Although Sedona is probably the most recognized name in the area, the valley is also home to Cottonwood, Rim Rock, Clarkdale, McGuireville, Camp Verde, Jerome, and the Village of Oak Creek. Each has its own unique “calling card”. Although we were in the area for two weeks, we didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy everything so will probably have to return again in the future.
Sedona is the largest town in the area and is known for its gorgeous red rocks and artsy community. The setting is beautiful; it looks like a piece of northern Arizona or Utah was moved here. Bell Rock is one of the infamous rock structures in the area. There are also numerous high class, expensive art stores which held no interest for us, so we just saw them in passing as we explored historical/natural locations and unique sites in the area - of which there were several. The Chapel of the Holy Cross was built in the 1950s and is nestled among the towering red rocks of Sedona. The idea for the chapel belonged to sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude who with the assistance of F.L. Wright designed a structure to be built in Budapest. The idea fell through; however, she decided to proceed with the project near her own home in Oak Canyon Creek which is just north of Sedona. The resulting setting is rugged but beautiful. The chapel is peaceful and truly exemplifies the phrase of being built on solid rock. The only distraction for the chapel is the mansion that has since been built just below it. The “house” even has its own observatory.
Montezuma’s Castle just outside Camp Verde is a national monument. It is a five story, twenty room cliff dwelling built in the late 1100s by Sinagua farmers. Early settlers thought it was an Aztec relic thus giving it the current name. Because of its location 100 feet above the valley and in a south-facing rock recess, it has been easy to preserve the structure. Just slightly west was an even larger dwelling now called Castle A. It was a 6 story, 45 room apartment style building which is terribly deteriorated.
Montezuma’s Well is part of the same national monument although it is located approximately 11 miles north outside of McGuireville. It is a small lake about 55 ft. deep and 370 ft. wide. It was formed when a limestone cave collapsed forming a large sinkhole. 1.5 million gallons of water flows into and out of the “well” daily. It was used by Sinaqua farmers for crop irrigation and is surrounded by cliff, cave, pit, and masonry homes.
Tuzigoot [Two-zee-goot] National Monument is near Clarkville and is the remains of another Sinagua village where people lived from around 1000 to 1400 AD. Is one of about 40 villages located along a ridge above the Verde Valley but is the only one that has been excavated. It was originally two stories high in the middle with 70 ground floor rooms.
A fun town is Jerome which was supposedly one of the most famous mining camps in the country but eventually became a ghost town. It is reported to be heavily haunted, we guess by the miners who lived there, and has used this notoriety to make it a thriving little tourist town. Its nickname is “City in the Sky” because it clings halfway up the side of Cleopatra Hill. It is a twisty climb which was fun on the bike. The narrow streets weave among quirky little unique stores like Nellie Bly’s kaleidoscope store. We were really taken by this store. Most of the scopes are made by American artists from all 50 states and range in price from $8 to in the thousands. The real shocker is that they want you to touch and try all the merchandise; it is very strongly encouraged. We were taught how to take pictures through the scopes, but we weren’t very good at it. No one encouraged us to buy anything; it was more like “see and enjoy my collection, but I am in no hurry to sell anything”. There is a website: nbscopes.com , but the pictures don’t really do justice. By the way, the multi thousand dollar scopes are right out there with the less expensive to be tried and enjoyed.
Our friends Dick and Jane, who were in the valley during the same time period as us, took us to the “outdoor museum” in Jerome. It is located at the site of the old King Gold Mine. The place is almost impossible to describe. If you have ever been to a junk yard that not only had vehicles but also tools, appliances and other nondescript “stuff” with barnyard animals wandering among everything, you have an idea. But now apply the adjectives “antique” and “one of a kind”. We probably spent two hours wandering around and barely scratched the surface of what there was to see. There were acres of classic vehicles including not only cars and trucks but fire trucks, police cars, fuel trucks, buses, and an early ambulance. The owner still saws huge logs on a single cycle, one-lunger [whatever that means] gas buzz saw. And he’ll sell you a slab for a coffee table at a very steep price. Although I found it very interesting, especially the chickens pecking amongst the old toys, the next time I will be very happy just wandering around the shops in town while Tony pokes around the remnants of days gone by.
Dick and Jane also went with us to the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. It is a very impressive park with huge, natural habitats for its numerous lions, tigers, bears, panthers, a huge “white” rhinoceros etc. It also has what it calls the African Bush Serengeti and Masai Mara where they drive you among the giraffes, zebras, various species of antelope, water buffalo, etc. What we enjoyed the most was Tiger Splash. It is a show where several handlers bring in one of nine full grown tigers. They play with it in and around a large in-ground pool and use the play activities to teach how the big cats evaluate various hunting situations. The white Begal/Siberian tiger we watched really seemed to enjoy the interaction with the toys and handlers. It was nothing like what you see in the circus acts. Another unique interaction was between our tram driver and the huge rhinoceros. He is the only non-handler who can get into the habitat and call the animal to him. We watched this “mammoth beast” slowly approach and then in its own way beg to have himself scratched. We also saw a pair of hyenas - animals we had never seen before. For $5 you could feed them; we left that to younger generations. We were surprised to see that their coats were more like that of a bear than a dog.
Our last excursion was an afternoon trip on the Verde Canyon Railroad - again with Dick and Jane. It is considered “Arizona’s longest running nature show”. The train runs between the old depot in Clarkdale and the Perkinsville Ghost Ranch. The four hour, 40 mile round trip travels through the remote wilderness of Verde Canyon. The Verde River is at the bottom of the canyon making a very green, lush habitat for otters, beavers, and water birds. There are numerous Indian ruins located in the towering red rocks of the canyon walls. The train passes through one long, tunnel and over several old trestles. Our trip was perfect since the weather was warm but breezy with clear blue skies. We spent much of the trip out on the observation car taking pictures. If there was a “down side”, it was the fact that although it is fall, the weather has stayed so warm that the trees have not changed color. The fall rides claim to experience a wide range of colors due to the variety of trees near the river. We saw a little yellow, but that was all. The day ended with a birthday dinner for Dick at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Cottonwood. I wish we had found it earlier; we will just have to go again when we are back in the area.
By the way, you might remember the end of the last entry mentioning we were expecting our last night at the North Rim to be cold. I’ve included a couple pictures to show you just how cold it got. It took us almost two hours to get the snow off the slides and to get hooked up so we could leave. Ironically we only had to travel a few miles to get below 7,000 ft and to no snow. However we did hit some flurries again in Flagstaff - shortly after we passed a pretty good size dust storm to our left. When we arrived at our destination campground, there wasn’t a spot large enough for us even though we had reservations and had talked to the managers twice about our size; however, the manager did direct up to another campground around 20 miles away that had plenty of room. Needless to say it was a VERY LONG DAY!!!!