Homeward Bound!

Spring 2011 CSANews Issue 78  |  Posted date : May 06, 2011.Back to list

It must be spring! With thoughts streaming to our northward trek, we are now "Homeward Bound."

Although early April brought more snow flurries to Canada, we wait patiently for a three- to five-day window of clear weather. Meanwhile, we bask in 26-32 degree temperatures in Verde Valley at our Thousand Trails/Encore campground situated on the Verde River. We are surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Red Rocks to the north, Mingus Mountains to the west and the Hackberry Mountains to the south.

Located in central Arizona, Verde Valley extends from Jerome, Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Sycamore Canyon southeast toward Camp Verde and beyond, to Sedona, the Oak Creek Canyon and the foot of the Mogollon Rim (locally pronounced "Muggy-own," or simply called "the Rim"). 

Verde Valley doesn't offer saguaros or the desert landscape of the Sonoran Desert, but it does give you access to the mesmerizing natural wonders of Red Rock Country and Sedona, its centrepiece. Many people come to Sedona and never want to leave! 

Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona is renowned for its stunning red buttes and monoliths, as well as its surrounding lush forests. 

A spectacular and diverse riparian area, Oak Creek Canyon is 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. 

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. 

Sedona rests in four pockets - Oak Creek Canyon, the Village of Oak Creek, Uptown and West Sedona - sprawled out on the major thoroughfares of highways 179 and 89A, which intersect centrally at "the Y."

Since the red rocks are not all clustered in one place, nor can they all be seen from one location, tourists fan out from Sedona on their own tour or choose from a variety of guided tours. 

The geology can be appreciated from any of Sedona's abundant scenic drives, including Red Rock Loop Road, Dry Creek and Boynton Pass roads, and Airport Road mesa, where two lookouts are the best way to get your bearings. 
Exploring Sedona's beautiful red rock country on dirt roads is a time-honoured tradition. Every road into Sedona qualifies as a scenic drive, but Schnebly Hill, a 21-km, rutted, steep, twisted corkscrew journey, tops them all. You can travel the road in an hour or spend a day on the journey, revelling amidst the variety of sandstone colours - scarlet, carmine, vermilion, cerise, ruby, claret, magenta, bittersweet - which have tested artists' palettes, photographers' lenses and poets' vocabularies for decades. 

Even the not very religious turn off the highway in Sedona to get a close look at Chapel of the Holy Cross, a small church perched delicately amid the red rocks. Take a seat in the pews and admire the view through the immense picture windows behind the altar. Then head to the patio for an even better look at the stunning rock formations. Completed in 1956, Chapel of the Holy Cross sits atop a pinnacle 250 feet above the valley floor. The chapel blends in with its surroundings, looking almost as if it were a natural formation. 

Sedona has become a centre for traditional and contemporary arts and offers a variety of galleries, boutiques and specialty shops. 

Nestled beneath the shade of the sycamores on the banks of beautiful Oak Creek in Sedona, Tlaquepaque (pronounced "tla-keh-pah-keh") is a most distinctive shopping experience. Tlaquepaque means the "best of everything." Visitors will want to stroll through the many galleries and shops, and then dine at one of its restaurants. Imagine doing all of this against a backdrop of some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Before it became a backdrop for Western films, Sedona was a sleepy town of farmers and ranchers. 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. 

Formerly a copper-mining village, Jerome is impossibly perched high atop 1,585-metre Cleopatra Hill. Founded in 1876, Jerome was once the fourth-largest city in the Arizona Territory. The population peaked at 15,000 in the 1920s. Today, an eclectic mix of restaurants and unique shops line the zigzagging main road through town. Jerome is a great place to stop and grab a bite to eat, with a magnificent view to boot. 

Two sets of Native Indian ruins designated as national monuments - Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle - are likewise just short drives away and well worth the visit. 

Perched atop a ridge high above the Verde River two miles east of Clarkdale is Tuzigoot (pronounced "Two-zee-goot") National Monument, one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua. The Sinagua built their masonry homes on this ridge about the year 1000 and established a thriving agricultural community. At its peak in the late 1300s, approximately 225 people lived within the pueblo, which contained about 86 rooms on the ground floor and 15 or so rooms on a second storey. 

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-storey, 20-room cliff dwelling dates back to approximately 1150 and served as a "high-rise apartment building" for prehistoric Sinagua Indians. Montezuma Castle is built into a deep alcove with masonry rooms added in phases. A thick, substantial roof of sycamore beams, reeds, grasses and clay often served as the floor of the next room built on top. 

Montezuma Well - a detached unit of Montezuma Castle National Monument - is located approximately 17 km 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. 

This unique geological feature is a limestone sink formed long ago by the collapse of an immense underground cavern. The continuous flow of warm, fresh water has created a lush, verdant oasis in the middle of desert grassland. 
A little farther afield, but still an easy day trip is Prescott, the former territorial capital of Arizona. Nestled in a stunning mountain bowl and surrounded by a large pine forest, this beautiful town is steeped in history. In the early 1860s, the discovery of gold sent thousands of hopeful Argonauts rushing into the mountains of central Arizona.

Today, banners proclaim Prescott as "Everyone's Home Town." Downtown businesses are clustered around the 1916 Yavapai County Courthouse and its thriving plaza. A number of good restaurants cater to all kinds of tastes. On one side of the Courthouse Plaza is Whiskey Row. It's more sedate now than it was prior to 1900, when the whiskey flowed and the faro tables were jammed 24 hours a day in up to 40 saloons.

Two blocks from the Courthouse Plaza is the Sharlot Hall Museum, named for the first woman to hold office in Arizona. You can wander through the first governor's "mansion," a crude log home. The grounds of the museum are attractively landscaped and offer a quiet respite from the bustle of Courthouse Square.

There's more than enough happening close by to keep you busy. However, if you'd like to venture even farther out, there's always the standard trip to the Grand Canyon about 210 km north, one of the world's "Seven Wonders." 

Worth Pondering...

Once in a lifetime, you see a place and you know, instinctively, this is paradise. Until next time.

I'm looking forward to seeing you again in the next issue. Until then, check out my website for more on the Snowbird and the RV lifestyle:

Vogel Talks RVing

Meanwhile, "Let's Go RVing!" If not now, when? Live in the moment. No "what ifs" and no regrets. Life is short. Enjoy your spring in the sun. 

Feel free to e-mail me at vogelontheroad@gmail.com with your comments, issues and topics youd like to see addressed on this page.