As we left Old Tucson to head back through Phoenix for the next leg of our Arizona adventure, we drove through a portion of the Saguaro National Park (featured image). The giant majestic Saguaro cacti were plentiful – as far as the eye could see in every direction. This drive was reminiscent of the old west and we couldn’t help but wonder how settlers in wagons and cowboys on horseback navigated in and around these prickly guardians.
Found only in the Sonoran Desert, the lifespan of the Saguaro cactus is 150 – 200 years. It’s extremely slow growing and a 10 year old plant may be only a few inches tall, but at full-grown, they can be over 40 ft (12 m) tall. Although not listed as endangered or protected, the Arizona government has strict regulations about harvesting, collecting, or destruction of the Saguaro cactus – even if they’re growing on your own property.
Heading north on AZ 89 from Phoenix, our first night’s destination was Prescott, AZ. In 1864 to 1867 and again from 1877-1889, Prescott was the Capital of the AZ territory, so there’s lots of history to explore in this city of approximately 42,000 residents.
We spent the afternoon on “Whiskey Row” , a former notorious red light district in Prescott. This main street is now home to many saloons, gift shops, restaurants, boutiques, book stores and antique shops.
One can go downstairs to enter a pub, or upstairs to a saloon with a rooftop patio. We agreed that Whiskey Row would be a fun place to visit for an evening of “Honkey -Tonking”. Unfortunately, we had to forego this idea, because we were meeting friends in Sedona the next day so we wanted clear heads for the drive that awaited us.
We toured some of the saloons, but opted for home-made ice cream at a nostalgic candy store for our afternoon refreshment.
After we were finished exploring Whiskey Row, we checked in to the Prescott Resort Hotel for the night. This beautiful property is on top of a hill as you head out of town and the views from our room balcony as well as from the large resort patio were more than worth the $80 USD we paid for the night. Before we called it a night, we enjoyed a bit of slot play and a good evening meal at the adjacent Bucky’s casino. Our room was spacious and comfortable, and the service was excellent.
Bright and early the next morning, we were headed out on AZ 89A north through Jerome Az and on to our destination, Sedona.
This drive isn’t for the faint of heart and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re driving a motor home or pulling an RV of any type. The hair-pin curves and switch-backs don’t allow for any prediction of oncoming traffic, and many of the curves have extremely reduced speed limits, which are easy to adhere to. I’m happy we took this route and would definitely do it again (with hubs driving, of course). It was back-roading at it’s finest. We just turned up the Sirius radio, sang along to the oldies, and enjoyed the forced leisurely drive.
The town of Jerome, AZ is on Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley. It was home to more than 10,000 during it’s copper mining peak. Today, the town has a population of around 444 and the main industry is tourism. In the 60’s and 70’s, the then ghost town was revived by a group of artists, craftspersons, writers, and musicians who turned it into an artists mecca. The public buildings, set on the steep incline of streets, house boutiques, antique and craft shops, and several restaurants, grills, and bars.
After a bit of exploring and a quick lunch, we were off to Sedona.
No matter how many photos one sees on TV, in books, or online, nothing prepares you for the spectacle of the vast collection of red sandstone formations that are the trademark of Sedona. We stopped at a tourist information booth and were given a map of the rock formations. Each of them has a name and on our drive to check them all out, it was easy to identify them by the distinctive shapes they were named for.
The following photos are only a small sampling from our drive around the area.
At the time of our visit, the Sedona International Film Festival was happening and the rumors abounded of famous film stars being spotted on the streets and in the restaurants. We didn’t see anyone famous, but that wasn’t what we were there for so it wasn’t a disappointment.
During our stay, we enjoyed the scenery, the craft shops, and the overall nature vibe of this national treasure of a destination. We’ll definitely visit again.
“Whatever path bought you here
There is a reason why you came,
Though you may not know it now.
So, please open your ears and listen.
Listen to the message that Sedona has for you.”
― Ilchi Lee, The Call of Sedona: Journey of the Heart