American Locations 39 – South Rim of the Grand Canyon

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Once we finished our tour at Meteor Crater we drove west on I-40 back to Flagstaff, then headed north on Hwy 89. It was flat desert, with the mountains of the painted desert in the distance to the east. We turned west onto Hwy 64. We continued to pass through flat desert until we approached the Little Colorado River, which had carved the eastern reaches of the Grand Canyon.

1474_GC South Rim

1476_GC South Rim

We continued following the river until it bent north toward the Colorado River, while 64 continued west into the greenness of the Kaibab National Forest. At the east entrance to Grand Canyon National Park we learned the campground was full, but the ranger told us we could dry camp in the National Forest, as long as we were outside the park and not on Navajo land. We really wanted hook-ups since we planned to stay for at least three days, but that would be a fall-back plan if we couldn’t find a campground anywhere nearby. So we drove on into the park from the east.

1477_GC South Rim

1478_GC South Rim

We soon could see the Colorado River snaking in from the north.

1479_GC South Rim

1480_GC South Rim

1483_GC South Rim

Our first stop was the tower.

1609_GC South Rim

1486_GC South Rim

1485_GC South Rim

After that, we drove straight through the park and out the south entrance. We were concerned with finding a campground. Which we did, just outside the park in Tusayan. Also there were several motels, touristy shops, a movie theater, and several restaurants. We tried some pizza that was okay. To our delight we learned the park shuttle stopped right outside our campground. So once parked, the motor home would not need to be driven for the next three days, we would be chauffeured all about.


The next location is South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona 2


American Locations 38 – Meteor Crater

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Meteor Crater, Arizona

We continued north on Hwy 89A through pine-forested countryside to I-17, which we continued north on to Flagstaff. Humphrey’s Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet, came into view long before we reached the city limits.


We found a private campground in Flagstaff that was at the foot of the mountains.


Next to the office there was an old phone booth. It was not working, but young people were posing for pictures inside it. I never realized phone booths had become such relics. Before settling down for the night, I took one of several trails leading out of the campground up into the mountains. After donning a sweatshirt. This was the first time in our trip we were actually cold.


The next day we drove east on I-40 to the cut-off for Meteor Crater Natural Landmark, otherwise known as the Barringer Crater, named so in honor of the man who insisted it was produce by a meteorite impact.

1464_Meteor Crater

1465_Meteor Crater

1469_Meteor Crater

We learned at the interpretive center there was much disagreement over what caused the crater. The original theory had been of volcanic origin. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that geologists finally agreed it was formed by a meteor. Most of which was vaporized in the impact. On display is the largest nickel-iron fragment ever found at the site.

1463_Meteor Crater

We took a tour of the rim. We weren’t allowed to go down into the crater.

1467_Meteor Crater

The tour guide provided some interesting facts about the place. A small private airplane crashed in the crater, killing the pilot and all passengers. Although the bodies were recovered, the wreckage of the plane remains at the bottom of the crater toward the center left. It was too much trouble to extract.

1472_Meteor Crater

We also learned on the tour that the landscape was so lunar-like NASA used the crater to train the Apollo astronauts in the 60’s for their sojourns on the moon. Also, the ending of the movie ‘Starman’, released in 1984, was filmed at the crater. But the film crew had caused so much stress to the crater that the owners (it is privately-owned, not part of the park system) haven’t allowed another movie to be filmed here. But the site was mined by people hoping to find pieces of the meteorite.

1471_Meteor Crater

But the meteor shattered in the air before impact, so no remnants were ever buried in the ground.

The next location is the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona



American Locations 37 – Sedona

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Sedona, Arizona

 Leaving the campground at Camp Verde, we headed north on I-17 for a short distance, then exited onto Hwy 179. We drove north through the Village of Oak Creek into the red rock canyons of Sedona.




As you can tell, there is a lot of traffic in Sedona. So we spent little time in town. Instead, we drove into the colorful surrounding countryside. This is the most iconic image of Sedona.


But there were many other interesting sights.







We stopped at Red Rock State Park to hike. The trail started out alongside a creek.


But we were soon high up on the hillsides.






Here at Red Rock State Park was the first time we had witnessed high-elevation yoga. On the outer edge of a trail which skirted a cliff and had at least a hundred foot drop to the rocks below we saw a young woman progressing through a series of yoga poses, balancing on the toes of one foot and extending far out over the abyss while her companion photographed her. This seemed needlessly reckless to me, just to get a picture. This sandstone is soft, and if the least bit crumbled beneath her toes she could lose her balance and pitch over. But we later saw other young women doing this at the Grand Canyon. Here is my wife’s sensible version.


Both feet firmly on the ground and nowhere near the edge.  After hiking, we drove back into Sedona, then headed north on Hwy 89A. This was yet another beautiful drive through a narrow twisting canyon as it followed rushing Owl Creek up into high mountains. I had wanted to stop at Slide Rock State Park and get wet in the creek, but it was just too jammed with people and cars. So we continued up out of the canyon into the mountains. At the top was a vista where we stopped to look back down at where we had just come from.



You can see what a fun drive it was.



At the very bottom Owl Creek can be spotted.


We were high enough there was even a bit of surviving snow.



But there was a lot more snow awaiting us in Flagstaff.

The next location is Meteor Crater, Arizona

American Locations 36 – Camp Verde

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Camp Verde, Arizona

We drove northwest on Hwy 260 out of the Tonto National Forest to Camp Verde. The private campground we set up at was on the Verde River just off of I-17. From there we had easy access to several points of interest. The first we went to see was Jerome.


This was an old mining town that had once been a ghost town, but now has several hundred residents. The reason Jerome had been abandoned in the 1950’s and 60’s is that the entire town is sliding down the hillside. In Jerome’s heyday there had been so many mines dug directly underneath the town that the hillside had become unstable and could not support the buildings. They had actually begun to slide down the hill. I don’t know what was done to stabilize the hill, but people began moving back. There are now restaurants and bed & breakfasts and shops lining the steep narrow lanes of the town.



There is also a mining museum.



What first attracted the miners to the Jerome area was the presence of azurite-malachite.



It is often found alongside copper, so it is a good indication of rich copper deposits, which was what the miners dug for in Jerome.

Once we finished touring the mining museum, we drove to Tuzigoot National Monument.




This is a well-preserved hilltop pueblo built by the Sinaguan Indians. There was also a visitor center with artifacts recovered from the site.



From there we drove to Montezuma Well National Monument.

1368_Montezuma's Well

Native Americans had constructed homes in the hillside surrounding this deep freshwater spring.

1369_Montezuma's Well

1373_Montezuma's Well

1381_Montezuma's Well

Our last destination of the day was the best – Montezuma Castle.

1390_Montezuma's Castle

1392_Montezuma's Castle

Both the Well and the Castle were named after Motezuma, even though this Aztec king had never come anywhere near either. Whoever discovered these places named them after the best-known Native American at the time, which was Montezuma. And the names stuck.

But Montezuma’s Castle is the most imposing cliff dwelling I have ever seen.

1386a_Montezuma's Castle

1387_Montezuma's Castle

I count at least four stories to these buildings. That’s some construction feat built into the side of a sheer cliff that high up. After this we drove back to our campground in Camp Verde and relaxed alongside the river.

The Next Location is Sedona, Arizona

American Locations 35 – Tonto

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Tonto National Forest, Arizona

The next morning we drove north on Hwy. 79, then turned east on Hwy. 60. At Globe we turned north on Hwy. 188 and drove into Tonto National Forest. Another beautiful drive through the mountains. We stopped at Roosevelt Lake.


Not to see the lake, but more Native American cliff ruins. We parked at the visitor center for the Tonto National Monument and hiked up. Notice all the saguaro cactus. They are all over Arizona, not just in the Saguaro National Park.



This was our steepest hike yet.


It wasn’t very long, just straight up.



But it was well worth the effort.





I like to take photos from inside looking out to try to capture the perspective the original inhabitants might have had of the world.



The view from this height was amazing.


Walking back down, I got a different perspective on some cactus.


We continued driving north on Hwy 188 to Rte. 87, where we continued north. We turned onto Rte. 260 and headed northwest. We made an ill-advised stop at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. The park was at the bottom of a very steep hill. There was a sign warning of a twenty-five per cent grade. But I wanted to see the natural bridge. So we descended with no problems. Only there was no camping, the park was very crowded, and it was a bit of a hike to get to the natural bridge and we were tired from our earlier strenuous hike to see the cliff dwelling ruins. We decided not to stop. So now I was worried about climbing back out. But the motor home made the climb no trouble. It’s only a six cylinder engine and the rig weighs five tons, but the gas pedal never reached the floorboard. Still, it’s silly to strain the motor home that much for no good reason.

We continued driving northwest on Rte. 260 to Camp Verde, where we found a pleasant private campground alongside the Verde River.


The next location is Camp Verde, Arizona.




American Locations 34 – Saguaro

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona

Early the next morning we left the campground and drove to Boot Hill.


These are the graves of the three men killed by the Earps and Doc Holiday in the Gunfight at the OK Coral.


Two more graves, with colorful epitaphs.



We left Boot Hill heading north on Rte. 80, the same way we had come in. We were stopped for the third and final time by Border Patrol. It went as smoothly as before. We continued on north to Benson, where we headed west on Interstate 10. It was a short drive to Vail, where we exited and headed north on East Colossal Cave Rd. We turned left onto South Pistol Hill Rd., then left again onto East Old Spanish Trail. We followed this road north to the entrance to Saguaro National Park East. First stop was the visitor center.

1262_Saguaro NP

1264_Saguaro NP

Then we drove the paved loop through the park.

1268_Saguaro NP

1269_Saguaro NP

1274_Saguaro NP

We parked the motor home and hiked a trail.

1280_Saguaro NP

1282_Saguaro NP

1284_Saguaro NP

1285_Saguaro NP

1286_Saguaro NP

I thought these were unusual.

1287_Saguaro NP

1288_Saguaro NP

1289_Saguaro NP

After completing the hike and driving the loop road, the plan was to drive through Tucson to see the other section, Saguaro National Park West, but we decided we’d seen enough cactus. So we skirted northwest across northern Tucson to Hwy. 77, then headed north.

This was the turning point of our trip. Tucson, Arizona, was the farthest we would get from our home in Cincinnati, Ohio. From here on we would be getting closer to home rather than farther.

We drove north on Hwy. 77 to Saddlebrooke, where we turned northwest onto Hwy. 79. We found a very good private campground in Florence, which is southeast of Phoenix. It was filled with snowbirds staying long term, but the owner found one empty site we could squeeze into for the night. I usually don’t take pictures of private RV parks, but this one was exceptional.





After dinner, we relaxed in the pool and hot tub. Where we met a couple who were true gypsies. Their trailer was their home, they had no other residence. They just roamed all over the country. They were there at that time because it was March and several of the major league baseball teams had their spring training camps in Arizona open. They were going around to see the different teams play. I could never live like that. I enjoy traveling, but I also enjoy returning home. I like having a solid roof over my head. It’s a small house, a three-bedroom ranch, but it seems huge after spending months in our 23-foot motor home.


The next location is Tonto National Forest, Arizona

American Locations 33 – Tombstone 2

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Tombstone, Arizona

On our second day we toured the Birdcage, the oldest surviving building in town. It had been a performance hall, saloon, poker den, and bordello.


I was told there were thirty-three bullet holes in the lobby. Or thirty-three deaths. I forget which. If it was thirty-three deaths, then there would be a lot more bullet holes. Anyway, the bullet holes have all been preserved.


Notice the balcony. These were individual cubicles where the prostitutes would join their customers and draw the curtains for privacy. These were called birdcages, hence the name of the place.




In the basement were rooms for the prostitutes whose customers couldn’t afford the pricier balcony, or wanted more privacy.




Several poker tables were set up in the basement, since this was where the games took place.


Looks like the games got messy.


Alcohol was served, of course. But not by these two.


This game went on too long.


There was an authentic horse-drawn hearse on display. This was actually used to haul bodies up to Boot Hill.


Colorful shows took place in the middle of the street.


The biggest show was the re-enactment of the Gunfight at the OK Coral.






The next location is Saguaro National Park, Arizona.