We just returned from a failed attempt to visit Tuzigoot National Monument on foot from the trails at Dead Horse Ranch State Park (click here to read our review). 10,300 steps, and we turned back without success. :)
BUT – the sunshine was warm on our shoulders and bare legs (yep, we dug out shorts), a light breeze was blowing, the temperature was 70 degrees. The cottonwood trees show a hit of green and birds were serenading us, so it wasn’t all bad. :)
Quite a bit of snow fell in the high country before we left Congress on Wednesday morning. We took the longer, more big-rig friendly route from Congress to Cottonwood: south towards Phoenix, east on highway 74 to Interstate 17, north to highway 260 which runs northwest to Cottonwood. As we climbed up over 5,000 feet on the interstate, a thin layer of snow covered the slopes – and here at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, the surrounding peaks still show signs of the recent storm. It was a lovely drive.
Spring break! We forgot all about it until we pulled into the state park, but were quickly reminded by the kids tearing around the campground on bicycles and on foot. The campground has been full all week, with lots of activity today as the weekenders are arriving. This is a huge park, with miles of trails, adjacent to the Verde River (which is actually WET, rather than the usual dry Arizona riverbed). Plenty of trails for hiking, a lagoon for fishing, a tent campground loop separate from the RV loops; I can see why this park is so popular.
After a morning hike yesterday, we hopped into the car and headed up to Jerome, a copper mining town very reminiscent of Bisbee (though larger and busier). Phelps Dodge ran the mines in Jerome (like they did in Bisbee – and maybe Ajo?). Jerome clings to the steep side of Cleopatra hill; driving is a challenge.
The population of Jerome dropped from 15,000 to 50 after the mine closed in 1953. Like Bisbee, Jerome was saved by hippies and artists who moved in and eventually created an atmosphere appealing to tourists. Now, Jerome boasts numerous restaurants, shops, and wine tasting rooms. The streets were packed with tourists when we visited mid-week.
After a couple of hours exploring this quirky town on foot, we were ready to sit down to a meal. The campground host back at Dead Horse Ranch had recommended 15.Quince (pronounced keen-say, the Spanish word for fifteen) for “Mexican food with a twist”, so that is where we settled.
|The restaurant was small, busy and bright, with a polished, stamped metal ceiling. Color and art everywhere your eye rested, and I got a huge kick out of the TV: the Food Network was on (Paula Deen), rather than ESPN! |
Odel ordered “Braised pork with black beans and green rice”; I ordered quesadillas. Filling choices were the usual, plus something very unusual: huitlacoche, a corn fungus considered a delicacy in Mexico. That’s what I picked.
Awesome! Both servings were so large that we knew immediately we were looking at both lunch and dinner, and so yummy that we were happy to have the leftovers. I had heard of huitlacoche before, but had never had it in such quantity. The fungus is chopped, the slowly sautéed until it becomes a savory, oily paste, quite rich tasting. In this dish, the paste had been mixed with soft, sautéed chile peppers and onions – awesome is the best description. Too bad huitlacoche isn’t more readily available in the U.S.; I’d love to get my hands on some.
Tuzigoot in the distance, from the trail.
Standing on top of the ruins.
4:56 pm: It’s now later afternoon and – guess what – we made it to Tuzigoot National Monument, via car. From the hilltop ruin, it was easy to see the trail we had walked this morning, and to see where we turned around – about half a mile short of the trail up the hillside. It is an interesting site, beautiful in a spare way. We weren’t going to leave without a visit.
Tomorrow? We plan to revisit Sedona, to hike to one of the vortices for which it is famous. Red rocks, here we come.