Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wrapping Up Our Stay in the Verde Valley

We've spent a wonderful month in Cottonwood, AZ, enjoying its quaint Old Town, convenient shopping, and close proximity to Jerome and Sedona. The weather from mid-March to mid-April ranged from the high 60's to about 90 degrees the past couple of days and the trees have bloomed and leafed out during our stay...making this a lovely time of year to visit. Here's a few more things we did in the past couple of weeks...

Thanks to the new RVers social network, RVillage, we met Sean and Marian. We spent a day hiking Hangover/Cow Pies in reverse, dinner at their great spot at Sedona Pines, along with spa time...a perfect day! And, we get to meet up again at the Grand Canyon in a couple of weeks! Thanks RVillage for making this connection possible!

Lisa, Hans, Sean and Marian enjoying the incredible views from the Hangover Saddle.

We saw a young collared!

On one of our trips to Jerome we visited Jerome State Historic Park. There's a wealth of information about the history of Jerome housed in the former Douglas Mansion, built by the one time owner of the Little Daisy Mine, James S. Douglas.

Great view of Jerome State Historic Park, housed in the Douglas Mansion, from the town of Jerome.
The Mansion has a fantastic view of both Jerome above and the Verde Valley below it.

Lots of interesting mining history both inside and outside the Mansion.

One short, but sweet, hike we took was the Fay Canyon Trail. Like any short, shady and easy trail in Sedona, it is popular. But if you go early on a week day the crowds aren't too bad. The side trip to view the arch up close is worth it, but steep and rocky. It's also neat to climb the cliff at the end of the trail for some great views down canyon.

As we head in to the canyon the arch is barely visible off to the right.

After a steep climb up to the arch I could see how substantial it is, and the view was great too!

We ate out a few times during our month in Cottonwood...oh, and there seems to be a consensus among Yelpers and Trip Advisor reviewers that Cottonwood has better restaurants than Sedona. Since we never ate out in Sedona (except for hot dogs at Oak Creek Brewing) I can't comment on that, but Cottonwood did have some decent eats.

Juanitas Taqueria - They don't have a website, but the reviews don't lie, this Mexican take out joint is very good. I had one of the best Chile Rellenos I've ever had; a very light batter with a lovely ricotta-style cheese inside, nice tomato-based sauce on top. They have about 10 tables inside. Order at the counter and they'll bring the food to you.

Nic's Italian Steak and Crab House - We don't usually go out for steak or Italian, but when our friend Billy Bennight rolled through town one evening we took a stroll through Old Town Cottonwood and decided to give it a try...once again, the reviews were spot on! Nic's was hopping early on a week night and rightly so. Though the Tuscan-style entrees were very rich, the flavors were wonderful. The manager even brought us a delicious complimentary Vanilla-Orangecello apertif at the end of our meal. This meal was a tasty indulgence that we simply worked off on the trail the next day! For a steakhouse, the prices were reasonable.

Lastly, I 'd like to give an honorable mention to Pizzeria Bocce. While the "Not a Meat Pie" pizza did not blow us away (it was a bit bland), the spinach salad was excellent, the bar menu was extensive and the ambiance was really wonderful. They have a lovely patio bar that makes this place worth a second try next time we are in the area.

Tomorrow we're off to Prescott for a week on our slow meander North. New adventures await!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Exploring Sycamore and Verde Canyons

We hiked Parsons Trail in Sycamore Canyon back in November 2012. That day we didn't make it to the end of trail, we hadn't left ourselves enough time before we were to meet the Good Luck Duckians. This time we were determined to hike the full trail, it's only 3.7 miles one way, other than the initial drop into the canyon, it's relatively flat going.

The 9 miles of dirt road to the trail head is in pretty good shape, even a sedan could make's just a little rough in the last mile. This canyon is a beauty. Two springs within four miles make it a riparian oasis in the desert. Towering red rock and basalt cliffs form the canyon walls. There are several lovely pools along the way, making this a busy place in warm weather. After you reach Parsons Spring you can continue up the rocky, seasonal stream bed as far as you want.

View from the trail head. You drop 180 feet into the canyon, then it's pretty easy going up stream.

There are several stream crossings.

People were swimming here on our way out...the water was pretty cool though!

The beauty of each pool we came to just had me sighing with pleasure!

Our turn around point was a few hundred yards beyond the spring and into the rocky seasonal stream bed.
We even loved the dry stream bed...the variety of rocks was amazing!

One last photo as we made our way's just so darn pretty!

Sycamore Canyon, above, joins Verde Canyon and the Verde River. We wanted to take the Verde Canyon Railroad trip but were not too interested in the high price tag for first class seats: $79.95/each. So we braved the crazy tourist section of Sedona, found a visitor center offering deeply discounted train tickets ($49.95 for two first class tickets), and sat through a timeshare presentation in order to receive the tickets.

A little painful, but also somewhat interesting because we had passed by Sedona Pines Resort several times and noticed the RV's parked out front but couldn't find any detail on the place. Turns out it is a timeshare resort that offers RV parking to its owners. Anyhow, we didn't buy a timeshare and probably never will...but we did get to ride the train!

Verde Canyon Railroad is a four hour, slow journey on a vintage train for 20 miles up (and back down) the Verde Canyon. First class gives you comfy indoor seats, tasty snacks, beverage service and access to an open air viewing carriage. The train follows the Verde River the whole way and you are likely to see Bald Eagles as well as other large raptors. We saw at least six bald eagles!

We had a great time and I made a very big mistake when we got home...I erased all the photos from my camera without downloading them to my laptop! That's a first...and hopefully the last time that ever happens...that's I what I get for not following my normal routine. And no, alcohol was not a factor! Anyhow, here's a shot from Hans cell phone!

Verde Canyon Railroad

The train ride was fun, especially at the rate we paid! We highly recommend the Parsons Trail in Sycamore Canyon for its incredible beauty. The Packard Trail is also accessed at Sycamore Canyon trail head; since it's an exposed hike we'll save that one for another time when the weather is cool.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Best Hangover Ever

The goal for the day was an 8.6 mile lollipop loop on the Munds Wagon, Cowpies and Hangover trails then back to Munds Wagon trail. The Hangover Trail is a fairly new addition to the official Sedona trail system; it's a double black diamond mountain bike trail so we knew from our experience (hiking) the Hogs Trails the other day that this should be an interesting walk.

If you decide to do this lollipop loop, don't make the mistake we did that turned our hike into 11.5 miles! Since the Hangover Trail is not yet on the the local trail maps we relied on the article linked above for our directions...but I did not print it out. I skimmed over the fact that one must take the Schnebly Hill Rd turn off from the Munds Wagon Trail at about 2.8 miles in order to access the Cowpies Trail. Sedona needs to put a little sign under the Schnebly Hill Rd sign that says "to Cowpies Trail"!

Here's a look at our great day on the trail. We had a little weather come through the night before so we enjoyed a dusting of snow along the shady parts of the trail. The pictures along the Hangover Trail don't adequately depict how scary some of this would be on a mountain bike...believe me it IS a double black diamond ride!

Looking up canyon, on our left were fabulous red rock formations.
Little did we know we would cross over the middle of the distant set of red rocks
and come back on the left of the round topped rock in the center.

Check out the little arches at each end of this fin!

By the end of the day those sun shafts will have melted all the pretty snow.

A beautiful scene looking down the canyon we ascended...
unfortunately the oozy red rock in the center is the Cowpies we bypassed!

The cowpies are enormous!

Notice the warning for mountain bikers...

The mountain on the opposite side of the canyon sported white stone.

A look back up canyon as we depart the cowpies.
The trail is now riding sandstone ledges, sometimes narrow.

We followed white paint tag marks on the rock as they zig zagged
a way up the rocks to the pass on the left above us.

The pass was impressive and dramatic!

The view on the other side was incredible.
The Midgley Bridge on Hwy 89A is in the center with Mt Wilson rising above it.

A look back at the saddle we crossed.
The trail took us down the rock face of the saddle about 50 feet then we started a
traverse of a shelf lined with trees.

This is the trail we now found ourselves on, basically a treed shelf overhung with rock...the Hangover.

The trail goes between the rock and the tree and drops off the edge...
imagine riding your bike here...

This is deceptively smooth looking...
often the drop offs or strategically placed rocks made the trail treacherous.

Another look back at the saddle we crossed.
Our trail is in the horizontal band of trees.

We've now come around the mountain far enough we have views of Sedona.

We could see our trail would cross between our rock face and the one opposite us...
but we had no clue how it would get down our rock face...

The white tags started zigging down the rock face...

Then the tags went straight DOWN the rock face!
Imagine yourself riding a bike down this...or pushing it up!

Follow the vertical white tags!

Ahhhhh, now we're back on "level" rock.

A colorful look back at the valley North of Sedona.

This one was about to burst into bloom.

These colors are untouched...can you see why we love this place?!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Out and About in the Verde Valley

Choosing to spend a month in Cottonwood, AZ, with its easy access to Jerome, Camp Verde and Sedona has been an excellent decision! There is so much to do within 20 miles of our home base. Here's a sample of the past few days...

We hiked the Secret Canyon Loop, a moderately strenuous set of trails into the Red Rock Secret Canyon Wilderness. The hardest part was the road to get to the trail head. We'd read that it was rough and high clearance was recommended, boy were they right! Our truck performed beautifully, but we probably won't attempt this road again with this big vehicle!

4.5 miles of road like this to the trail head.

A slot full of water!

Lots of trees and bushes and some great rock views.

Since our arrival on March 13 we've made it up to Jerome each Saturday afternoon for live music at the Spirit Room. Free music, good beer and people watching, plus the funky charm of could you go wrong!

Always lots of motorcycle riders in Jerome, this guy had a particularly unique ride.

The old miners cemetery was the site of a geocache find.

We got to explore the rugged mountains South East of Camp Verde with new friend and blog reader, Jeanie. Jeanie lives in Cottonwood and knows the back country around here well; it's been a real pleasure getting to know her.

This particular outing was exploratory, we'd read about some ancient ruins along Towel Creek and thought we'd try to find them. The ruins eluded us but we had fun trying to get to them...fording the Verde River was included in this adventure!

Rugged landscape outside Camp Verde, very few roads cross this terrain.

This little guy greeted us at the trail head.

Lightning rocks!

Here's Jeanie fording the Verde River to get to Towel Creek. 

Chalcedony pockets in the creek bed.

The local residents were looking for handouts from us after the hike.

Yesterday we checked out the popular Broken Arrow trail area of Sedona. There's lots of fantastic red rock formations around here such as submarine rock and chicken point, and the ubiquitous Pink Jeep tours are all over the place, taking folks on some wild slick rock rides.

Several times we were buzzed by this B-17.

There's supposed to be a geocache up on top of this pile of rocks,
we took a pass on that one...the terrain was pretty treacherous!

This solitary beauty represents our lovely lunch site away from the crowds
when we took an unmarked "social trail" into the wilderness.

After our little trek into peaceful wilderness we tried a different route back to the truck. There are a few new trails just now being developed for official inclusion into the Broken Arrow Trail System: the Hogs Trails are expert level, triple black diamond, mountain bike trails. They include High on the Hog, Hog Heaven and Hog Wash. We hiked them and could not imagine riding them, but we sure would love to see the experts do it! I couldn't get a any good representative photos of the extreme difficulty of these trails, but they were pretty mind boggling and are worth a look if you are in the area.

This was an easy section of Hog Wash, I loved the flowy, oozy looking slick rock!