Oak Glen, California

001Just 15 miles east of San Bernardino, California, at the foot of the mountains lays the little town of Oak Glen.  A small farming community composed of several family farms selling every apple imaginable. There’s Vasquez and King David’s–apples grown only in Oak Glen; Gravenstein and Pink Pearl’s–apples no longer commercially produced; and sour Pippin apples–my favorite from childhood.  It’s apple season in California, it’s the weekend, and it’s crowded.

It’s a warm Southern California Saturday and we’re having a family day at Snowline Orchard. After purchasing hot-out-of-the-oil apple donuts and freshly pressed cider, we found a spot in the shade and watched the bagpipers and river dancers performing at the Milk and Thistle Scot Festival. When the dancers were done, we wandered through the market sampling apple slices and admiring the antiques at the back of the store.  With nothing left to do at Snowline, we headed down the mountain to the Parrish Pioneer Ranch.

004Our first stop was to snap a goofy photo of the husband and grand kids and then off to tour the recently opened Parrish House Antique store. Our real interests were in exploring the hundred years plus home, so we wandered every open room, climbed the skinny staircase to the second floor, and avoided the chatty sales girl trying to sell plastic period hats for Halloween.  While my step daughter and I escaped with our money intact, my husband and grandson exited with hats on their head and lighter pockets.

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With the day getting later and a two-hour drive home, it’s time to get going down the mountain–but not before stopping at the Parrish store candy counter for freshly made chocolates (think See’s candy).  With candy bags in hand, it was time to go home. We said our goodbyes and got into the car (not this one), content to have spent the day with family wandering outside in beautiful Oak Glen.

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Watson Lake and Downtown Prescott

Today will be spent locally, exploring the Prescott area.  Prescott is a popular weekend destination and downtown was quite crowded when we arrived, so we’re hoping the masses have gone home and vehicle and foot traffic will be lighter today.  After a few cups of coffee and the hotel’s free breakfast, we’re off to explore Watson Lake.

075Watson Lake is a man-made reservoir created in the early 1900s and preserved as recreational land by the City of Prescott in 1997. The lake is surrounded by an interesting geological feature called Granite Dells, which are large rippled boulders of billion-year-old granite and bedrock.   The Dells attract climbing enthusiasts, but it was the kayakers maneuvering their brightly colored canoes around the exterior of the rocks that I found enticing.

057The husband and I walked the lake trail, stopping to climb a boulder or two, until we came to an iron bench overlooking the water.  We sat for a while, enjoying the breeze and display of weathered rocks, created in a land before time.  What a deal.  Two dollars for the opportunity to hike, bike, climb, kayak, boat, picnic, and enjoy the serenity of the outdoors.  Although it was time to move on, I vowed to come back one day and kayak this beautiful lake.

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Our next destination is the Sharlot Hall Museum in downtown Prescott.  Sharlot Hall was an early Prescott historian, poet, and journalist and the first woman to hold a governmental position in Arizona.  The museum grounds are surrounded by historic buildings, such as the Governor’s Mansion and the Fremont and Bushford residences, all acquired to house her collection of artifacts related to Arizona pioneers and earlier inhabitants.

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This is a lovely and interesting museum to spend a few hours exploring.   Local docents are available in many of the buildings ready to discuss the history of Prescott, the houses and their famous historian, Sharlot Hall.  Each house displays vintage items of the period and the WPA building overflows with historical relics from the area.

106After departing the museum, we decided to walk down to the historic district and the infamous Whiskey Row on Montezuma Street.  I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the old brick-faced Hotel Michael or Hassayampa Inn, whose guests once included Georgia O’Keeffe,  D.H. Lawrence, and Clark Gable.  There’s something about an old brick structure that I find intriguing—actually, I just love old buildings no matter the medium.

099We walked Whiskey Row, stopping in a gift store or two, and snapping up pictures of historic places that today sell fine art, knickknacks, and clothing.  We passed the Palace Saloon, an establishment that in the late 1870s served Doc Holiday and the Earp brothers of Tombstone fame, and peeked inside.  I could have wandered these streets all night in historical bliss, but it was time to head back to the hotel and prepare to go home.  Prescott, we’ve enjoyed your gifts and hope to return soon—with kayak in hand and some Sketcher’s GoWalk shoes.

Exploring Jerome, Camp Verde, and Oak Creek, Arizona

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Up early and on the road by 9:30 a.m., we pulled into Jerome and met up unexpectedly with my Canadian cousin Luba and husband Dick for a cup of coffee.  This is a rare treat for me since 98% of my relatives live in Canada and I grew up in the U.S., I don’t often get the opportunity to get together with extended family. After a short, but fun visit, my cousin descended down highway 89 en route to Havasu while my husband and I set off to briefly explore Jerome.

Jerome is an old mining town perched on the side of Cleopatra Hill just outside the Prescott National Forest.  No longer filled with minors, the area is a mix of artists, alternatives and bikers.  The streets are narrow, uphill, and one way—parking is limited.  As an admirer of historic buildings, Jerome has many, and most in original condition.  Unfortunately, the streets of Jerome were overly filled with people–thanks to the government shut down, so I took this as a sign to move on.  After snapping a few shots of the Hotel Connor (in honor of my grandson), we descended down the hill into Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde.

Jerome_Ft Verde_Sliderock 027Built in 1873 and once an active military fort, Fort Verde was created during the times of the Indian Wars to protect settlers from the raids of the Apache and Yavapai Indians.  Abandoned and sold at public auction in 1899, the Fort was owned by private citizens until the mid-50s then dedicated as a state park in 1970. Out of the 22 original buildings, all that remains today are three nicely preserved officer’s quarters, the original administrative building, and the parade grounds.  Each building is open to explore and furnished with period furniture and accessories. The administrative building doubles as a museum and contains interesting military and native american artifacts from the era.  The staff at Fort Verde was very friendly and knowledgeable of this interesting and well-preserved time in Arizona history.

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Our last excursion today, Slide Rock Park, is located in Oak Creek Canyon just outside red-rock heaven—Sedona, Arizona.  Once privately owned, it became a state park in 1987 and is one of the most popular tourist spots in Arizona—even in October.  As returning visitors, we chose to walk the Cliff Top Nature trail in lieu of braving the steps again to Oak Creek.  We sat for a bit above the creek admiring both the view and courage of swimmers braving the cold water slide.  After snapping a few more pictures, we headed to the car as the park closed and back to Prescott, tired but content from the visual and historical experiences of the day.

The Gift of a Roadtrip: Prescott, AZ

As a traveler, there’s no better birthday present to yourself than a road trip to unexplored territory.  For my 51st birthday, I’m visiting the Prescott area of Arizona with side trips to Jerome, Camp Verde, and Sedona. Six and a half hours from from Southern California, past fields of saguaros and through small towns named Hope and Brenda, we arrived in Prescott in time for dinner.  After stuffing our bellies with burgers and fries from Red Robin, it’s back to the hotel to unwind.  With just two days to explore and lots to do and see, a good night sleep is this weary travelers best option. Good night, Prescott.