Heading to Central Arizona...

dead HOrse Ranch State Park

Cottonwood, AZ

Off to Central Arizona to put a new notch on our AZ State Park camping belt.
 
 

We finally finished our Thursday morning errands before

hitting the road for our newest adventure to Central

Arizona and headed out the drive at a little after 11 AM.

We took the “old road” ... highway 77 out of Tucson to 79, then north through Florence, to meet up with highway 60 east of Apache Junction where we

topped off the tank. From there we took 60 to grab the 101 Loop north

through Scottsdale and eventually to  I-17 north of Phoenix...we prefer to

side step as much of the central Phoenix traffic as we can...it’s still city

freeway driving in reality, but it seems less frantic somehow, than going

right through the middle of Phoenix.


We had a pleasant trip up...with no problems on I-17... The only rest stop between Phoenix and Flagstaff, which we usually stop at to let ourselves and the Girls stretch our respective legs was closed for renovations ... good thing we have our bathroom with us if we had needed it. We successfully climbed up out of the Valley of the Sun toward Cordes Junction ... and looked forward to the dramatic descent down into the broad Verde Valley. When you’re on the south side of the Valley about to go down into it, you can see the San Francisco Peaks above Flagstaff to the north with their still-snowy caps. Pretty neat. You gotta love Arizona! With the Verde River running through it, the Verde Valley has a number of interesting smaller towns ... Camp Verde, Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Jerome (the old mining/ghost town on the side of a mountain — more on that later), and also several national monuments featuring ruins of the ancient people who lived in this area, the Anasazi ... Montezuma’s Well and Montezuma’s Castle, to name a few... and of course, there’s Oak Creek Canyon and the town of Sedona, famous for its Red Rock Country and fabled energy “vortexes” á la Shirley MacLaine. We had visited Sedona several years ago when we had the motor home, and were not excited by the insane traffic, tourist atmosphere and overdeveloped country side. Terry had spent significant time in Sedona when he was a student at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff years ago (many years), so it was very disturbing to see the blight of inevitable growth that happens to any beautiful place once it is “discovered.”  Beautiful scenery, yes, but way, way too many tourists and cars ...and crystals. So this trip, Sedona was being avoided.


We exited the Interstate at highway 260 which heads northwest to Cottonwood ....

it’s about 15 miles or so. At first we thought we had made a wrong turn

somewhere because neither of us recognized the Cottonwood we encountered...

wait—there’s the hamburger joint ... but ... wasn’t that a ways out of town and all

by itself the last time we were here? Yup. The sprawl has hit Cottonwood, too ...

no doubt the result of property being very expensive or unavailable in the

neighboring Sedona. It wasn’t until we rounded a curve in the road that we recognized anything...the old part of Cottonwood that used to be little more than

a sleepy, dusty, depressed little western town with very little going on other than

its quaintness and a few interesting shops. No more. There’s everything there

you’d expect in any thriving town these days ... all the big box stores, several big grocery stores, all the fast food places, and the whole sheebang ... and traffic. 

It was sort of depressing.  But nothing stops “progress.”


We found the road (10th Street) that took us over the Verde River toward the park ... through an area developed for sports events ... a baseball diamond, etc. ... even a

                      skateboard ramp area. The kids were lovin’ that. Just on the other side

                          of the concrete bridge over the Verde was the entrance to the Park.

                            Now there are some horses around Dead Horse Ranch State

                           Park, but they aren’t dead, thank goodness...and this is a good

                           thing. The park’s name reportedly begins with the Ireys family, who

                             came to Arizona from Minnesota looking for a ranch in the late 1940s. At one of the ranches they discovered a large dead horse by the road. After two days of viewing property, Dad Ireys asked the kids which ranch they liked the best. The kids said, “The one with the dead horse, Dad!” The Ireys family chose the name Dead Horse Ranch and later, in 1973, when Arizona State Parks acquired the property, the Ireys made retaining the name a condition of sale. So don’t expect to see any dead horses. There are horses there to rent and take rides on ... but we saw no dead horses!


The Park is across the Verde River from the westerly end of old Cottonwood, on historic highway 89A headed toward Clarkdale.  It’s a surprisingly green riparian area along the Verde River, though there wasn’t much water in the River when we were there ... There are three man-made lagoons on the east end of the grounds for kayaking and fishing (stocked) and there is a tall grove of cottonwood trees along the lagoons with ramadas for picnicking, etc. They were releasing their fluffy seeds into the breeze when we were there ... it looked almost like snow. Very pleasant.  We were there during the week, so the day use areas were not busy... just a few fishermen and folks out for the day... and some cranes.


There are 4 loops for camping in addition to a nice Group area. They have an area with cabins for rent, too. The oldest loop is to the right of the road that goes through the grounds, down toward the River bed. It’s sites are well treed and is pretty much surrounded by the trees and brushof the river growth. Being older,

the sites, though cozy, charming and well-shaded—which is very

important during certain times of the year—were pretty close to

one another. This is a first-come-first-served camping park, so by

the time we arrived just before the end of the day, the lower loop

was filled. We were directed to the upper loops, which are

terraced up a hill on the northern side of the park. The two lower of these loops are for RVs with water and electric hookups and the topmost loop is reserved for tent camping. We were asked to claim a site then come back to the office and register. We did as we were told, of course. We chose a site on the southern end of the middle loop...mostly for its position ... with the afternoon sun on the street side so we would have good shade ... being fairly new loops, the trees were not very big yet so there wasn’t much natural shade ... but there was a great view of the Verde Valley below and at night we enjoyed the lights of Cottonwood and those of Jerome which we could see on the mountainside \on the opposite side of the Valley. At first we were disappointed that we weren’t able to get into the older loop, but before long we were glad we were situated right where we were...nice breezes, great views. And besides,

                              there was a 25’ Sea Breeze Airstream parked across

                                  the road from us ... making it all the better of a view! 

                                   We’re not sure we’d want to be in the upper loops

                                  in the summer time, with the lack of shade, but the

                                  weather for our visit was very nice and we were quite

                                   comfortable.  When we returned to the ranger station after unhitching, we registered and they logged us in.  It’s good we got there when we did ... once again, we squeaked in before it was full.  When Terry took the Girls out for their last walk of the evening, there were no sites left.


After we’d arrived and set up a big ol’ fifth wheel/toy hauler pulled up to the site next to us...a guy driving, accompanied by 2 big dogs. He parked in the road and shortly afterward a woman in a big ol’ truck accompanied by 2 more big ol’ dogs pulled up. They proceeded to try to back the fifth wheel into the fairly straight-forward site. We were outside when they started but as the guy continued to have trouble backing it up we went inside so as not to add to his frustration. Finally he got out and let the woman try... she was getting annoyed with him ... and she couldn’t get it in the site either... They worked on it for the better part of an hour. Finally they got it in, but not without exchanging a few words and angry remarks ... and backing over growing things. Whew! About an hour later another carload of 4 or 5 more people showed up. Terry was taking the Girls for a walk ... as he returned to the Bambi from the road he saw that they had set up a big tent on the curb side of the toy hauler. Let’s see ... that’s 4 dogs (off leash) ... 6 adults, 3 vehicles, a huge RV and a 6-man tent ... can you spell “party down?” At this point, we were not looking forward to being their neighbors. They actually weren’t as noisy/rowdy as we expected them to be that night ... they did have a big camp fire and lots of beer was consumed. But outside of a couple of obnoxious belches and slurred words from the camp fire, they didn’t bother us. Imagine our surprise the next morning when we got up ... after all that fussing and unloading and setting up ... they were gone ... lock stock and barrel. We heard later that they left in a huff because the park people were going to charge them another camping fee because they had more than one camping unit and 3 vehicles. Seems only fair. We didn’t miss them the rest of our stay.  They were soon replaced by a very nice young couple who had brought an adult mentally challenged brother camping. They were far better neighbors...we chatted several times. They had a wonderful female Bassett Hound puppy who was terribly cute and very spoiled (as it should be). The husband took the brother fishing both days they were in there, and the brother was so excited to show off his catch of fish when they can back to the camp ... he just squealed with glee and held up the catch...it was very heartwarming.


We had a great internet connection at our site, too. Woo-hoo!  And Rich Charpentier, our Airstream friend in Prescott called to make sure we arrived OK... Rich is the author of The Digital RV, a book on getting connected on the road

and very popular in the RV circuit...he’s a born teacher and really

takes all the technology to a level that anyone can understand ...

and implement. Rich has a blog, “Airstream Chronicles

Continued” about his travels and life in his Airstream, as well

as his photography and technical expertise. He’s an interesting guy and his blog is worth the read. He is from the east, but fate lead him to Prescott...a place he has become enamored with and has called home for a little over a year ... and there’s a lady on the scene now, too! (More on that later.) Looking forward to actually meeting him (them) next week!


Friday we explored the park and its offerings ... took a nice long walk with the Girls around the lagoons and chased the blue herons with the camera. We got

a few shots of them. Then we drove into town, filled the gas tank and got our bearings since the town has sprawled so much since we were last there. Found the old route to Jerome via Clarkdale (there are 2 alternate routes to get there now), and a resale shop of course. We drove up one of the roads in the park and caught a view of Tuzigoot National Monument from its back side facing the park. The entrance to the Monument is actually off highway 89A below Clarkdale which lies west of Cottonwood. Years ago Terry was hired by the National Park Service to recreate and update the museum display at the visitor’s center. It was an interesting and involved job. We didn’t visit Toozigut this trip, but it’s worth seeing...another of the several ruins of ancient peoples who once lived along the Verde River.


That evening we sat outside and enjoyed some asti spumante...and for dinner had green chili enchiladas that Greg had made at home and frozen...washed the dishes and settled in for a quiet evening when there was a knock at the door.  It was Sandy, the lady in the Airstream across the way. Terry had run into her and her 2 big beautiful Samoyeds, Sasha and Cody, while walking our Girls. She was stopping by to chat for a while … we sat with her at the dinette for about an hour and a half …she’s a character and quite interesting … she’s been full-timing in her AS for about 2+ years … used to have a 16’ Bambi and then traded up to the 25’… she got it at Oasis RV (the local Airstream dealer) and says she was there the day we picked up our Bambi at Oasis … she thought she recognized us when we gave her an Airstream thumbs-up-howdy-wave earlier that day. How corny is that? But hey, we’re Airstreamers! Of course we don’t remember her being at Oasis that day … we were too overwhelmed with the pickup process. She is from Utah, but goes to Tucson frequently for her dogs’ vet appointments and other duties … and as been all over AZ. Again, there’s more to the Sandy saga ... for later.


Saturday we left the Girls in the Bambi with the AC on, just in case it got warm ... we had been having great weather and hadn’t really needed the AC during the days or the furnace at night ... but with us gone we wanted to make sure the Girls stayed cool. We decided to hit Jerome on Saturday. We had decided earlier, at the urging of Rich Charpentier not to tow the trailer through Jerome on our way to Prescott next week, and after arriving in Jerome we know that was a good decision. The streets are congested with traffic and people.


Jerome and the area below has continued to be developed, too … like Cottonwood and surrounding areas. The only difference is there’s nowhere new to build in Jerome since it’s perched on a mountainside.  It’s a steep car climb up Mingus Mountain to Jerome and it makes you wonder how they ever did it in “the good old days.” Because it’s literally built on the sharp incline of the mountain, it’s almost entirely original buildings (such as they are), shored up to withstand the ravages of time and the forces of gravity. It’s amazing that anything still stands ... and it’s certain that parts of the town have already slid down the slope. Rumors have it (with pictures to prove it) that the jail house has literally traveled from one side of the street to the other over time. From Jerome one has a bird’s eye perspective of the vast Verde Valley that lies below...you don’t look out onto a cityscape ... you either look out into thin air or up the mountain to a conglomeration of rickety houses on stilts stacked high above. We would not want to be there during and earthquake, nosiree! One ahs the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop as any shift of anything underground would surely spell nothing short of disaster. Yet there we were, as were hundreds of others.


It’s actually a little depressing these days because it’s become so touristy … we

did the tourist walk in town after finally finding a parking place…there are some

very interesting shops, of course, but our overall impression is that the

                                quaintness of this old mining/ghost town is long gone

                                      and  will never return … lots of traffic, lots of people,

                                         lots of bikers (who were watching tourists), and

                                          lots of old hippies (who were young hippies when

                                         Terry  frequented Jerome during his college years

                                         in Flagstaff).We bought a few things we couldn’t resist …

                                         notably some ceramic wind bells that were crafted by

                                           TJ Stone, who is the person who developed the ceramic bell production at Arcosanti (which you will hear more about later). We discovered his background when we commented to the sales clerk that they reminded us of the ceramic Arcosanti Bells. That was fun to find out … we knew there was a reason we liked them so much!


Jerome State Historic Park is there, too, atop one of the lower hills of the town. It’s an interesting place, but we opted out of it this trip. The town has a rich history of mining, once known as the “Billion Dollar Mining Camp” and was at one time the highest-producing copper mine in the Arizona territory. Hard to believe considering its precarious location. We took lots of pictures, and then drove through Jerome on winding 89A and out over Mingus Mountain toward Prescott … stopped at a scenic view to take more pictures of the valley below and then headed back to Jerome and Cottonwood via the other part of route 89A (the non-historical one).


We stopped at an antique mall in Cottonwood on the way home ... nice place ... a must-stop if you’re in the area ... we found (among a few other goodies) what we think is a vintage Arcosanti ceramic bell. It has the same shape as current cast ceramic bells and the decorative carving and hand scribed mark are definitely Arcosanti. It has to be vintage because these days the mark is stamped into the clay. That was a find. You’ll hear more about Arcosanti soon.


It had become windy that morning just before we left, so when we put the awnings away, we also folded up the outdoor chairs so they wouldn’t blow over … by the time we got home it was even windier and one family was out flying their kites in the middle of the loop … that was fun.


Terry needed to do a little work, so that came next … sent out a request for bid for a job and finished the layout and sent a PDF to the client … once it’s OK’d and the costs are in, it will be uploaded to the printer’s FTP site and production will be underway.


Rich called from Prescott again to tell us that he and Sadari (his lady) were going to Sedona on Sunday if we wanted to join them, but we had decided earlier to go to Acrosanti that day, so we invited them to stop by our campground on their way back to Prescott.


More short chats with Sandy, our new Airstream friend across the way, as she walked her dogs. We tried a mutual dog-walking sprint, and it went OK once we all (including the Samoyeds) agreed to let Sadie lead the pack...she likes

to be in the lead, you know...and she has no fear, no matter how big the

other dog is. She’s pretty amazing that way ... a tough little thing for such a “lady.” (Don’t let the curls fool you!)


Sunday was set aside as our Arcosanti day. So what is Arcosanti? In a nutshell is an experiment in urban living based on the architecture and theories

of Paolo Soleri, an Italian architect. It’s difficult to summarize

Soleri’s theories and accomplishments, but suffice it to say that he

is considered a visionary and conceptual groundbreaker in the area

of modern urban living ... and Arcosanti is his brainchild.  It’s a

city he has designed based on his theories, with elements of ecology

and architecture ... thus the coined phrase “arcology” ... and the name of his city, Arcosanti. It’s located 2.5 miles northwest of Cordes Junction on a dirt road. You can actually see apart of the complex from I-17 if you know what you are looking for. It really is quite wonderful ... and it’s easy to understand why so many people have chosen to live and work and study at Arcosanti over the years, each contributing his/her sweat equity and talent into its mission.  It is certainly like no other place you have every visited. 


In the early years, Soleri helped fund his work through the design, production and sale of Soleri Bells.  In the early years they were al ceramic, but later the designs and production turned to bronze ... and Soleri Bells have become world renown for their beauty in design and tone. The bells are produced at Arcosanti as well as Soleri’s home in Cosanti, located near Phoenix. If you have never heard of Soleri Bells you are missing out on something all those who love Arizona should know about. We

                            have long been drawn to Soleri Bells ... and have several in our

                                      home. This trip we added a few ceramic bells to our small

                                         collection, as well as a couple of  hanging ceramic planters.

                                          The design are wonderfully organic and connected to

                                           the earth. This is why we were so excited to learn that

                                          TJ Stone,  whose work we admired, had a history with

                                          Arcosanti. We befriended the manager of the gift shop

                                           and she connected us up with Ed, the current manager of

                                             the ceramic production and he allowed us into the warehouse to chose the pots we wanted ... they were both great. And Anna, who was our tour guide through the grounds of Arcosanti, worked in the foundry where the bronze bells are created. The afternoon was wonderful, and the site is somehow peaceful and simple, yet quite complex in its design and functionality.  We definitely recommend a visit to Arcosanti ... but go during the week when the bell production is actually taking place ... we will on our next visit. It was definitely worth the day trip back to I-17 and down to Cordes Junction that day.


On the way back to Cottonwood, we called Rich to find out where he and Sadira were in their day, only to find that they both had suffered allergy attacks in Sedona and had headed home to find refuge from the offending pollen ... remember those cottonwood trees that were spreading their “stuff”? Yup, that was the culprit. We wished them a speedy rebound from the attack ... we knew we’d still get to met them the following week when we moved to Prescott for the second leg of our trip.


By the time we got back to Dead Horse, it was late afternoon, and Sandy, the Airstream lady, invited us over to her Airstream to check it out, visit, and have appetizers ... so we did that. She had been so impressed with Greg’s handiwork in creating slip covers and curtains for our Bambi, that she asked him to

make her a hitch cover like the one he’d made for us and also a jack

cover to protect her power jack from the sun...and a few other

things she wanted for her Airstream...so he measured and looked at

the general color scheme in the Sea Breeze model and Terry could

see the wheels turning in his head already. He has since made the

articles she wanted and we mailed them to her as she hunkers

down in Sun City west of Phoenix for a few weeks before returning to Utah. She is thrilled with is work. So now he’s making jack covers and hitch covers for other Airstream folks we know!  A new cottage industry is born! (He really does great work ... if you’re interested in a jack cover or hitch cover or slip covers, curtains and bedspread for your newer Bambi, let us know! They are very cool.


Monday was a last full day at Dead Horse. Typically the last day in a campground is the “Lazy Day” where we do nothing in particular but just take it easy and make a few preparations for the travel day. However, we needed to top off the tank and there were a few resale shops and antique stores in Cottonwood we’d driven by a couple of times and wanted to hit.  So we drove into town to take care of these “needs”… got gas and did the old town antique shops. Didn’t buy anything, but it was fun … we got back to the campground fairly early and just hung out … we had brought firewood with us from home, but had not had a fire yet because it was generally windy when we would have done that.  But Monday evening looked good for a fire. So we invited Sandy to join us for campfire after dinner … we grilled a steak and had baked potato … and cranked up the fire. She enjoyed it, especially because we were burning cedar, which always smells so good.


It was a nice way to end our very first stay at Dead Horse ... a crackling camp fire, nice weather, and a new friend ... and another AZ state park under our belt!


Click on the slideshow button to see a slide show of the photos of the trip up to Cottonwood, Dead Horse, Jerome and Arcosanti. Click on “Prescott” below to go to the next leg of this trip. And you can click on “Other Trips” if you’d like to go back to the main trip page. Wherever you go, we hope you enjoy!

 
We had an Airstream neighbor, making our view even nicer!
We ended up with a great site with scenic views and cool breezes.
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Check ‘em out: The Digital RV and Rich’s blogs!
The hippies and bikers Terry remembers from his college days are still in Jerome...but now they are old hippies and bikers!
What the heck is an Arcosanti,
anyway?
We highly recommend a visit to Arcosanti. It will make you think and it will give a new perspective on city dwelling, at the very least.
Sandy continues to be a real character! What fun we had with her!
No dead horses were anywhere to be seen, thank goodness!
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