My friend John and I just returned from a road trip to north central Arizona. John drove over from California, left his car at my place and we hit the road for Flagstaff, AZ. It is a leisurely drive from Vock Canyon to Flag and once we arrived there, we decided to drive north to the Grand Canyon. Our original plan was to go to Wupatki National Monument just north of Flag and/or the Lookout Tower on the eastern edge of Grand Canyon National Park. We decided we had plenty of time so instead, we headed for the main entrance of the Canyon at the South Rim. Our plan was not to spend any time at the main part of the park, but rather to drive east along Hwy. 64 and visit the several lookouts over the Canyon, the last being the Lookout Tower located near where the Colorado River enter the park.
Each lookout has it’s own particular perspective on the Canyon but at each stop, the view to the west was marked by haziness and lack of detail. Thus, most of the images I took were to the north or east. Although there were a lot of people in the main part of the park, the trip east on Hwy. 64 toward Cameron, AZ was pretty nice as the crowds were relatively small. It was an easy drive and we finally arrived at Lookout Tower. It is a highly visited place with a huge parking lot that was not nearly full, a snack bar and a gift shop in the base of the tower.
We were soon on our way back to Flag. Further down the road we noticed the gorge of the Little Colorado River. It’s confluence with the Colorado is just upstream from where the Lookout Tower is located. It was dark by the time we got back to Flag so instead of going to a sit-down restaurant for supper, we went to a fast food joint and ate in our rooms.
The next morning we drove to Sedona via Hwy 89A through Oak Creek Canyon. There was some major construction on 89A which made the travel slow but it is a beautiful drive. As we neared Sedona we stopped at Slide Rock State Park. The park area was once an apple farm. Oak Creek flows through the park and is named after an 80 foot gradual side. The creek runs year round and John says that in the summer it is chock full of kids playing on the slide and the swimming hole.
Upon leaving the park we made our way to Sedona and stopped at the the Chamber of Commerce to find a map of the area. We then headed into the backcountry around Sedona. Our destination was the Hunanki Ruins built by the Southern Sinaguans. The dirt road to Hunanki was a little rough in places but 4WD was not necessary. Any high clearance vehicle could make the trip. The ruins themselves are accessed by a three-quarter mile loop trail that is not strenuous at all and is shady in spots. You can get right up close to the ruins and there are also some pictographs on the rock face directly behind the ruins. The only drawback to visiting the Hunanki Ruins is that it is a popular place and we saw several jeeps from the Pink Jeeps Tours company hauling tourists out there.
Our next stop was Red Rock State Park. We wanted to see Cathedral Rock and although it could be seen from the park, it was not a good view. I would not recommend this as a stop in Sedona.
That evening John and I had supper at Miz Zip’s in Flag. We discovered it on a previous trip and wanted to return because they make the best chocolate malt in the world.
The next day we went to three archeaological sites inhabited by the Southern Sinaguan natives, these being Montezuma Well, Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot. All three are National Monuments and are located in the Verde Valley about an hour south of Flag.
Montezuma Well is marked by a year round, large crater-like pond and near Beaver Creek. The water in the pond has a lot of carbon dioxide and no fish are to be found there. The water also had high concentrations of arsenic. There is a living area visible in the cliffs on the side of the crater and a crumbling foundation near the pond.
Pond at Montezuma Well
Montezuma Castle has a really cool cliff dwelling and is also near Beaver Creek. It is a peaceful place to be. John and I just sat down on several benches during our visit and enjoyed being there.
The ruins at Tuzigoot are more extensive than either Montezuma Well or Montezuma Castle. There are built on the top of a large mound near Cottonwood, Arizona. The Verde River runs close to Toozigoot or at least I think it it the Verde River - not entirely sure.
On our fourth day we hit the road for Holbrook, AZ. On the way over we stopped in Winslow to see if there really was a statue of Jackson Browne. Indeed there is. This is all due to the song he co-wrote, "Take it Easy" in which one of the lines is "I'm standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. . ."
We took our pictures with the statue and then retired to a bench across the street for a cup of coffee. While we were sitting there, a steady stream of fellow tourists did the same. We got quite a chuckle out of it. A woman in one of the souvenir stores said that happens all day long.
John and I on the Corner with Jackson Browne
We were soon on our way to the Little Painted Desert County Park, north of Winslow along Hwy 87 and just south of the Navajo Reservation. We passed the cut-off and had to flag down a passing motorist to get instructions. It is a pretty cool place in that you can get close to some of the features of the Painted Desert.
On to Holbrook a little later and a drive down Route 66 where we stopped at a Wig-Wam Motel that John had stayed at with his family back when he was just a kid.
The next day we went to the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park. The weather was a little cool in the morning but the cloud cover was just fantastic. We stopped at all the lookout points in both parks and took a lot of photographs. It was the perfect day to end our time in that part of the state. We really had a great time.
The Painted Desert
Finally it was time to return to Vock Canyon so we headed west with a stop at Two Guns, AZ just east of Flag. Two Guns is an old abandoned camping area, gas station and zoo. We were there for about an hour checking out the abandoned buldings. They have been covered with graffiti over the years, and that includes an old swimming pool. John later did some research on the area. It seems there was this guy named Indian Miller who claimed he he Apache. Anyway, he was indicted for murder but was acquitted. One of the mountain lions he had in his zoo attacked him and tore up his side. He was also bitten on the arm by a pet Gila Monster.
This trip was another great time for John and I.