October 6-9, Camp Verde, AZ

We woke up on Thursday, October 6th to rain and the wind blowing hard.  The wind was blowing hard enough that we were concerned about driving in it.  Fortunately, the rain stopped and the wind died down about 8 am.  We headed out for Camp Verde about 42 miles South and 3,000 feet lower in elevation so it should be warmer and no snow.  After we left Flagstaff we could look back and see the snow on the San Francisco Peaks.  Snowbowl ski area got about 3 inches of the white stuff.  We arrived in Camp Verde where the sun was shining and it was a lot warmer than Flagstaff.  We are staying at Camp Verde RV Resort, a nice resort in the Coast to Coast network.

We went to Montezuma Castle National Monument, a 5-story, 20-room cliff dwelling that is 100 feet above the valley floor. It was built in the early 1100’s by Southern Sinagua people.  Early settlers assumed it was Aztec in origin and wrongly named it Montezuma Castle after the Aztec ruler.

Montezuma Castle is one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the US and was really impressive.

We drove to the Montezuma Well section of the monument.  Montezuma Well is a natural limestone sinkhole formed long ago by the collapse of an immense underground cavern.  Water entering Montezuma Well is at a constant 74 degrees with a flow of over 1,400,000 gallons a day.    The origin of the water that feeds Montezuma Well is not known but scientists from Northern Arizona University are trying to solve this mystery.

Between 1125 and 1400 about 150 to 200 Southern Sinagua people lived here.  We hiked down to where the water flows out of Montezuma Well.  The trail followed a small canal that was built by the Sinagua to irrigate their crops.

We were pleasantly surprised with the beauty and lushness of the area around Montezuma Well.

We also visited V Bar V Cultural Site which has 1,032 individual petroglyphs.  On the trail to the site we came upon this beautiful Striped Skunk.  Fortunately, it was headed away from us!

This panel was almost completed covered with petroglyphs.  The docent at the site told us that there are also petroglyphs up to 5 feet below the surface.

We were amazed at how clearly you can see these petroglyphs.

On the way back to the parking lot we ran across this tarantula.  We have never seen a tarantula with this pattern on its back.

Another cultural site we visited is Tuzigoot National Monument.  Tuzzigoot (Apache for “crooked water”) is the ruins of a Southern Sinagua village built between 1125 and 1400.  It sits on the summit of a long ridge that rises 120 feet above the Verde Valley.

The original pueblo was two stories high in places, with 77 ground-floor rooms.  There were few exterior doors; entry was by way of ladders through openings in the roofs.

We drove to Jerome, a copper mining town which sits on the steep slope of Cleopatra Hill on the side of Mingus Mountain.  Jerome was a billion dollar mining town producing copper, gold, silver and other ores. The town has a wild history including burning down three times in 18 months.  At one time part of the business district starting sliding downhill.  The town jail now sits about 200 feet from where it was built.  The mines closed in the early 1950’s and the once booming town dwindled to a population of about 50.  Jerome is now a tourist stop with lots of restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries.  After eating lunch in Jerome we took a short scenic drive on the Red Rocks Loop Road outside of Sedona.  We saw some great red rock formations.

Fort Verde State Historical Park was holding its Fort Verde Days over the weekend.   Fort Verde was a base for General Crook’s campaign against the Tonto Apaches in 1872-73.  After the end of the Indian Wars the post was abandoned in 1891.  Four of the original buildings are still standing and have historical displays set up in them.

Living history presentations were set up on the grounds with soldiers displaying their weapons and demonstrating military drills.

We also visited Palatki Heritage Site in the Coconino National Forest. Palatki (Hopi for “red house”) is a cliff dwelling sheltered in a Supai sandstone overhang, constructed by the Southern Sinagua people.   The red cliffs going to the site were beautiful.

One section has pictographs displaying art from archaic cultures extending back over 6,000 years.

We could not hike close to the cliff dwelling as the Forest Service is concerned that the cliff above the ruins is unstable.  Consequently, we could only see it from an overlook.

Down the road about 4 miles is the Honanki Ruins which are in this alcove.  This site held one of the largest populations centers in the Verde Valley.  It was primarily occupied from 1130 to 1280.

Honanki consisted of about 60 rooms and we were able to hike right next to a number them.

here was also some rock art at this site.  The ranger at the site told us that this is a clan symbol identifying the clan that lived here.

These sites were in beautiful canyons and we enjoyed visiting them.

This Arizona sunset was beautiful as just the edges of the clouds were touched with color.


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