Friday, March 20, 2009

A Busy Week in the Verde Valley



After spending two weeks at Phon D Sutton recreation area at the confluence of the Salt and Verde Rivers just north of Mesa, we moved up river.  We were on the road by about 10:30 and took the 202 to the 101 to I-17, and then north to the Verde Valley.  We pulled into Dead Horse Ranch State Park about 1:30 and were shocked to find that the place was full!  It turns out that this is spring break in much of the Phoenix area and families are taking advantage of it.


They put us up in the overflow area for the night.




I rode the scooter through the campground at 8:30 this morning looking for a vacated spot.  I found one and left the scooter in the site while I walked back to the entrance station to pay for four days.  I hate having to move two days in a row.


After getting set up we rode the scooter into Cottonwood so we could buy a few groceries and get Dianna’s prescription filled at the new Super Wal-Mart.  While we were waiting we had lunch at the McDonalds there.  We usually order off the dollar menu.  We each had a McDouble, small fries and senior soft drinks.  The burgers are just about the same amount of meat as a quarter pounder since they have two patties and cheese.  So, for less than $3 apiece including tax, we had lunch.


After returning our groceries to the trailer we rode about 3 miles up the road to Tuzigoot National Monument.  We passed through old town Cottonwood, which is now a real tourist trap.  


Tuzigoot was an interesting place.  The Verde Valley is a very desirable place to live, and people have been here for thousands of years.  It is warmer than the areas north of here, cooler than the desert south of here, and it has a constant supply of water.  One of the most interesting things about it is the visitor center.  It is one of the few visitor centers that were built by the WPA in the 30’s that is still unchanged and in use.  The National Monument is very small and it takes only about an hour to see everything.


We returned to the campground, had dinner, took a short walk, watched TV and went to bed.




Today we rode up the hill to Jerome.  It was a major mining town at the turn of the 20th century, but all the mines closed by about 1950 and it drifted toward being a ghost town.  Hippies started moving in during the 60’s and turned it into an art gallery/tourist town.  It is perched on the side of the mountain and is still made up of old buildings, some of which have been restored.  It was interesting, but there is really no reason for its existence besides being a tourist trap.


After looking around town for an hour or so we continued up the mountain toward Prescott.  We reached the top at Mingus Pass in about 7 miles and were just above 7,000 feet.  There was still snow on the ground in shady spots, although the temperature was in the 70’s.


We then returned to Cottonwood and stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries and buy me some new jeans.  We watched TV and turned in.




Today it was Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well National Monuments.  Both are just a couple miles off of I-17 and they are only about 5 miles apart.  We arrived at Montezuma Castle and pulled into the parking lot behind 4 or 5 busses loaded with elementary aged school kids.  Yikes!  The place is not very big and there were kids everywhere. 


Montezuma Castle has nothing to do with Montezuma.  It’s just that the Spaniards who first saw it thought the natives could not have built anything so grand, so they gave Montezuma credit for it.  It is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the country, built into a limestone cliff alongside Beaver Creek.  It is small, but except for some stabilization it is almost completely preserved in its natural state, which is amazing when you consider that the inhabitants left in about 1400. 


Montezuma Castle is worth a stop when you consider that half an hour is all you need to see everything.  Montezuma Well just up the interstate will take at least an hour and is much more interesting.  It is located on a bluff above Beaver Creek.   It is a collapsed limestone cavern that is kept filled with water from an underground spring.  A lot of water.  About 1.2 million gallons a day!  And it was a big cavern.  The pool is about 300 feet across. There are trails down to the waters edge where you can see cliff dwellings and the location where the water disappears into the side of the cliff.  You can then hike back up to the top, then down the bluff to where the water again emerges from the rock just above the creek.  Here the ancient natives built a mile long canal to water their crops downstream.


On the way back to the campground we stopped at a gelato shop in town.  It was delicious & inexpensive - always a plus!




This is our last day here so we took our longest trip today.  We left at 10:30 and rode through Sedona and into Oak Creek Canyon.  Sedona is a beautiful city in a spectacular area, but it is also an extremely overpriced, yuppie, tourist trap.  Oak Creek Canyon is beautiful and lots of fun on a motorcycle.  As we climbed up the Mogollon Rim the temperature dropped and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground as we stopped at the scenic overlook at the top.


We then rode into Flagstaff and had lunch, then did something I had wanted to do for a long time.  We visited Lowell Observatory and took the tour.  We got to see Lowell’s 24 inch refracting telescope.  We also saw the telescope Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto.  We were even able to look through the comparator that he used to find it in the photographic plates for the first time.  I know it’s not a planet anymore, but a dwarf planet is still pretty important just the same.  It was an interesting time.


We left Flagstaff about 3:30 and retraced our route, arriving home about 5:30 including another stop at Wal-Mart for stuff we won’t be able to find in Quartzsite.  TV tonight and travel tomorrow.





  1. Thanks for getting everyone up to date. You sound like your dad, when you talk about "tourist traps". How he hated them! We never did get to see that area; I think it is the only part of Arizona that we didn't explore.

  2. Now you've made me want to take a trip up north to see the sights.

  3. Great to see you both yesterday! I still want to spend a couple of days in our trailer near you. Ours is pretty primitive compared to yours but of course ours is just made for short stays.

  4. Good to see all three of you too. We look forward to your visiting us in San Onofre. We had camping trailers or motorhomes for about 30 years so we certainly know all about them. We wouldn't have lived full time in any of them but they worked well for their intended purpose.

  5. Now I want to go to all those places. One of Mom's relatives built the Lowell Observatory and I have always wanted to see it.

    It was good to see you. Shelly was impressed with your location and home.

  6. Yay, you made it to San Onofre!