Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Call of the Canyon...West Fork Trail

Distant Drums RV Resort

Camp Verde, AZ

October 21, 2022 

Call of the Canyon was a silent western movie filmed in 1923 based on a Zane Grey novel of the same name.  The setting for the film was in Oak Creek Canyon and it is credited with being the first movie filmed in Sedona.  We have hiked the canyon twice...first in April 2014 and second in May of 2015. Spring is definitely a great time to visit, but I always wanted to return in the fall.  Our two week get away was quickly planned when I mentioned to Joe that I would love to return to Oak Creek Canyon for a fall hike. This was the year !

Sunrise as we drove north on I 17 towards Sedona.

We headed out just before 7:00 am.  West Fork Trail is about 10 miles north of Sedona on Hwy 89A so it was a bit of a drive from Camp Verde.  No worries...well, at least not for me as my responsibility was to take photos along the way.  First few miles were on AZ State Route 179 or Red Rock Scenic Byway.

Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock on Hwy 179 going into Sedona.

A right turn in the center of Sedona onto Highway 89A goes all the way to Flagstaff.  Oak Creek Canyon is about 10 miles north of Sedona.  Rand McNally named Highway 89's panoramic path through Oak Creek one of the most beautiful drives in America...designating it Arizona's first scenic route.   

It is hard to take in all the sights as you wind and twist around hairpin curves. 

Parking for the hike is $11.  It is best to go early to get a parking space and beat the crowds. I am already excited when we get there...and have to remind myself to breath.   

From the parking lot, there is a paved trail that meanders thru an apple orchard, over Oak Creek, and among the crumbling remains of old buildings built sometime in the 1870s.  

Carl Mayhew, a photographer on the set of Call of the Canyon (1923) was so captivated by the cabin and the surrounding beauty that he purchased the property in 1923.  

The cabin was renovated and expanded and in 1926, he opened a bed and breakfast.  Over the next decades, notable guests included President Herbert Hoover, Walt Disney, Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart.  The lodge closed in 1968 and the Mayhew family sold the property to be added to the Coconino National Forest.

West Fork Trail begins shortly after the crumbled remains.  The trail is just over 6 miles round trip.  We did the 6+ miles back in 2015.  Friday's plan was to walk and enjoy with no goal or pressure to finish.  

No matter what the season, the canyon is noted for its narrow walls, dramatic rock formations, and the changing colors of the cliffs.  

The trail is well maintained and mostly easy to traverse.

The creek crossings (there are 13 of them if you go to the end) are a little more tricky.  Some are harder than others...



And sometimes, climbing out of the creek was tricky.

We stopped a lot to look up.

We stopped a lot to look down.

And we stopped a lot to just take in what was right in front of us.

Oak Creek, time and weather created this narrow, enchanting gorge. 

It was a wonderful morning.  Chilly from the get go and warmed up nicely.  We beat the crowds.  I took a kazillion photos.  We both managed to finish the hike with dry feet. And the fall colors were better than I had ever hoped for.  

Until next time,



P.S. For some reason the photos loose quality when downloading them to the blog.  If you click on the photo, the clarity is way better.  

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Camp Verde, AZ...Old Favorites and Something New

Distant Drums

Camp Verde, AZ

October 17, 2022 

Monday's (Oct. 17th) trip from Payson to Camp Verde was a nice drive. It was a short day with less than 65 miles most of which was over the mountains on Hwy 260.  I always enjoy travel day and love taking photos of the highways and byways.

We have stayed at Distant Drums many times since out first visit back in April 2014.  Several of those visits were month long visits so we know the area well.  Some old favorites...

Red Rock State Park: 

Tuesday's adventure found us hiking at Red Rock State Park. It's a pretty little park that is well maintained with friendly staff and volunteers.

We managed a 3+ mile hike by combining the Kisva, Coyote Ridge, Eagle's Nest  and Apache Fire for a nice loop and some elevation gain.  The park (286 acres) is part of the lower Oak Creek Important Birding Area and hosts birds in all season.  We didn't see any birds on our hike, but the Hummingbird Garden at the Visitor Center had a variety of hummers, jays, and sparrows.  The park has two distinct wildlife habitats with informative exhibits that tell about the wildlife that lives in each community.  First, the aquatic community. 

And second, the Pinyon-Juniper community. 


There is an open meadow just before the climb up.

P.S. I didn't edit any of these photos...the sky was really that blue!

The views from the ridge made the climb well worth the effort.


After a lazy Wednesday morning, I decided I wanted a T-shirt form Cheers on the north side of town (Hwy 89A).   My sweet husband obliged, so off to Sedona we went.  We know from experience, Sedona is crazy busy in the spring...well, fall is no exception.  It sort of takes the wind out your sails when the only two parking spots you see are time limited...one for 15 minutes and the other for 30 minutes.  We zipped in the 30 min spot, rushed across the street to Cheers for a T-shirt and walked in a few more stores.  Most of the folks in town were sitting on one of the many outdoor patios eating so surprisingly, the stores were not so bad.  

Heading home, we stopped at Son-Silver-West Galleries.  It has been a fun and colorful spot to browse for all these years.  It is a unique shop with a bit of everything from outdoor yard art, popcorn seasoning, and souvenirs, to expensive art, pottery, mesquite furniture and handmade rugs.    


Schnebly Hill Road: 

Thursday was the day we chose to do some off-roading.  It has been a long time since Pearl has had an adventure.  Schnebly Hill is an 11.8 mile trail from point to point.  We have done it a couple of times starting from I 17 and driven down the hill so Thursday, we decided to go up.  We passed several Pink Jeeps ( tours ) during the first couple of miles.  They stop at an overlook closer to town, turn around and head back down.  Once past their overlook stop, we pretty much had the rest of the trail to ourselves.  The trail is lumpy and bumpy but easy.  

Thank you Joe !

The views are humongous....

all the way to Scenebly Hill Vista.

Lunch with a view.  You can see the trail we just climbed on the left side of the photo.


The rest of the trail to I 17 is gravel and lined with ponderosa pines.

Seven years ago, there was a lake here.  Poor geese don't have any water !

Montezuma Castle National Monument:

I can't believe we never included Montezuma Castle in any of our other visits to Camp Verde.  This morning (Saturday), we fixed that and made a stop on the way to Basha's Grocery.  Like Tonto NM, Montezuma was also established as a National Monument in 1906. Unlike Tonto, these dwellings were built a couple of hundred years earlier in the 1100s.  

This 20 room "apartment", 5 story dwelling housed 35 to 50 people and was built high up in an alcove on a limestone cliff in Verde Valley.  The walls were made of limestone rocks from the local area and held together with clay.  I found it fascinating that adobe was used to coat and seal the outer walls. 

Large support beams of sycamore wood and cross beams made from dry branches, twigs, grasses and reeds covered with several inches of mud both completed the ceiling and the floor for the next level.  A second dwelling, excavated in 1934 was located "around the corner" from Montezuma Castle.  It had 45-50 rooms and housed about 100 people.  Sadly, it is not so well preserved because a fire around 1400 destroyed most of the interior.  Montezuma Castle is located along Beaver Creek...a reliable source of running water through the canyon.  The Sinagua people who built the dwelling and lived in the valley until the early 1400s, were primarily farmers and relied heavily on corn.   

In the late 1800s, Montezuma Castle became a popular tourist site.  Unfortunately, some saw it as a site to preserve while others saw it as a treasure chest.  Visitors were able to climb a series of three ladders and enter the dwelling until 1951.  That year, both visitor safety and concerns for the structure were addressed and the ladders were removed.  Today, only park rangers and other personnel are allowed to enter the Castle. 

A diorama was created by the national Park Service's Laboratory in Washington, DC to show and interpret what the structure looked like inside.  The day the ladders came down in 1951, the diorama made its debut.  Today, 71 years later, the model still serves its initial purpose and acts as an artifact of the park's history.

The paved walk that loops to the viewing area for the Castle and Beaver Creek is lined with Arizona sycamore trees.  They flourished 63 million years ago when Arizona's climate was cool and moist. 

Today, these magnificent trees can only be found in riparian corridors.  Growing up to 80feet tall, it consistently sheds white, brown and green bark. 

The main beams for the Castle were hoisted 80 feet above the valley floor.  Some were estimated to weigh more than two tons !

A little bit of color along the walk this morning.

I have one more post to write from Camp Verde so stay tuned.

A little hint of what's next after I sort thru a kazillion photos...

Until next time,