Sunday, April 20, 2014

Campground Review: Point of Rocks RV Campground, Prescott, AZ

Point of Rocks RV Campground is a wonderful private RV park snugged up against the rocks of the Granite Dells at the North end of Prescott, AZ.

It's rustic; roads and sites are gravel/dirt. There are 96 full hookup sites; many are very private and some back right up to the giant granite boulders. Each site has a picnic table. Electrical is only 30amp. Amenities include restrooms/showers and a laundry room (very inexpensive). There is no wifi (unless you are close to the office) so you better bring your own. We had an adequate Verizon signal with our booster.

Even though there is a little noise from county highway 89 during the day, it is very quiet at night. We thought the only small negative about this park was the dust from the gravel roads...which you get at any graveled park.

The best part, in our opinion, were the access to the giant boulders for views and exploring, plus the trails directly to beautiful Watson Lake, just a few hundred feet from our site.

Walking the campground we could see that many people had decided to stay here long term. Frankly, if I wanted to live in an RV park in this part of the country, this would be an excellent place to do it. You're settled into a relaxed place of quiet, natural beauty with quick, easy access to all the services and recreation Prescott offers (Trader Joes! Target! Costco! Small lakes! Cool forest!).

Here's a little something we wish we'd known before we left Cottonwood (and paid a lot more): Costco in Prescott now sells diesel fuel. They are one of three Costco's in the country trying this out. AND, they sell propane. Both at good prices of course. In general, propane was less expensive here than in Cottonwood by at least 50 cents per gallon.

We had site 67, extremely private! We could barely see our one neighbor through the bushes on the left.
That's a storage shed behind our truck; it was empty so probably left behind from a previous long term resident.

Behind the storage shed we had a private patio!

This small site backed right up to giant granite boulders.
I thought site 66 was very good. Long, private, easy access to the field of boulders.

Rosie loved chasing lizards in the rocks!

An evening view into the campground from the rocks.
You can see how the perimeter sites have access to the rocks.
Granite Mountain is in the distance.

Gorgeous Watson Lake is right behind the RV park and accessible by a short trail.

During our last couple of days in Prescott we met up with old and new friends. Kathryn, Hans' former coworker, was visiting from San Diego, her family lives in Prescott. Chris is a fellow Surf Guitar 101 member who lives in the area, and he and Hans hooked up through their forum.

Hiking meetup with Kathryn on the Watson Lake rocks!

Beer meetup with fellow rocker, Chris, at the Palace Saloon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Loving Our Time in Prescott!

A couple of days ago I wrote about our wonderful hike around Watson Lake which is adjacent to our RV park. About half a mile away is Watson Lake's twin, Willow Lake. I didn't expect to write about Willow Lake because the two reservoirs are quite similar with the North end in the Granite Dells and the South end a riparian preserve. But we discovered a special bonus when we hiked around Willow Lake...a Cormorant Rookery!

Both lakes are considered Important Bird Areas. On the West side of Willow Lake there is a large grove of enormous, old cottonwood trees. A short trail, Cottonwood Spur, takes you a few hundred feet into the grove. A conveniently placed bench allows you to look up into the tree tops and observe dozens of Double-crested Cormorants nesting. The sounds were incredible too...we heard not only the bird calls you'd expect, but the Cormorants made strange guttural sounds that reminded me of primates. We felt like we were in a tropical jungle! I really wished I had my binoculars with me.

Hans is dwarfed by giant cottonwoods...which are full of Double-crested Cormorant nests!

All the birds we saw seemed to be adults in breeding plumage.
Here are three, and one small nest!

Four nests in one shot!

The breeding plumage is very apparent here.
Many of the nests seemed too tiny for these large birds. Perhaps they were still in building mode.

Another neat thing about these lakes is the fascinating designs on the granite rocks:

Another day we hiked the Little Granite Mountain Loop. Though the link says it's 6.7 miles, we followed those directions exactly and clocked 8.2 miles. The middle half of the trail goes through land burned in 2013, but the first and last sections are through pretty lushly covered hillsides of pine, juniper and oak. 

We're in a land studded with amazing granite boulders!
The pointy pile on the left is a feature named Lizard Head.
If you hike the Granite Mountain Trail you end up above the large granite protrusion on the right.

These little purple flowers were flourishing in the burned landscape.

The eerie beauty of a burnt landscape.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Welcome to Prescott, AZ

By the end of our stay in Cottonwood the temperature was hovering around 90 degrees. Our new location, Prescott, located at 5400 feet elevation, is in the low 70's...perfect temps for hiking and exploring this lovely area. 

We've hit a jackpot of a place to stay too: Point of Rocks RV Campground is a full hookup park nestled against giant granite boulders, with a short trail to lovely Watson Lake. This area at the North end of Prescott is known as the Granite Dells and contains miles of trails among the granite boulders including the pleasant Peavine Rail-Trail.

Of course our first day here we hiked the Watson Lake Loop trail right from our campsite. The City of Prescott has done a great job of creating, signing, and maintaining approximately 50 miles of trails throughout the city and this one is a beauty. Free city trail maps are available at several kiosks around Watson Lake.

The North end of this man-made lake is a wonderland of boulders. The trail takes you through acres of granite oddities, grippy hiking shoes are recommended. The South West portion of the trail goes through Watson Woods, a beautiful, green riparian preserve. This hike was about 6 miles, including a couple of offshoots for great views.

At the North end of Watson Lake the trail winds over and through an impressive granite boulder field.
The trail will take us behind the dam...

Water released from the dam provides a pretty waterfall and riparian area.

A pig head?

The trail took us through this massive granite boulder field.
You can see the only people we met on the trail below. dwarfed by the landscape.

On our second day in Prescott we drove a few miles South of town to hike the 9 mile Groom Creek Loop (trail 307). This trail takes you through pine, oak and juniper woods up to the Spruce Mountain fire lookout. We were fortunate that fire season had just begun and the resident ranger invited us into her tower to admire the views and learn a bit about her job watching for the first signs of fire in this extremely dry wooded country.

Spruce Mountain fire lookout.

Ranger Susie had these beauties as her constant companions.

Here we are behind the fire triangulating compass.

Hans hugs one of the enormous alligator junipers we saw throughout the forest.

Back at camp we enjoy an evening walk on the boulders behind our site.

Rosie LOVES exploring on the rocks...during the day the lizards are active targets!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wrapping Up Our Stay in the Verde Valley

We've spent a wonderful month in Cottonwood, AZ, enjoying its quaint Old Town, convenient shopping, and close proximity to Jerome and Sedona. The weather from mid-March to mid-April ranged from the high 60's to about 90 degrees the past couple of days and the trees have bloomed and leafed out during our stay...making this a lovely time of year to visit. Here's a few more things we did in the past couple of weeks...

Thanks to the new RVers social network, RVillage, we met Sean and Marian. We spent a day hiking Hangover/Cow Pies in reverse, dinner at their great spot at Sedona Pines, along with spa time...a perfect day! And, we get to meet up again at the Grand Canyon in a couple of weeks! Thanks RVillage for making this connection possible!

Lisa, Hans, Sean and Marian enjoying the incredible views from the Hangover Saddle.

We saw a young collared!

On one of our trips to Jerome we visited Jerome State Historic Park. There's a wealth of information about the history of Jerome housed in the former Douglas Mansion, built by the one time owner of the Little Daisy Mine, James S. Douglas.

Great view of Jerome State Historic Park, housed in the Douglas Mansion, from the town of Jerome.
The Mansion has a fantastic view of both Jerome above and the Verde Valley below it.

Lots of interesting mining history both inside and outside the Mansion.

One short, but sweet, hike we took was the Fay Canyon Trail. Like any short, shady and easy trail in Sedona, it is popular. But if you go early on a week day the crowds aren't too bad. The side trip to view the arch up close is worth it, but steep and rocky. It's also neat to climb the cliff at the end of the trail for some great views down canyon.

As we head in to the canyon the arch is barely visible off to the right.

After a steep climb up to the arch I could see how substantial it is, and the view was great too!

We ate out a few times during our month in Cottonwood...oh, and there seems to be a consensus among Yelpers and Trip Advisor reviewers that Cottonwood has better restaurants than Sedona. Since we never ate out in Sedona (except for hot dogs at Oak Creek Brewing) I can't comment on that, but Cottonwood did have some decent eats.

Juanitas Taqueria - They don't have a website, but the reviews don't lie, this Mexican take out joint is very good. I had one of the best Chile Rellenos I've ever had; a very light batter with a lovely ricotta-style cheese inside, nice tomato-based sauce on top. They have about 10 tables inside. Order at the counter and they'll bring the food to you.

Nic's Italian Steak and Crab House - We don't usually go out for steak or Italian, but when our friend Billy Bennight rolled through town one evening we took a stroll through Old Town Cottonwood and decided to give it a try...once again, the reviews were spot on! Nic's was hopping early on a week night and rightly so. Though the Tuscan-style entrees were very rich, the flavors were wonderful. The manager even brought us a delicious complimentary Vanilla-Orangecello apertif at the end of our meal. This meal was a tasty indulgence that we simply worked off on the trail the next day! For a steakhouse, the prices were reasonable.

Lastly, I 'd like to give an honorable mention to Pizzeria Bocce. While the "Not a Meat Pie" pizza did not blow us away (it was a bit bland), the spinach salad was excellent, the bar menu was extensive and the ambiance was really wonderful. They have a lovely patio bar that makes this place worth a second try next time we are in the area.

Tomorrow we're off to Prescott for a week on our slow meander North. New adventures await!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Exploring Sycamore and Verde Canyons

We hiked Parsons Trail in Sycamore Canyon back in November 2012. That day we didn't make it to the end of trail, we hadn't left ourselves enough time before we were to meet the Good Luck Duckians. This time we were determined to hike the full trail, it's only 3.7 miles one way, other than the initial drop into the canyon, it's relatively flat going.

The 9 miles of dirt road to the trail head is in pretty good shape, even a sedan could make's just a little rough in the last mile. This canyon is a beauty. Two springs within four miles make it a riparian oasis in the desert. Towering red rock and basalt cliffs form the canyon walls. There are several lovely pools along the way, making this a busy place in warm weather. After you reach Parsons Spring you can continue up the rocky, seasonal stream bed as far as you want.

View from the trail head. You drop 180 feet into the canyon, then it's pretty easy going up stream.

There are several stream crossings.

People were swimming here on our way out...the water was pretty cool though!

The beauty of each pool we came to just had me sighing with pleasure!

Our turn around point was a few hundred yards beyond the spring and into the rocky seasonal stream bed.
We even loved the dry stream bed...the variety of rocks was amazing!

One last photo as we made our way's just so darn pretty!

Sycamore Canyon, above, joins Verde Canyon and the Verde River. We wanted to take the Verde Canyon Railroad trip but were not too interested in the high price tag for first class seats: $79.95/each. So we braved the crazy tourist section of Sedona, found a visitor center offering deeply discounted train tickets ($49.95 for two first class tickets), and sat through a timeshare presentation in order to receive the tickets.

A little painful, but also somewhat interesting because we had passed by Sedona Pines Resort several times and noticed the RV's parked out front but couldn't find any detail on the place. Turns out it is a timeshare resort that offers RV parking to its owners. Anyhow, we didn't buy a timeshare and probably never will...but we did get to ride the train!

Verde Canyon Railroad is a four hour, slow journey on a vintage train for 20 miles up (and back down) the Verde Canyon. First class gives you comfy indoor seats, tasty snacks, beverage service and access to an open air viewing carriage. The train follows the Verde River the whole way and you are likely to see Bald Eagles as well as other large raptors. We saw at least six bald eagles!

We had a great time and I made a very big mistake when we got home...I erased all the photos from my camera without downloading them to my laptop! That's a first...and hopefully the last time that ever happens...that's I what I get for not following my normal routine. And no, alcohol was not a factor! Anyhow, here's a shot from Hans cell phone!

Verde Canyon Railroad

The train ride was fun, especially at the rate we paid! We highly recommend the Parsons Trail in Sycamore Canyon for its incredible beauty. The Packard Trail is also accessed at Sycamore Canyon trail head; since it's an exposed hike we'll save that one for another time when the weather is cool.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Best Hangover Ever

The goal for the day was an 8.6 mile lollipop loop on the Munds Wagon, Cowpies and Hangover trails then back to Munds Wagon trail. The Hangover Trail is a fairly new addition to the official Sedona trail system; it's a double black diamond mountain bike trail so we knew from our experience (hiking) the Hogs Trails the other day that this should be an interesting walk.

If you decide to do this lollipop loop, don't make the mistake we did that turned our hike into 11.5 miles! Since the Hangover Trail is not yet on the the local trail maps we relied on the article linked above for our directions...but I did not print it out. I skimmed over the fact that one must take the Schnebly Hill Rd turn off from the Munds Wagon Trail at about 2.8 miles in order to access the Cowpies Trail. Sedona needs to put a little sign under the Schnebly Hill Rd sign that says "to Cowpies Trail"!

Here's a look at our great day on the trail. We had a little weather come through the night before so we enjoyed a dusting of snow along the shady parts of the trail. The pictures along the Hangover Trail don't adequately depict how scary some of this would be on a mountain bike...believe me it IS a double black diamond ride!

Looking up canyon, on our left were fabulous red rock formations.
Little did we know we would cross over the middle of the distant set of red rocks
and come back on the left of the round topped rock in the center.

Check out the little arches at each end of this fin!

By the end of the day those sun shafts will have melted all the pretty snow.

A beautiful scene looking down the canyon we ascended...
unfortunately the oozy red rock in the center is the Cowpies we bypassed!

The cowpies are enormous!

Notice the warning for mountain bikers...

The mountain on the opposite side of the canyon sported white stone.

A look back up canyon as we depart the cowpies.
The trail is now riding sandstone ledges, sometimes narrow.

We followed white paint tag marks on the rock as they zig zagged
a way up the rocks to the pass on the left above us.

The pass was impressive and dramatic!

The view on the other side was incredible.
The Midgley Bridge on Hwy 89A is in the center with Mt Wilson rising above it.

A look back at the saddle we crossed.
The trail took us down the rock face of the saddle about 50 feet then we started a
traverse of a shelf lined with trees.

This is the trail we now found ourselves on, basically a treed shelf overhung with rock...the Hangover.

The trail goes between the rock and the tree and drops off the edge...
imagine riding your bike here...

This is deceptively smooth looking...
often the drop offs or strategically placed rocks made the trail treacherous.

Another look back at the saddle we crossed.
Our trail is in the horizontal band of trees.

We've now come around the mountain far enough we have views of Sedona.

We could see our trail would cross between our rock face and the one opposite us...
but we had no clue how it would get down our rock face...

The white tags started zigging down the rock face...

Then the tags went straight DOWN the rock face!
Imagine yourself riding a bike down this...or pushing it up!

Follow the vertical white tags!

Ahhhhh, now we're back on "level" rock.

A colorful look back at the valley North of Sedona.

This one was about to burst into bloom.

These colors are untouched...can you see why we love this place?!