We bounced down six long miles on a dirt road today, determined to visit the Palatki Heritage Site, one of the two largest cliff dwelling sites found among the red rocks in the Sedona, Arizona area.
After a short walk up through the trees to the bottom of the cliff, we reached the ruins of the ancient Sinagua people who lived in the area from 1150 – 1300 A.D. A ranger was on hand to explain a little bit of what is known about the lives of cliff dwellers.
While the trail up to the base of the chimney stack was well-worn and doable, it wasn’t easy. We later realized that what we scrambled up was an informal (not on the map) trail and not the recommended viewpoint we had been searching for. However, the view we had was pretty darn good!
Several folks insisted the great hiking through unusual rock formations (know as Granite Dells) just outside the city of Prescott, Arizona was not to be missed. We packed our lunch, filled our water bottles and set off over the hill to see what all the fuss was about.
These granite boulders were formed 1.4 billion years ago, slowly exposed and shaped by erosion and weathering. Wandering through this geologic wonderland is like entering another world.
We followed the Soldiers Pass trail, dropping down to connect with the Jordan trail and then Cibola Pass, leading us back to the parking lot. Above are some of the spectacular sites we saw. Although we got an early start, the trail down was crowded enough to be just a little frustrating in spots. Our advice: Set your alarm if you have to…the earlier start, the better!
Located high above the Verde Valley in the community of Strawberry, Arizona, stands the little one-room Strawberry Schoolhouse. Built in 1885 out of pine logs, it was added to the National register of Historic Places in 2005, and remains one of the oldest standing schoolhouses in the state.
We normally prefer circular hikes that allow us to avoid retracing our steps, but there was only one way out of Boynton Canyon…at least only one safe way out. We followed the dusty red trail in until it dropped us down into the forest, beneath a cover of evergreens. Climbing began toward the end of the trail where we scrambled up a narrow channel of boulders, emerging onto a large, smooth rock outcropping, scattered with handful of other determined hikers enjoying the view.
I try to remember to stop and look up every so often when hiking rather than carefully watching where I put my every footstep. The views were on our return trip were incredibly rewarding.
To secure a parking spot, an early start is mandatory for any of the Sedona area trailheads. The Big Loop Trail, Courthouse Loop Trail and part of the Llama trail led us around 8 miles of spectacular scenery.
This big horn sheep proudly posed for a crowd at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, while I posed with the resident vulture. A combination zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, aquarium and art gallery it’s an attraction not to be missed.
Tubac was established in 1752 as a Spanish presidio and was one of the stops on the Camino Real (the “Royal Road”) from Mexico to the Spanish settlements in California. Thanks to our RV Park neighbors, full-timers Bill and Heidi, who mentioned the charms of the tiny town, we managed to squeeze in a visit on our last day. Now a thriving artist colony, shopkeepers are a trusting lot. On the door of one closed shop (center left) were instructions to drop cash or checks through the mail slot for any purchase of wares displayed outdoors.
The Pima Air and Space Museum entertained us for several hours with nearly 300 aircraft spread over 80 acres. Tram tours are offered, but not required, for the outdoor displays. Indoors, numerous volunteers are scattered about to answer any and all questions.
We hadn’t planned on spending so much time in Arizona, but after a chance conversation with another couple several days ago, we found ourselves exploring the Chiricahua (Cheer-i-ka-wa) Mountain region of southeastern Arizona. As the U.S. expanded westward, establishing a southern route to San Francisco brought the U.S. Army into direct conflict with the Chiricahua Apaches (including such famous figures as Cochise and Geronimo) who claimed the land as their own. Chiricahua National Monument and Fort Bowie National Historic Site were both well worth a couple extra days in this wind blown part of the state.
Chiricahua National Monument offers early morning rides to the top of Echo Canyon from the Visitor Center. We took full advantage of the opportunity, enjoying a leisurely 4 mile walk back through towering pinnacles that seem to defy gravity.
A short drive up a dirt road led us to the trailhead for the mile and a half hike to the remains of Fort Bowie (Boo-y) where we would learn the history of the 20 year fight for control of Apache Pass. Markers along the trail told the history of the tumultuous times. Both Americans and and Apache are memorialized in the small cemetery.