First Time at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

After saying goodbye to Steve and Deb we left Usery around 11:30.  It took us about 2-1/2 hours to drive north to Dead Horse Ranch State Park and we arrived with plenty of time to get settled in.  Dead Horse State Park is very popular and I was happy we had been able to get a spot for Sunday through Thursday so we could see what all the fuss was about.  It has a pretty cool story!  In the 1940’s a family was touring the area and looking at ranches, and they found a dead horse on this one.  When the dad asked the kids which ones they liked, they said “The one with the dead horse.” The state acquired the land in 1973, and the only caveat from the family was that they keep the name, thus Dead Horse Ranch State Park was born.  It’s a big property with numerous easy trails, three lagoons, and a river.  Unfortunately the campground sites have little separation side-to-side, but since we are on the outer loop we do have a nice view of the hills.  I wouldn’t recommend the inner sites though, because you don’t have much of a view. Our site 51 is right next to the camp host site and pretty nice.

The camp host has a quail feeder and there are several taking advantage of the buffet.

Now that we have stayed in a couple of Arizona Parks I will say they give their camp hosts premium spots.  Unlike many other parks that tuck hosts away, these sites all have very nice views.  Plus the volunteers/hosts are generally very friendly.  They are serious about the rules, which is fine with me, but also friendly, and the parks so far have been neat as a pin.  We weren’t planning on spending a ton of time at the park though, because the area has so much stuff to do.  We have one visit with a friend who lives right here in town scheduled this week, but we had so many things to see we had to strategize a bit to make sure we got to see our favorites. Plus our summer job company is trying to schedule our physicals and drug tests this week so we are trying to make sure we are available for that as well.

To gather information Lee Googled “Things to do near Cottonwood” and I went back and read Deb/Steve and Jim/Barb’s blog posts from the area.  It became clear pretty quick there was more to do than we would have time for so we had to start prioritizing.  As I have mentioned before, every couple has a preferred way of seeing an area so the list should reflect what you like to do best.  Deb’s favorite activity for example are hikes, while others prefer museums, historic sites,  ATV trails,  local restaurants/breweries,  or shopping.  There is no right or wrong way to prioritize your list and when researching it’s important to look not only at blogs but also cast a wider net.  Our absolute favorite thing to do is scenic drives, and Lee found in his research there was a “hidden gem” of a scenic drive along a road called Perkinsville.  Well, that was a no-brainer, but I also knew from blogs we wanted to see some local ruins and check out Jerome.  So we got up early, were out the door by 9am, and off we went. (9am is not early. Dawn is early. – Lee)

Our first stop, the Tuzigoot National Monument was just a few miles from the campground.  I really liked Jim and Barb’s pictures from there, and wanted to check it out.  It is a small monument, with a steep entry fee of $10 per person, but since we have an America the Beautiful pass we got in for free. This ruin was excavated in the 1930’s and dates back to to 1300 AD when most people in the area were hunters and gatherers.  This location was perfect with a hill surrounded by good farmland, and a river they could use to irrigate.  Originally about 50 people built on the hill but by the end the community was 200 strong.  Each family had it’s own one room “house” and those with the highest status lived higher on the hill.  If you visit this site the paths are ADA compliant but the walk to the top is pretty steep so keep that in mind.

This picture shows what each house looked like. It helped us both understand how it worked.

They had a couple open to stand in and I asked Lee to show the scale

Lush farmlands all around. Modern day scientists have verified these fields could support the community with a surplus of crops

Down at the bottom you can see part of the river

They used pretty advanced irrigation techniques from the river to the fields

The visitors center was small but had actual artifacts from the site. They excavated over 600 bodies from the site back in the 30’s and the signs made it clear the National Park Service would never do that today.

Banana Yucca Plant

Lee thought it was great, but I was on the fence.  I’m just not a huge fan of ruins personally, and it was pretty small.  There are three distinct sites in the area created by the same tribe of people.  If you saw them all it would cost $30 a person which I think is a little steep.  It was a nice visit though with the America the Beautiful pass and took less than an hour to walk through.

Afterwards we headed towards Jerome and what a great surprise that was.  Jerome was a mining town and is located on a very steep hill.  It has lots of cute shops and the houses all have crazy walkways and driveways, but it does have very limited parking.  We got there early enough to park while I took a couple of photos, but the steepness of the streets gave me a bit of vertigo.

Some of the houses were ruins and in a few cases they had slid off the mountain, they were also stacked slightly above each other.

Lots of artists in the community and I loved this sculpture.  The fence was necessary because the drop behind it was straight down.

We looked around a little, but then headed back down the hill  to the nearby Jerome State Historic Park.   They turned the mine into a State Park and it cost $7 per person to get in, which wasn’t that bad, but we decided to skip it in the interest of time.  The good news was the mine shaft was outside of the park and totally free to see.

We weren’t sure what this building was, it was behind us.  Pretty cool though.  I think it’s part of the power plant.

This is the state park area we skipped

But we stopped at the mine shft

I was like no way would I go down in that. I didn’t even want to get in on solid ground

You can see the relative depth of the mine shaft

They had put heavy glass block over it so you can stand on it. I did it for like two seconds but Lee was fascinated

He took all the mine shaft pictures. I could barely peek down there.  1900 feet deep…yikes!

This area was also the site of a Hydroelectric project and the history was pretty interesting

Lee liked the pump display

After viewing the shaft area we drove back up through Jerome and out the other side where Perkinsville Road started.  This is a primitive road and not recommended for driving when wet or snowy but 4-wheel drive is not required on dry days.  It was pretty bouncy, but we’ve definitely experienced worse and the views were really stunning.

They weren’t kidding about the no services part. Tank up before you get to Jerome if you are going to do this drive!

We didn’t see much traffic on the road, but there was some, but since you are only driving 20-30 mph there is time to pull over

The road is the line in the middle of the hill

Beautiful views of the San Francisco Peaks in the background

After 16 miles we came to an old corral and a bridge on the road and that is Perkinsville. The only thing that is there is the Perkins ranch, but because the railroad stops there it is a place on the map.  From Wikipedia: “The Verde Canyon Railroad, a passenger excursion line, runs between Clarkdale and Perkinsville on the tracks of the Arizona Central Railroad, a shortline. The excursion train engines disconnect at Perkinsville and move along a siding to reconnect at the opposite end of the train for the return trip to Clarkdale. The track through Perkinsville is also used to haul freight between Clarkdale and Drake, on the BNSF rail system.”

Unfortunately the ranch was closed to visitors, but we did have a great and very quiet and peaceful lunch by the river, and we saw some more pretty vistas.



This sign is all that shows it’s Perkinsville

Lunch spot with several camping sites that looked as if they had been recently used

The ranch front gate

We got a peek of the ranch on the road leading out.  We could see three houses

Stunning background, but absolutely no internet.   I had to remind Lee of that before he started thinking about settling down there!

Open range, but the cows stayed off the road.

Leading out of town their was this gorgeous ravine which was mostly empty of water, but truly beautiful

We had the choice of turning back or to keep going and make one big loop, and since neither of us are fans of going backwards we went on ahead.  The road was actually better on that side, but we made the mistake of taking a side road towards Salt Flats and the road was brutal.  After a few miles I asked Lee to turn around because there wasn’t much to look at and I was taking a pounding.  It looked like mostly ATV trails and wilderness camping and the road was pretty rough, the main path though wasn’t really that bad and before we knew it we were back on blacktop.  Eventually the road ended up in Williams, Arizona and what a pleasant surprise.

Williams is one of the few old Route 66 communities that is still thriving despite I-40.  The town had instant charm and we loved the main street and especially the Route 66 gift shop.  We have been on sections of Route 66 in our travels, but never seen a town like this, so we had to do a little souvenir shopping.  I bought a magnet and cool coffee cup with a rubber bottom and Lee bought a license plate for the front of the truck.  We don’t do this type of souvenir shopping often, but liked the place enough that we jumped right in.

This bar is over 100 years old and supposedly haunted

Loved, loved this diner

We had eaten our packed lunch but I would definitely have eaten there if we were hungry.

The gift shop was next to the diner and had a great selection and the prices weren’t outrageous

I saw this sign on the ladies room. They didn’t charge, but anyone else remember when they did! I do.

I love when restrooms have themes. Luckily I was alone so I could snap a pic

And here’s my cool cup with the rubber bottom

It was a bit of a drive back to Cottonwood, but we got back by 3:00pm (you can do a lot when you leave by 9am) and relaxed a bit before going over to Sherry’s house.  We met Sherry at our very first RV-Dreams rally back in 2014, but not long after the rally Sherry and her husband Jesse left the road because he had ALS.  Through sheer providence the house they had sold prior to becoming full timers was back on the market and they were able to buy it back and move in before Jesse was confined to a wheelchair.  Sherry and I have been Facebook friends for a long time now, and my heart went out to her over what was happening and I was also incredibly impressed by how she and Jesse handled the end of life experience.  I’ve always wanted to visit her and when we had this extra time reached out to find out where in Arizona she lived and that’s how we ended up in Cottonwood.  Turns out Cottonwood is a pretty cool place in and of itself but it started with us wanting to see Sherry.  She and Lee are practically identical twins when it comes to political views and since I rarely want to talk politics with him, he was excited to get to get to talk to someone who gets his viewpoint.

I offered to meet in a neutral location, but she immediately invited us to the house and said she was cooking dinner and baking a pie.  Oh yes, and she fed us all of Lee’s favorites including rib-eyes, baked potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, and the most delicious blueberry pie either one of us had ever eaten.  The conversation was wonderful, and I was so happy to see she had settled back into a sticks and bricks life.  I know we won’t be doing this forever and it is good to know you can go back and still be happy when the time comes.  In her case the time was cut short, but she is extremely grateful for the 5 years she and Jesse had together. She has her kids and grandkids, her local community, and her RV friends who stop and see her when she is passing through.   Beautiful person, beautiful love story, and it reinforced once again why we are glad we didn’t wait. This life isn’t always easy and it often calls for sacrifice, but the time we have together is precious and we are making the most of it.  Love you Sherry and next time we are absolutely taking you out to dinner!

This pie came out of the oven right after we arrived


Amazing steak. She let Lee cook them which was a good call since he is pretty picky about how is steak is cooked

He completely cleaned his plate

Sherry laughing at how Lee enjoyed her food. He is fun to cook for

What a beautiful piece of pie.  The crust was awesome!  Berries were just perfect.  Her secret she halves the sugar in the recipe so the fruit favor shines. (There are other secrets she uses, but we won’t divulge them here. You’ll have to experiment on your own. As you practice, you’ll want to get some kind of expert evaluation on the results. Contact me for information on how to ship the results to my specialized mobile field testing center. – Lee)

This picture says it all.  Seriously, I need to learn to make pie or I could be in trouble here 🙂

It was a long day, but a wonderful one and next up I am very excited to go to Sedona.  Heard quite a bit about that town and really looking forward to it.

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10 thoughts on “First Time at Dead Horse Ranch State Park

  1. Glad you had a great visit with Sherry…. We stayed at a cute little B&B in Williams many many years ago and really enjoyed the area. We took that road over the mountain; ended up with a flat!!!

  2. Tracy, this is what I love about your blog. You paint such a clear picture of your reality that includes the good times and the struggles. You are definitely paying it forward for those of us who are still a few years away from the full timing RV life. The information and descriptions are so informative. And, Lee’s side notes are laugh out loud funny!

    • It was 20 degrees cooler up here. I wore jeans also. He did wear shorts while we were down near Phoenix, but they will never be his first choice. Plus he likes wearing cowboy boots when there are snakes around and they would look pretty silly with shorts.

  3. I visited Jerome on one of my trips to visit my dad while I was still working. Cute place, and you’re right the street are crazy. I’m so glad that you two are getting time to relax and kick around before your next working gig.

  4. Great post as always! Question, when you are in an area and it’s time to do some exploring/activities do you set a limit on how much you are doing per visit or do you just kind of determine this based on where you are and the time you have? I ask bc we just got back from a week’s vacation hiking and camping in Utah and we tried to cram so much into our time we came back exhausted and were kind of on “beauty overload” if you know what I mean?

    • I know exactly what you mean. It’s a great question and one we discuss often. The short answer is the longer we have in an area the more downtime we take. When we have limited time we cram more in. Most of our timelines are driven by other factors such as work or family obligations. Sometimes we choose to just blow by stuff and plan to return later but since we had a 5 week break we wanted to do things. Plus keep in mind we did absolutely nothing for 79 days while gate guarding so to some extent we are making up for that. It’s a balancing act though and one we don’t always get right.

  5. So happy you got to see Jerome! We visited there in 2010 (pre full-time) and LOVED it! The whole area is amazing! We also loved Williams! I did quite a bit of souvenir shopping there also – hard not to with all the great local shops! Also happy you got to spend time with Sherry! Sounds like you are having a time time!

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