In central Arizona, lying between Mingus Mountain and the Mogollon Rim is Verde Valley. The Verde River runs through the valley providing a habitat for fish and wildlife as well as a crucial freshwater source for local residents. There are several towns located in the valley such as Jerome, Cottonwood, Sedona and others. It is touted to be one of the most beautiful places on earth and attracts thousands of visitors every year. It was one of the first places we put on our bucket list of places to see. We are excited to finally be here.
We are staying at the Verde Valley RV Resort near Cottonwood. It is part of the Thousand Trails collection with over 300 sites. It’s a nice park with amenities like a swimming pool, putt-putt golf, and hiking trails. Some sites, especially the newer more modern ones, have great views of the valley and the distant mountains. Unfortunately, the downside is there is no laundry facility and there aren’t many sites with shade. We were told they are building a new laundry facility because the old one’s drainage system failed. As far as shade goes…I guess that’s just part of life in this area of the country. There are few trees other than the smallish mesquite trees. It’s hot here, reaching temperatures in excess of one hundred degrees. The air conditioner runs continuously. We don’t spend a lot of time in the camper during the day. We’re getting out and exploring.
We have seen some wonderful scenery. We’ve gone on hikes leading to interesting places. We have driven to a variety of points of interest.
One of the first places we went to see was the hillside town of Jerome. Founded in 1876, Jerome was once the location of one of the wealthiest mines in the world. The town grew from it’s booming wealth to become the third largest town in Arizona during it’s heyday. But after the mines closed in 1954, Jerome became a ghost town. Today much of the town has been restored attracting curious tourist. We walked the streets seeing old historic buildings and we went inside some of the many shops that now occupy the old buildings.
We went to the Jerome State Historic Park located on the site of the Douglas Mansion. It was once the home of the mine baron James S. Douglas, but now it is a museum with artifacts and historic displays. A thirty minute movie was playing for us to learn more about the history of Jerome. There’s an old abandon mine shaft (Audrey Shaft) near the state park’s front gate with a thick glass covering the opening. You can stand on the glass and see down the 1900 feet hole that appears to be bottomless. Can you imagine riding down a shaft in a cage attached to a steel cable? It had to be eerie!
From Jerome we drove the Mingus Mountain Scenic Road to the heavily vegetated Black Hills of Arizona (not to be confused with the Black Hills in South Dakota) where we explored the upper regions of Mingus mountain. There we found the perfect scenic overlook to enjoy our lunch. We took a photo for grammi to share on her Facebook page under the heading “Today’s Lunch Spot”. We also walked a path around Mingus Lake, which was little more than a pond. There was a family fishing on the bank. A sign posted indicated the lake was stocked by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
We also drove through the Potato Patch campground, a U.S. Forest Service campground near the top of Mingus Mountain. It’s a true boon-docking campground in the thick of a ponderosa pine forest and has no services at all. There’s an unpaved road going back into the forest with cleared areas where one can set up a camper or tent. Some have makeshift fire rings made from rocks. We have plans to camp at a similar Forest Service campground for four nights coming up very soon.
We stopped at Old Town Cottonwood. A nice little town with a Main Street and dozens of shops and businesses to browse. We checked out Larry’s Antiques that advertised two acres of antiques. I can’t verify that but they sure have a lot of stuff. You’re bound to find what ever you’re looking for.
At the other end of town we checked out The Hippie Emporium. It was like taking a time machine back to 1968. The aroma of burning incense, glass bead curtains hanging in the doorways, blacklight posters (some I think I use to have), a Jimmy Hendrix song playing in the background, it was all too real reminding me of a different time.
Across the street we found a Mexican restaurant that is our new favorite. When we told Adriana we were looking for vegan she went far out of her way to make sure we were happy. “Don’t you Worry. I take care of you” she told us. So we left it up to her. She brought out grilled vegetable fajitas, potato burritos, mushroom enchiladas. It was great. We’ve been there twice so far and both times we could not eat all the food. We carried home a doggy bag. And good? You bet…it was so delicious. If you’re in the area you have to go to Adriana’s Mexican Restaurant.
We continued our exploration of the Verde Valley by driving toward Sedona. Sedona is a paradise know for its steep cliffs and red rock buttes. It’s a mecca for outdoor activities combined with a vibrant shopping district and thriving arts community that gives the city a youthful vibe. There are hundreds of hiking trails and dozens of scenic drives.
We drove along the scenic Upper Red Rock Loop Road stopping at some of the pull-offs to see the breathtaking views. Again we went crazy snapping photo after photo as we were just completely amazed by the beauty surrounding us.
Sitting high atop the red rocks, Chapel of the Holy Cross is a must see for anyone visiting Sedona. In 2007, it was voted as one of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona. Its clings to the edge of the cliff supported by a large cross. The cross is the main architectural feature that is both structural and aesthetic.
As we walked up the curved ramp from the parking lot we couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe. The well know Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock can be seen in the distance. The chapel might seem small at first, but because it blends in and becomes part of the cliffs it transforms into something more grandiose.
When we entered the chapel, our eyes were immediately drawn to the bronze crucifix. The large plate glass window serving as the backdrop presents a glorious view of the red rock cliffs and sandstone buttes that Sedona is so well known for. As we exited the chapel, a curator pointed out a natural spire in the rock behind the chapel. There was the form of virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus. A crown adorned the top of their heads. Oh! How that deepened the experience and reinforced the feeling that this was a spiritual place. I could do little more than shake my head in astonishment as we walked back to the parking lot.
One morning we got up early…well at least early for us, and went back toward Sedona. We keep being drawn back to this area. We wanted to find a suitable hike. One where we could walk through the red rocks canyons and climb over boulders. We went to the Airport Mesa and made a short climb to the viewpoint where we found more gorgeous scenery. We plan to hike the Airport Loop Trail starting from this location.
As we sat on the rocks enjoying the early morning, we spent a few minutes talking to another couple. They told us we were sitting at a vortex location. Evidently, Sedona has several location where the energy is either leaving or coming to our planet. This energy is so strong that many people can feel it and receive benefits from it. I wasn’t feeling it though. Maybe I was feeling something the other day at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, another known vortex location, but I’m not sure. We told them about our plan to hike the Airport Loop Trail but they suggested instead, we drive to Boynton Canyon for a much more rewarding and scenic hike where there is a strong energy vortex present.
So sometimes you just have to listen and take the advise of someone that has prior experience. We drove to Boynton Canyon Trailhead parking lot where we saw an older man coming out of the trail. He appeared to be in good condition and very fit for a guy I’m guessing to be in his early seventies. We asked him about the trail. The man became very talkative and told us all about the trail and the vortex locations. He explained there were two vortexes on the Boynton Vista Trail, one feminine and one masculine. He gave us each a heart shape stone and wished us peace and love before walking away. Hmmm, grammi and I glanced at each other and grinned. Gotta love this place!
It was only about a half mile or so to Boynton Vista. It was an interesting hike through the trees before climbing up the cliffs. We climbed as high as we dared and found a ledge to sit on. There we sat and looked across the landscape waiting to feel the vortex energy. Sorry to say we didn’t feel it. I can’t dismiss its existence. Too many people claim to experience its force. Maybe we aren’t tuned in well enough. Maybe we were not in just the right spot. Maybe the vortex was absent that day. No worries though, it was still a good experience and we enjoyed the hike. After all, that is what we set out to do. Our shoes did end up covered with red dust.
One afternoon we met grammi’s cousin for lunch. I know, I know…she has a big family. This time it was cousin Mike, his wife Charla and their daughter Chesney. They live near Phoenix and made the drive to visit. We feel it is important to reach out to family while we travel, especially those that live far enough away that we seldom see them. It was a good visit and we were glad to see them.
Finding relief from the hot afternoons sometime includes a trip to the swimming pool. The pool at the campground is open with limited occupancy and social distancing rules in place. A woman of presumed authority (she had a clipboard) monitors the gate and enforces all the rules. You receive a shot of hand sanitizer when you enter and you’re told to shower before entering the pool. Every two hours everyone must leave the pool area for cleaning. I feel they deserve kudos. They are trying and we appreciate them keeping the pool open. It’s been a good way to beat the heat.
There is a vineyard and winery next door to the campground so another way to spend the afternoons is to sit under a shade tree while enjoying a bottle of wine. They have a good selection of wines and serve sandwiches, salads, cheese boards and bread baskets, and other small plates of finger foods. There is cake and pie for a sweet treat too. There is live entertainment Friday through Sunday. Grammi and I had a lovely time there. We enjoyed the music, the wine and the atmosphere. We hope to go back before we have to leave.
We will be in the Verde Valley area for another week. There is so much to see and do here I wonder if we allotted enough time. There is more to come about our adventure here.
So until next time…happy days and safe travels.