Friday, March 23, 2012


Heading down to Camp VerdeWe 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.

Site 70 at Dead Horse RanchSpring 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.

Jerome on Cleopatra Hill Front of Jerome Grand Hotel
Above: Looking at Jerome from below.  The big building at the top is the Jerome Grand Hotel.

Below: a funny intersection in Jerome as we walked up to the historic hotel.
Above: the Jerome Grand Hotel up close and personal. 

Below: Looking down on Jerome from the hotel’s vantage point.
Funny Jerome Intersection Looking down on Jerome

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.

Quince Restaurant 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.
Carnitas for Odel Quesadillas

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 from the Verde floodplain Tuzigoot and the mountains

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.


  1. We LOVED LOVED LOVED that Mexican restaurant in Jerome...Quinze...terrific food! What an interesting town! Loved the rest of your photos about Jerome and the surrounding area, too.

  2. Yep, it was Phelps Dodge in Ajo too. I owned one of those former miner manager's houses for about 15 years in Ajo. My folks lived in it for about 10 years after they came off of the road.

    I think I would have liked to try one of those quesadillas.

  3. That corn fungus is usually pretty plentiful in the sweet corn when it's ready to pick. Only we call it smut & try to fling the infected ears as far as possible from the corn patch hoping there will be less infection the next year. Hard to believe some people think of it as a delicacy.

  4. Paul and I just said strange it is to see kids in an RV park.
    You two crack me up. I would never think of ordering fungus. We need to be more adventurous with our food selections. We just had pizza with pepperoni and boring compared to your lunch.
    The ruins are awesome. This hike we would love. We hope all the snow is gone from Sedona. Hope you two have a wonderful weekend. ~wheresweaver

  5. Love the old junk yard in Jerome. Some very unusual things there. The guy that runs it was quite a trip.

  6. Hoy! We need to add Jerome to our upcoming travels! Judging by your excellent photos and description of lunch/dinner, we need to give 15.Quinze a try. Everything sounded yummy, tho I'm not sure about huitlacoche.

    Looked up the link you provided, I learned that according to the Aztec, this dark growth found on corn translates (rather bluntly and literally) to "ravens excrement." Well, you said they have other options!

    We're leaving next week... on the road again! Heading west - o boy!

  7. Love the looks of that restaurant. We forgot about spring break as well, and ran into busloads of kids at Pinnacles, but not on our trail, thank goodness. First time I saw Jerome was in 1971, I was with my then husband and 4 very young kids at the time, in a very beat up 1960 ford that kept heating up. In Jerome there was NO water at that time, we had to buy some glasses of water from a frumpy store to put in the radiator. I'll never forget Jerome. Looks as though it has grown a LOT! Last time I saw it was in 1997.

  8. I'll be interested in your experiences at Sedona. I've never been there, but would like to see it.

  9. Another place to put on our must see list.

  10. Your blog is a boon for the green chili market- Looks great.

  11. Last time we were in Jerome was was taken over by "old hippies". By the looks of your pictures, it has really grown...There was no such thing as The Jerome Grand Hotel :-))...and the town was pretty run down. Maybe we will have to go back.

  12. That whole area of Arizona has a lot to see and do. We have a Thousand Trails membership and have stayed at that park many times to visit Cottonwood, Jerome, etc. Time to go back there soon, I guess, before we dump our TT Membership on the market for a song. By the way, can you guys sing? Might be able to make a deal!

  13. We love it out west. You guys find the neatest spots. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Great post. I'm following closely as we will be at Dead Horse Ranch in a couple weeks. Spring break should be over by then. That restaurant looks yummy and having the Food Network rather than news or sports on sounds wonderful.

  15. Maybe a bigger grocery store would have it in their "ethnic" section? Goya cans it. We call it corn smut, as the Quiltin' Library Lady mentioned.

  16. Love that Cottonwood area; Dead Horse, Tuzigoot, Jerome...though we need to try your restaurant, Quince. So look forward to your trip to Sedona. Enjoy...

  17. Oh Yummmmm!! That Quesadilla sounds and looks delicious -- wish I had known about that restaurant when my friend and I were visiting there back in the Fall of 2010. We did thoroughly enjoy a couple of hours in a wonderful gallery there, then wandered some of the shops and 'gawked' at the sights in the yards of various homes.

    I drove through and even biked in Dead Horse but never made it up there with the rv. I was set up at Zane Grey RV Park in Camp Verde and loved it there.

    We visited Turzigoot also along with Montezuma's Castle and Well --neat places, each of them!!