As the weather in Oretgon started to deteriorate this fall, I decided a trip to Arizona would be just the thing- and I found the perfect excuse. I volunteered to deliver a Pug dog to his owner, now living in Alamagordo, New Mexico, since New Mexico is right next door to Arizona. Fuji, the Pug, turned out to be a lovely traveling companion. His preferred traveling position was front and center in my lap. He had his own center platform complete with doggy bed, but it was clearly second best for him.
His sleeping position at night was a bit more difficult as he felt he could only sleep plastered next to me, wrapped up in my sleeping bag. I found him adorable even at night; Matt was less amused. We made the trip to NM in record time, reuniting Fuji with his owner; then drifted on to Tucson, AZ to regroup with our dear friend, Susie.
Susie’s home in the Catalina foothills above Tucson has a panaramic view of the City as well as three mountain ranges and stunning sunsets. What a fabulous setting! We could hear coyotes on the next ridge over as we watched the sun go down. The next morning we encountered a family of javelinas while strolling between the saguaro cacti behind her house.
We watched a Cooper’s hawk patrol his territory around her hillside. We are always treated like royalty when we visit with lots of food, drink and good conversation. No wonder I love to go to Arizona!
With all the food and wine we were consuming, we were badly in need of some exercise. We tried out Tucson’s very nice, mostly paved city bike trail that travels the north edge of The Rillito River. The ride is flat with a dry wash below you on one side and a mix of old and new construction to peruse on the other side. It’s very much a city ride, but safe and easy. It felt good to be on wheels again. Right next to the bike path, we entered a Sunday open market that was delightfully full of vendors, locals and tourists. Fresh fruits and veggies, chips and salsa, music, artwork- all under a clear sunny sky.
After leaving Tucson, we headed north, finding a marvelous Rail to Trail to share.
The Iron King and Peavine Rails to Trails actually converge from separate starting points into one terminus. They are located in the Prescott Valley and travel through some of the most spectacular granite rock bluffs and outcroppings I’ve ever seen. We started at the east end of Iron King off Glassford Hill Road, in the town of Prescott Valley. Iron King ends in 4 miles at Peavine Rail to Trail near a place called “point of rocks.” Point of rocks was the location of the railroad terminal buildings. To the left, Peavine continues to a terminus at the south end of Watson Lake, ~4 more miles. That was our end destination. We then turned around and returned to our starting point. Peavine ‘s other terminus is about 1 mile from the point of rocks Iron King-Peavine junction, near hwy 89, north of Prescott. We scouted that section, but it stretched across rather flat dry prairie scenery that was no match for the rest of the trail, so we returned to the junction.
We first entered the Iron King via an underpass that avoids crossing a busy highway. Because of a recent rain, the underpass concrete surface was muddy and slick, but we made it without mishap. (We continually congratulate ourselves for buying fat tire trail bikes for these excursions.) Courtesy mandates that we wait for a horse and rider to walk their way through the underpass before proceeding so as not to spook the horse. These rail to trails are shared by bicyclists, horseback riders, walkers and runners.
At the risk of boring you with multiple vacation photos, I just couldn’t begin to select the most appropriate pictures. Trying to illuminate the awesome topography in a few snapshots is a fool’s task. You simply must see this place for yourself. It’s easy to get to and so worth the effort.
After a couple miles of rolling rangeland, punctuated by old railroad cars at the mile markers, the trail enters a granite rock wonderland, the Granite Dells. Riding between granite boulders, outcroppings and bluffs, the landscape is overwhelming. One hiker passed us with a backpack on and running. We saw him a few minutes later on top of the highest bluff in the area. Talk about an ironman! I wanted to try to find his path up the bluff, but we were not equipped to hike in desert and rock (no boots).
A couple miles farther on, the junction with Peavine is marked by an informative history marker. Turn right and Peavine leaves the granite boulders and courses across sweeping broad rangelands to its terminus. Continue straight as we did, and you soon come to Watson Lake. A stunning vista of blue-green water, towering granite bluffs and partially submerged granite boulder “islands” fills one with wonder and awe. It’s also a perfect spot to pause for lunch. The trail ends at the south end of Watson Lake, jarringly so, next to a major highway. We did meet a few walkers and bikers around Watson Lake area but most of the time we had the trail to ourselves.
A brisk wind came up by afternoon; fortunately it was behind us for the ride back. My adventurous husband thought we should try one of the many single track trails that branch from the main route through the granite rocks to the lake shoreline.
The experience once again confirmed that we are not single track contenders. We walked our bikes over and through the boulders. I don’t see how people can ride bikes through that terrain!
The main rail to trail route is hard packed dirt and easily travelled by hybrids and trail bikes. Skinny tires would have a pretty rough time of it. Once we got to Granite Dells, I could have spent hours just hiking/walking over and through the granite boulders and along the water’s edge.
The history of Granite Dells was fascinating as depicted by the trailside sign. One can only wonder why these fabulous areas lose their appeal. I suspect they don’t but somebody makes more money selling them to the privileged wealthy. A few lucky people live among the boulders and bluffs. The rest of us can only gaze and dream.
We discovered a beautiful, quiet national forest campground for our after trail evening: Yavapai campground in Prescott National Forest, 8.5 miles from Prescott. Campsites are nestled between slick rock boulders and scrubby trees, offering both privacy and stunning views. Made me wish I was considerably younger as the boulders were nearly irresistible climbing surfaces. I settled for the wine and the pleasures of a lingering sunset.
I did fall in love with Arizona and its beautiful dramatic landscapes all over again; just as I did the first time I visited 30+ years ago. Of course the weather was perfect: all sunshine and temps in high 60s to low 70s. What’s not to like?!?