The last time I posted we were just leaving New Mexico and heading for Arizona, so I have a LOT to catch up on! I’ve been a little lazy about posting every night or so since we have been very busy during the day and I can’t stay awake too long at night. Just think–hours of very hot, arid, busy outdoor sightseeing almost everyday, traveling in the interim, and you can see why getting back to our nice, cool RV each night is heavenly. We have seen some amazing things so here goes!
By the way (this is for you, Sammy!), one amazing thing we HAVEN’T seen are the RATTLESNAKES. We see warnings everywhere, flyers, movies of these evil creatures slithering though the grass, pictures (just in case we don’t know what to look for), and scary stories, but so far that’s one kind of wildlife we haven’t encountered. Hopefully, it will stay that way! This is especially miraculous since after your Pappaw had rattlesnake for lunch that day I thought the whole rattlesnake family would be after us. And according to what we hear there’s a whole bunch of those critters in Arizona. But maybe it’s just the New Mexico rattlers who are a bit perturbed!! In the meantime, we are being very careful when venturing outside!
Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park. I had no idea exactly what this national park had in store for us but it was a winner—and the name says it all! Our base for visiting this park was Holbrook, Arizona– just a few miles from the entrance to the park. Ashley thought the phrase “petrified forest” sounded a little ominous, and it does if you think of scary witches randomly flying around doing nasty little tricks to innocent trees. But the actual truth of the matter is that what really happened was even more improbable. It all started long ago in the Triassic period (let’s think dinosaurs here) when the quiet but astonishing desert and mountains we encountered were teeming with wildlife like we have not and will never see again. There’s a lot of science and research ongoing here that people like paleontologists can spend their entire career studying, but let’s just boil it down and say that water washed a BUNCH of trees into the plains where they were covered for many thousands of years with silt and a wide variety of minerals which resulted in a miraculous event where the trees became petrified. And when I say petrified, the trees actually turned to stone–beautiful colors and swirls and glistening stone that captures your attention in the intricacy and variety of each fallen tree. Covering roughly 147 square miles, even after years of being vandalized and stolen prior to the area’s designation as a National Park, that is a lot of trees.
And this is the most significant area in the world where this particular event occurred–thus lots of excitement from the scientists and an awe-inspiring walk through the petrified forest for us! In addition to the petrified wood, there are fossils, petroglyphs from long ago native tribes who lived in that area, and ruins of their pueblos to be discovered.
And then we drove through the Painted Desert where the colors and rock formations are spread out as far as you can see and looks like a giant Van Gogh went a little crazy with the paintbrush. But this is real–and deserved a lot more time and contemplation than we were able to give it. Perhaps another time!
After our day in the National Park we went back to Holbrook where we were camped. I did find a super place to stay if we ever give up on camping. It’s on the strip in Holbrook which at one time was part of the historic HWY 66 before I-40 bypassed it. Don’t you love it??!!
Grand Canyon National Park (Williams, AZ). Leaving the Petrified Forest behind, we headed for the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, AZ. We had decided to forego the grueling drive up to the Grand Canyon and relax on the train, sip our drinks and nibble on cheese and crackers while the reliable steam engine took us through the ever changing scenery into the Park. And to make it even more convenient, the very luxe and comfortable Grand Canyon Railway RV Park was just next door to the train station.
Williams is a hopping little town with fun restaurants, and even more fun people (picture Elvis dressed in full regalia white rhinestone jumpsuit washing the windows in one of the HWY 66 retro shops on the main thoroughfare of Williams). Yes, Williams was also one of the towns left behind when I-40 fast-tracked people past small town America. But they have embraced their past and appear to have thriving businesses, undoubtedly assisted by their location as a gateway to the Grand Canyon.
The next morning we headed for the train after being momentarily delayed by a shootout among a bunch of ornery cowboys near the train station. Apparently they are ornery quite often–about 9:00 am every morning!
The train ride was relaxing, the snacks/drink service handy, and my little nap very refreshing. Which was good because as soon as we arrived at the Park we loaded onto a tour bus and headed out to see the Grand Canyon from several fantastic viewpoints–each one seemingly better than the last one. I have to say I was blown away.
There is a reason why they call it the “Grand” Canyon–grand is an apt description. Overwhelming, incredible, “am I really seeing what I am seeing?” kind of a place! To understand America, to understand ANYTHING, you’ve got to see the Grand Canyon–it puts everything else in perspective. Again, I would have loved to stay there much, much longer but after having a quick lunch in Grand Canyon Village (south rim) and walking along the rim promenade, we headed back to the train for our trip home.
I was having a really LONG nap when the train was attacked by those same ornery cowboys we saw earlier that day. They ran down the train on their horses, robbed all the tourists (whatever just happened to be laying on your table), waved their guns around and took off right before the sheriff showed up. The timing was just lucky for them I guess!
Montezuma Castle (Camp Verde). The next day we headed to Camp Verde to the Distant Drum RV Campground. This is our staging ground for heading to California tomorrow. But in the interim, just a few miles from our campground is Montezuma’s Castle. NO–I don’t mean Montezuma’s Revenge (this was Bob’s question–of course), but a National Monument that again is much more fascinating than the M. Revenge thing.
Montezuma’s Castle was built by an Indian tribe of southern Sinaguan farmers in the early 1200s. It was a five story, 20-room dwelling and stands in a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley floor. The people came down to the valley floor to farm and gather supplies. It is still in remarkably good condition probably due to the arid conditions of the climate.
By the way, I read in Trip Reviewer that our current campground is very nice (all 10s!), but that we should watch out for rattlesnakes. Bob asked the Park employee about that and she said “Oh yes, you have to be very careful. ” She said they come out at night, and love the smell of food. They also dig into the sand and wait for “food” to walk by so they can pop out and get it. She said a rattler even tried to get in the door to visit with her in the office one day. Friendly sorts–they just want to have fun too. Since that conversation, Bob has curtailed his outside excursions after dark.
Verde Valley (Cottonwood, Jerome). We went exploring around the Valley the first day and hit the Historical Society in Camp Verde. Two very pleasant ladies gave me loads of information and also said that a fellow Virginian worked at our campground every winter for several months as a Work Kamper. Wonder if he is as friendly with the Rattlers as the lady working there now…. We drove around Cottonwood and up a very high mountain and found Jerome, an artisan village. I also found the quaintest bookstore at the top of the mountain within the village–it was painted periwinkle blue and was in a triangular chalet style–very tiny with the cutest deck out front.
It made me want to go in and browse around, but unfortunately it was closed that day. According to the owner, a very nice lady (who was sitting outside reading a book!), they open Thursday through Sunday. Another “I wish I could have done that…” to put on my wish list if I ever get back this way.
Sedona. Finally—Sedona! I could have spent at least two weeks here absorbing this place! It has a self-acknowledged mystical quality to the atmosphere that may or may not be reinforced by the amazing red rock formations that inhabit every angle, every perspective, every thought. Peeking from behind a building, growing larger then smaller with every turn in the road, Sedona is red rocks—and it rocks in its own particular way that intrigues me and makes me want to get to know it better. Bob wasn’t nearly as entranced as I was, but he did consent to get a manicure-pedicure the night before so maybe some of the relaxing quality of the place was rubbing off on him–well maybe a little. And shopping–oh my goodness! We found a most unusual shopping location called Tlaquepaque, which showcases Navajo crafts and artistry. I was delirious and wanted to explore but unfortunately they close early so didn’t make it to all the shops.
I am sure there are many magical places in Sedona that would take some time to get to know. Some refer to the town as a tourist town, but I think it is much more than that. Just look at my pictures and see what you think!
Our very brief time in Arizona is almost over and I definitely know where I would like to re-visit! So on to California tomorrow. Will keep you posted! Happy trails dear friends and family!!