Northern Arizona Beyond the Grand Canyon

Although Arizona is synonymous with the Grand Canyon National Park, there is so much more for RVers to explorer and discover.

At an elevation of 5,248 feet, Jerome hangs precariously on the 30-degree slope of Cleopatra Hill on the edge of Prescott National Forest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
At an elevation of 5,248 feet, Jerome hangs precariously on the 30-degree slope of Cleopatra Hill on the edge of Prescott National Forest. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most people have heard of the beautiful red rock monoliths of Sedona. But not as many have heard of Jerome, the historic copper mining town perched on the top of a narrow ridge overlooking the Verde Valley. The picturesque town is filled with museums, antique stores as well as art and jewelry stores.

Even lesser known are some of the national monuments that contain some of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America.

Following is a sampling of some of the more interesting attractions in Northern Arizona.

Jerome

Jerome is high up on the side of a mountain. When I say on the side of a mountain, I literally mean that.

At an elevation of 5,248 feet, Jerome hangs precariously on the 30-degree slope of Cleopatra Hill on the edge of Prescott National Forest. In fact, through the years some of the houses have lost their grip and have slipped down the slope.

During the late ’60s the town began to attract tourists, history buffs, and the counterculture folks.

Today’s permanent population of approximately 600 consists of an eclectic group of artists, musicians, writers, craftspeople, merchants, hermits, bed-and-breakfast owners, and shopkeepers. It’s definitely not your typical Small Town America.

Tuzigoot National Monument

From near the top of the ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument looking southward toward Cottonwood. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
From near the top of the ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument looking southward toward Cottonwood. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perched atop a ridge high above the Verde River two miles east of Clarkdale is Tuzigoot (pronounced ‘Two-z-goot’) National Monument, one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua. Tuzigoot is an Apache word meaning “crooked water.” The term applies to the nearby Peck’s Lake, which is a runoff from the Verde River.

At its peak in the late 1300s, about 225 people lived within the pueblo, which contained about 86 rooms on the ground floor and 15 or so rooms on a second story. The earliest buildings in the pueblo were constructed more than 1,000 years ago. The monument has more than 22,000 artifacts, with many of them on display in its excellent museum.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle, a five-level cliff dwelling nestled into a limestone alcove high above the flood plain of Beaver Creek, isn’t a castle and has nothing to do with Montezuma.

The five-story, 20-room cliff dwelling dates back to approximately 1150 and served as a “high-rise apartment building” for prehistoric Sinagua Indians.

On December 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Montezuma Castle one of the country’s first national monuments, maintaining and protecting the cultural resource.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Located just 12 miles east of Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon was formed by 60 million years of water flowing first as a gentle creek across the plateau, then etching and carving its way through steep passes. Deep gorges formed in the sandstone, limestone, and other ancient desert rock some 20 miles long and 400 feet deep.

Walk in the footsteps of people who lived at Walnut Canyon more than 700 years ago. Peer into their homes, cliff dwellings built deep within canyon walls. The presence of water in a dry land made the canyon rare and valuable to its early human inhabitants.

It remains valuable today as habitat for plants and animals. See for yourself on trails along the canyon rim and into the depths.

Homolovi State Park

Montezuma Castle is a five-level cliff dwelling nestled into a limestone alcove. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Montezuma Castle is a five-level cliff dwelling nestled into a limestone alcove. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally home to the Hisat’sinom (known to archaeologists as the Anasazi) in the 14th century, Homolovi State Park is now a center of research and preservation of Native American migration periods.

Located in Winslow, Homolovi State Park offers a visitor’s center and museum containing information about the park’s early inhabitants, in addition to various nature trails and a campground with electric and non-electric sites.

Worth Pondering…

When I walk in the desert the birds sing very beautifully

When I walk in the desert the trees wave their branches in the breeze

When I walk in the desert the tall saguaro wave their arms way up high

When I walk in the desert the animals stop to look at me as if they were saying

“Welcome to our home.”

—Jeanette Chico, in When It Rains

Read More

Sedona Named Top Tourism Destination

Sedona, Arizona has been ranked as one of the Travelers’ Choice 2013 Top 25 Destinations in the United States.

Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Cathedral Rock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Cathedral Rock. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Coming in at lucky 13, Sedona is pleased with the abundance of positive feedback and awe-inspiring reaction of both long time visitors and newcomers, according to Chamber news release.

“Sedona is a true oasis, a vacationer’s paradise in the middle of the Arizona desert. Here, you’ll find resorts and spas, canyons and red rock formations,” said TripAdvisor.

“Bell Rock and Oak Creek Canyon are great hiking spots, and the dramatic architecture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a religious experience itself. When the sun dips down below the horizon it introduces the best show in Sedona: the night sky.”

“On behalf of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, it is great honor to be placed on the Travelers’ Choice 2013 Top 25 Destinations in the United States. As the world’s largest travel site, TripAdvisor assists visitors in gathering travel information, posting travel reviews and engaging in interactive travel forums,” says Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.

“This powerful web-based company boasts 200 million unique monthly visitors and over 100 million reviews and opinions. We are honored that world travelers voted Sedona as one of the best destinations to visit in the US.”

Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“It’s recognition like this that helps position Sedona as a premier destination in the world,” added Wesselhoff

Sedona is an Arizona destination not to be missed—a must-see wonders.

Sedona easily makes the “A” list of RV destinations in the U.S. due to its rugged western appeal and colorful rock formations. Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country and Sedona, its centerpiece.

Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Butte, as well as its surrounding lush forests. Sedona is located in both Coconino and Yavapai Counties and is surrounded by Coconino National Forest.

Sedona has developed into a center for traditional and contemporary arts and offers a variety of galleries, boutiques, and specialty shops.

In 1950, surrealist painter Max Ernst moved to Sedona, and other famous artists followed. Many artists have been attracted to Sedona and its rugged beauty which is said to enhance their creativity. Over the years, an artist colony has developed in Sedona and many of the artists sell their work in local galleries and shops.

Words alone cannot adequately describe this part of the country. Exhilarating nature! Scary excitement! Spiritual renewal! The sun and the moon! Incredible historic stories of wisdom and strength! The wild animals, birds, and flora! And of course, art! All are surrounded by azure blue skies and clean air.

Sedona’s mesmerizing red-rock country is unique to the world. The Sedona community offers so much—history, archeology, arts, culture, hiking, biking, off-road adventure, and spiritual and metaphysical meditations.

Finished in 1956, Chapel of the Holy Cross sits atop a pinnacle 250 feet above the valley floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Finished in 1956, Chapel of the Holy Cross sits atop a pinnacle 250 feet above the valley floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is believed by many that the region of Sedona contains a concentration of vortexes which are spots that release psychic energy or power from the Earth.

Positively charged vortexes are said to have feminine attributes: nurturing, calming, tranquil, or yin. Negative vortexes are masculine, active, energizing, or yang.

There are four local points which are considered to be energy vortexes in Sedona: Cathedral Rock (positive-feminine), Bell Rock (negative-masculine), Airport Mesa (negative-masculine), and Boynton Canyon (a balance of both energies).

For me, all of Sedona and Red Rock Country is one big vortex, a magnetic force that draws me back to this enchanting land year after year.

Sedona offers it all in a picturesque backdrop of serenity contrasted by some of the most rugged terrain to be found in The West.

The top 25 destinations include: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Washington DC; Boston, Los Angles, Honolulu, New Orleans, Seattle, Miami, Sedona, Savannah, Charleston, Napa, San Antonio, Lahaina, Portland, Philadelphia, Myrtle Beach, Kailua Kona, Palm Springs, Naples, and Houston.

Worth Pondering…

There are only two places in the world

I want to live—Sedona and Paris.

—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter

Read More

Arizona State Parks Employ Homeless Veterans as Rangers

A program that has been launched in Arizona, working in partnership with a host of public and private agencies, is putting homeless veterans to work.

Army veteran Carlos Garcia now working as a park ranger for Arizona State Parks.
Army veteran Carlos Garcia now working as a park ranger for Arizona State Parks.

The program is called the Arizona Action Plan to End Homelessness Among Veterans.

Employing the veterans is a great thing as to them, it is more than just a job; it’s a second chance in life. So many veterans, after giving their service and risking their lives for their country, are left unemployed and sometimes homeless, living on the streets, on their return home.

Under the program Army veteran Carlos Garcia is working as an Arizona State Park Ranger. He is now earning $12 an hour and has a home in a FEMA trailer.

According to Garcia, this has really changed his life and boosted his morale. He says he was out of work for two years and got into some trouble, but now he is so glad to be working again.

The pilot program has placed four veterans, including Garcia, as park rangers, working and living in Dead Horse Ranch State Park, in Cottonwood.

So far, Garcia has saved money, lost twenty-five pounds, and has even reconnected with his family.

Army veteran Carlos Garcia now working as a park ranger for Arizona State Parks.
Army veteran Carlos Garcia now working as a park ranger for Arizona State Parks.

He says it has helped him out a lot emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically and is grateful for the “awesome opportunity and a great experience” of being in the employ of the Arizona State Parks.

The executive director of Arizona’s State Parks Bryan Martyn, himself an Air Force veteran who flew special ops, said taxpayers get a good deal when the state hires veterans.

“I know the skill sets the veterans have,” Martyn told the media.

“I know they can do this job.”

Martyn added that he wanted to help the homeless veterans after hearing a staggering statistic one morning on the radio going to work. He heard that the suicide rate for veterans was up to around 22 a day, a shocking figure. On hearing that he brought it up at an executive staff meeting that morning and said that they have to do something about it.

According to Martyn, he is trying to give the veterans a skill and allow them to get their lives back together. It would also allow the vets to have something to put on their resume “other than kicking in doors or driving tanks,” he said.

He added that they work with the Veterans Affairs to ensure that counseling services are available and apparently the VA has been providing a follow-up service and is checking on the guys.

Martyn’s boss, Gov. Jan Brewer, says helping veterans provide for themselves is the least taxpayers can do.

Brewer started the wider program, and encouraged agencies like Martyn’s to get involved.

“Few things are more important than properly caring for those Americans who have put themselves in harm’s way to protect our way of life and defend our nation from enemies. Through their selfless actions, our veterans have earned the respect and gratitude of all who have benefited from their honorable service,” Brewer wrote in a recent Op-Ed.

arizona state parks logo“Unfortunately, some in our veteran community seem to have fallen through the cracks.

For far too long, homeless veterans have been deprived of the comforts and security that most of us take for granted — blessings, ironically, that they themselves faced injury and death to secure for their fellow citizens.

“That there are veterans living in misery on the streets of America has long been a source of shame. It is a grave disservice to the men and women who have bravely served us.

“That ends now.

“In Arizona, we are working together to erase the scourge of homelessness among our state’s veterans.”

Worth Pondering…

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

—Michael Jordan

Read More

An Oasis for Wildlife: Dead Horse Ranch State Park

Just a 20-minute drive outside of Sedona (Arizona), in the heart of Cottonwood, is Dead Horse Ranch State Park, a 423-acre outdoor oasis.

This resident Great Blue Heron is one of 200 species of birds that inhabit Dead Horse Ranch State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dead Horse Ranch is a camping mecca for nature lovers in the heart of Verde Valley. Located at an elevation of 3,300 feet, the park has plenty of outdoor activities and a refreshing river—the Verde—running through it.

More than 200 birds—from predatory falcons and migrating species to the inquisitive cactus wren, the state bird of Arizona—fly through the park each year.

The park features 10 miles of well-maintained trails that are well-traveled by hikers, bikers, horse and riders, and birders. Most trails average about two miles in length and vary in difficulty from easy to moderate.

Other popular activities include picnicking, canoeing, and fishing. Both the Verde River and a four-acre lagoon are periodically stocked with trout, sunfish, and catfish to the delight of anglers and a resident population of Great Blue Herons.

Campers can use Dead Horse Ranch State Park as their base camp to enjoy the Verde River Greenway, a six-mile stretch of the Verde River that is contiguous with Dead Horse Ranch. A one-and-a-half-mile-long greenway trail follows the meandering river and passes through the Fremont Cottonwood/Goodding Willow Riparian Forest, one of only 20 such stands in the world.

The fishing is good at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park also borders the Coconino National Forest, with more hiking trails. Only minutes away is Tuzigoot National Monument, a Sinagua ruin that adjoins the Tavasci Marsh, one of the few fresh-water marshes in Arizona and an important birding area.

How the Park Got its Name
The Irey’s family came to Arizona from Minnesota looking for a ranch to buy. As the family searched for a ranch, they found one with a dead horse lying by the road. When the family asked the children which ranch they liked, they replied “the one with the dead horse”—the name stuck.

Camping
Dead Horse Ranch State Park offers more than 100 RV sites, situated along several loops and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Most of the pull-through sites can accommodate large motor homes and truck and fifth-wheel trailer rigs up to 65 feet, and include water and 30/50-amp electric service. All loops include a modern restroom with hot water and showers.

The park features 10 miles of well-maintained trails that are well-traveled by hikers, bikers, horse and riders, and birders. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One loop, the Blackhawk Loop, has 17 non-electric campsites, reserved exclusively for tents. It is adjacent to modern restroom facilities.

Another campground, the Raven Loop, has been designated for group camping. It has 23 sites (for up to 46 camping vehicles), a large ramada, restroom facilities, and a group fire ring.

For those preferring a cabin getaway, there are eight furnished one-room log cabins, set apart from the camping areas. These have beds, lights, and electricity, but no linens or indoor cooking facilities. Each cabin does have a barbecue grill and outdoor picnic table. Family-style showers are a short walk away.

The user-friendly park also has four horse corrals for overnight use with advance reservations, a dump station, and fire rings for campfires.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park hosts two festivals each year.

During the last weekend in September the park welcomes Verde River Days, which promotes preservation and care of the environment. The celebration also includes nature-based exhibits and hands-on activities.

During the last weekend in April, it is home to the Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival (2012 dates are April 26-29). The festival provides expert-guided field trips to birding hot spots and instruction on topics relating to birding, archeology, geology, and photography.

Details

Dead Horse Ranch State Park

Elevation: 3,300 feet

Admission: $7.00/vehicle

Camping Fees: $25 per night for electric sites (Quail Loop sites: $30 (starting July 1); 15 per night for non-electric sites

Dump Station: Available with no extra fee to registered campers

Address: 675 Dead Horse Ranch Road, Cottonwood, AZ 86326

Contact: (928) 634-5283

Website: azstateparks.com

Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival

Website: birdyverde.org

Worth Pondering…
We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in, for it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
—Wallace Stegner

Read More

Five Things You Need to Know Today: March 9

Since I like things to come in fives (and tens), here are five things YOU need to know TODAY!

1. RV Catches Fire in Texas

This photo was taken approximately four minutes after a motorhome caught fire. It gives you an idea of how fast you need to get out of your coach if it ever catches on fire. (Source: http://rvtravel.com)

A man and a woman were temporarily stranded in Beaumont, Texas, Tuesday (March 6) after their recreational vehicle burst into flames, reports KIIITV.

The couple says they were traveling to Austin from Louisiana and got stuck in traffic on I-10 due to an overturned 18-wheeler. The driver says he was being re-routed onto Eastex Freeway when he and his wife smelled smoke and pulled onto the side of the road.

The man was trying to disconnect several batteries used to power appliances in the RV, when the vehicle caught fire.

2. Maintenance Tip

You’ve got a lot riding on your tires. The better you take care of them, the better they’ll take care of you.  Proper tire pressure:

  • Helps you get the most from every gallon of fuel
  • Helps maximize the life of your tires
  • Helps your motor home ride and handle the way it’s designed to
  • Helps ensure your coach can safely handle loads up to its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

So it’s important to check tire pressure at least once a week when you’re traveling. And since tires warm up as you drive, it’s important to check the pressure cold—before you start driving.

3. Flying J Opens Travel Center in Utah Dixie

Knoxville, Tennessee-based Pilot Flying J has opened a new travel center location in St. George, Utah. The new Flying J Travel Plaza is located at 113 Motel Drive at Exit 77 off Interstate 15 along U.S. Highway 78.

The 13,350-square-foot travel center features six gasoline islands, eight diesel lanes, and two RV lanes along with Diesel Exhaust Fluid at the pump. The facility also features high-speed fuel pumps that provide faster flow so customers can refuel quickly as well as a restaurant and a wide variety of convenience items.

The St. George location includes a Denny’s restaurant; food deli; restrooms; Western Union and check cashing; an ATM; laundry services; 108 parking spaces for cars and general merchandise.

RV customers have access to parking, bulk propane, and a dump station in addition to the two RV fuel lanes.

As with all other Pilot Flying J locations, the St. George Flying J Travel Plaza honors the Frequent Fueler Advantage card.

Pilot and Flying J merged in 2010, and both brands are still available on U.S. highways. Pilot Flying J has more than 550 retail locations across North America. The company is located in 47 states and eight Canadian provinces.

4. Yellowstone Campgrounds Start to Reopen May 4

Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the concessioner that runs lodges, restaurants, and activities in Yellowstone National Park, will start opening campgrounds there in early May, The Associated Press reports. Campgrounds start to open on May 4 with the Madison Campground, followed by Fishing Bridge RV Park on May 11.

The park itself reopens to automobiles in April when the major roads are cleared of snow.

The Old Faithful Snow Lodge Geyser Grill and gift shop will be first to open on April 20, followed by the Mammoth Hot Springs gift shop and grill on April 27. The major lodging facilities will open throughout May.

According to Xanterra Parks and Resorts all park operations will be up and running by mid-June.

5. Exploring Verde Valley

Pink Jeep tours are a popular way to venture into Red Rock Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At our core, we are explorers. It’s in our bones, our marrow, our guts to venture out and discover. Exploration and adventure are vital to the human soul. Called by distant voices or prodded by an inner whisper, we travel, we seek adventure.

During the past several years we have enjoyed months at a time RVing throughout southern Arizona, enjoying abundant sunshine, and a fascinating backdrop of mountain ranges. Whether we’re at Yuma, along the Colorado River at Lake Havasu or Bullhead City, Quartzsite, Catalina State Park, and Tucson, Ajo, and Organ Pipe National Park, Tombstone, Bisbee, Patagonia, Coronado National Memorial, or Ramsey Canyon in southeastern Arizona, or a Maricopa County Regional Park in the Phoenix area, there’s much to explore.

But, each spring finds us gravitating north to the scenic and historic wonders of Verde Valley.

To continue reading, click here.

Have a great weekend.

Until next time, safe RV travels, and we’ll see you on the road!

Worth Pondering…

Destination is merely a byproduct of the journey.
—Eric Hansen

Read More

Crooked Water: Tuzigoot National Monument

For thousands of years, Verde Valley has been a human melting pot. Hunters and gatherers came first, searching for wild game and grasses. Traders followed, digging salt and minerals, and then settlers farming the fertile bottomlands.

Built by the Sinagua about the year 1000, Tuzigoot sits on a ridge high above the Verde Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perched atop a ridge high above the Verde River two miles east of Clarkdale is Tuzigoot National Monument, one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua. Tuzigoot (pronounced ‘Two-z-goot’) is an Apache word meaning “crooked water.” The term applies to the nearby Peck’s Lake, which is a runoff from the Verde River.

The pueblo grew slowly over the centuries. Like most modern cities, there appeared to be no master plan—it just sprawled across the hilltop, wherever there was space.

At its peak in the late 1300s, about 225 people lived within the pueblo, which contained about 86 rooms on the ground floor and 15 or so rooms on a second story. The earliest buildings in the pueblo were constructed more than 1,000 years ago. The monument has more than 22,000 artifacts, with many of them on display in its excellent museum.

The Sinagua built their masonry homes on this ridge about the year 1000 and established a thriving agricultural community. The Sinagua appear to have abandoned the site around 1425. Whether it was because of drought, disease, overpopulation, depletion of resources, or some combination of those factors, no one really knows.

Most rooms in the pueblo sheltered single families and were used mainly for sleeping and eating. Some rooms had stone or clay-lined fireplaces for cooking and warmth, but outside fire pits were also used. Trough-style stone metates and two-handed manos for grinding corn were found in ruins.

Perched atop a ridge high above the Verde River two miles east of Clarkdale is Tuzigoot National Monument, one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sinagua builders used soft, porous limestone for the walls which required constant repair.
By the time archaeologists arrived in the 1930s, the walls at the site had long since crumbled, leaving only low outlines of the pueblo’s rooms. Nearly all the walls at Tuzigoot today were reconstructed using original stones from the site.

Hiking

Two trails are found at Tuzigoot—Ruins Loop and Tavasci Marsh Overlook.

The Ruins Loop trail is paved and about 1/3 mile in length. It winds up and through the remains of the pueblo. A sign asks visitors to stay off the walls and on the walkway, to help preserve the remnants of this earlier civilization. A staircase leads through an upper room of the pueblo to the rooftop, where visitors can enjoy an expansive, 360-degree view. Mingus Mountain, the old mining town of Jerome perched halfway up its slopes, stands to the southwest.

The Tavasci Marsh Overlook trail takes the visitor to an overview of Tavaschi Marsh, one of the few freshwater marshes in Arizona.

Museum
The onsite museum is an archaeological find in itself. The museum holds a remarkable collection of artifacts, as well as a model of what archaeologists believe the intact pueblo looked like.

An intriguing exhibit is the full-size re-creation of a typical pueblo room, complete with animal skins, blankets, loom, fire pit, pottery, and a few household items. A ladder leads to an opening in the roof.

Artifacts include an assortment of obsidian arrowheads, as well as spear points, knives, axes, and hoes. The Sinagua also fashioned a number of items from bone, including hair ornaments, whistles, and awls for basket weaving and punching holes in leather.

Other tools include spindle sticks and whorls for spinning cotton. Weavers made blankets, skirts, sandals, matting, nets, bags, and ropes from locally grown cotton, and they colored those items with vegetable and mineral dyes.

From near the top of the ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument looking southward toward Cottonwood. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also on display are a number of pots and bowls. Some are plain, others have intricate geometric designs.

Note: Renovation are complete and the Museum and Visitor Center are open.

Tuzigoot National Monument

Details

Operating Hours: Open year-round, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., extended hours in summer

Admission: Adults $5.00 (valid for seven days), children (under 16) free; passes are available at a discounted rate of $8.00 for both Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle national monuments (If you are planning on visiting both parks, ask for this discounted pass when you purchase your entrance fee at either park)

Climate: Summers in the Verde Valley are generally hot and dry, although, it often cools down considerably at night; winters can be snowy at times with temperatures ranging between 14-45 degrees

Location: From Cottonwood on State Route 260, drive through Old Town Cottonwood toward Clarkdale; turn right onto Tuzigoot Road and follow to end

Camping: NO camping facilities

Address: P.O. Box 219, Camp Verde, Arizona 86322

Contact: (928) 634-5564

Website: nps.gov/tuzi

Did You Know?
At Tuzigoot National Monument scarlet macaws were found buried in stone lined pits under the floors. Extensive trade routes into modern-day Mexico brought these birds north to the Sinagua of Central Arizona.

Worth Pondering…
The heritage of the past is the key that unlocks the promise of the future.
—Inscription on a statue at the National Archives Building

Read More

Red Rock Country: Driving Schnebly Hill Road

Exploring Sedona’s beautiful red rock country on dirt roads is a time-honored tradition. Guided jeep tours are a popular means of exploring rugged canyons, visiting remote Indian ruins, and taking in fantastic scenery. You can also rent a jeep, or drive your own high-clearance or four-wheel drive vehicle.

Schnebly Hill is a steep, twisty, and wonderfully scenic road that drops 2,000 feet into Sedona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every road into Sedona qualifies as a scenic drive, but Schnebly Hill, a 13-mile, rutted, steep, twisted corkscrew journey, tops them all. One of the best known and scenic routes in the Sedona area, this former cow trail became the main route from Sedona to Flagstaff before being replaced by the Oak Creek Canyon Road (Route 89A) in 1914.

The road is named after pioneer, Carl Schnebly, who settled near Oak Creek in 1900, building a home and general store. He became the area’s first postmaster naming the postal station after his wife, Sedona, who later became the namesake for the town.

The road’s driving condition varies greatly, depending on weather and how recently the grader has been through. Most drivers in a high clearance two-wheel drive vehicle can negotiate the Schnebly Hill Road if they take it slow. A family sedan is not suitable as the road is rocky in places. The road becomes impassable when wet.

You can travel the road in an hour or spend a day on the journey, reveling amidst the variety of sandstone colors—scarlet, carmine, vermilion, cerise, ruby, claret, magenta, bittersweet—which have tested artists’ palettes, photographers’ lenses, and poets’ vocabularies for decades. The colors change constantly with the passage of the sun, making them, it seems, always just out of reach of the artists.

Starting at the top maximizes the drama. Take Exit 320 off I-17. You can also drive the other way—bottom to top—but starting at the top is more dramatic. Turn west onto Schnebly Hill Road (Forest Road 153).

Pink jeep tours are a popular means of exploring Schnebly Hill Scenic Road. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first stretch takes you through a lovely forest of tall ponderosa pines. Here the road is lined with historic ranches, grassy cienegas (marshes), and a mountain lake. Once you reach the rim, the vistas are breathtaking. Abruptly, the road tumbles off the edge of the world into a wonderland of sandstone.

Plunging 2,000 feet through red-rock panoramas, outstanding vistas stretch out before you.

Alternately, you may opt to begin at State Route 179 in Sedona. The first mile deceives the unwary. It’s paved! But it quickly changes into an undeceiving pock-marked, rutted dirt road which climbs Bear Wallow Canyon, then twists and turns up the hill. There are some drop-offs but by driving uphill you’re always on the inside.

Along the way, narrow turnouts provide an opportunity for visitors to marvel at the unfolding landscape.

After ascending six miles you reach the spectacular Schnebly Hill Vista, about 1,800 feet higher than Sedona.

At 6,000 feet, the vista overlooks Verde Valley and the town of Sedona, Steamboat Rock at the mouth of Oak Creek, Airport Mesa (formally Table Top Mountain) to the west-southwest, Chimney Rock and the Cockscomb farther west, and the mineral-rich Mingus Mountain to the southwestern horizon.

Plunging 2,000 feet through red-rock panoramas, outstanding vistas stretch out before you. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The route continues climbing, eventually reaching ponderosa pine forests. Four miles from the vista point, the road passes a meadow area at an old ranch called Foxboro. The road then ends at I-17 in three more miles.

You may then return to Sedona via I-17 and Oak Creek Canyon.

A third option worthy of consideration is to drive the Schnebly Hill Road from the bottom beginning at State Route 179 in Sedona for six miles to Schnebly Hill Vista and return to Sedona via the same route.

Worth Pondering…
There are only two places in the world
I want to live—Sedona and Paris.
—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter (in the 1940s)

Read More

Red Rock Country: Sedona

Sedona is an Arizona destination not to be missed—a must-see wonders.

Sedona has developed into a center for traditional and contemporary arts and offers a variety of galleries, boutiques, and specialty shops. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona easily makes the “A” list of RV destinations in the U.S. due to its rugged western appeal and colorful rock formations. Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country and Sedona, its centerpiece.

Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Butte, as well as its surrounding lush forests. Sedona is located in both Coconino and Yavapai Counties and is surrounded by Coconino National Forest.

Sedona has developed into a center for traditional and contemporary arts and offers a variety of galleries, boutiques, and specialty shops.

In 1950, surrealist painter Max Ernst moved to Sedona, and other famous artists followed. Many artists have been attracted to Sedona and its rugged beauty which is said to enhance their creativity. Over the years, an artist colony has developed in Sedona and many of the artists sell their work in local galleries and shops.

Words alone cannot adequately describe this part of the country. Exhilarating nature! Scary excitement! Spiritual renewal! The sun and the moon! Incredible historic stories of wisdom and strength! The wild animals, birds, and flora! And of course, art! All are surrounded by azure blue skies and clean air.

Sedona’s mesmerizing red-rock country is unique to the world. The Sedona community offers so much—history, archeology, arts, culture, hiking, biking, off-road adventure, and spiritual and metaphysical meditations.

Finished in 1956, Chapel of the Holy Cross sits atop a pinnacle 250 feet above the valley floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is believed by many that the region of Sedona contains a concentration of vortexes which are spots that release psychic energy or power from the Earth.

Positively charged vortexes are said to have feminine attributes: nurturing, calming, tranquil, or yin. Negative vortexes are masculine, active, energizing, or yang.

There are four local points which are considered to be energy vortexes in Sedona: Cathedral Rock (positive-feminine), Bell Rock (negative-masculine), Airport Mesa (negative-masculine), and Boynton Canyon (a balance of both energies).

For me, all of Sedona and Red Rock Country is one big vortex, a magnetic force that draws me back to this enchanting land year after year.

Sedona offers it all in a picturesque backdrop of serenity contrasted by some of the most rugged terrain to be found in The West.

Amid the red mountains and stunning views, Sedona offers the very finest resort facilities to visitors. This mostly upscale community has more quaint shops and restaurants than many cities twice its size, yet high-rise buildings and big-box stores are not permitted to blight the view anywhere in Sedona. Local zoning laws are so strict that all new businesses must be built in the adobe style that melds into the background.

Since the red rocks are not all clustered in one place, nor can they all be seen from one location, visitors can fan out from Sedona on their own or can take a guided tour. Numerous four-wheel-drive vehicle rental companies with or without drivers and guides provide opportunities to leave town far behind and traverse rocky winding trails. Just remember not to get lost—there are passes and canyons that would make a pack mule faint.

Before it became a backdrop for Western movies, Sedona was a sleepy town of farmers, know for the quality of its fruit, especially the abundant apple orchards. Today, the city of 15,000 nestled within the red rocks attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon.

Nestled within the red rocks, Sedona attracts four million new and returning visitors each year, making it the second-most-visited place in Arizona, after the Grand Canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Awash in a sea of brilliant red rock, exotic Sedona captures Arizona’s bygone days as well as its natural beauty.

The story about how Sedona was named is well known; nonetheless, a brief telling seems appropriate. As the story goes, in 1901, a young adventurous couple, Theodore Carl Schnebly and his wife, left Gorin, Missouri seeking new fortunes in the wilds of the Northern Arizona Territory.

They settled along the banks of Oak Creek below towering cliffs of red sandstone. Cypress and cottonwood trees provided an oasis of greenery and shade from the simmering desert heat. The family labored to create orchards and a large frontier home, which became the community’s hotel for travelers passing through the raw but enchanting land.

To establish a post office at his homestead, Carl Schnebly submitted the names Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly Station to the postmaster general in Washington, D.C., who promptly turned him down. The suggestions were too lengthy to fit on a cancellation stamp.

Following a suggestion by his brother, Dorsey Ellsworth Schnebly, he submitted the unusual name of his young wife, Sedona—and travelers today remain captivated by Sedona, Arizona.

Details

Travelers in Arizona can visit az511.gov or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more.

Worth Pondering…
There are only two places in the world

I want to live—Sedona and Paris.

—Max Ernst, Surrealist painter

Read More

Drive Oak Creek Canyon, AZ

Oak Creek Canyon, just outside Sedona, is a spectacular and diverse riparian area and the state’s second most popular canyon. Towering vermilion and cream walls rise out of a lush green canopy, creating spectacular beauty, with vistas in every direction.

The Oak Creek Canyon is an Arizona highlight not to be missed on your next trip to Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unlike the wondrous Grand Canyon, the number-one attraction in Arizona, Oak Creek Canyon is intimate, easily accessible, and enclosed. Highway 89A, the only road through the canyon, is a winding scenic route between Sedona and Flagstaff that has dazzled visitors since 1884.

Once a cattle trail, then a wagon road, and finally a popular drive, this scenic route begins in Red Rock Country and climbs more than 1,900 feet beside bubbling Oak Creek into pine-fir forests more than a mile high.

The 14.5-mile stretch that begins north of Sedona near Midgley Bridge and runs to Oak Creek Vista, was the first state highway designated as a “scenic byway” by the Arizona Department of Transportation on August 24, 1984.

The designated scenic portion of the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Byway ends 14 miles before reaching Flagstaff, but continues to climb gradually toward Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks to the north, where 20 miles past the scenic road’s end—as the crow flies—stands Arizona’s highest point, Humphreys Peak, at 12,633 feet.

Oak Creek Canyon begins in Red Rock Country and climbs more than 1,900 feet beside bubbling Oak Creek into pine-fir forests more than a mile high. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Byway has been described by Rand McNally as one of “America’s Top 10 scenic drives”; the road cuts through seven major plant communities created by changes in elevation, temperature, and precipitation.

Starting in Sedona, the road follows the canyon walls north through the lush greenery.

The roadway curves through prickly pear cacti and yuccas scattered among the cottonwood, ash, and white-barked Arizona sycamores along Oak Creek. In higher elevations, the cacti and riparian growth give way to piñon pines, junipers, and oaks.

Oak Creek is spring-fed, and also drains a large portion of the area above the Mogollon Rim. Tall ponderosa pines begin to appear, leading into a forest of Douglas and white fir as well as Gambel oak.

Driving along, we get the impression that nature parted the canyon walls just for the view. But it was the relentless effect of water on a sandstone fault that created the meandering floor of the canyon and continues to supply life-giving moisture to wildlife, trees, bushes, shrubs, and wildflowers.

Take the drive up or down Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Byway, along the canyon’s rock-bordered curves and past lush vegetation, abundant wildlife, and stunning views. It’s a day trip not to be missed!

Driving along, we get the impression that nature parted the canyon walls just for the view. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since Verde Valley was our home base we drove up this scenic route to I-17 and returned to Sedona via Schnebly Hill Road. Alternately, we have driven to Oak Creek Canyon Vista and turned around and drove down the canyon back to Sedona.

The Forest Service maintains an information center at the Oak Creek Canyon Vista located at the top of the canyon, which provides a panoramic view of the upper end of Oak Creek Canyon and picnic tables and restrooms. This scenic overlook is also a popular venue for local Native American artists to sell jewelry and other local crafts.

Travel the Sedona-Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Road and you will discover one of the most beautiful and diverse areas Arizona has to offer.

Worth Pondering…
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine,
A Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise now!
—Rubaiyat of Omar Khyaam

Read More

Ancient Desert Water Hole: Montezuma Well, AZ

Montezuma Well is a detached unit of Montezuma Castle National Monument located approximately 11 miles north of the park. It’s not actually a well and has nothing to do with Montezuma but being wrongly named doesn’t detract at all from its serene beauty.

It’s NOT a well and Montezuma was never here! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This unique geological feature is a limestone sink formed long ago by the collapse of an immense underground cavern. This continuous flow of warm, fresh water has created a lush, verdant oasis in the middle of desert grassland. Such a reliable source of life-giving water has lured humans for thousands of years, although Montezuma was never one of them.

Early settlers to the area believed that the exquisitely-preserved five-story cliff dwelling belonged to Aztec emperor Montezuma. In truth, the “castle” was built by the Sinagua and was deserted a century before Montezuma was born.

Yet the name stuck to both the ruins and the beautiful pond which measures 55 feet deep and 368 feet across. Subterranean springs replenish the well with 1.5 million gallons of water a day, an amount unvarying since prehistoric times.

The water, which maintains an even temperature of 76 degrees year round, enters a swallet, or opening through which a stream descends underground. It flows through 150 feet of limestone before reemerging from an outlet into an irrigation ditch. Sections of this ditch date back over 1,000 years.

The Hohokam were the first to establish permanent residence near the well, about the year 600. They lived in pithouses and diverted water to grow crops.

This unique geological feature is a limestone sink formed long ago by the collapse of an immense underground cavern. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around 1125 the Sinagua moved into the Verde Valley. They built more sophisticated cliff dwellings that can still be seen on the rock ledge above the well, on surrounding hillsides, and of course, the famous castle in the other portion of the monument. The Sinagua continued to irrigate crops utilizing the consistent water flowing from the ground.

Sometime around 1425, the Sinagua abandoned the area, leaving large villages deserted. Reasons for their departure remain a mystery but warfare, drought, and disease are a few of the theories suggested. It is believed many Sinagua families moved north, eventually joining other ancestral Puebloan groups at the Hopi Mesas.

Today, visitors to Montezuma Well can relish a tranquil desert oasis. A paved trail leads to scenic overlooks of the well and sheltered cliff houses. Along the way, informational signs fill in the ecological and cultural details. The trail curves down into the recesses of the well for close-up views of more ruins and the swallet.

The waters of the well contain several forms of plant and animal life not found in any other waters of the world. This unique habitat is likely due to the constant inflow of large quantities of warm water that enter through underground springs, keeping the environment within the well very stable.

Circling back to the rim the path then drops through a shady corridor to the outlet, on a ledge above Beaver Creek. Under the lush canopy of white-barked Arizona sycamores and velvet ash trees, temperatures at the outlet are sometimes 20 degrees cooler than atop the well.

Prehistoric Hohokam and Sinaguan cultures took advantage of this source of water by irrigating crops of corn, beans, squash, and cotton. The rich riparian and surrounding uplands provided wildlife and native plants to supplement the agricultural products. Visitors to the site can still see traces of ancient lime encrusted irrigation ditches from past farming activity.

Details

Montezuma Well National Monument

Operating Hours: Open year-round, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., extended hours in summer

Admission: Free

Climate: Summers in the Verde Valley are generally hot and dry, although, it often cools down considerably at night; winters can be snowy at times with temperatures ranging between 14-45 degrees

Camping: NO camping facilities

Directions: Follow I-17 to exit 293 (4 miles north of the exit for Montezuma Castle); continue through the towns of McGuireville and Rimrock, following the signs for four miles to the entrance to the Well

Address: P.O. Box 219, Camp Verde, Arizona 86322

Contact: (928) 567-4521

Did You Know?
Groups of divers have explored Montezuma Well nine times. The divers found that the Well is 55 feet deep with fissures for springs reaching 120 and 140 feet deep.

Worth Pondering…
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
—John Muir, naturalist

Read More