I was SO happy to get to an actual destination site – in central Arizona. Very excited about visiting Sedona.

Tom found us a great site right between Cottonwood and Sedona in the Coconino National Forest. There were more secluded spots in the area, but the ground wasn’t so flat and the drive down the washboard gravel road wasn’t worth it, so we stayed in a spot with a couple other campers, but faced our windows so it looked like we were alone. Awesome.IMG_7953.jpg

We arrived late afternoon and had a meal, then took the Jeep to try and get a sunset picture of the red rock mountains we were so close to.

That evening we spent some time looking over our options in the area and booked two (first class!) tickets on the Verde Canyon Rail Road for the following day (Wednesday). What a wonderful decision!

We started the morning with a drive up to Jerome, an old mining town on the side of a mountain.

We’d been there before, on a Harley ride, but this time we had time to explore, so we started with a trip to the museum and watched a twenty minute video on the history of the town. We will have an upcoming YouTube about it.

My takeaway: A small number of men made mega millions while destroying the landscape around the mines, and on the backs of the immigrants who made next to nothing and died early from mining diseases. The few even bought their way into government to alter the laws of the land. But I digress. (It was very interesting)

The area is beautiful now, an artist community and tourist stop. We could have stayed there much longer poking around, but we had to get to the train depot by one. So we headed down the mountain into the town of Clarkdale. We had lunch at the depot and then boarded our train for a complementary Champaign toast (did I mention first class rocks?!).

I highly recommend the Verde Canyon Railroad trip for anyone in the area. It follows the Verde River and per the brochure: “runs through a protected corridor at the river’s edge, lined with towering red rock pinnacles, near ancient Indian ruins, over fortified bridges and through an invigorating 680-foot manmade tunnel carved through solid rock over a century ago.”

It was fun to have the spaciousness of the first class car, with our own car attendant serving us the margaritas we ordered. But the real fun was to move to the open air cars to wonder at the scenery. Through beautiful stately Sycamores and named rock formations. Best of all were the people on the train we met: Rick & Gina from PittsurghRick & Gina from Pittsburgh (shown here), Sue & Gary from Kansas, and James from Texas. A card carrying Indian, James had quite a sense of humor! We enjoyed visiting with them all.

Leaving the train station in Clarkdale, we drove into Uptown Sedona. It was after five and some shops were closing, but we had a chance to look around and have ice cream – served up by a wonderful young woman who said going north to Page to see Lake Powell and the Northern Rim (of the Grand Canyon) was a must.

We hadn’t planned on going quite that far north, but what the heck – we have no set plans!

We spent another night at our beautiful camp spot with plans to get up early to start our hikes. We wanted to do a couple of Vortex spots, and go to Montezuma’s Castle. I also wanted to hike the Palatki Ruins, which was only a few miles down the road from our campsite. (Turns out we missed that one because they close at three and you have to have reservations and we didn’t make it back in time.)

Our first hike was the vortex by Cathedral Rock. There are several paths to get there, and I probably didn’t choose the right one. We had to pay $10 to park in Crescent Moon Recreation Area, and we were across the Oak Creek from the tall rocks.

However, we had a beautiful hike along the creek. The Sycamores were amazing, and the water and bird sounds were so peaceful. We pretty much had the trail to ourselves until the way back.

Leaving there, we went to the vortex at Bell Rock. We had been to this place before, but had been unprepared – no hats, no water. So I was really looking forward to seeing how far to the top we could climb. What goes up must come down, and that was harder on our old knees, so we didn’t get real high. But high enough to make our knees shake!Bell Rock HikeBell Rock Hike

On the way down Tom spotted a guy with a really cool staff (walking stick) and said “I’ll give you ten bucks for that stick,” which struck up a conversation with a most interesting man. We talked quite a while and I recorded some of the conversation (with his permission) and posted it on our Cosmic Corral facebook page –  because it’s not exactly mainstream stuff!

stop at McGuirevilleFrom there we drove past McGuireville, and had to stop for a photo of a McGuire in McGuireville of course!

Then we went on to Montezuma’s Castle (Pictured below)

Gina from the train said it had the most beautiful scenery. And it did, but then everything in Verde Valley is eye candy.

By the time we got done poking around there, it was too late to hike to the Palatki Ruins, so we made the decision to hit the road. I could have spent a week or two in the area, but we’re staying on the move on this trip. So we headed up to a camp spot in the pines North of Flagstaff and stopped to have dinner at Horseman Lodge – where I had probably the best hamburger ever. Seriously, I would have taken a picture, but I left my phone on the charger in the RV.

So we ended the day at a nice private spot at about 7200 foot elevation – and it is COLD!driving Hopi Reservation

In the morning we head north again. Can’t wait to see the North Rim.

Happy Travels,

Peace & Love, Joy