Carolina: Cruising Past 70: OLA: Looking for a Base in Arizona: Northeastern Arizona

Monday, December 3, 2012

OLA: Looking for a Base in Arizona: Northeastern Arizona

one of the many spectacular views of the Grand Canyon
Navajo Travel Center, Yellow Horses
Now that we are looking for a place to partially settle, Arizona is a top contender, closely followed by Florida and southern California, in that order. We have spent a total of 7 months in two winters in Florida. This winter we have chosen to stay in Arizona for 3 to 4 months. We actually visited the state briefly on the way to Mexico back when we started RVing in 2009 but now we will look more closely from five different bases.

Petrified Forest National Park
Paint4ed Dessert
As you enter Arizona from New Mexico, a large truck stop (Navajo Indian Village) offers great photo ops. Right after this, one finds the Petrified Forest National Park on one side of I-40 and the Painted Desert on the other. In 50,000 acres is an abundance of beautiful petrified wood from trees that grew there about 225 million years ago. As you drive through the 28-mile park road, stunning vistas such as Blue Mesa and the Teepees unfold. It was too bad that we reached the Painted Desert at sundown. Our photos there did not do justice to the place. 

Montezuma Castle
Our base in New Mexico was Santa Fe. Verde Valley RV Resort in Cottonwood, Arizona (population, 11,000) was our first base in Arizona. The city is just a fifteen-minute drive from the Resort. Nestled in the lower valley, it was colder at the campground. Each just ten minutes from the Resort are Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot National Monument, the start of many historical landmarks and natural wonders throughout the region!

Montezuma Well
Montezuma was never there; it was just the name given by the National Park Service. Built around 1100 AD, Montezuma Castle is an elaborate 5-story 100-room cliff dwelling standing 100 feet above the valley. The Montezuma well, on the other hand, is a natural sinkhole in the middle of the vast arid land, containing over 15 million gallons of water, replenished every day with 1.5 million gallons of water that drains drop by drop from around the area. The Tuzigoot National Monument is the remnant of a village built between 1125 and 1400 AD, crowning the summit of a long ridge that rises 120 feet above the valley. 

Tuzigoot National Monument
view from Jerome, Arizona
The little town of Jerome, Arizona (population almost 500), up in the hills, is also a neat little tourist shopping area just twenty minutes away. I got myself a pretty charcoal cape that can be worn two ways, a unique design. I have already used it a lot for the chilly evenings! The view of the valley is breathtaking and an old mansion still stands tall as the grand place during the town’s mining hey days.

view of Sedona from the Scnebley Vista Hill
Cathedral Rock
The Red Rocks of Sedona (population 10,000) is just thirty minutes northwest from our base. Imagine a city embedded in what should be a national park of outstanding red rock formations: Cathedral Rock (the icon), Linus and Lucy, Coffee Pot, etc. Real estate must cost a fortune there! We even had the fortune of getting to the Schnebly Hill Vista at sundown with a fantastic overlook of the city and the rocks. The Chapel of the Holy Cross, on a thousand foot high rock wall, soaring 90 feet into the air, also offers many vistas of the Red Rocks. 
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Flagstaff Old Historic District
Going further north is the city of Flagstaff (population 60,000), less than an hour from Cottonwood. Its Old Historic District has an establishment that had a timer countdown to New Year when the Giant Pine Cone hanging from its roof would fall! Alas, we won’t be there to see it! I found unique scarf that can be worn two ways that has now become my favorite! 

Flagstaff also boasts of three National Monuments. One of them is the Sun Crater Volcano National Monument. A thousand foot high cinder cone was created by an eruption between 1040 and 1100. It is the most recent activity in the 6 million-year history of a volcanic field, leaving large lava flows, still very evident, that totally changed the landscape into 600 hills and mountains.

Sun Crater Volcano
Wupatki National Monument
It also must have changed the lives of the Ancient Puebloans that lived at the nearby 35,000 acres of the Wupatki National Monument. The area has 29 continuing structures of an estimated 12,000 pueblos. Wupatki, meaning Tall House, must have been their gathering place. But by 1250, the people of Wupatki had moved on.

Walnut Canyon National Monument
The Walnut Canyon National Monument preserves the cliff dwellings of the Sinaguas (without water) who carved them into the natural recesses of the canyon, about 3 meters deep, between 1125 and 1250 AD. We had to climb down and then up 240 stairs plus walk about a 0.5 mile loop trail around the ‘island’ in the middle of the canyon. I initially thought I would not be able to make it. Boy, am I glad I did because those dwellings were unbelievable! Why they chose to live that way, God only knows!

cliff dwellings on the other side across the island at Walnut Canyon
But the grandest of them all is, of course, the Grand Canyon National Park. The North Rim and the South Rim are just 10 miles apart, as the crow flies, but the Canyon Rim is 215 miles long. About a decade ago, I joined a small plane flight over the Canyon with my daughter April. But the drive Bill and I took this time gave me a closer view of one of the great wonders of the world.

Desert View (East Rim) of the Grand Canyon
The East Rim is only 2 ½ hours from our base. There a Watchtower provides the best glimpse of the Desert View. Following the Canyon Rim Road, we reached the South Rim (Mather Point) in just another half hour, stopping at almost every overlook, each providing yet another majestic view. The Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim has accommodations and shopping for tourists. To complete our ‘exploration’, we intend to go to the West Rim and/or the Sky Walk from Bullhead City in northwestern Arizona and the North Rim from Las Vegas, Nevada in January. It will be very cold then so we will just have to dress accordingly.

Mather Point at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
Though northeastern Arizona is truly spectacular, Cottonwood, Sedona, or Flagstaff will not make the finals in our selection of places to settle, however. It was just November and it was a little cooler than we would like our home to be. Just imagine what it would be in winter? I guess I just won’t be able to shake the tropics away! Besides, I am really still a big city girl! Thus, on with the search in our next four bases: Tucson, Phoenix, Yuma and Bullhead City, in that order!
Grand Canyon at Grand View between East and South Rims