Our search to find the perfect place to eventually settle down brought us to the mountains of Arizona. Last year we spent some time in Prescott and this year we wanted to check out the town of Payson, AZ. We wanted to see if it could compare to the perfectness of Durango and Bayfield, Colorado. Payson didn’t feel just right, but the nearby town of Pine (pop. 2500, elev. 5000) with its tall pine trees got our attention. We saw beautiful and affordable homes with gorgeous views of the Mogollon (pronounced muggy-own) Rim, the 7,000 ft. rock monster that stretches 200 miles across Arizona and serves as a boundary between the cool high country above it and the burning deserts below. We had lunch at a local brewery in Pine and toured the historical monument Tonto Natural Bridge.
The jury is still out, but the vote is still leaning toward Colorado. I have created a spreadsheet to compare and analyze every detail I can think of (something I love to do). But this decision goes beyond analysis. It needs to include the ‘feeling’. Now if our decision was based on pure ‘feeling’ alone we would be settling in Southern California near our loved ones, but the analysis part rules that out. However, we do plan to visit a lot!
Our next stop was in Cottonwood at the Dead Horse State Park. Last year when we drove this way I missed connecting with a favorite person in my life. I was so happy that John and Nancy were in town so we could reconnect. I hadn’t seen them since my wedding 22 years ago! I first met John in 1970 at the beginning of my career. He was a manager who demonstrated more integrity, fairness, honesty, and insight than I had ever known. Plus he cared about people AND had a great sense of humor. It was such fun to work for John and he left a profound impression on me that set the bar pretty high for me as a person and for all future employers. John retired and moved to Cottonwood over 20 years ago. It was so good to see him and Nancy again! We were treated to happy hour on the deck of their beautiful home and dinner at The Tavern in Historic Old Cottonwood. It was a wonderful evening.
Our campsite at Dead Horse State Park was spacious and we took several good hikes in the park. I’m trying to burn off a few pounds by hiking, but I’m afraid that I’ll actually have to stop eating so much if I really want to lose those lbs. Sigh.
Several really unique places are within minutes of Cottonwood. One of them is the cool little historic copper mining town of Jerome. It it’s heyday in the 1920’s, it had a population of more than 10,000 people. In the mid-1950’s, the mines closed and the population dwindled to less than 100. Jerome became a National Historic Landmark in 1967 and now has art galleries, coffee houses, restaurants, and a museum devoted to mining history which have built the population back up to 444. We went there to walk around, shop and eat (of course).
Of course, Sedona is a mandatory visit. It’s so beautiful and special. Those red rocks are amazing. We definitely love the vibe in Sedona. We spent one day just walking around and shopping. On another day we went there to hike one of the vortex areas. I’ve got to admit it was magical!
Our next stops were in the Phoenix area where we got to visit Mike’s sister Diane and his sweetheart Mom.
Glen is really into geocaching, so we were forced to were able to participate in this activity on our way to dinner one evening. OK, I admit, …. It was fun.
Diane loves dogs (as do we) and a visit to her home includes visiting with her many four-legged children. I took this picture of Diane and her eldest, 17-year-old Talie, one week before Talie’s passing. She was a loyal and beautiful dog.
Our first morning in Cave Creek Regional Park campground, Mike woke me up and said “You might want to see this .. Bring your camera”. Multiple hot air balloons were ascending … déjà vu!
Following is another one of our hike photos. This hike is called the Go John Trail at Cave Creek Regional Park. It is about 6 miles long and has a fairly steep elevation climb. We did this one without Lucy so we could move really fast and I felt like I got a pretty good calorie burning hike.
Next we moved to the Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction (near Phoenix). The state park is located at the foot of the Superstition Mountains. We enjoyed tough hikes and beautiful sunsets right from our front door. The Green Boulder Trail took us up to 2580’ for a good view and a worthy hike. A very serious hike called Siphon Draw Trail goes all the way to The Flatiron at 4861’. We didn’t make it to the top, but we gave it a serious try for a great workout.
As you all probably know by now, Mike LOVES the old west, old western movie locations and old west legends. Arizona has plenty to offer a guy like that. Just down the road from our campground, we visited the Superstition Mountain Museum which is home to the leftovers from Apacheland. Apacheland was a movie set where hundreds of those old western movies and TV shows were made. A fire wiped out most of Apacheland, but several of the buildings and props were spared and moved to this Museum. The list of movies made here and photos of the movie stars is impressive and brought back a lot of memories for Mike. It’s scary how many details he can recite about this stuff.
A trip to the Goldfield Ghost Town in Apache Junction just had to be scheduled. We drove by this picturesque little town on our way to and from the campground, so it was calling out to us every time we drove by. The town was so cute that it was hard to imagine that it was actually a real gold mining town in the 1890‘s. Today train rides, mine tours, panning for gold, and bordello tours are scheduled throughout the day. The old buildings are now unique shops, a steak house and saloon, and two museums. It was very picturesque, but touristy.
Another day we took a scenic drive out to Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat (pop. 6), the last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail nestled in the Superstition Mountain Wilderness.
While in the Phoenix area, we enjoyed lunch with some fellow full-timers that we met through our RV blogs. It was such fun to compare notes and experiences! We found that we have a lot in common and plan to meet again when our paths cross in the future. We look forward to it!
After our final sunset in the Phoenix area, we broke camp and headed to Tucson. We’re enjoying exploring this area and my next update will cover our experiences here. Cheers!