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Across the Verde Valley

While Sedona offered plenty to do, S and I decided to explore other points of interest in Verde Valley – named for the Verde River that runs though it – and surrounded by mountains holding the minerals that brought the early settlers to the region.

On one outing, we drove across the Verde River and the surrounding valley to Jerome, AZ – located high (5,200 feet) on top of Cleopatra Hill in the Mingus Mountains (?) – an historic copper mining town.

Once known as the wickedest town in the west, Jerome was a copper mining camp in 1876, growing from a settlement of tents to a roaring mining community of over 2,600 folks and boasting hotels – said to equal those in New York and Boston by 1900 – along with brothels and numerous churches. In fact, Jerome , at one point, was the fifth largest town in the Arizona Territory.

Four disastrous fires destroyed large sections of the town during its early history but it’s interesting to still see homes, mansions and shacks that are seemingly stacked practically on top of each other and along steep streets that switch back across the face of this part of the Mingus Mountains.

Over the years, Jerome was promoted as an historic ghost town. Finally, in 1967 Jerome was designated a National Historic District by the federal government.

Today, Jerome is a tourist stop and artist community…

its streets are lined with cafes and galleries and gift shops…

and even a friendly biker bar…

And, also a few restaurants – remember –it’s about the cuisine too ☺ We decided to check out the highly recommended 15.Quince. (by the way – in Spanish, quince is pronounced keen-say and stands for the number fifteen ). The 15.quince Grill & Cantina is in an historic town building that once housed the very first Safeway grocery store in Arizona.

If that isn’t unique enough for you, how about a grinning skull sign hanging over the entrance? Or, the skull shot glasses. Or, the turquoise walls which set the backdrop for decorated and jeweled cattle skulls
And, we were reminded that we needed to be prepared to answer the all important question – “red or green?” – as in red chilies or green chilies – on many of the outstanding items on their menu.

On a couple of other occasions (nice cafes for breakfast and lunch during our drives!) we stopped in Cottonwood – this historic town had its own unique history – Cottonwood began as a small adobe where soldiers took refuge in 1874. Soon, settlers began moving in, and created a place whose namesake is a circle of 16 cottonwood trees near the Verde River. Much later the popularity of western movies brought California film crews to Arizona’s picturesque Verde Valley. Most of these features and rushes were shot in Sedona, but Cottonwood played “stand in” for town scenes in many of these films.

Today, “Old Town” – the original Cottonwood – is a short stretch of Main Street business district and storefronts. In its modern 21st Century incarnation, Old Town sustains a variety of good restaurants, cafes, shops, galleries, taverns, and wine tasting rooms – and a bit of hippie flair too….

Historic and important Indian cliff dwellings are in the area too – one of the most beautiful is Montezuma’s Castle, not far from Sedona. Built by the ancient Sinaquas, Montezuma Castle was built about 700 years ago – and (yup, more interesting history ! ) Montezuma had never been there and it really isn’t a castle…seems the settler folks that rediscovered it were a little confused…

On other side trips, while we hiked among the red rocks, we saw petroglyphs and pictographs left behind by ancient peoples. I guess that, even hundreds of years ago , these same “wow” vistas, along with the magnificent views of the sky, have drawn out the spiritual nature of people from the very beginning – cool!

As I suggested in a previous post, if you get to AZ, be sure to check out these parts…

That’s all for this part of AZ – on to the Grand Canyon

Safe travels…see you down the road…

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Suzanne #

    Great writing

    May 22, 2012

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