitor Center and one that's a little farther away (approximately one mile). The latter site is usually accessible only as part of a ranger-guided hike that you have to make an appointment for. For the open house, however, the trail was going to be open all day. You did not have to go as part of a group at any specific time. Sounded good to me.
Teddy bear cholla
So the kid and I filled our water bottles -- I actually used my CamelBak pack, having gotten a new water bladder for it at REI a few weeks earlier -- and headed for Tonto. It was a gorgeous day, the park had attracted enough visitors that cars actually had to park along the roadside on the way in. We got lucky, though, by arriving late enough that earlier visitors were already exiting the main parking lot. We were directed to a space close to the Visitor Center. We checked that out first so we'd have some idea what we were about to do and then looked at a few outdoor displays before heading up the trail. When we got to the park, a group of Apache kids were just finishing up dancing so we didn't see much of that, but the various displays and demonstrations were interesting. The Tonto National Forest (which surrounds Tonto National Monument) had an archeologist there who does experimental archeology of some sort (and I'm now blanking on exactly what it was so it couldn't have been too exciting) and some local hiking club or birdwatching group had a booth pushing other parks and trails in the area.
And then we headed up the trail. The ranger at the trailhead checked to make sure we had water and decided we were good -- they were handing out bottles of water to anyone who didn't have water already. First part of the trail wasn't bad. It followed a little creek that runs though the bottom of the canyon so there were a couple minor water crossings. We'd been warned to watch for bees, and indeed there were a few places where lots and lots of honey bees were taking advantage of the stream. We ignored them; they ignored us.
Then the trail started to climb. We emerged from the shade along the creek, looked up the hill, and there in the distance, looking like it was a long, long way from us, were the ruins. That's the photo at the top of this post. And then the switchbacking began. We'd walk a couple hundred feet on a gradual climb up in one direction, then there'd be a tight switchback, and we'd do another couple hundred feet in the other direction. . . and so on. . . and on. . . and on. At about the midway point there was a bench occupied by a park ranger and a large water cooler, one of those 5-gallon ones. I did not envy the park employee who got to tote that sucker up the trail to that point. (Nor, when we finally reached the ruins, did I envy the rangers who carried up the cases of bottled water.) I think my kid (aka The Amazon) could have jogged up that trail with no problems, but I found it a tad more tiring than anticipated. I don't do well on hills.
Lake Roosevelt as seen from the ruins
In any case, what would have been maybe a 20-minute walk on level ground turned into about an hour creeping up hill. We paused a lot as I resorted to ploys like "I want to get a picture of this teddy bear cholla" (so cuddly looking and so vicious if you're unlucky enough to come within 3 feet of one; cholla are known as jumping cactus for a reason) or "Wow, what a great view from here!" Not to mention, of course, the classic "Wait a second. I need to get a sip of water." Which I actually did need to do, a lot. It was a gorgeous day that must have hit 90 by mid-afternoon. Heat was a real issue, so was dehydration, which was why the Park Service was pushing water at people like crazy.
Looking at the trail before starting back down.
Eventually, of course, we did get to the ruins. It was worth the climb. Being able to see them up close definitely beats having to view ruins from behind a fence (e.g., the White House at Canyon de Chelly) or from across a canyon (Mesa Verde). A VIP and a ranger were at the ruins to answer questions and to pour water on or into people who needed it. And the view of the lake from the ruins was amazing. I'd do it again despite managing to come dangerously close to actual heat exhaustion. I did stay hydrated but was still feeling borderline nauseous and having chills by the time we got back to the Visitor Center. I am definitely not a warm weather person.

On the other hand, at least I was smart enough to know it. There were a few people who arrived at the ruins while we were there who really should not have attempted the hike at all. No water worth mentioning and wearing footwear more suited for strolling around a shopping mall or a beach than for going up a moderately rough trail in rattlesnake country. We didn't see any snakes, but there were signs up warning people to be careful. (In the 5+ months we were in Arizona we never saw a snake; the one and only rattlesnake I saw in the wild was in Colorado at Hohvenweep National Monument)(and, yes, eventually How I Spent My Winter Vacation will get there, too).

As for how the Ancient Pueblo People (or whatever the preferred term for the long dead indigenous inhabitants happens to be at the moment) coped with living a long way up from where the water is, there is a walled, cistern-like area inside the ruin where it's possible water running off naturally from the top of the cliff was collected. A minor change in weather patterns that caused that water source to dry up could be the reason the cliff dwelling was eventually abandoned.

In addition to the ruins, Tonto has a nifty little Visitor Center. The exhibits are fascinating. They have actual textiles! Pieces of woven cotton material that are about 1,000 years old. Dry climate, sheltered location, and even fabric survives. Apparently quite a few artifacts were looted found back in the late 19th century. At one point the area along the Salt River had been heavily settled, lots of farming activity, so there was a rich archeological record when researchers like Adolph Bandelier* became interested in the area. It's hard to picture that area as agricultural now, especially when most of what was right next to the river is now under Lake Roosevelt, but if the inhabitants were weaving with cotton and grinding corn for flour, they were obviously growing crops somewhere.

Tonto's a little out of the way and it's not real big so visitation there is probably lower than at some of the more iconic parks. It's worth going looking for, though, if a person has a chance to.

*Yes, that Bandelier, the dude Bandelier National Monument is named after. He's better known for exploration and research in New Mexico, but he got around.