Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Arizona Bound--Day 7

A gold mine, a ghost town and a return visit to a neat old mining town.

We left out this morning to visit, again, the old copper mining town of Jerome. It was a little cooler up there since it is about 2,000 feet higher up the mountain than where we are camping. Once we got to Jerome we drove on past a mile or so to King Gold, Arizona. This is also an old mining town that now only has a handful of residents who work there. When Jerome was going full bore in the mining of copper another company wanted in on the money. They moved up the road a ways and sunk a mine, hoping to tap into the copper vain the company in Jerome was digging. The did not hit the copper vain but they did strike gold. Although the mine never made a great amount of money it was worked for many years. When it closed in the early part of the last century the 1,200 foot shaft was filled with water. Today the property is owned by a family that runs it as a ghost town. They have brought in an unbelievable amount of old vehicles, mining equipment and has a large working saw mill.

After a couple of hours at King Gold we made our way back down the mountain to Jerome. At one time Jerome was the third largest town in Arizona. Due to the copper mines people flooded the area and the town was filled with saloons, gambling houses and brothels. After the mines closed in the 1950's the town dwindled to less than 50 people. Today the town has several hundred residents and has become an artist community with many art galleries. After walking up and down the slanted streets we stopped at a place called the Haunted Hamburgers for lunch. Since we had been to Jerome last April we did not spend as much time exploring as we normally would have.

We had read in one of the visitor's guides we have picked up that the Village of Oak Creek had an Outlet Mall. Since Jo enjoys these malls we headed north to find this place. To get to the Village of Oak Creek we had to go north to Sedona and then back southeast. This turned out to be a nice drive, even though the Outlet Mall turned out to be a bust. We had never been to Sedona and found it to be a really nice town set in a beautiful surrounding of unusual mountain formations. We took several pictures of the mountains with their red and white sandstone.

This was a great day of exploring north central Arizona. It ended again with another great sunset.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Arizona Bound--Day 6

An old castle built up high on a wall and a Calvary fort, all in one day.

Today was another travel day. Was not sure how long it would take to travel west through Flagstaff and then south to Camp Verde, Arizona, so we pull out about 9:00 this morning. We wound up arriving at the Distant Drums RV Resort before noon. After getting set up and eating lunch we headed out to explore. First stop was the Montezuma’s Castle National Monument. This is not actually a castle nor did it have anything to do with Montezuma. This is a five story, 20 room dwelling built in the early 1100’s by the Southern Sinagua Indian Tribe. It is built high up on a cliff in front of a natural cave. When it was first discovered by white explorers it was assumed that these were built by Incas and was given the name of Montezuma’s Castle. Just down from the “Castle” are the ruins from other dwellings. These were apparently for the less important members of the tribe.

After visiting the Castle we drove into Camp Verde to visit the local visitor’s center. After getting information about local attractions we headed to the Fort Verde State Historical Park. This is an old Calvary Fort that has been refurbished and turned into a museum. Several of the original buildings still exist and have period furnishings. After going through the main museum we toured the buildings on the grounds. The buildings were built around a large parade ground. This picture is of the Commanding Officer's quarters.

All in all we enjoyed a good day that was finished with a beautiful Arizona sunset.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Arizona Bound--Day 5

A desert full of paint and a bunch of trees made out of rocks.

Today was our day to explore the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. This park is about 20 miles east of where we are staying here in Northern Arizona. It starts off going through the Painted Desert part of the park and then the road winds down through the Petrified Forest. The entire trip is 28 miles long. In the Painted Desert there are numerous pull off points where we could park and get out and take pictures. Several of them had hiking trails to give people a closer view of that particular area. We did some of the shorter trails but decided against the long treks down to the floor of the park. It is amazing to see the various colors in the formations in this area developed over thousands of years. The rock and soil is fairly fragile and changes over time as wind and rain impact it. The area where Joanne is standing in this picture is referred to as the Badlands, due to it's similarity to the Badlands up in the Dakotas. Due to it's rugged terrain it was very hard for travelers and explorers to cross.

As we moved farther south in the park we crossed the Puerco River and came upon the Puerco Pueblo. This was an area with the ruins for a 100-room pueblo built about 1250AD and housed nearly 1,200 people. Also in this area were many petroglyphs pecked into the stones by the native people of that time. These people farmed the low lying areas along the river. As time passed and the area became more arid the people drifted away, becoming a part of the Hopi Tribe or the Zuni Tribe that inhabits this part of Arizona today.

After a few more miles drive we came to the actual Petrified Forest. These trees are truly amazing. Thousands of years ago this area was covered with forest of large trees. As the trees toppled as the area changed they were covered with silt. Minerals drained down into the silt transforming the wood into stone. Eventually the silt eroded away leaving these massive tree shaped stones. These petrified trees are very hard, much harder than the rocks around them but yet are fragile in that they have broken into pieces with the pressure of the earth around them. When a person sees one of these logs it is in many sections. It reminds us of the trees we used to cut on my Dad's farm for firewood, laying there in sections.

All in all it was a very enjoyable day in the National Park. When we left the park at the south end we were eighteen miles east of Holbrook. We could either retrace our path back through the park to Interstate 40 or take the state highway into Holbrook. We chose the latter and decided to have a late Sunday lunch in town. We found a nice diner and had an exceptional lunch. Also, we were fascinated with the Wigwam Motel. I remember seeing this motel as a kid when we drove to California via U.S. Route 66. (This was before the advent of the Interstate System.) The guest rooms are teepee's (wigwams) set out around the property. Today they are still in use as motel rooms but the owners have placed classic cars in front of them to draw the travelers attention to their place.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Arizona Bound--Day 4

'Just sitting on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, oh what a site to see'

Today was to be just a travel day but with less than 150 miles to travel we were able to work in a little sightseeing. We left Grants, New Mexico, around 9:00am local time and headed west. We soon made it to Arizona, since we were only 81 miles from the border. Since Arizona is only one of two states that does not honor Daylight Savings Time (Hawaii is the other) we gained an hour so we arrived at the Root 66 RV Park a little after 11:00am. This park is supposedly in a town called Sun Valley. Actually all that is here is the RV park on one side of Interstate 40 and two businesses on the other side, one called Knife City and the other is one of the many places selling Indian art, crafts and artifacts along the road. The park is actually called "Root 66" although there is no portion of the old Route 66 highway left anywhere near this location. Anyway, we got settled in and were finished with lunch before noon.

We needed a couple of things from the store and also where hoping to find a visitors center to find some information on the Petrified Forrest and the Painted Desert, our destinations for tomorrow. We decided to head west in the car and go four miles into the town of Holbrook. Turns out all that is in Holbrook is a bunch of motels for travelers to stop over for the night. So on we pressed the forty miles to Winslow. Winslow is a fairly large town and at one time was the largest city in Northern Arizona. It fell on hard times during the 1960's when the interstate opened and took the traffic that went down Route 66 away. It has revived itself mainly due to a song by the group The Eagles. In the song "Taking it Easy" there is a line about standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Local business men have banded together to make a park in the middle of downtown, right on the old Route 66, called Standing on the Corner Park, complete with a statue of a 1970's style young man standing on the corner with a guitar resting on his boot. This has now become a popular spot for tourist to stop to take their picture. As it turns out this is the weekend of the "12th annual Standing On The Corner Park Festival" and the town was loaded with people. We had to wait our turn to get a picture of the statue. Also, could not resist taking a picture of this vintage car sitting on Route 66. We enjoyed seeing the new makeover to downtown and then sought out the Wal-Mart store to pick up the items we needed. Made for a pleasant day of unplanned sightseeing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Arizona Bound--Day 3

A volcano and an ice cave, all in the same place. Yesterday was a travel day. We left Tucumcari around 9:00 yesterday morning and moved farther west. We are now in the Blue Spruce RV Park in Grants, New Mexico. We spent today out sightseeing with a little hiking and climbing thrown in. First stop was a place called Fire and Ice. This has the Bandera Volcano and a large Ice Cave and are located about 25 miles south of Grants.

The Bandera Crater is the largest volcano in the region. It erupted around 10,000 years ago. This is a cinder cone volcano. When it erupted it sent these 'cinders', which are huge pieces of lava rock into the air. These cooled as they fell back to the ground and continued to build the cone. The look out point for the crater is 8,036 feet above sea level. The crater itself is nearly 1,400 feet wide at the top and roughly 800 feet deep. Over time, erosion and gravity has taken there toll and the crater is slowly filling up as cinders and rocks fall down into it. An interesting fact we learned is that the soil in this area is very rich with iron. Due to this the trees are very susceptible to lightning. There are many trees down due to lightning strikes. The hike up to the top of the crater took about half an hour. Fortunately the folks that developed this area placed benches along the path for us old folks to stop and take a breather. The trip down was much easier than going up.

After we returned to the Trading Post, at the foot of the volcano, we headed off in the other direction to the ice cave. The temperature in this cave never gets above 31 degrees. As rain water and snow melt seep into the cave, the ice floor thickens. Currently the floor of the ice is approximately 20 feet thick. The deepest ice is the oldest and dates back 3,400 years. Indians and travelers through this area used to mine the ice but this was stopped in 1946. This has allowed the ice floor to continue to thicken, making the ceiling of the cave seem lower. It was a fairly short hike to the cave entrance but then there was several levels of stairs down to the viewing platform. The only problem with going down is you must go back up to get out.

After our hiking we returned to the car for further exploring. The next stop was at El Morro National Monument. This is a beautiful rock formation. It is composed of sandstone layers deposited by wind, desert streams and an ancient sea. Sandwiched between upward pressure from underground forces and the weight of new rock above (since eroded), the sandstone developed cracks that gradually weathered into the long vertical joints prominent today. A large water pool at the base was a great stopping on the ancient trade routes. Today the pool waters sunflowers, cattails and native grasses on the shore. We stopped at the National Park Visitor Center but decided not to make the two mile trek to the base of the formation and the water pool.

Our next stop was the Pueblo of Zuni, about 45 miles west of El Morro. We were expecting to see some old pueblo ruins from the Zuni Indian Tribe. Unfortunately, after the ruins were excavated early in the last century they were bulldozed over and back filled in the 1940's. This was unfortunate in that a great site was lost. The visitor's center in Zuni did have pictures of the site back when it was being excavated. Since there was not much else to see in Zuni we headed north to Gallup to stop for a late lunch. This took us through the Zuni Mountains which are very interesting formations. This is just one example of the formations that jut up from the desert floor. After lunch we decided to return to Grants via old Route 66 instead of Interstate 40. This was probably a mistake. As it turned out this section of Route 66 directly parallels the interstate and there was really nothing to see along the way. So, instead of returning at 75mph on the interstate we returned at 55mph on Route 66.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Arizona Bound--Day 1

We are actually back out on the road. Rolled out at 8:00am today, heading west. Had a good driving day with some south wind, which pushed us around some. Was mostly overcast but only had a little rain, actually only a sprinkle, as we drove through Amarillo, Texas. Around 3:00pm local time, 4:00pm Oklahoma time, we arrived at the Cactus RV Park in Tucumcari, New Mexico. We like staying at the Cactus. It is an old motor court right on old Route 66 in the middle of Tucumcari. The motor court has been closed for many years but they have converted the parking area to a RV park with full hookups, free WiFi and cable TV.

After getting the coach all hooked up we settled in to relax a little. It is amazing how tired a person gets when driving one of these things in the wind. Takes a tole on the arms and shoulders. As evening approached it started to rain and has been raining off and on every since. We had a good dinner here in the coach and are now enjoying the cable TV for the evening.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Almost time to be back on the road

As Willy Nelson sings: "On the road again, can't wait to get on the road again". It's almost time to head west for our Monaco America Fall Rally in Tucson, Arizona. We brought the coach home from the RV storage lot yesterday and I spent the afternoon today doing a few minor repairs that result from driving a house down the U.S. highways. We'll spend the next couple of days loading it up with food, cloths and the other necessities required for a few weeks.
We plan to pull out early Wednesday morning. The rally does not officially start until October 4th but we'll make a few stops along the way. We are planning to stop in New Mexico to see some old lava flows and crystal caves that were left from the volcano's. We'll stop over in a couple of places in Arizona, the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest and the old mining town of Jerome. (We briefly visited Jerome when we were out there this past March and want to go back and spend a couple of days there.)
Current plan is to arrive at the rally site in Tucson on Wednesday, September 29. We always like to get to the rallies early to spend a few days helping to get everything ready and to meet up and visit with the other club officer's and key volunteers. We'll stay after the rally for a couple of days and then head back to Oklahoma in mid-October. Of course all these plans are subject to change at a moments notice depending on the health of my parents and Joanne's mom. Regardless, we are excited about getting going again since we have not been out since last June.