A&A In The Verde Valley | Red Rock Country
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
End of Week #44
Verde Ranch RV Resort, Camp Verde AZ
Miles traveled since last week's post = 0
Total miles traveled to date = 6,909 with trailer
Here we are at the end of another Monday, a Monday in which the world looks so much different than it ever has. With all that is going on I'm feeling very grateful for all the video calls with friends and family this weekend - I think we had about 4-5 different ones and they all helped to feel like we aren't all so far apart. It helped make us all feel more connected with all the chaos going on!
I was also a tad bit productive over the weekend in terms of travel reviews and finally published ones from Big Bend National Park and White Sands National Park too. They both also have YouTube videos to go with them that you can find in the actual blog post. Click the links above or navigate to > Travel > Reviews > to see more.
The weather is starting to get absolutely beautiful here in central AZ and today it even felt - dare I say, hot - with all the abundant sunshine. This week is supposed to trend in the 70s and 80s and I couldn't be more excited about it. Yesterday we did another beautiful hike in Sedona and tomorrow we are day tripping down to the Phoenix area. We are doing all we can to make the most of our (possible) last two weeks here!
With that being said we have now been in the Verde Valley, among the beautiful Red Rock Country for 7 weeks now - basically the longest we have ever stayed anywhere. (The only other place we stayed that long was Stone Lake, WI while we waited for our house to sell!) This is an area we have come to know pretty well and I wanted to share with you more about where we are calling "home".
A&A In The Verde Valley | Red Rock Country
The area that we are in, that encompasses most of the cities I will talk about below, is called the Verde Valley - right in the geographical center of Arizona. A lot of this area is also considered Red Rock Country with Sedona and all of it's fiery beauty. All of it combined is all the more reasons why I love Arizona so much and why I'm not as sad as I could be about having to stay here for an extended period of time.
Let's start from the beginning...
Pronounced "ver-dee", this is the city we are RVing in - staying at Verde Ranch RV Resort right off of highways 17 and 260. At about 86 miles north of Phoenix, Camp Verde is the designated center of the state of Arizona, and there is even a monument in a park downtown about it. The town is hugged by the Verde river, one of the few rivers in Arizona - especially out of ones that are full of water all year long. Geographically the area is very unique, as it's in a valley on the north side of a ridge of smaller mountains and just south of the red rock mountains of Sedona. There are many 'white rock' cliffs and ancient Indian monuments in the area, as we are on Yavapai Indian land. Here they are known for being the center of it all - outdoor recreation, archaeology, history, and everything in between. The population of Camp Verde is around 11,000 and holds annual corn, pecan, and wine festivals.
Camp Verde is a 4-season place with panoramic views of vistas and valleys in the high desert. The vibe here is very western small town meets farmland. It is a popular destination for hikers, horseback riders, ATVers, camping, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Popular attractions include the Cliff Castle Casino (which we have been to a few times) Montezuma Castle (a National Monument of ancient cliff dwellings that we tried to go to but it's currently closed, Montezuma Well, Fort Verde State Historic Park, and Out of Africa Wildlife Park (which is basically just a glorified zoo with extremely pricey tickets).
One of our favorite places we have checked out in town is the Verde Brewing Company brewery, which is basically just a small garage turned brewery in an industrial part of town with very good affordable sandwiches and craft beers. We also did a hiking trail a week or so ago called MacDonald Trail that led us up the 'white cliff's to ancient cave dwellings that were used by early settlers. I have never seen so many intricate caves in the side of a small mountain before in my life and it was super fun to climb around and take a look.
There is a slogan known by locals, stating "Camp Verde is Arizona's best kept little secret".
The next closest town to us is the city of Cottonwood, much larger in size and full of "regular" stores and restaurants that you would find in a medium to large size city. In Cottonwood you will find Walmart, Dunkin Donuts, fairgrounds, more RV parks, Home Depot, and everything you could possibly need. We often travel to Cottonwood to go out and have a drink, back when that was something you could do, or to occasionally go to Walmart or other grocery stores. We also ventured here for our "meatball" drinking day with my Dad and Carrie when they visited us.
It's hard to believe it, but Cottonwood is about the same population of Camp Verde, around 11,000 people, even though it is exponentially more built up. With it's convenient location to historic Jerome and Clarksdale, it makes it a good place to stay if you are a tourist traveling in the area. We have also learned that a lot of locals that work in Sedona actually live in Cottonwood because it is far more affordable and convenient for them.
This area of the Verde Valley is ideally situated above the heat of the desert and below the cold of Arizona’s high country. Cottonwood is surrounded by the red rocks of Sedona to the northeast and Mingus Mountain to the southwest, its low elevation of 3,300’ and moderate climate can be enjoyed year round.
Some of our favorite dive bars & restaurants we have checked out in Cottonwood, prior to all the closures, include: Main Stage for their happy hour, Plaza Bonita for their chips and salsa and micheladas, and The Chaparral bar where we sampled peanut butter whiskey with my dad and Carrie. It is super delicious by the way...
Located high on top of Cleopatra Hill, the historic 'mining town on a mountain' resides in the ghost town of Jerome. Honestly, I had heard about it when we came to Sedona a few years ago but didn't have much interest in checking it out. Even this time around I was a bit hesitant that I wouldn't find any adventure with it but nonetheless we have been there 2 times now and both were very enjoyable! The first time we went we more so checked out the history of the town, checking out the Jerome State Historic Park, at what is the old Douglas Mansion, and we drove through the old ghost town area. But the second time we went we parked with our friends Tom and Tania and walked the streets of the town, checking out all the unique shops and stores. I also found one of my new all time favorite crystal shops here! Downtown Jerome is full of so much history and in every historic place there are plaques explaining what went on there. The city is also known to be "sliding down the hill" as it sits at a high elevation and experiences a lot of shifting due to previous mining, weather and erosion.
In the early 1900's the town was booming with money, mining, and minerals. After its founding in 1876, Jerome became the third largest city in Arizona with the population peaking at around 15,000 in the 1920’s. This boom town was called the Wickedest City in the West back in 1903, and it was the largest producer of copper, gold, and silver in Arizona simultaneously in the 1920's. The Great Depression slowed the mining operation, and by the 1950's all mining operations closed leaving the town at just about 50-100 people total. #GhostTown.
Jerome is also located not too far from the Prescott Valley and the city of Prescott, offering quite a stunning mountain drive to get from one location to the other. I would have to say it is one of the windiest drives I've ever been on! Plus, from the north side of Jerome, you catch views of the red rocks of Sedona off in the distance beyond the Verde Valley and it is simply stunning.
Fun fact: Sedona is the healing center of the Universe and has gained a worldwide reputation as the place to come to when healing and seeking spiritual fulfillment or alternative approaches to health and wellbeing.
It's no secret that Sedona is one of my absolute favorite places I have ever been (Adam's too). We have been here together 2 other times, once driving through for a few hours in 2016 on our way to the Grand Canyon and again in May 2018 for a long weekend. The red-rock-green-forest-energy-vortex that is this area will always hold a very special place in our hearts, and we love to drive around and fantasize ourselves having a winter home in all of the nice places here.
We have been living by one of the most beautiful places on earth for 7 whole weeks and have just about 2 more to spend. I couldn't be more grateful to be "stuck" in such a wonderful place for so long while all our travel plans change so drastically. We have gone on around 14 hikes so far, covering everything I originally wanted to see and more, and regardless if all of the bars and restaurants and tourist attractions have been closed, we are still making the absolute best of this gorgeous country.
Located in the southern part of the largest stand of Ponderosa pines in the world, Sedona stands at about 4,300 feet and is located just about 30 minutes from Flagstaff and 2 hours from the Grand Canyon. The area was formed over 350 millions years of time, from oceans to deserts to volcanic eruptions - the geological events have always been quit active and fascinating. Consider the land a gigantic layered cake about 5,000 feet high, located on the Colorado Plateau. The well known Sedona red color comes from the red iron-oxide stains formed when floodplain deposits of iron minerals mix with oxygen. Ancient Indians believe Sedona to be very sacred land and have formed a lot of monuments here.
Any time of the year is a great place to visit, as we have now visited in December, February, March, April and May and enjoyed wonderful weather and scenic views each time. If you want to, and are into this kind of stuff, there are plenty of touristy attractions you can take part in such as the infamous Pink Jeep Tours often seen everywhere around town and on hiking trails, there are helicopter tours, off road adventures and rentals, trolley rides, and a lot of pristine shopping. None of this is anything we have taken part of in all of our visits to Sedona, but I can see how it would appeal to people traveling here for the first time.
The beauty here is just as rare as the diversity of plants and wildlife in this area. With tremendous changes in altitude of 2,000 feet, there are 8 different plant communities from the top rim of Sedona to the mouth of the canyon. Various "ecozones" are formed and house around 350 species and 55 types of mammals. We had never encountered any wildlife here until recently when we have seen a handful of lizards, a javelina and we heard a mountain lion growl in the distance. (Yes, it was very terrifying and we immediately took off!) But my favorite part of the Sedona diversity is all of the plants, trees, cacti and GREENERY that covers the entire area. It always looks like Christmas here with red rocks and green desert forests.
You can classify Sedona into 4 areas to explore: to the south there is the Village of Oak Creek (Old Sedona) full of shops, and restaurants, there is the gallery district of art, crystals and expensive shops in the middle, there is West Sedona which is more built up and full of newer shops and restaurants as well as grocery stores and essential needs, there is Uptown Sedona to the north where everyone walks the streets to the gift shops and bars, and then there is north Sedona in the Oak Creek Canyon that takes you the rest of the way to Flagstaff. Sedona is also home to hundreds of movies and the International Sedona Film Festival has become a world class venue here.
Our favorite areas to explore, when everything is open and running are:
Bell Rock scenic viewpoint, in the Village of Oak Creek.
Chapel of the Holy Cross, where a church is built into the side of the red rocks and overlooks the area.
Uptown Sedona to look at all the gift shops, and discount crystals.
West Sedona to go to Whole Foods for groceries or Amazon deliveries.
Amitabha Stupa Peace Park in West Sedona, a very spiritual park where you can discover Buddha and medicine wheels.
Crescent Moon Ranch picnic and hiking area on Oak Creek near Cathedral Rock.
And ALL of the hiking trails in every which way - I will be writing a whole separate travel post about hiking in Sedona and hiking the vortex sites too! There is just too many to name only one or two for you.
The sun shines an average of over 300 days a year in Sedona, and that's not even the best part. I think one of my favorite things ever about this town is the fact that it was named after a woman. Theodore Schnebly and his wife Sedona, a Pennsylvania Dutch couple, moved to the area in 1901 and purchased 80 acres. Theodore hoped to establish it as a city and get a post office running but none of the names he submitted worked because they were too long. His brother suggested to him to use his wife's name and the rest is history.
It will be really hard for me to leave here, regardless of how excited I am to get moving again. I have strong emotional ties to this land and at this point it will only be a matter of time before I return again. I hope the dark red dirt never leaves my shoes...
"Open your ears and listen. Listen to the message that Sedona has for you..."
I'm thinking we will touch base with an end of week 45 life updates! With all that is going on in the world it seems things are changing on a day to day basis lately so I will focus more on what our current plans are and how we hope the next few months unfold as well.
*Currently under construction and paused at this time.*
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