Well, my ten-year old is running track this year and her first big meet was up in Flagstaff yesterday. We got up early and headed out the door by 7:00 am. Although we were greeted with a nice sunrise, the day would prove to be gray and overcast.
Flagstaff is a 2-3 hour drive from our house, depending on how much stopping you do along the way. This trip was pretty much all about getting there so we only made one stop, less than an hour into the trip. This is a stop I usually always make when heading up to the high country…Rock Springs Cafe in Black Canyon.
I have been a big fan of this place since I moved to the Phoenix area 10 years ago. The food is always good and it has a great Roadfood atmosphere. I ordered two scrambled with sausage, hash browns and a home-made biscuit with a side of sausage gravy. The waitress offered home-made salsa, which I gladly took.
This was one awesome breakfast! The biscuit was big, moist and tasty, especially with some excellent sausage gravy over it. The hash browns were nicely crisped and buttery and the home-made salsa, over the top good. I have to tell you, I was tempted this time to turn right instead of left to give the Amish Café down the road a try, at this point I was sure glad I didn’t.
After a very satisfying breakfast, I wandered over to the pie case for a look at Penny’s Famous Pies. As you can see, these things are works of art, esp. the cream pies. Penny will not even make the pies during Monsoon season; she says the humidity kills the meringue. Regretfully, there was absolutely no room in the stomach for a slice, so I vowed to get back here some afternoon and have one…or two, pieces of these wonderful creations.
Fresh pies waiting for the pie case…
So back out on the road, we start to climb out of Black Canyon and the Bradshaw Mountains to our west. This area has some incredible stories dating back to before the turn of the last century. Mining in these parts really hit a high in the late 1890’s and eventually became one of the State’s leading producers of Silver and Gold. Colorful place names still exist like Bumble Bee and Lost Pick Mine, although the towns and the mines have been long abandoned after the ore ran out.
After crossing Bloody Basin Road and Big Bug Creek we came up to the exit for Prescott. http://www.cityofprescott.net/visitors/
Prescott (or Preskit as the locals say) has been bought up lately by a lot of Californians looking for a quaint and inexpensive place to retire or have a second home. The town has many Victorian-style homes and “way back when’ was the Territorial Capital for a number of years. The town has lost some of its charm over the years because of its Yuppification, but it is still worth the diversion to visit this historic town.
Prescott is famous for it’s County courthouse, built in 1916, the Frontier Days Rodeo, and of course, for Whiskey Row, where back in the Wild West days over 40 bars and saloons existed along Montezuma Street. There are still a couple watering holes here and there, my favorite, sitting kitty-corner from the row is the Prescott Brewing Company. Great food and excellent beer, my libation of choice being the Ponderosa IPA. http://www.prescottbrewingcompany.com/beers.html
Continuing on north past the exit, we crossed the Verde River. This area is worth taking some time to explore, with the site of Camp Verde just off the road as well as Montezuma’s Castle and, a bit to the northwest, the town of Cottonwood.
Camp Verde is the site of an important Military Fort during the Indian Wars between 1860s-1880s. The pony express used the Camp as a resting/protection point and it was the base of operations while battling the Apache Indians in this area. Several of the buildings still stand and is an interesting visit for history buffs. http://www.pr.state.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/fortverde.html
Montezuma’s Castle really isn’t a castle and has nothing to do with the great Aztec Montezuma. It is actually a cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua Indians back around 1200. From the informative visitor’s center up to the ruins is a very short walk, so if you are passing by, I highly recommend stopping for a quick Native American History lesson. http://www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm
Picture from a past visit.
Cottonwood is a great place to stop off, esp. if you are RVing it. Plenty of campgrounds run along the picturesque Verde River and there is plenty of good fishing and bird watching along the river if you are into that kind of thing. http://www.cottonwood.verdevalley.com/
Along the way from the freeway up to Cottonwood is the Out of Africa Wild Animal Park. This place was located down here in the Phoenix area but moved a couple years back to Cottonwood/Camp Verde. It is an extraordinary facility with its premise of helping injured and sick wild animals survive and thrive. It's a thought provoking and hands on look at some amazing animals. http://www.outofafricapark.com/
Further north we can see off to our left the red Rocks of Sedona. This town is so famous I don’t even need to go into it. If you have never been there, next time you are in AZ, get yourself over there. It is visually stunning. One tip, be sure to drive the Oak Creek Canyon up to Flagstaff if you are in Sedona. It’s a beautiful drive unto itself.
Picture from a past trip.
We finally arrive in Flagstaff at 10 AM. The temperature in Phoenix when we left 3 hours earlier was 66 degrees. In Flag it was 36 and cloudy. No snow was falling but by the look of the piles of snow laying around they had had plenty lately. The San Fransisco Peaks loomed over the town, covered in snow. I’m sure lots of folks were enjoying a day of skiing up a the Snow Bowl Ski Resort. http://www.arizonasnowbowl.com
Humphrey’s Peak is the tallest of the mountains there, rising 12,643 feet above sea level.
We got over to the Walkup Skydome located on the campus of Northern Arizona University (NAU).
The Arizona Indoor Classic track and field championships attract hundreds of participants from all over the southwest. Southern California, Las Vegas and Arizona being the most heavily represented.
As usual at track competitions there is plenty of time spent waiting around, so I went across the street from the University and visited the Riordan Mansion. The Riordans were a group of brothers that came out to Flagstaff in the early days of the town and started a logging business.
After creating a successful business they built this “duplex” in 1904. The house was nearly torn down to expand the University, but luckily it was saved as an historical site and now offers tours and information about this very interesting period in Northern Arizona.
After my 10 year old ran her first heat, we had a break in the action so we went out to grab some lunch at another favorite of mine, the Beaver Street Brewery. http://www.beaverstreetbrewery.com
The girls each ordered spaghetti off the kids menu and I got the Brewery’s signature Beaver Street Burger. The menu is quite diverse, and I often “settle” for one of their delicious wood fired pizzas. But today seemed like a burger day to me, and I’m glad I chose that.
In their words it’s “A 1/2 lb. patty of freshly ground beef blended with garlic, fresh basil and sundried tomatoes. Grilled to perfection and served on a crispy, chewy bun with havarti cheese, basil pesto mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and red onion rings. (Due to the presence of sundried tomatoes, even well done burgers may appear red in color.) “
words, it was a very good burger, and filled me up for the rest (well almost) of the day. I washed it all down with a beautiful Pale Ale (only one, I had to be a respectable parent, after all.)
Flagstaff is a very interesting city, and a great place to stay and use as a base for exploring the northern part of the great state of Arizona. http://www.flagstaffarizona.org
Las Vegas, Hoover dam, Navajo country (Monument Valley), the Grand Canyon, all can be had from Flag.
But be sure to nose around the town and find lots of little mom and pop shops, great little cafes, historical buildings (the Babbitt building in the middle of town harkins back to the Babbitt family, who moved here from the east to start cattle ranching, and ended up diversifying into any number of businesses inc. a mortuary.), the train station (now the tourist office) and the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered. (the ice ball, not the dog.)
At the end of a very long day with lots of track and field watching and a little site seeing, the girls wanted to eat something quick before we headed back to Phoenix, so we grabbed the first Mexican restaurant we saw…Garcias Mexican restaurant.
I was still somewhat full from the late lunch, so I had a Taco ala carte and an iced tea. The food was nothing special and the service was slow, probably because they were so busy with all the track folks in town, so we didn’t get out of Flagstaff before 8 PM. On the positive side, traffic heading down the hill was light, so we actually made it back home in exactly 2 hours.
Sure it made for a long day, but for me it is always nice to be able to travel somewhere out of the ordinary and learn a little about the surrounding area I am driving through. Arizona is rich in colorful history, one just needs to take the time to explore the surroundings to have a better appreciation of what those who came before us experienced.