First Time at Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater, Wupatki, and Grand Falls

If you have ever hung out with Lee you know he has boundless energy, but today was packed full even for us. Flagstaff has three National Monuments in close proximity to each other, plus in his research he found a special surprise for me, but I’ll tell you about that later.  This is a picture-heavy post, so let me jump right in.  First up was Walnut Canyon and based on pictures I had seen I really didn’t have high hopes.  It just goes to show you that you should never assume, because this place and specifically the Island hike option are one of my favorite things we have done in the lifestyle to date! About 1,000 years ago a volcano exploded in the area, and the native people were forced to migrate.  Most moved north and built the pueblos we will see later, but some moved to this canyon and built houses right into the cliffs.  The Island hike is 1 mile, 240 steps, and looks way worse than it is.  Seriously, the stairs are built well and even though it was a good work out, my knees didn’t bother me at all.  Probably because the trail is down into the canyon and walks around the main island they lived on. I was so fascinated by what we saw I didn’t even care we were walking.  Absolutely, positively amazing and so worth the effort.  The entrance fee was $8 and totally worth it, or free with the America the Beautiful Pass.

The Walnut Canyon Visitors Center

There is a wheelchair accessible area where you can view the canyon, as well a rim tour that is accessible.

The view when you walk outside. Stunning

The surrounding cliffs have rooms built into them

Most of the homes were on the island though, and that’s where the walk takes you. See the path to the left of the big circle rock.

The path goes right to the ruins

And you can walk inside them

The path continues around the Island. The sunny side of the Island has completely different  vegetation than the shady side

I loved all the plants along the walk and signs saying what the natives did with them.

At the base you can see the visitors center way at the top

240 stairs, but there were benches strategically placed to encourage breaks, and they really weren’t that bad


After Walnut Canyon we went into Flagstaff and ate at a Chinese Buffet we had found.  The price was reasonable, but the food was only so-so, but we were carbed up for our next monument visit.  Sunset Crater Volcano was next, and of the three things we saw that day the most disappointing.  The price at $20 would have been way too high, but that price also included the Wupatki area which I loved.  We went ahead and bought an America the Beautiful pass to replace the one we lost, so it was “free” for us.

The first trail was the A’a Trail on the lava flow. It was marked as “Easy”, and only .2 miles,  but I found it harder than the Island trail because the path was so rough. Make sure you wear good shoes and watch your footing, because the surrounding Volcanic rocks are very sharp

Walking out was black sand which reminded me of the beaches in Hawaii

There were three other trails, but in the end we only did the Bonito Vista trail because it was paved and walked through the lava field.  The others were around the base of the volcano and just weren’t that appealing to me.  The volcano itself was kind of a bummer, because you couldn’t see down inside it so it only looked like a hill.  The lava flows and the cinder hills around it were kind of neat though, and it was interesting how little had been reclaimed in the 1,000 years since the eruption.

Sunset Crater

I liked the foothills though

The Bonito Vista Trail

Hard to capture how big the lava fields were

Cinder Hills

 

This shows a lava hot spot

Next up was the Wupatki ruins where most of the people migrated after the volcano eruption.  There are four major sets of ruins, and each one has it’s own trail.  We didn’t choose to walk every trail in its entirety, but we got up close and personal with Wukoki ruins which was our favorite.

The Wukoki site. Staff was working on the path but we were able to walk around

I loved the architecture

The doorways were very small

 

See how they built the walls using existing rocks so cool

Loved it!!

They also had a nice visitors center, with very helpful staff,  and I finally found a new hat.  I have been looking for a hiking hat for weeks, and couldn’t find anything that didn’t give me a headache or I thought would work with our lifestyle.  Lee found me the perfect one and although it was pricey at $52 I thought it was worth it because it has a chin strap, adjustable sizing band, is collapsible, but the brim has structure.  I know, pretty picky, but an annoying hat can ruin a hike.

 

I liked this display of Hopi dolls. The ones with legs are the more modern ones created for tourists

The rounded bottom ones are the more traditional design which I actually preferred

Lee found out at the visitors center that these holes that we see all over the desert are started by one small rock chip and the wind and rain over time widens the hole. They are really neat and each one is its own artwork.

 

Super happy in my new hat and since the money went to the National Park Service I felt better about the purchase.

The walk behind the visitors center was the Wupatki Pueblo Trail. It was a 1/2 mile long but had a fair amount of descent, which needs to be an ascent on the return,  and we decided just to look from the top of the trail. We already did our 248 step climb for the day.

I loved the round ball courts

Next up was the Citadel and Nalakihu Pueblo Trail

Loved the colors on this ruin

The Box Canyon ruins were great also and no one else was there

We could have spent more time, but there was one thing left that Lee wanted to see. The Visitors center had maps to Grand Falls on the Navajo Reservation and there was an easier but longer route on main roads or a back roads way to go.  Usually back roads have been friends to us but in this case I definitely do NOT recommend it.  None of the “roads” were marked and it was only Lee’s outstanding sense of direction that kept us on track.  Even so we passed three other vehicles and every time we stopped them to ask if we were going the right way.  It was that confusing.  Eventually though we made it to the main road of 70 and right past the cattleguard there is an unmarked left onto the Navajo reservation.  There was a Grand Falls Church sign on that corner, but no indication of the falls themselves.  We then went 9 miles on a well kept reservation dirt road and landed at the site.  It had restrooms, a pavillion, and a few viewing areas but nothing else you would expect to find for a natural landmark of this significance.  Don’t take my word for it though, here’s what we saw.

The pavillon

The view!! To give you an idea of the scale, it’s 185 feet tall, which is taller than Niagara. The main part of this picture shows only the first drop.

The falls were made when a lava flow changed the direction of the Colorado river and it’s tough to even tell you the scope of it.  I tried to capture it in pictures from the various locations, but it was huge.  Easily bigger than any falls we’ve ever seen.  There wasn’t a ton of water because we were at the end of spring, but Lee saw pictures where the water was full and I can’t wait to try and go back either earlier in the spring or in the summer monsoon season when more water is flowing.  The canyon itself was stunning though and even without the falls would have been worth the drive.  Both together were spectacular. 

 

To give you a feeling of scale, the pyramid shaped boulder in the lower right corner was at least 3 stories high

 

 

 

 

One of the best things we saw was a school bus driving along the top of the waterfall cliff.  For a moment it looked like it was going to go right over, but the road went down and crossed at the top of the falls.  Not sure what they do when the rains are higher, but we were nervous about taking our truck on that road, let alone a school bus.

The school bus top left

Here’s where it crossed the road at the top of the falls. During monsoon season this is not passable.

Lee’s panoramic

It was amazing, and I am so glad he found it, and like I said would love to go back again when there is more water.  It was a long day though, and we headed back, because we were pulling up stakes and heading back and meeting Cori and Greg at the Las Vegas RV Resort for a couple of days.  I highly recommend this campground if you are staying in town, but unfortunately we were only there a couple of days and then moving to Circus, Circus.  This is definitely not my favorite RV park in Vegas, but Lee was finally getting to spend his week with our youngest daughter and wanted to be located on the strip.

Before we ever went on the road, Lee and I talked about how we would make this week work.  He took our other two daughters to Las Vegas for a week after they turned 21, and we wanted to make sure our youngest would get a similar experience.  We set aside savings money to pay for it and my original plan was to hang out in the rig and largely let them do their own thing.  Thankfully, my mom has a time share in Vegas and when she heard we were coming here she booked it so I can spend the week with her in the time share, and Lee and Kay can have one-on-one Dad/Daughter time.  These weeks are really important to him and in my mind it is on a par with throwing a wedding. I am really glad I can spend time with Mom, and they can do all the fun stuff they have planned.  Since we are going to be separate this week, I decided to not even try to write the blog, so I will be taking a short hiatus.  It’s the first writing break I have taken since we have been on the road, and as much as I enjoy chronicling our adventures, I am also excited about having a week off.  Directly after my Mom and Kay leave we are pulling up stakes again and heading towards Oregon for our summer camp hosting gig.  I’ll catch up with you guys then, and thanks for understanding!



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First Time Boondocking in Flagstaff

Monday Lee went out to get some drone footage of the ruins at Two Guns and the Canyon Diablo train bridge from the other day, and I spent the morning relaxing and taking bird pictures.  Being near a lake this time of year is great, and the marshy area near our site was full of birds in full color.  I got some new birds, and better pictures of some I already had, so thought I would share a few with you.

Killdeer a first for me

Yellow-headed Blackbird another first

Brown-Headed Cowbird

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Lee’s pic of a Red-Winged Blackbird

Lee’s pic of a Great Blue Heron

As a bird lover it was so much fun, and Lee was very happy with the drone footage he got.  I really recommend McHood park for free camping, especially if you can get a spot right near the water.  The people were nice, and there were trash receptacles and toilets onsite. But time to move on to our next spot in Coconino National Forest.  Because we don’t have a separate vehicle, it’s tough to scout out spots, but I read about this one from our friends Jim and Barn’s blog and since they have a rig our size we knew we could fit.  (35°10’52.78″N, 111°29’42.78″W) It was another short travel day even with a stop at the nearby Flying J/Pilot to dump our tanks, which was only $5 with our Pilot fuel card, and take on water, which was free.  There were several sites available when we got there, and I ended up picking one on a large loop with the mountains in the background and a really beautiful tree in front of us.

Loved this tree

Lots of ready to go fire rings that showed signs of recent use

We walked back a little bit to get this view of the San Francisco Peaks which are actually part of one large dormant volcano

 

Setting up when boondocking is much faster, so we were settled in by 11:30am and Lee took a little walk to explore the area.  After I was done with the inside he wanted to go exploring a bit so we took a scenic drive, partly on Historic Route 66 and partly on 180.  I was reading the description of the scenic drive on his phone and saw there was a lava tube nearby.  That sounded cool, so we turned off on Forest road 245 and headed that way.  There is no sign (other than a small one for the road itself) on 180, but once we got on the forest road itself we did see signs.  Eventually we found a parking area with several cars, and then again with a little difficulty found the path.  I didn’t understand why they made this place so hard to find, but once we were there it made more sense.

Path to the Lava River Cave.  See the sign way down at the end

This is what you see on the surface

And this sign shows it is a 1-1/2 mile tube

When we got to the entrance we were lucky enough to meet a local who was waiting for her family to return.  I say lucky because this cave is not something that should be attempted lightly, and we were completely unprepared.  You need at least two lights, water, a jacket, and really good shoes.  It’s very dark even getting down into the cave and thankfully she warned us about the black ice in between the rocks, because it was very slippery.  With some effort we managed to get down into the mouth of the cave and she was nice enough to take a picture, but that was enough for me.  Claustrophobia set in almost immediately and when Lee wanted to go farther I said I absolutely can’t do that.  It’s a shame because it is something I would have liked to have done if able.  We talked about Lee going back later, better prepared, but I was worried about him doing it alone. Seriously, this cave is no joke, and the lava rock is sharp.  I slipped a little getting down to the entrance and the point of a rock drew some blood and gave me a bruise.  So if you want to try it please be careful, but I would love to see the pictures of inside.

You can see the lady we met sitting at the entrance

As soon as you walked down to where Lee was a cold blast of air hit us. Warm clothing definitely called for

This is with the night setting on the camera. Much darker where the ice was

Low ceilings are also a danger. We could see blood where someone had hit their head

Made it this far. The entrance is behind the ice to the left and it was a ice slide to get down

You can see by the look on my face I was done

Whew out. Just typing this makes my chest constrict lol

After the cave, we continued driving up 180 and found a little church that was not on Roadside America.  It caught my eye and we stopped to take a picture and I realized it was open to the public.  What an amazing find, and I submitted it to the app developers for future people to see.  The Church of the Holy Dove was built by a local Doctor and is now open to the public.  Many people hold weddings there, but the only way to show how special it is is through pictures.

Me in the pic for scale.  The front door was unlocked so I opened it and wow!

The front doow is tiny but it opens to this amazing two story  view of the mountains

Inside facing the door.  Would have to be a small wedding, but what a great place to have the ceremony.

After driving the rest of the loop we headed back and had some dinner. We had lots of things on our list for the next day, but I am going to put all of that in the next post.  To finish this one up though I want to leave you with some of my current thoughts on boondocking. The morning I started this post, I woke up with lots of thoughts in my head about boondocking, and wanted to get them down while they were still fresh, so I will leave you with one last pic of the area, and then jump in.  If you just like the pretty pictures, I would recommend stopping here 🙂

We really like boondocking in wilderness areas.  It’s quiet, the views are amazing, and you can get close to nature.  Plus of course it is cheap. But it’s not totally free, as some people might think.  You will need to pay for dumping, unless you want to use an app to find a free dump location, which can be few and far between. Plus you will be using propane for your fridge and water heater, and anything else you might normally run on electricity. It’s definitely still cheaper than most campgrounds you could find with similar circumstances.   But there are some downsides, at least for me.  So in the interest of full disclosure, a couple of incidents happened during the 2-1/2 days we were here and I thought I should mention them, mainly because we know people like to get as many details as possible, so they are better prepared.

I have a general level of unease when we are this far removed from other campers.  Part of that I know is because we are still pretty new at boondocking, but it’s also based on factors that make sense to me.  First are the wild animals.  We have found animal carcasses and/or old bones every time we have boondocked.  That makes sense because we are in the wilderness, but it also indicates that there are probably large predators around.  I know intellectually that they will generally avoid people, because there is easier prey, but it still makes me more cautious.  My solution to this by the way is to keep a bear horn handy.  We are living on their land, so if an animal came along my desire would be to frighten it off not hurt it and hopefully the bear horn would do the trick. (It would not. It’s not so much a bear deterrent as it is a “call to dinner”. – Lee)

Secondly, despite the remoteness there are signs of people.  These spots are generally well known, or we wouldn’t find them, and there are people in the general area either camping or making day use of the area.  Sometimes that makes me feel less isolated, but other times, depending on the type of trash we find, it adds to the unease.  Shell casings, which we see frequently, mean people come to the area to shoot and of course beer cans and smashed liquor bottles mean they come to drink. The combination of both paints an unattractive picture in my mind, and although we have never personally seen this kind of rowdy behavior it is in the back of my head. Trash tells its own story.

If we stayed near the RV all day I would probably be less worried, but part of the reason we do this is to explore, so we generally leave the rig unattended for large stretches of time.  As a general rule folks like to spread out from each other as much as possible, especially in dispersed camping areas, but there is nothing to stop someone from parking right next to you.  This happened on our second night here.  We went out for the scenic drive and we got back around 3:30pm there was a white Toyota Prius parked in a spot behind us, about 30 yards away, with the driver just sitting in it. And it was parked in such a way that the driver was looking out his front windshield at our rig. At first I thought the person was just hanging out and would move on,  but as the evening wore on it became clear they weren’t leaving.  They didn’t pitch a tent, we actually didn’t see them outside of the car at all, and ultimately it was clear they were going to sleep in their car overnight.

Don’t get me wrong, we have run into lots of people who travel and sleep in their cars  and a White Prius is not exactly a scary vehicle, but since the driver’s window was looking right at us,  it made me uncomfortable, and ultimately drove me inside for the evening.  The person left around 5am (they must have been freezing sleeping in their car) which was good, but I just couldn’t relax while they were there.  I’m not saying they didn’t have as much right to be here as we did, and maybe they chose to stay near us for concerns about safety, but for me it was definitely not optimal. I understand many people wouldn’t think twice about it, but at this point I am not one of them.  Again, maybe with more experience that might change. There are lots of folks out there who are living off the grid and traveling with non traditional setups. We’ve met several people in this category throughout our travels, and they do have different motivations.  Some people are just taking some time off “regular life” and are on an adventure, others are reclusive and simply want to be left alone, some people are convinced we are all headed towards a catastrophic event and are preparing for that eventuality, and others are just living close to the edge, being forced into “camping” by circumstance rather than choice. I have rewrote this paragraph about 5 times now and would just delete it, but it seems important to talk about, so I’ll just do the best I can here and quit pussyfooting around.  When we run across an unusual camping setup, it’s not easy to tell which of the above applies. When it happens in a surrounding that includes other campers and or some sort of authority there is at least the illusion of safety.  Meet in a remote area, with no one else around and less so.  Here’s an example.  Ever see someone in a dark alley?  95% chance the person is a fine, upstanding citizen, but your senses are heightened and you are probably extra cautious.  That’s what remote boondocking can feel like to me.  I am not saying I am right about it, just saying that is how it is, for me, in this moment.

My other concerns are more mundane.  We are early risers and as nice as it would be to change our schedules to accommodate the sun (and the electrcity it brings via our solar setup) that doesn’t seem easy for either of us.  Nothing quite like getting up in the total dark and hanging out until the sun comes up.  We could use the generator of course, because there are no quiet hours in the forest, but that costs money, so we tend to not do that.  Even when the furnace is working, Lee likes to avoid using it so he often gets up and starts a fire.  There’s not much to do in the cold and quiet early morning hours so he uses his phone and just hangs out.  We also like coffee, but for some reason he hates percolated coffee so has gone to pretty extreme (in my mind) measures to simulate drip brewed coffee.  He heats the water in the percolator pot, and then uses the filter and carafe from the regular coffee maker to make the coffee and then reheats it on the stove.  This all takes awhile and is quite a bit different from the 2 minute Bunn coffee experience when we have on electric, but it matters to him so it’s OK.  When he gets up first its all fine for me.  The fire is going, the coffee is made, and things are starting to warm up, but unfortunately I am frequently awakened in the middle of the night and if I can’t go back to sleep I just lay there.

One of the things that wakes me up is the beeping on the refrigerator when we are out of propane.  We have four 20# tanks and Lee likes to have only one of them open at a time to keep track of how much we’re using. Murphy’s law says the tank will empty in the middle of the night, and the refrigerator will start beeping. It happened more times than I can count in Quartzsite and happened again our last night here and my choices are to go outside in the pitch black and open a tank,  or just turn the fridge off and go back to bed. I chose the latter this morning because the prospect of dealing with the dark, the cold, and the long coffee process was just too much for me to handle that early in the morning.    I know I should be hardier, but you try dealing with all that when it’s 40 degrees.  I’ll pass.  It’s just another example of what the beautiful pictures don’t show and since I am as guilty as anyone else of forgetting about the less pleasant aspects of boondocking I thought I would mention them while it was all fresh in my mind.

Some people love all of that and I admire them for it.  But we were never campers before we became full time RVers and there was a reason for that.  Living like this requires compromises and it’s up to the individual person to decide whether those compromises are worth the remoteness and the quiet.  In this spot we have had beautiful weather (cold mornings aside), plenty of sunlight for solar power,and a strong internet connection which is great, but those other things can also be a factor.  And despite all of these we will continue boondocking, because the benefits do outweigh the negatives.  But it’s not without it’s challenges and we absolutely need to get the furnace fixed!

(I think she’s a big cry baby and a wimp, and Laura Ingalls would laugh at her and eat a moose or something. – Lee)


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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

First Time in Petrified Forest National Park

I think I’ve mentioned this before but when I was a young child my parents bought me the 1973 World Book Encyclopedia set, which included a fifteen volume Childcraft anthology.  The volumes included World and Space, About Animals, and Places to Know, among others, and since  I read most of those books cover to cover, the pictures and stories formed the basis of my childhood bucket list. I don’t know if my mother knew what kind of impact those books would have on me, but every time we get to see a place I originally read about in those books I get pretty excited.   Not surprisingly, the Petrified Forest figured prominently in those books, and we knew it was a must do while we were in the area.

The only bad news was somehow Lee lost our American the Beautiful card and since the program is not computerized, once you lose the card you are out the money and have to buy a new membership.  Since the Petrified Forest cost $20 we would have done just that, but we got lucky when we discovered Easter Sunday was a free National Parks day. I wanted to go on Easter in any event.  I thought the traffic would be slow, and I like to do something special on Easter if I can.  Last year we were lucky enough to see a multi-denominational Easter celebration in Santa Fe so this year I thought being in a national park would be a nice choice.  

There are two ways to enter the Petrified Forest National park, and we chose to come in through the south entrance via Route 66. The Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert National Park were two different entities at one time and over time the park has been expanded and the two ends joined together.  The main road is also the old Route 66 and families would visit either using Route 66 or via the Santa Fe railroad which also runs through the park.  The upshot of all of that is originally I was just expecting to see petrified wood, but this park has so much more, including the painted desert, Indian ruins, and some amazing petroglyphs.   Even though it is easier to access via Route 40, I do recommend seeing the park the way we did.  The southern part was much better than the northern in my humble opinion.  If you do have to come in through the north, just make sure you make the entire 26 mile drive to the south entrance, because it really is spectacular, and the south entrance is where all of the petrified wood is.

This shows when sections of the park were added, the most recent was added by President George W. Bush in 2004.

Our first stop after entering the park was the Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center.  Nice little museum, which included some skeletal remains of dinosaurs found in the area.  Much better than the visitors center at the north end, and definitely worth the stop.  Plus, behind it is the Giant Logs loop which is .4 paved miles and a can’t miss experience as some huge pieces of petrified wood are there, and have developed this awesome sheen that only comes from being outside for more than 200 years. The wood becomes petrified (rather than decomposing) by being buried under silt, and then wind and erosion uncovers it.

This was what the area looked like when the trees were alive.  See below for the skeleton of the dinosaurs.

This shows how the trees fell and then were buried in the silt where they became petrified. Later erosion uncovered them.

The size of the big trees

The trees turn into quartz, agate, and other stone

The biggest tree on the walk was 411 feet tall

Reminded me of the redwoods just everything had turned to stone

The sheen on this wood was amazing

Some kids startled this little guy. It was surprising seeing a living thing in what felt like a museum of old things.

The visitors area was a little crowded, but once we got on the road things were much quieter.  There are numerous pull-offs with great signage, and many of those have walks as well.  There is very little shade though in the park so I definitely recommend a hat and/or sun screen.  Our first stop was the Crystal Forest, which is a.75 mile loop, with a pretty large number of short but steep elevation changes.  I didn’t want to walk the whole thing, so we went up to the edge, and it was amazing how many pieces of wood there were. We also stopped and took some pictures along the way.

 

Next up was the Jasper Forest and the Agate bridge.  The Agate Bridge was really cool because a large tree had fallen over a gully and they had reinforced it with concrete back in the 40’s to help it stay there.

 

The Agate Bridge

View from the top

Base of the tree encased in rock

 

 

Next up was the Blue Mesa loop and this is absolutely a do not miss.  Not only does it have numerous pullouts with spectacular views it also has my favorite desert views maybe ever.  There is a 1 mile hiking trail that takes you down to the desert floor and if it wasn’t so hot (and had a 38% grade on the way back) I definitely would have done it.  We were lucky enough though to find a covered picnic table near the hike, which wasn’t on the map but thankfully gave us a cool place in which to eat lunch.

Blue Mesa Views

This sign showed how one of the most photographed formations fell, and what it looked like then and now

This is what we saw, still cool but kind of a bummer

We liked this big tree perched on the ledge

Would have loved to eat lunch right here but the sun was relentless

Oh yes he was out on the ledge. He talked me into coming out here for the view, which was amazing, but I didn’t stay long

The absolute best area on the Blue Mesa loop though was where the hiking trails were.  These rocks were so amazing in their beauty it did indeed look like they had been painted.

The start of the trail

Where we found a place to eat lunch

You can see two figures in bottom left walking the trail

Loved, loved this rock

After Blue Mesa we passed the tepee rocks and then went to Newspaper Rock which was full of petroglyphs.  They are protected, which is great, but next to impossible to see without the aid of binoculars or a long camera lens.

Tepee rocks

Great depiction of how the different layers show different environmental conditions

Newspaper Rock.  Petroglyphs in darker brown sections

They had these viewers to help people see which worked well

Closeup pics with long lens showed an amazing amount of detail

Those petroglyphs were a little disappointing but were more than made up for by the next stop, Puerco Pueblo.  There is a restroom at this location and an old Harvey train building.  The railroad used to bring passengers here to see the area and a couple of the sites have old Harvey rest area.  They have been reconverted into min-museums and are nice and cool and shaded.  The loop to see the ruins is .3 miles and totally worth it because not only do you see the ruins of a 100 room complex but also the best petroglyphs I have ever seen.

This shows what the above ruins once looked like

The rebuilt Harvey building which has great information on the ruins

These are naked eye view points. The square drawing to the left stands for migration.

These represents spirits

My absolute favorite petroglyph to date. I thought it was a stork and baby (a common mistake), but it actually is …

An ibis holding a frog in its mouth!! Makes more sense

The best part of all though was this really cool solstice rock.  Two rocks were cut and drawn on so that one day a year (summer solstice in this case) the drawing lights up.  This let the agricultural people know when na agricultural event had to take place.  What was so amazing about it was how anyone figured it out.  If you just glanced at it, it looked like a couple of rocks.  Turns out there are dozens of calendar markers strewn throughout the area.  VERY cool.

Here’s the picture of how it works

And here are the actual rocks

The rock the sun landed on really spoke to me.  Was one of my favorite things I saw all day. Looks for the footprints carved into the front center.

Our next stop was right after crossing I-40 and there is the remnants of a 1932 Studebaker from the Route 66 days.  Lee loved this and even jumped inside, although getting out was pretty challenging.

Lee getting in

Funny!

Getting out was harder.  Keep that in mind if you try this

Next we stopped at numerous vista points to see the painted desert.  This was a totally different view and Lee loved these rich red and green colors.

 

 

 

 

 

We also stopped at the Painted Desert Inn, which was another Harvey Hotel, and particularly interesting because we ate at the Turquoise room the other day.  This has been converted into a museum, but I enjoyed looking at the layout and Lee found another geocache.

Painted Desert Inn

Soda Fountain

Check out these prices. 15 cents for almost everything

The glass ceiling was really beautiful

Finally we made it to the Northern side museum which was a big disappointment, although I have never seen a national park visitors center with a working gas station before.

Loved these fountains everywhere. One for water bottles, one for people, and the one on the bottom for dogs. Dogs are allowed on all the trails here and we saw several people with them throughout the day

On the way home we stopped at several spots along Route 66 for some pictures, and I bought a piece of petrified wood for myself and one for my niece Elise.  They find the wood by digging 6-8 feet down on private land in the area and there was tons of it.  Many pieces were polished, and those were more expensive and we saw some really cool pieces of art, again reminiscent of our time in the Redwoods.

This is a planter but we thought it would make a great wine bottle keeper

Most gift stores at small museums in them. This one had “Wild Bill” a prehistoric alligator

The Geronimo giftshop had the “world’s largest “petrified tree

The famous Jack Rabbit Trading post was closed by the time we got there

But I still sat on the rabbit. I liked the one at Wall drug better

Loved all the dinosaurs everywhere

My favorite though was this motor lodge which had antique cars parked in front of it and looked like you could still stay in the tepees rooms.. Route 66 at its finest.

Great day, but a full one.  Go early, bring a hat, and lots of water.  Really wished we would have done that hike to the base of the rocks, but will save that for next time.

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

First Time in Winslow, Arizona

We had a rough idea of where we wanted to spend the next 10 days between our visit to Cottonwood and our week in Las Vegas, and we also knew we wanted to spend it boondocking to help keep costs down for the month.  Northern Arizona is a pretty good choice for that, because there is quite a bit of free land to camp on.  When Lee couldn’t get the furnace started we knew it would be a little challenging as night-time temps are supposed to be down in the mid 30’s, but we decided to go ahead and give it a try to if we needed to we could head down to the lower elevation and warmer Vegas area sooner rather than later.

My number one thing to do in this area was see Winslow, Arizona.  My friend Deb visited the area and had her picture taken “standing on the corner” and I have wanted to do that ever since.  Unfortunately our routes have always taken us a little north or a little south of I-40 and we were close, but not close enough for us to reroute.  Finally the perfect opportunity with some free time and it was on our way, so Lee looked on Ultimate Public Campgrounds and Freecampsites.net and found a great free campground right outside of Winslow.  So we hitched up the night before and headed out early on Friday morning.

Our appointment was moved to 8am, but we still had to dump and take on fresh water, and then park and walk to the clinic, so we arrived at the parking lot around 7am.  After 15 minutes we started walking and it’s a good thing we did because Lee’s shortcut wasn’t so short after all! We made it with plenty of time though, and they took us both right away, staggering our tests slightly so the whole thing for both of us only took an hour.  We had drug tests, vision tests, color blindness tests, hearing tests, a flexibility test, and a test to show if we could consistently lift 30 pounds.  The whole experience was very pleasant, but it also felt like serious overkill for a campground host job, but we both passed and learned about our hearing.  Lee’s right ear and my left ear are the weakest, which is super funny because those are the ears closest to each other when we are driving most of the time.  Lee now has proof he can’t actually hear me from a doctor, which I was a little skeptical about before 😛

We left at 9am and then headed up towards Winslow.  It was another short driving day, only 128 miles, but did include an 18 mile 6% climb,  which took us from 3100′ to 7000′! Lee took his time going up the long grade at a very slow speed, but a few others didn’t and we saw folks pulled over because their engines overheated.  Our temperature was nice and steady and Lee put the blinkers on, stayed in the slow lane, and took his time.  About an hour later I saw a rest stop and asked Lee to pull over so we could eat.  He wasn’t crazy about that since we only had 39 miles left, but I don’t like to pull into campgrounds hungry.  The setup process can take a while and is not something we like to do when our  blood sugar is low, so he agreed and we had a quick-lunch at a very busy rest area.

Even with the quick-lunch we pulled into McHood Park at noon and saw a few campsites were available.  Luckily a prime spot by the water was open and we snagged it.  Each site has a picnic table and trash can and the view of the lake was awesome.  We set up pretty quickly and then enjoyed watching the fish and many birds around the lake. It was windy, which drove me inside, but Lee enjoys the wind and stayed out for a while.  He also went and found a geocache in the area which gave me a chance to do some blogging.

View from our campsite

Several fish were spawning really close to us.

These guys were huge. Maybe catfish?

The American Coot’s were going crazy eating the eggs.  I learned these are not actually ducks, but birds.

The trees were full of several types of birds including this Yellow-rumped Warbler. A first for me

Later we saw some boats come by, but no one fishing from them. At least the water is deep enough for a kayak if we decided to try it.  It’s really pretty, but need the wind to die down a bit.

The sun was bright all day and our batteries were fully charged so we closed the windows when it started to get chilly to keep the heat in the RV.  Our camper holds heat well and it was nice and pleasant all the way until we got to bed.  It was chilly in the morning, about 38 degrees, but Lee had built a fire ring the night before and started a fire, which helped take the chill off.  Then we took quick showers and headed out for breakfast at The Turquoise Room.

Lee built this fire ring by gathering a few rocks from all over the campground.

Lee watching the sun come up at 6am.  The birds were in a frenzy of mating activity.

I reached out to our friend Deb to tell her we were in Winslow and she recommended one of their favorite breakfast spots.  The Turquoise Room is in the La Posada Hotel, which is the last open hotel of the Harvey Railroad chain.  It is an amazingly nice hotel and the restaurant is very pricey, but we thought the treat would be worth it since it came so highly recommended.  The coffee for example is $3.50 a cup, but it was an excellent cup of coffee.  Much better than what you would pay similar prices for at Starbucks.  The breakfast was reasonably priced at $10.50, but was a mixed bag.  The sausage and bacon were mediocre, but the cooked potatoes were fantastic.  They had chilies in them and even though I don’t usually like spicy food, the flavors were so delicate they were absolutely delicious.  My main complaint was we only received one slice of sour dough toast and when it came out it was cold. I’m OK with occasionally splurging on a meal, but I expect it to be practically perfect in those cases.  The ambiance couldn’t be beat though, and our waiter was excellent, so if you have the means and you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth trying.  They had a really nice dinner menu, but the entrees start at $32 and that was just out of our price range.  Breakfast was $32 plus tip. We were curious about how this place could keep going since Winslow seems a bit depressed, but we were told by a local that the main railroad hub is in town and many railroad executives come through here.

The courtyard had lots of cool animal statues

Loved the architecture

This fountain was really neat

The gist shop was amazing, but not surprisingly pricey

Almost lost Lee in this specialized bookstore

The hotel was full of antiques. I loved this clock. The lobby and restaurant also had $2,200 Navajo blankets hanging on the walls for sale

The restaurant tile was amazing

The glass was very thick so even though there were trains running outside you couldn’t hear them

My favorite was these amazing lamps and the turquoise colored beams

The potatoes on the top of the plate were awesome. You can see my one slice of toast 🙂

Really good coffee and I liked the cup

After we ate we drove down to the “Standin On The Corner” park, and I was super excited.  As someone who adores Roadside Attractions, this was a great one, and taking a picture with the statue of the anonymous man and the other, newer statue of Glenn Fry, and listening to “Take it Easy” played on the corner area was awesome.  Plus we got there earlier enough there were few people and were able to take all the pictures we wanted.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

Great statue.  Check out the mural painting in the background, which is designed to look like a store window with a reflection of the flat-bed Ford from the song, with a girl “slowing down to take a look at me”. And below, the actual flat-bed Ford, sans girl. It’s a pretty neat effect.

 

Me and the flatbed Ford

We also stopped at another great Route 66 gift shop and I had to get a T-Shirt.  It may be one of my favorites since coming on the road and I’ll make sure I point it out when I wear it in future posts.  The owner of the gift shop was incredibly nice and was career Army and then he did a stint in the Air Force.  Really nice man and I was pretty happy to give him my money since his merchandise was unique and his prices were reasonable.  Plus, nice goes a long way with me.

Next up on the Roadside Attraction tour was the nearby Meteor Crater.  Lee had stopped here many years ago to see it, but it is much changed since that visit.  They have improved the visitors center and added a movie, but they are also now charging $18 a person to get in.  We almost didn’t pay it, but I was on a high from our last stop, so we went ahead and went in.  It is a cool site, because it is the first crater proven to be caused by a meteor impact (prior to the 1950’s scientists thought they were from volcanoes) and was also used by astronauts to simulate conditions for the moon landings.  We enjoyed it and the movie was particularly good, but I still think the price was way too steep.  So my advice is if you will only see it as a hole in the ground definitely skip it, but if you are interested in the phenomenon and its historical significance check it out.  We found it pretty interesting. Definitely watch the short movie before you see the crater.

Visitors center for MEteor Crater had a very nice gift shop, Subway, courtyards, museum with lots of exhibits, and a good movie

Piece of the original meteorite that hit is at 26,000 mph. They explained ta plane moving at this speed would get you from LA to NYC in 5 minutes

It’s a multi level complex and this was the first viewing area

It was greener than I expected and the bottom has a shaft for research.  They don’t allow anyone but scientists on the bottom

Really hard to show the size of it. The square rock (top center) for example is as big as a house and the crater could hold 20 football fields next to each other with a stadium of 2 million people. It’s big

Check out the little man-sized space person and flag in the middle right to give you a feel of the scope

The sides were amazing. I kept thinking of Independence day with the space ship plowed into the ground.  Looked kind of like that, only real.

Short walk down to this platform

These viewpoints were great. Each one was labeled and the scopes were locked in place to give you a better view of things at the bottom

The third tier was pretty steep, but the hand rail had sandpaper grips on it

Lee’s Panoramic from the middle level

Picture of us at the top

 

The parking lot had plenty of RV parking

Loved how they left this part of the wall out so you can look at the mountains

One last roadside attraction was down the road a little bit and was the ruins of Two Guns. If you are curious where I find these places, I am a huge fan of Roadside America, which you can either see for free online or pay a very reasonable $5.99 for the phone app.  I love it and use it all the time.  The story behind this place was a little confusing because multiple things have sat on this land so I will share what a local we met, Chris told us.  The land was part of a wild west town in the 1800’s, but in the 1930’s two men built a complex which included a zoo, hotel, and other attractions.  When the venture started to get into financial trouble, one partner killed the other than sold the property.  The new property owner found the dead partner in a shallow grave on the land and that is why people think it’s haunted.

The zoo had desert animals and featured mountain lions

Very cool canyon that splits and the attraction sat between both of them

 

This bridge is still open to drive over but I wouldn’t recommend it

We walked instead although I still had my doubts

Lee found a geocache!

The barbed wire is mostly pulled down so you can walk anywhere but be careful

What’s left of part of the hotel

The top of this stair for example was all rotted wood. Cool though

It was a Route 66 attraction, but eventually went the way many of them did and now it is just ruins.  We had a great time walking around and I had to get a little creative with some of the pics, because the place called for it, but it’s very picturesque.  After we were done, Lee brought me back and I did some blogging, but he ate some lunch and headed back out with the drone.  I am happy to wait while he drones, but he would rather take his time and a little alone time isn’t the worst thing.  Plus this was a 320 picture day and those take a while to go through so I was happy for some computer time to get caught up.  Plus I got to play with sepia tones a bit.

 

It was a  great day,  $100 between breakfast, the meteor admission, T-shirts, and magnets, but a great day nonetheless  We need to have these “touristy” days every once in a while, and we thankfully we have the budget for it.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

First Time at Montezuma’s Castle and Well

After Tuesday we both decided to take a day off from exploring.  We finally heard back from our summer job, and despite extensive communication on our part, the drug test/physical was scheduled for Friday.  Worse, my appointment was at 7:30am and Lee’s was at 10:30 am.  Since we were scheduled to move on Friday the timing couldn’t be worse, and I spent some time talking through the options on how we could change the day/time.  The problem was our schedule for the next few weeks has us moving frequently thus scheduling required a nimbleness that few large companies have.  We had told our contacts this could be a problem early on, but were assured they did this all the time and it would be no issue.  That turned out to not be the case, and instead of forcing the issue, we decided it would be easier to find a way to make it work.

We drove down to the medical center and not surprisingly there was nowhere to park our truck and RV, but there was a Christian School next door with a large parking lot and Lee went inside to see if they could help.  It turned out they were closed for Good Friday and they were absolutely fine with allowing us to park in what would be an empty parking lot.  It was extremely nice of them and at least got us to the day.  Then I flexed those out of use corporate muscles and tried to get them to rearrange the appointments so we didn’t lose most of the day.  Making a personal appeal to the right person generally works, but since there were 5 people on the email chain I wasn’t sure who was who.  After a couple of phone calls, I finally discovered that Victoria was the person who could actually fix the issue and asked politely if she could see what she could do with the understanding if she couldn’t change the appointments we would make it work.

The personal appeal, along with an explanation that we would be sitting in the parking lot for three hours between our two appointments worked, and she called another patient and asked them to switch appointments.  Now I was at 8am and Lee was at 9am, which wasn’t optimal, but definitely more workable.  I was surprised by how dealing with layers of bureaucracy to get a relatively  simple thing done impacted my mood, but reminded myself that if I was going to reenter the consulting arena I had better get re-used to it.  I used to navigate those waters as effortlessly as breathing, but I was out of practice, and to be honest, patience.  My life is much simpler now.

We weren’t done there though.  Wednesday we also had an email from Amazon and had to go online and fill out some tax forms (nice website design and pretty simple) and then we heard back from the background check company.  This summer job is for a large energy company and they are treating our hiring the same as they would treat any of their employees.  Since most of their facilities are secured they require a background check and three professional references, versus simple employment verifications.  The background check was no big deal, but the professional references were a bit difficult since originally Lee and I wanted to keep our career references separate from our work-kamping references.  Neither one of us was that thrilled with using people from our former lives to reference us for seasonal campground positions, but we also hadn’t built a solid three work kamping references yet.  The employment service for the Beet Harvest for example doesn’t provide references, and at the time we provided the information we hadn’t started the gate guarding job.  This left our volunteer position in Susanville, Alaska, and Christmas Trees.

I wasn’t surprised when the third party background check company called and said they were having trouble getting in touch with our references.  One problem that was complicating the issue is that Lee’s legal name is Shannon.  So when they called Stan from Susanville and asked him about Shannon Perkins, he said he didn’t know who he was.  Not surprising, Stan didn’t complete our paperwork and probably has no idea that Lee is actually Shannon.  Also, I eventually saw the email they were sending and it was a two line email that was asking for personal information about us and frankly looked like a scam.  One of our references actually sent it to us and asked if it was legitimate, which we verified, but we certainly couldn’t expect the others to do the same.  If I saw it, I would have dismissed it and since prior to the phone call we had no idea who would be doing the reference checks or in what format it wasn’t even like I could give folks a heads up. So when the woman from the background check agency called, I gave her our new gate guarding reference and then went ahead and provided a couple more from our professional careers.

It had been a long time in our professional careers since we needed the standard three references and most jobs at that level are obtained through network contacts making references checks largely pro forma.  I knew when we started this life out we would need to build new references. but since most of our early work kamping jobs asked for personal references we focused on getting that group together.  That was relatively easy to do as we have a good group of friends to rely on there, but always in the back of my head I knew this type of request might come in. Solid professional references require a level of relationship with an employer that we simply have not experienced to date.  Simply put, you need to rely on that person to take the time to answer the inquiry, and not every employer is willing to take the time to do that.  Add to that not every work kamping experience we have had has been positive, and it’s tougher.  Don’t get me wrong, I know we have done good work every place we have been, but getting a solid professional reference isn’t about the work you do.  It’s about the relationship you built with the employer and that is a completely different thing.  The whole situation makes me feel like a young kid again, and I really don’t like it.  I am trying to not let it bother me and just allow events to unfold, but it’s tough.

One thing that made me feel quite a bit better was looking at Work Kamper News.   There are quite a few last minute positions available and if this falls through we will explore one of them.  Plus Lee is going to call before we leave Vegas and verify we are all set, and if not we can boon dock in that area until something comes through.  It’s hard not to let things like this throw you and put you in an old world mindset.  Lee is really good about helping me push past those slightly panicky feelings and remember the reality we are living in now.  He’s good about that. 

Unfortunately while I was dealing with all that he was dealing with his own issues.  You may remember that we had our furnace “fixed” at Camping World but they left the duct work un-assembled.  Rather than go back, Lee committed to reconnecting the duct work himself and spent 4 very unpleasant hours crammed into the very tiny crawlspace under our rig, replacing torn furnace duct hoses, and reattaching them to the furnace. He would have be fine with that except when he turned the furnace on it still didn’t work. So not only were we no better off than when we went into Camping World service he had spent 4 hours doing something the next service tech would have to undo.  Needless to say he was extremely upset and both of us were ready to call it quits on the whole day.  

The next morning we bounced back and went to Montezuma’s Castle and Montezuma’s Well. I wasn’t expecting much, but couldn’t leave it undone and WOW were we pleasantly surprised.  We went to the well first (which is free) but when we saw four tour buses parked in the lot we turned around and went to the Castle which was less crowded. I know I said I wasn’t into ruins, but this one is awesome.  You can only see it from the ground, but it is very impressive and well worth the $10 in my opinion although it was free with our America The Beautiful pass. 

Really nice little visitors center and the staff was great

Amazing. The picture doesn’t show how big it is

This diorama shows what it looked like

There is a nice walkway with trees and flowers

These are swallow nests, unfortunately didn’t get a pic of one of those

This sign shows where the posts were

The natural cavates in the cave were used for storage and living space

This river is where they got their water

We were walking along and suddenly heard this music coming from everywhere. At first we thought it was speakers but this one man was back by the gift shop and because of the amphitheater shape of the cliff the sound carried throughout. Loved it

We left just as the tour buses from the other site were pulling in, and by the time we got back to Montezuma’s Well it was cleared out, hooray!  There was one group of elementary school kids, but they were working on answering a question sheet and were pretty well behaved. This site is deceptively simple, because it is a big water well the native Americans used for irrigation.  They couldn’t drink the water though because it had such a high CO2 content and the only animals that live in it are a miniature shrimp-like amphipod, tiny snails, water scorpions, one-celled diatom, and leeches!!  Oh yes, it’s full of leeches and it’s great for irrigation (they use it for the lawn today), but the nearby river water is what they drank.  I loved this site though because there were two places to walk down and get right inside.  It’s steep and I would recommend a bottle of water, but really worth it.

Loved this tree right at the top

The well

Beautiful views

Ruins in the cliffside

The American Widget family was happy in the water. Maybe they were eating the leeches 🙂

 

Steep walk down into the well

White Crowned Sparrow on the rocks.  He was tiny and zipping all around.  Happy I got this shot

Great rock formations

Ruins at the base

Afterwards we walked up and then around the rim to a path down on the other side.  Don’t skip this because it takes you to another path where the water comes out of the well, and that was the coolest part for me.

Path down to water source

These irrigation cannals have been reinforced but were made in the 1200’s. Amazing

Lee loved this Arizona Sycamore that grew across the irrigation ditch

The water source which comes from underground is around this corner

And check out this beautiful 300 year old tree. It was a beauty, and was worth the visit in and of itself

Two great visits and totally free with the America the Beuatiful Pass.  Next up, finally I will be standin’ on a corner.  Been wanting to do that for a long time!

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

First Time in Sedona

This post has some absolutely amazing pictures in it, but let me warn you in advance it was not a good day.  You can skip the words and just look at the pictures, but I wouldn’t recommend that on this one if you are planning on visiting Sedona, because getting those pictures was not easy.  I also should mention that our day started with an argument, so the events that followed were somewhat colored by that. We are people who have bad days and this was definitely one of them. Fair warning.

I woke up at 5am and started working on my previous days blog post.  The posts with lots of pictures take me much longer (about 2 hours all in) and I like to get them done as close to when they happened as possible because I start to forget things or get events out of order.  It’s especially hard when we have several heavy picture days in a row (200 or more pictures) and I was feeling the pressure of getting that all done before we started the day.  Lee woke up around 6am and by 6:30 he was ready to go.  That’s where the argument came in.  I like to get going early in the morning also, but I was thinking 9am and he was thinking 7am and that two hours was a pretty wide chasm.  There were greater issues at work of course and as the conversation moved from that particular day to discussion about how we were traveling in general things got a little heated.  We reached a point where we could table it though and I jumped in the shower, we made a quick lunch, and we still got out the door by 8am.

Part of the problem was we didn’t have much of a plan for the day.  We knew there was a scenic drive and I wanted to see some of the shops (although Lee really didn’t want to do that) so we thought we would drive up and see what there was to see and wing it. Maybe you can do this in Sedona when it’s off season, but it turned out April is very busy because of spring break and some planning was called for.  We drove over to 179 and stopped at the visitors center and this is the vista we saw.

All of a sudden I knew where I was.  In our travels we have seen tons of artwork with these landscapes and I never really put together they were done in Sedona.  I started to get very excited and my creative soul was definitely stirring.  Since the visitors center opened in 20 minutes we hun out in the parking lot and waited for it to open and were somewhat surprised when a small crowd gathered at the doors.  It was 9am on a Tuesday after all and generally that was a great day and time to see a place.

We went inside and one of the employees pulled out a map and started to go through the area.  Usually we would have skipped this, but as he talked I kept listening.  He said, “Go here” or “It’s too late to do this” and “This is you scout day because it takes two weeks to really see the area.” Ok. He also handed out a magazine about the local shops in the area to the women in the group and said, “You’ll definitely want to stop there.  We need your tax dollars.” Hmmm He also mentioned that most of the trail heads required a $5 day pass fee but since it was National Forest our America the Beautiful pass worked well.  We were supposed to hang it in our window with signature/expiration side out and they had extra hangers for free in the gift shop.   We did get a well marked map out of the deal though and 20 minutes and one magnet later we were headed up the road.

Our first stop was a view of Bell Rock and the views were absolutely stunning,  Unfortunately the parking lot was small and completely full.  I had Lee stop the truck long enough for me to jump out and snap a few quick pics but we headed on our way. We weren’t to concerned that the place so near the visitors center was full, but were a bit bummed we couldn’t walk the path a little, but this was the type of thing we could come back for.

Bell Rock

Unfortunately the next few trail heads were smaller parking lots and again they were all full.  The sites are also pretty small, so even if they weren’t full the truck couldn’t fit into all of them and the one case where we found a spot we could fit into, two small cars parked beside us and we almost got blocked in.  Lee and I were starting to get frustrated.  We had never been in a place that didn’t have pull overs on the road to take a picture, but these amazing views were flying by and we couldn’t take pictures.  Finally when we came to the Cathedral we did find a place though.  The Cathedral of the Holy Cross was built into the rocks and the land was leased from the National Forest Service for $1 a year for 99 years. It was a beautiful church but no weddings or services are held in it because the lease states no money can be made from the building.  The look of disgust on the visitor center employees face when he told us that made it clear he didn’t agree with leaving money on the table.  They did have a small gift shop though and took donations for candles, so I lit one for Lee’s grandma Anna who was a devout catholic and we make it a point to light a candle for her whenever we see a really neat catholic church in our travels.

Absolutely beautiful

Park below to get views from the front and sides

I loved, loved how the building was into the rock

We drove up and found a spot then walked up

The entrance door is 25 feet high

Small garden on the outside

 

inside was beautiful with pews and they allow pictures

Amazing altar with the view in the background

The surrounding views were also beautiful

Walls behind the church

These houses are tucked in at the base of the church

Nice!

I really liked the lagoon this house has

A really nice couple from Boca Raton took a couple of pictures of us

After the church experience, we both perked up a little and thought maybe the traffic was thinning out.  Next on our route was old town Sedona and since it was still pretty early there were places to park, but we just looked at the shops out the window and continued on our way.  Unfortunately the next three trail heads/view points we passed were all full and signs like these were starting to become commonplace.

Great view. No place to park or walk and take a pic

Snapped another quick picture of what we were missing

The other thing we noticed was the Pink Jeep tours had fantastic access.  We saw more and more of them as the day wore on and they didn’t need to find a parking place, because they could access the ATV trails that our truck couldn’t go on.  I’m not a big fan of tour guides in general, but I will say after a day of driving around and being frustrated if you can afford it, I will go this route.  I am sure it is pricey, but if I could customize my trip to take the pictures I wanted I would pay it in a second. That’s how beautiful the terrain is and how much I wanted to just stop and take pictures.  The other way to go of course would be hiking.  I am not opposed to that, indeed think it would be great, but since there are 20 plus hikes in different areas and you need to get to the trail head prior to 10am (per the visitor center) to get parking) you are really limited to 1 maybe 2 hikes per day.   We absolutely want to take some hikes here, but to really cover the area in 1-2 days a jeep or maybe renting an ATV seems to be the way to go.

One of the many areas we saw that only tour guides can access

We were luck though and got a spot on the Midgley Bridge though and were able to walk down the stone stairs to see a cool ravine.  This parking lot was really tiny, but we found a spot on the end and got some amazing pictures.  I asked Lee about the drone but since this land is all National Forest no drones are allowed which is a shame, because it would have made for great video.

After the bridge we were getting kind of hungry, and I saw on the map a picnic table sign, near the bridge.  We pulled into Grasshopper Point Swimming and Picnic area and since we had the park pass we thought we could eat there for free.  Nope.  This was a National Forest area run by a concessionaire and was not covered by our park pass.  We were not paying $10 to eat lunch so we kept heading down the road.  There were a few National Forest campgrounds along the road, but no place to stop and eat lunch so we went down the road to Slippery Rock State Park.  There was a line of 8 cars waiting to get into the park and since our friend Deb said how much they liked the trails there we thought we would see how much it cost and eaten lunch and maybe take a walk.  It was $10 per car and since we hadn’t planned anything specific we decided we would give it a pass although we would be ok with paying it when we came back.

Lee and I don’t mind paying a fee for state parks when we are not residents, but we really are not happy about having to pay to be on federal land.  We are fine with spending the $80 for the annual America the Beautiful pass, but feel it should allow entry onto all federal land.  Tours, etc can costs more, but the idea that a for profit entity can carve out the best pieces of federal land and charge for that privilege really upsets us.  Plus these views were absolutely stunning.  We have been to much less beautiful places that had a dedicated road, vista viewpoints, and easy access and this was the complete opposite.  It seemed to us as if this was what commercializing National Parks would look like and we didn’t like it at all.  So we turned back around and decided to get off 179  onto 89A and try out some of the trails that were in the town of Sedona with the hopes that there would be less traffic and maybe we could salvage the day.

The first thing we did was drive to Airport road where the Visitors Center recommended a great vista.  What he didn’t mention that the parking lot cost $3.

At that point I absolutely refused to spend $3 to take one picture so we went back down the road and I saw a sign for a public park.  I was starving and knew we had to regroup so we pulled into a small community park with swingsets and walked up to some very nice picnic tables. Guess what we saw.

 

No one was there and at that point we said, “Screw it.”  Lee was mad, I was mad, and if they wanted to send a public employee to chase us off when we ate lunch so be it.  I was about ready to give up on the whole day, but I did want to stop and see the McDonald’s and get an ice tea.  This is the only McDonald’s in the world with green arches and I sat in the truck while Lee went inside. He came back with an ice tea, a bonus ice cream cone, and a pretty interesting story. The person in front of him in line tried to order something, but was told this particular McDonald’s had a limited menu.  The customer responded, “I am local,” but the woman behind the counter said they just didn’t have it.  While the customer was waiting for her order to be filled, she glanced at Lee’s White Sands T-Shirt and when the person came back to the counter with her food said, “I wish all of the tourists would go home.”  Nice.

Here’s the thing. We have seen this before all over the country and are actually somewhat sympathetic to the problem. Living in a high tourist area is tough, but it is part of the price you pay to live in a beautiful place year round.  What bothers me the most is when people want the tourist to come spend money but simultaneously complain they are there.  You really can’t have it both ways. In this case I find it particularly bothersome because these folks are living right in the middle of a National Forest.   All that being said for some reason the whole conversation made me feel better.   The vibe we were picking up on all day was definitely legitimate and since I didn’t want to comply with the “get the hell out” sentiment we decided to continue exploring.  I can be contrary that way.

Our next turn was Dry Creek Road and this was actually much better.  There are numerous trail heads along this road (many of which do not require the day pass), but more importantly you could pull over in some places and take pictures.  It wasn’t the stunning vistas that were near the entrance, but it got prettier and prettier the farther back we went.

At the end of the road we reached Aerie Trailhead and there were spots open.  It was a mountain bike trail and lots of locals were out, but we could park and take a few pictures. We also took a side trip up to the top of the aerie until we reached a gated housing community which was a dead end.

View from the trailhead

The aerie was beautiful

 

Despite the dead end we were feeling a little better and took another side road to see what we could see.  This road led to some stunning rock formation but had not pull offs and deadended into the Enchantment Resort and Spa which is at the mouth of Boynton Canyon.  It appears the canyon is jointly operated by the resort and the National Forest Service and their are some roads for the jeeps, but we didn’t see anyway to access it with a car.   We pulled in, were met at the gate and they allowed us to turn around in their parking lot.  I managed to grab a quick pic and it was amazing. If you have the means this looks like a fantastic place to stay, low rates are around $650 a night, but for the rest of us it would be nice if  there was a way to access this area because it was truly beautiful.

All the formations around the resort looked like this and there was no other place I could see to stop and take a picture of them.

Enchanted Resort in Boynton Canyon.  I pulled this from their website, which I refuse to feel guilty about because there is no way that I know of to get any shots of this and most of it is public land.

On the way back out  we were able to take a few more pictures and then we headed towards our last stop.

 

We had come to the end of the recommendations from the visitors center, but Lee saw in his research a place called Crescent Moon Picnic Area. This sits below the iconic Cathedral Rock and is the place where many famous photos of the hour have been taken.  Along the way we saw the first and only sort of random pullout in the entire area and walked up a dirt path to a stunning vista.  There was a wedding party taking pictures and we got some amazing photos, which was a good thing because yes you guessed it, Crescent Rock is run by concessionaires and costs $10 to get into.  I’m going to say one more thing about all of this and then leave you on a high note with some beautiful pictures we took on Upper Red Rock Loop Rd.

I love our National Forests and without them our lives (and many others) would be a much poorer place.  I believe these free public places are what sets us apart as a nation from so many other countries and as a patriot firmly believe they need protection.  That being said, I am also fiscally conservative and open to the government finding creative ways to partner with private industry to help keep costs down.  But, and it’s huge for me, those partnerships must always be made with the public good in mind.  Sedona, in my opinion, has gone way to far in the wrong direction and honestly I would care less if it wasn’t so stunning.  We have been to Glacier and Denali, and countless other places where the vistas take your breath away.  This area is that amazing.  We will come back and we will find a way to work around what is happening here, but from my perspective it is practically criminal that they have made it so hard and expensive for us to experience this beauty. Don’t take my word for it.  Here’s what we stumbled across only by perseverance and dumb luck. That should never happen.

 

 

Cathedral Rock with my long lens. Not with the naked eye. This is what we would have seen from the picnic area if we would have been willing to spend $10 for the privilege. At some point we probably will.  It was that beautiful.


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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

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.

Corral

Bridge

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

Buddies!!

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.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.