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2004 Travelogue #31 Verde Valley
Thousand Trails Park at Verde Valley
Places of Interest:
Arizona: Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Verde River, Camp Verde, Jerome, Douglas Mansion, Tuzigoot National Monument
8/29 We left Holbrook, AZ this morning and headed for Flagstaff. From an elevation of 5,000 feet, we climbed to 6,500 and were once again among Ponderosa pines and cooler weather. When driving I-40 toward Flagstaff, we paralleled old sections of Route 66 with its remains of motels, diners and service stations.
On our steady climb into Flagstaff, we noticed the 18-wheelers were hitting the 75 mph mark with no problem. One truck passed us on the eastbound lane with a blown turbo. At least that's what the truckers said, as I caught their conversation on the CB. Both stacks were belching a lot of white smoke and we could see it coming way off in the distance.
We had reservations at the Black Bart RV Park (2760 East Butler 928-779-3142) near I-40 and checked-in a little after 12 noon. The Park is known for its Steak House restaurant, where students from the University entertain as singing waiters and waitresses. We thought we might try it but then, looking at the pricey menu, decided to pass. Actually, the restaurant and campgrounds are not on our recommended list for several reasons. First, it's too close to the Interstate and railroad tracks, creating constant noise. Secondly, many migratory workers live there with their families; it looked like this crew had something to do with pipelines and welding and their trailers, trucks and clutter were everywhere. We were glad to be spending only one night.
Later that afternoon, we explored Flagstaff and found it to be an interesting city. The downtown section sits alongside railroad tracks and like Gallup; they have converted the rail station into a Visitor's Center. The tracks, rail station and Route 66 converge in this historic area making it an active and fun place. We noted many quaint shops, pubs, and gathering spots for visitors as well as students from the University of Northern Arizona. We'll return to this vicinity.
8/30 This morning I wrote while Peggy walked. The day was cool, crisp and enjoyable at this elevation, but by 11am we moved out of Black Bart's, and headed south on I-17 to Verde Valley. Then, turning northwest onto SH-280 for 8 miles we found the Thousand Trails turnoff. The 3-mile access road leading to the main gate is paved and in excellent condition. This Verde Valley Preserve sits on the banks of the Verde River, at the edge of the valley in a 300-acre arid mountain setting of cottonwoods, mesquites, sycamores and cacti.
We selected our site, set up and toured the premises. What a beautiful Preserve! The best we've seen in the Thousand Trails system. The Park is very clean, the Activities Center is well maintained and the swimming area, with its white stucco façade surrounding the pool and tall palm trees scattered around the perimeter, gives the appearance of an tropical resort. The pool was too irresistible, so I scurried home for my swimsuit.
8/31 Peggy walked early this morning while the temperature was still cool. She was so happy to be out collecting rocks, smelling the air, and watching the birds. After a few laps I joined her. Leaving the coach, I heard a noise and looking up saw a beautiful yellow and orange hot air balloon rising above a rocky bluff. The noise was the pilot turning on burners to inject heated air into the balloon to make it rise. We took a few pictures, as it slowly glided by and in the background was a beautiful setting full moon.
We hiked several trails and learned about the arid vegetation from identification plaques along the way. At one particular overlook we could see, way in the distance, the red buttes and mesas of Sedona. We stopped at the Preserve's Trading Post, bought a few items and inquired about train tickets on the Verde Canyon Railroad leaving out of Clarksville.
Returning from our walk, we drove about 10-miles into the town of Cottonwood.
This is where we'll pick up our mail later in the week. The newer part of town
is on the outskirts with a new Super Wal-Mart, Super 8 and Taco Bell. You know
the drill, but it's the older Cottonwood that we wanted to see.
Driving down "old" Main Street, I caught a glimpse of two silvered-haired ladies dining at a small table in the front window of the Old Town Café at 1025 N. Main. Hum if these two friends were eating here, it must be good; so I parallel parked and in we went.
It was a very small restaurant with only six small tables. The size resembled an espresso coffee bar, rather than a place for lunch. We walked up to the deli-type refrigerated glass display case, filled with gorgeous French pastry desserts and intriguing salads, like Chinese chicken and Ravioli. We ordered these salads plus a Double Cold Latte, and finished with a whip cream topped Chocolate Mousse in a rich buttery pastry shell (we did split the dessert).
The building, built in 1927, had a magnificent old tin embossed ceiling, adding to its charm. While waiting to be served, I chatted with a gentleman sitting alone. He was enjoying a salad and a wonderful looking leek quiche. He said we had picked the best place in town to eat. I observed that everyone who came into the place knew this pleasant man, Steve Vergara. This led me to ask him, "Are you the mayor?" and he responded, "No, just the town dentist."
Cecile Kovacic is the proprietor of the Old Town Café and since it was near the end of lunch hour, she took a few minutes to chat with us while finishing some to-go orders. She is a native of Switzerland, coming to the States at the age of 21 as an Au Pair (a "Sound of Music" nanny). After her term as an Au Pair she worked as a chef in an art gallery and in 1999, she opened her own little eatery.
She makes her breads, pastries and croissants fresh daily and the wonderful aroma greets you at the door. Everything is fresh, even her focaccia bread that she uses for sandwiches. The leek quiche, that I mentioned earlier, has a special cheese imported from France, grueyerzer, which she said made all the difference. We bought a couple of croissants for tomorrow, too good to pass up and we'll be back again for lunch before we leave Verde Valley.
9/1 We drove to the town of Camp Verde this afternoon, stopping at the Chamber of Commerce for information. While in the area, we wanted to see another membership park similar to Thousand Trails, the Western Horizon RV Park, which could expand our camping choices.
9/2 On our walk this morning, we stopped at the Family Center to purchase tickets for the Clarksville train ride, and then went into Cottonwood in search of a jeweler to repair the chain on Peggy's glasses. Mission accomplished, we stopped at the Post Office to pick up our General Delivery mail. We were surprised with a "goodie package" from our dear friends, Jean and Joe Crouch, from Washington, state.
This afternoon we drove up the side of the mountain west of Cottonwood, to the old mining town of Jerome and, as usual, the first order of business was to find a unique place for lunch. The streets are very narrow and terraced on the mountainside with the buildings looking down on top of one another. We parked on the main street and completed our restaurant search on foot.
After only a few blocks, there it was, the Red Rooster Café, a little hole-in-the- wall with a few tables overlooking the Valley below. The old building retained its ornately embossed tin ceiling but the center of attention was its colorful mascot/namesake. Here was a red-comb, hand-carved, wooden rooster with yellow, white, and red streaked sides and a red velvet seat, which the proprietor said came from a carousel in Paris, used at the turn of the century. We had the daily special, red pepper bisque and bread pudding; it was excellent.
Needing to continue walking, we explored this artist's haven on foot. Seeing a sign that said "Glass Blower", we detoured down an ally ending up at an old concrete wall, where the owner/artist had a one-man glass blowing operation. Plastic chairs sat outside facing his makeshift studio where we saw several furnaces blasting away. We slid into the chairs as he stopped his work to greet us. Patiently he told us about this exquisite art form while, at the same time, demonstrating the process. He was making multi-colored balls for Christmas ornaments and rapidly moving in and out of those furnaces.
He cut an interesting figure on this hot day in his denim shirt and blue jean shorts, white sneakers and rolled red bandana sweatband. He said he was a potter, for 30 years, but decided to go into glass blowing because it was more creative, enjoyable and less competitive.
We watched for awhile as he worked in front of his 2300 degree ovens; his arms showed the burn marks of the trade. Before leaving, he invited us upstairs to his Gallery, so we climbed the back stairs and found ourselves in an enchanting room with a wall of glass and a breathtaking view of the Valley. Here, tastefully arranged, were creations not only in glass but also, in every type art form available, from the very best area artisans.
Jerome's history began in 1876 when three prospectors staked claims on rich copper deposits and the town sprung up on the side of a mountain with the Verde Valley below. The miners sold out to a group of investors forming the United Verde Copper Company in 1883 but the Company folded within two years.
A new owner came on the scene, William A Clark; he built a narrow gauge railroad, which reduced the freight cost. By the early 20th century the United Verde Copper Mine was the largest producing copper mine in Arizona and also the richest individually owned mine in the world.
In 1912, James S. Douglas purchased and began development of the Little Daisy Mine and by 1916; Jerome had two bonanza mines, becoming one of the States largest mining towns with over 15,000 population at its peak in the 20's. The two mines had over 88 miles of underground tunnels. After production peaked, the mine was sold to Phelps Dodge in 1935. The ores were exhausted by 1953 and the mines were closed.
Jerome, in its glory days, had 12 saloons lining Main St with the Fashion Saloon being the largest and most elegant. It opened in 1880, burned down several times but in1898, it was built with concrete and it's still standing today. When the saloons were closed in 1914, the Fashion Saloon became a drugstore and later a five and dime. In 1953, the Jerome Historical Society purchased the building and turned it into the Mine and Jerome Museum, which now costs $1.00 to tour.
In the 60's and 70's, the time of the counter-revolution, Jerome offered a haven for hippies, artists, and free spirits. Today, the little town of Jerome has come back to life with writers, artisans, musicians, and their young families.
The town has a State Park, the Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 on a hill above the Little Daisy Mine. Douglas designed the house for mining officials and investors, as well as for his own family. For its day, it was trendy having a wine cellar, billiard room, marble shower, steam heat, and a central vacuum system. The Mansion today is a museum, giving the history of Jerome and the Douglas and Clark families.
We had time for one more stop before heading home, the Tuzigoot National Monument (www.nps.gov/tuzi). The Park Service established this site as a Historical Site because it was a pre-historic pueblo, inhabited by the Sinagua people, from 1100 to 1400 AD. Tuzigoot means "crooked water" and gets its name from the oxbows in the river system, the twist and turns of the river.
The Sinagua (in Spanish means "without water") people were pithouse dwellers and dry farmers dependent upon rain for their crops. About 1125 AD, they moved down into the Valley and took up residence in the land vacated by the Hohokam Indians who migrated north. The move altered Sinagua culture in two important ways: they adopted the irrigation system of the Hohokam, and they began building above ground masonry dwellings. More than likely, this was an idea that they borrowed from the Anasazi to the north.
The village of Tuzigoot is at the end of a long ridge and crowns the summit, some 120 feet above the Verde River and Valley. As we drove up to the Monument, it was highlighted by the setting sun and an impressive sight perched on the end of the ridge.
Arriving at the Museum, we made a quick tour and then up the trail to the ruins. We walked around the pueblo, noticing the fine masonry of the walls, of clay and river rocks. The village of Tuzigoot reached this present size somewhere around the 1300's and was occupied for another century. The original pueblo had 77 ground floor rooms and was two stories high in places. They had few exterior doors, so access was by ladder from the roof. The village started as a small cluster of rooms inhabited by about 50 people for hundreds of years but in the 1200's the population began to increase, as refugee farmers fleeing drought in outlying areas, began to settle here.
At one particular place in the pueblo, we could step inside and climb a ladder to the roof. It was here that the families enjoyed their daily activities of grinding corn, and sewing, while looking out across the Valley. It was special to be able to stand on the roof and look up and down the Valley, picturing what life might have been like, 800 years ago.
We scurried home and tackled going through that packet of mail we'd picked up hours ago. How interesting? We received two separate mailings from Social Security. I wondered what new and exciting things they would be offering us? Opps! "We Have Over Paid You" and your wife, please refund ALL the money we have sent you. What a way to end the wonderful day!
Wasn't anything else to do the rest of the day but brew a "toddy" and try to relax? Tomorrow is another day and I will address this problem tomorrow.
Bob & Peggy Woodall