The last few days in Verde Valley were just as good as the first. We certainly haven’t become bored with the scenery and we continue to find much to explore. Montezuma Castle National Monument located in Camp Verde, like all national parks has been closed during the pandemic. We’ve been checking the website daily to see when it might reopen. So needless to say we were delighted when a reopening date was announced while we were still in the area. We arrived in the morning on the first day it reopened.
Montezuma Castle National Monument was established to protect the well-preserve cliff dwellings built by indigenous people somewhere between 1100 and 1400 AD. The name was given by early European-American settlers believing the structures were connected to the Aztecs and their emperor Montezuma. Of course now we know this was an incorrect assumption, however the name remains unchanged.
The normal ten dollar entrance fee was not being charged at this time. The museum with all the artifacts remained closed. Our visit was limited to a short walk along the paved sidewalk in the valley where we could easily view the cliff dwellings built into a natural alcove seventy feet above the ground. The main attraction is an impressive five stories tall structure with twenty rooms. In addition, other smaller rooms can be seen around the limestone cliff that appear to look more like caves.
The sidewalk continues around the park to other exhibits emphasizing the lives of the ancient community that once lived here. Nearby, Montezuma’s Well is a sinkhole and natural spring in the limestone and is similar to those found in Florida. Its water flowing into Beaver Creek, a tributary to the Verde River, provided a water source for farming.
We only spent about an hour to see this park. It was a nice visit with very few other visitors and was interesting to see the cliff dwellings and learn a little about its history. I’m sure that if the museum was open it would of made the experience better, but I’m not complaining. Besides there’s another park only about twenty-five miles away that also opened today.
Located just east of Clarkdale, Arizona, Tuzigoot National Monument is a pueblo constructed along a natural ridge line by the Southern Sinagua between 1100 to 1400 AD. The site laid in ruin until 1933 when archaeologists set out to study and restore the site and in 1939 president Franklin D. Roosevelt designated it a National Monument.
The larger rooms were built at the top of the ridge. Then over time, additional rooms were added down along the slope. There are 110 rooms in all. As we walked around the ruins it was peculiar to see no doors and wondered how they managed that. We later learned the rooms were accessed by ladders through roof hatches made into the wood timber roofs.
As was the case with our first park of the day, it took less than a hour to walk through the ruins. The museum with all the artifacts was closed. Still, I don’t think it was a waste of our time. We enjoy learning what we can.
One morning we got into the truck just to take a leisurely drive. We thought maybe we would head toward the Mogollon Rim and enjoy some cooler temperatures at the higher elevations. We were driving through the massive Ponderosa Pine forest looking for elk and other wildlife when we passed a sign for Winslow, Arizona. It was less than a hour away. I looked a grammi and shrugged my shoulders and said “why not?”.
As we emerged from the forest and sped across the straight and level Highway 87 through the desert, we turned on the song by the Eagles that made Winslow an iconic town and began to sing along. “Now I’m a-standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona with such a fine sight to see…”. We were having fun and laughed at ourselves as the town appeared over the horizon.
We parked near Standin’ in the Corner Park. It’s a small park at the corner of old Route 66 and North Kinsley Avenue. Not much there…a gray statue of a guy holding a guitar, a flatbed Ford parked next to the curb, a mural painted on a brick wall. The park came years after the 1972 Eagles hit “Take it Easy”, to help boost a struggling economy of the once thriving town that sat along one of the most traveled east-west highways in the country.
We stood on the corner because that’s what you’re supposed to do. We took some photos. We looked around. It wasn’t too busy. Something was missing though… it was “that” song. I thought “that” song should be blasting from well-placed speakers to help set the scene. Instead, I was hearing the sound of jazz. I listened for a few minutes and heard him interact with those walking the street. I thought “well at least it’s good jazz…no, it was great jazz”. I took a couple bucks out of my wallet and walked across the street and put them in a jar that he had placed on the sidewalk. I told him I liked his music.
We had lunch at Sippy’s. It’s on a different corner but at the same intersection. As we ate we watched people come and go, stopping to take a photo on the corner with the gray statue in front of the mural. The jazz musician put away his guitar announcing it was getting too hot for him to continue. He walked across and sat at a table on the sidewalk and ordered something to drink. When we were leaving, we stopped to talk with him. We learned his name was Tommy Dukes. He is the first jazz musician inducted to the Arizona Music Hall-of-Fame. He plays on the corner most mornings and interacts with the tourist. He asked where we were from and where we were staying and invited us to come to and outdoor concert he was playing in Sedona over the weekend. Unfortunately we weren’t going to make it but it was a nice thought.
If you’ve been following the blog you may find this hard to believe, but we visited with more of Grammi’s family. An aunt and uncle who moved from their hometown in central Illinois to Arizona back in the 1960’s. Grammi seldom gets to see them so she was elated when they invited us for lunch. They have a summer home in Munds Park. At an elevation of around 6600 feet, this small community’s cooler climate attracts those seeking relief from the summer heat. Our time that afternoon reminiscing with uncle Kenny and aunt Dorthy was precious.
Uncle Kenny, bless his heart, told us of a road going directly to Sedona from Munds Park, so on the way back to the campground we thought we would take the “short-cut” on Schnebly Hill Road. As we turned onto the road we saw it was a dirt road not unlike many of the forest roads we’ve traveled on before, so we didn’t think too much about it. We passed campers setup along the way and saw a lot of people out and about. As we continued on, the road became a little more bumpy and we saw less and less people and no more campsites. But we continue onward. The road gradually got more bumpy, more rocky and we started to wonder if we should continue. We already traveled nearly halfway so I dropped the truck in 4-wheel low and slowly made our way over the rocks strategically watching my tire placement.
With a white knuckle grip and creeping along at less than 5 mph, we started passing ATV’s, and 4-wheel drive side-by sides, and jeeps coming up the hill from Sedona. Grammi and I had planned to rent one of the side-by-sides for an off-road adventure the very next day. No need for that now! Remember from my previous blog how I was reluctant to drive my truck to the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead, how foolish I was. That road was a piece of cake compared to this one.
We saw why all those other vehicle were making their way up. The views were gorgeous. We stopped for a little while just to take it in. I doubt there is anywhere else on earth with view like this.
It took us over two hours to travel the 12 mile “short-cut” to Sedona. As we made it to the paved road again I could feel the tension in my shoulders start to relax. The circulation returned to my fingers. Looking back, it really wasn’t that bad. Even though my truck is in seriously need of a washing, I would take that “short-cut” again if given the chance.
So now that we already went off-roading we had to come up with another plan for the next day. We went to Red Rock State Park and hiked the Eagle Nest Trail. The weather changed and the mid-day temperatures were much milder in the low eighties, a welcome relief. This 2 1/2 mile loop trail gains 300 feet to the highest point in the park where there are stunning 360 degree views. Benches at the summit provide a place to sit and immerse oneself in the tranquility.
That afternoon we went to Sedona to visit Tlaquepaque Arts and Craft Village. There are dozens of galleries and shops displaying works from local artist and craftsmen. Among my favorites were the Native American art gallery and of course, the displays from the woodworkers. We stopped at one of the craft beer breweries for a cool refreshment before calling it a day.
These past 14 days have been some of the best days of our travels so far. The Verde Valley area is amazing. There is so much to see and do here. Beauty is everywhere. The people are friendly. It has a deep and abundant history. We are so glad to have finally experienced it. But now it’s time to move on. We definitely want to return someday. The good Lord willing…we will.
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Until next time…happy days and safe travels.