A few days ago I was in a helicopter, flying over the Grand Canyon.

The day before yesterday, I took a train through Verde Canyon.

Yesterday, I took a Jeep tour in Sedona.

I am loving Arizona!

THE VERDE CANYON RAILROAD

Departing from Clarkdale, Arizona, the Verde Canyon Railroad is a two-hour ride to Perkinsville, Arizona (aka Nowhere), and a two-hour ride back, totaling about 40 miles. The railway runs parallel to the Verde River, rambles along at a leisurely pace, and is very scenic. You may sit inside a car, where recorded narration describes the sites, or stand/sit outside in one of the open-air cars, where it is much more difficult to hear the narration.

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The $25 difference between coach and first class was well worth the price to me because of first class guide Jack, who joined us in the open-air car and described what we were seeing along the way. With a first class ticket you are also served a meal of deli platter sandwiches, Caesar salad, and brownies, with a glass of champagne in a disposable plastic cup.

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Copper mining was the genesis of this railroad. In fact, as you pull out of the train station in the company town of Clarkdale, you pass behind a 20-million ton slag pile, eyesore since 1947, but soon to be profitable; Nevada company Searchlight Minerals believes there are 0.50 ounces of gold per ton in that slag heap, not to mention silver, copper, zinc, and ferro silicate. Apparently they finally have the technology to get the stuff out.

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Jerome, Arizona, which produced some of the richest copper mines in U.S. history (at an astonishing 3,000,000 pounds per month) is nestled 5000 feet above sea level on Cleopatra Hill, overlooking the Verde Valley and Clarkdale. When copper played out in the 1950s, Jerome practically became a ghost town. It is now a vibrant artists’ community of approximately 500 full-time residents (population during the peak of mining in the 1920s was estimated to be 15,000). I was charmed by Jerome and would like to return.

Clarkdale now consists of Main Street, a park with a gazebo, and the old high school, which is now a copper museum. There is a Mexican restaurant, a pizza place, and a bar, and not much else along Main.

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The dreamer in me envisions a day when Clarkdale comes alive again with restaurants and boutiques.

I am staying at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona. When the family who previously owned the land shopped for a ranch in the 1940’s, they referred to this property as “the one with the dead horse on it.” Voila, the ranch was named. When they donated the property to the state of Arizona it came with one stipulation: Keep the name.

Dead Horse Ranch is beautiful and includes desert landscapes, the Verde River, and a lagoon. There are even corrals on the trail to park your horse while you go for a little hike. Cottonwood is about 20 miles from Sedona, and you take State Highway 89A to get there. 89A is one of the most picturesque highways in America.

SR 89A is 84 miles long and runs from Prescott to Flagstaff. The highway begins at SR 89 and heads north from Prescott, entering Jerome. From Jerome, the route then heads to Cottonwood and Sedona. It goes on to Flagstaff from there.

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Cottonwood began as a military encampment in the 1800s, then was later known for producing crops, supplying the mining towns. By the 1920s it was a bootlegger’s haven. Now it appears to be a home for staunch individualists, including lots of motorcyclists. On Saturday Cottonwood had a street fair, complete with a vintage car show and lots of colorful characters.

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While Sedona is known for its picturesque charm, I fell in love with Cottonwood, Clarkdale, and Jerome.

PINK JEEP TOURS

We were given a history of both Pink Jeep and Sedona as our tour began. In the 1960s, when the land in Sedona could not be given away, the founder of Pink Jeep charged three dollars for a three-hour tour. His company grew from one Jeep to two. When he and his wife visited the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki – a vision in pink Art Deco loveliness – his wife declared the jeeps should be painted pink. There you have it.

Regarding Sedona, everyone seems to think that its name is derived from something Spanish or Native American. In fact, one of the town’s founding fathers was named … wait for it … Carl Schnebly. He wanted to name the town after himself. Wisely, the townspeople refused. But, Schnebly’s wife was named Sedona. Sedona was not a Native American. In fact, she was from Missouri! While “Sedona” may sound Native American or Spanish or mystical, it has no particular meaning at all.

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Sedona was a pretty quiet little berg until the 1980s, when a mystic proclaimed that there were four energy vortexes in the area. Business began booming, and Sedona finally incorporated in 1988. There are now 10,000 permanent residents in Sedona, 75 percent of which are retired. There is a lot of retirement money in this town.

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Three years ago, after I had neurosurgery for a herniated cervical disc, my doctor advised me to avoid things like bumper cars and roller coaster rides. So, when I perused the Sedona tours available through Pink Jeep Tours, I kept my eye out for something a little on the sedate side. I booked the Broken Arrow Trail tour. Boy, was I misguided.

Our tour traversed the Broken Arrow Trail, so named because the movie “Broken Arrow” was filmed here in 1950. In fact, 60 productions were filmed in Sedona from 1923 to 1973, earning the town the nickname “Arizona’s Little Hollywood.” Here is a good list.

I am glad I sat in the front passenger seat of the Jeep, as there was less movement and jostling than in the back. At times we were at 45 degree angles!

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During the tour I asked several questions which seemed to make the driver uncomfortable, such as environmental concerns about vehicles being driven through the landscape, and complaints by homeowners in upscale neighborhoods adjacent to the trails. He replied that environmental studies are constantly being performed, and the number of vehicles per hour is limited for tour companies. However, there is no limitation on personal vehicles, including Jeeps and dunebuggies, which can be rented in town by any idiot with a driver’s license and a credit card. Regarding the homeowners, it was his opinion that they built their homes adjacent to already existing trails, so they really have no right to complain. But, they still do. In fact, one homeowner complained that the tour drivers waved at her, so the drivers have been instructed to wave only if a homeowner waves first.

Like clouds, rock formations are fuel for the imagination. There were formations shaped like Snoopy, a camel, an eagle, a submarine, and a pile of mushrooms, to name a few.

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I intended to spend a total of two nights in the Sedona area. So far I have been here for four nights, and I just signed up for three more today. Can you tell I like it here?