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.