Highway 1

Highway 1
Traveling Highway 1

Saturday, February 15, 2020

02-13-2020 More Great Times in Arizona

Boondocking at the casino in Camp Verde had a little extra bonus for us.  We were parked just over a mile from Montezuma Castle National Monument.  In all my visits to Prescott and Sedona I had never managed the short side trip from I-17 to view the ruin.

Montezuma Castle is a well preserved ruin that is considered one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America.  Perhaps this is due to its ideal placement more than 90 feet above Beaver Creek on a sheer limestone cliff.  The precarious location and the five stories of floor space divided among more than 60 rooms indicate that the Sinagua people were skilled builders and engineers.  Access was most likely with portable ladders, making it difficult for enemy tribes to penetrate the natural defense of the vertical cliff.

The location also protected the people from the threat of summer monsoon flooding that deposited rich sediments for farming on the valley floor.  The people farmed squash, corn, and beans.  As Mo and I wandered the paved trail below the cliff dwelling among huge ancient sycamores, we thought about how the people would have had to keep the ground clear to keep the trees from encroaching on the farmland.  As in many other ancient sites, the people left in a very short period of time during the 1400’s.  It took some time for the sycamores to fill in the beautiful Beaver Creek valley, and they now provide lovely shade for what could be a hot walk in the summertime.

The walls of the ruin are stone and mortar masonry, built almost entirely from limestone found at the base of the cliff, and mud from the creek bottom.  The ceilings of some of the rooms were constructed of timbers primarily from the sycamores.

In addition to Montezuma Castle, the monument includes Montezuma Well, about six miles north and another ruin called Tuzigoot, several miles northwest. We didn’t manage the time to visit the other two locations, in spite of the fact that the Well is just minutes from my first destination for the morning.

For years I have been friends with a delightful man who somehow found me on Facebook when he read something I wrote.  John Parsons is a man of all seasons, and his wife Clair is the love of his life and a charming woman.  Whenever Mo and I have traveled to Arizona they offer a hookup site at their home in Camp Verde.  We have never traveled I-17 together, so didn’t have the opportunity to stay with them.

I posted a photo on Facebook of our visit to Jerome and within minutes John said, “You are just minutes from us!  We would love to meet you!”  Uhoh.  Caught!  I wanted to meet John and Clair, but with our trip drawing to a close and quite a bit more time socializing than we are used to, we hadn’t planned on checking in with them.  I called John and explained that we were pretty much peopled out and would it be OK if I came alone?  They understood completely, and bright and early I drove to their place for a visit on my own.

I’m so glad that I did, and now that the initial introductions have been completed, I am sure that the next time we are heading this way in Arizona we will visit.  The best fact among many that I know about John is that he was a river runner and guide and a great protector of rivers and watersheds. Just recently the 30 acres Parsons Riverfront Preserve was named for him. Such a well deserved honor.

I was home again by 10 am to pick up Mo and Mattie for our morning plan to drive the loop highway through Sedona.  I have been to Sedona, battled the crowds to hike the beautiful red rock trails, shopped the fancy gift shops and had great meals in the restaurants.  Mo had never seen Sedona, and I really wanted to share this lovely place with her. 

During the early morning hours of a mid week day, the roads weren’t nearly as crowded as I remembered.  The high season runs from about March when the winter warms up until May when the heat of summer begins. The last time I hiked in Sedona was in 2002, when the early September temperature was 106 F and I nearly died from heat exhaustion.

The day was to be a much simpler time.  We drove through town, with traffic and construction, and then north into Oak Creek Canyon where I wanted to see Slide Rock at the state park.  Slide Rock is famous for its beautiful slick red rock with the flowing waters of Oak Creek making an extremely popular playground in the summertime.  We arrived at the park to find that it would cost us ten bucks to enter, that the dog couldn’t go down to the water, and that in order to see Slide Rock we would have to descend 70 some stairs where the dog couldn’t go.  I hemmed and hawed for only a second or two before we both said, Nah….not this time.

We meandered back through town and I suddenly remembered the church.  High on a hill overlooking the red rocks is a truly beautiful chapel, the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  The road to the chapel from the highway isn’t too long, but quite steep and narrow.  Even on this weekday, the parking lot was filled to overflowing, and there is only a tiny turnaround at the top of the hill.  We thought we might have to give up on the chapel when a space opened up for us just a few hundred feet below the stairs that lead to the church.  It was meant to be.  The air was still cool enough that Mattie could wait in the car for us while we visited.

Such a beautiful site and a magnificent architectural marvel of stone and glass overlooking the gorgeous views of the valley.  A surprise just below the church that I didn’t remember from the past was a mansion.  I looked it up and all I found was “Mansion in Sedona”.  I guess there are many such mansions around in an area that is so beloved and so gentrified by wealthy people who want to live somewhere magnificent. 

So many beautiful places are now almost impossible to live in unless you are over the top wealthy.  Ah well.  I would have no desire to compete with the crowds and traffic in my daily life in order to live among the red rocks and famous spiritual vortexes of Sedona. Click on the link if you haven’t heard of the Sedona vortexes.

We were back at the MoHo, hooked up and ready to roll by 1PM.  Unsure of exactly where we might be headed, I started searching for campgrounds as Mo drove.  I was supposed to be navigating but wasn’t paying proper attention and somehow pointed to the wrong lane for the exit west to I-40 and we ended up going east.  Uh Oh.  We finally found a turn around and once again I missed the onramp west and we traveled right through downtown Flagstaff before finally onramping the I-40 several miles west of town.  I lost many points for my navigating skills that morning.

We settled on a Passport America campground in Kingman,  Fort Beale RV Park, still not decided on where we might travel the next day.  The night was simple, the campground was clean with level sites and decent hookups.  After boondocking for a bit, and knowing we planned to boondock again, it was good to have a place to take on water and dump the tanks before we headed somewhere west or north toward the Mojave Desert.


13 comments:

  1. We visited Montezuma’s Castle years ago in our RVing days and I still remember the sense of awe! Lovely photos Sue! Both of us have been to Sedona in other lives and don’t feel the need to go back.

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    1. I think if you have enjoyed it in the past, there might not be much of a reason to return. Lots of beautiful places to visit in the world.

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  2. Those cliff dwellings are amazing. I always wonder what could have made the people so fearful that they would work so hard to build in those cliffs and then stay there such a short period of time. I've always wanted to go to Sedona but it seems I may have missed my window of opportunity given how I feel about crowds. Thanks for these lovely pictures.

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    1. Pretty sure they stayed around for 500 years or so, not that short. But they left in a short period, about 50 years. The Hopi and Zuni peoples have stories about why they left for better climate areas. Sometimes crowds are completely impossible to avoid without missing out on some great stuff. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

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  3. To see pictures of cliff dwellings is one thing but to be standin right there in front of them is just WOW! Sedona is beautiful but is way to crowded now unless you avoid the main part of tourist stores. But I am happy I did see it and do some wondering before it became so crowded.

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  4. We've been wanting to return to Sedona (it's been many years!) and it sounds as though February is a great time to visit to avoid the crowds. Looks like you had gorgeous weather. Your photos, as always, are so enticing.

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    1. Enticing is a great word, what a compliment, Laurel. I think you would find plenty of backwoods places to hike in Sedona in February, especially in the early part of the day. It was beautiful and I enjoyed seeing it again, even if we didn't have time to hike. Even my kind of hike. LOL

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  5. As a child, I grew up in southern Arizona and Sedona was one of the places we went to cool off during summertimes. I loved the red rock then as much as I do now. But "then," well, there were so few people...before the "circus" of tourists claimed it as their own. Oh well, progress...you can't stop it. It's still just as pretty as ever, just have to share it with a gazillion other people.
    mark

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    1. Oh so true, Mark. But I did discover that even when the highway is bumper to bumper if you can get off on a less well known trail, the magic makes the traffic sounds muffle away into nothing and the hikes are gorgeous. If you can find a place to park. On this chilly day, we didn't even try.

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  6. I goofed up and deleted this comment from Erin: ACK Here it is....
    I don’t think I would ever tire of visiting the Sedona area and all the interesting attractions in the vicinity. During the off season, of course. I’m surprised MCNM was a first for you. I remember the awe I felt the first time we visited ... just WOW! You should plan to go back to visit the Well and Tuzigoot ... we came upon the first by happenstance and enjoyed wandering around with no one else to distract us. Tuzigoot at the time didn’t have all that much to see ... but something about the way it’s situated made for a special visit for me. We visited just before Christmas in 2001 and it was lovely with a bit of snow on the red rocks ... and even better, with not that many people on the trails. We drove Oak Creek Canyon after a snowstorm to get to Flagstaff ... magical! I’m glad Mo had a chance to visit the chapel ... a special place with such a wonderful view. Don’t remember seeing that mansion back then. One of the really fun things we did is a Pink Jeep excursion ... keep it in mind for when you return to the area someday.

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  7. I think the red rock around Sedona is gorgeous, but I can't take the crowds. Besides, I find 'vortexes' in lots of natural landscapes. Thanks for putting me in touch with John as well. Couldn't believe how many mutual friends we had. Oh, and Montezuma is the best preserved because it's been renovated many times. Just sayin'.

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  8. By golly, this is a new one to me, a place we've not visited (yet). And it looks like it's right up our alley. Thanks for posting about it, Sue. I spent a day or two in Sedona years ago with son, Matt, but Jimmy's never been ... too bad it's a crowded fishbowl these days. I hope we can get to it sometime. (nice mansion!!!!)

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  9. I could have sworn I posted a comment on this ... but I don’t see one. We really enjoyed our one visit to Sedona ... that was before our Phaeton days. We stayed at a timeshare resort next to Tlaquepaque (sp) and had a terrific time exploring Sedona and nearby areas such as Montezuma’s Well, Montezuma’s Castle (one of my favorite places) and more. Red Rock country hiking filled me with so much awe. The vortices were interesting to learn about and I have to wonder if we miffed the spirits on one climb that we didn’t know was a vortex ... I dropped my first p&s digital during the climb and it tumbled way below, so I had to go down to get it and climb back up again. (OK OK ... it was just me being stupid and not zipping up the shallow pocket I had put the camera in.)

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