Last week I covered the first part of our whirlwind Arizona trip – which included wedding festivities, eating, and hiking. With one more day on the trip, and left to our own devices, Ryan and I set out for a little road trip to see as much as possible. Thanks to the advice of our friend’s husband, a Phoenix local, we left Sunday brunch armed with loads of suggestions. Three hundred miles later, I was a little bit in love.
Our route for the day was to head north from Scottsdale to Sedona, and then over to Jerome; poking around at whatever we saw fit along the way. Coffee in hand, convertible top down, we hit the highway at 7:00am and didn’t look back!
The first stop was to explore Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde. Now an archeological site, it was a thriving a 20-room community built into the side of a cliff by the Sinagua people. Situated next to a river, with expansive views of the fields beyond, it was an ideal location. As for the park – they’ve done a great job of winding a path around the grounds so you can see the “castle” from all angles. I’m a sucker for a good diorama, and theirs didn’t disappoint. There was a miniature model of the castle diagramming what life looked like when the community was in full swing. (Complete with scratchy voice recording providing historical background.)
Pretty interesting to compare the display to the real thing; it creates a feeling for where the rooms were located. The diorama doesn’t contain any exterior walls, so you can see into the dwelling. But notice the little windows at the bottom of the next picture? There were rooms carved all throughout the cliffside.
From Camp Verde we continued north and stopped for breakfast in Oak Creek – which, if you’re not paying attention, you might think is Sedona. But it’s not. It’s smaller, quaint, and seems like a place you could live without being ground out by hordes of tourists. (Sedona spoiler alert?) Keep heading north, and the vistas just get better and better. We drove through Sedona, already teeming with people at 11:00am.
We continued past town another twenty minutes or so to the Oak Creek West Fork trailhead in the Coconino National Forest. It was a curious thing to see such varied terrain between leaving Scottsdale and driving two hours north – it was definitely early spring on the trail; trees were still bare, the scrub brush gray and craggy. A strange contrast from the full desert bloom we’d left behind that morning.
Since it was spring, Oak Creek was flowing fast and deep, which meant the trail was mostly a series of harrowing river crossings. We scrambled over makeshift bridges of logs and rocks, and came away relatively unscathed with only one hotfoot between the two of us. There was good camaraderie among the hikers trying to navigate the best ways across, and a nice pile of walking sticks at the first crossing to aid in the next few miles.
Leaving the trailhead, we traveled back south to Sedona, and headed west on 89A towards Jerome.
Jerome is a curious little place. I wish we’d had more time there. The town sits at an elevation over 5,000 feet (compared to Scottsdale, a hair over 1,200 feet), and seems to be built into the side of a mountain. What would be normal city blocks anywhere else is actually a series of switchbacks in Jerome. It was a copper mining town, and then a ghost town. It’s been re-inhabited by artists, writers, craftsmen, and general weirdos ever since.
From Jerome, we wound our way back down the mountain and headed back to Scottsdale.
I managed to get a quick, if somewhat blurry photo of the sunset on the way home. We pulled back into the trusty Motel 6 around 8:30pm; just enough time to shower up, pack up, and get ready for the flight back to Michigan bright and early the next day.
So many great highlights from the trip. A select few: hiking with friends; attending a beautiful wedding in a magical little spot; seeing an actual tumbleweed blow across the road; and taking in the vistas with the convertible top down. Until next time, Arizona.