PRESCOTT & FLAGSTAFF–Wrapping It All Up

Ever since leaving San Diego, our route had basically taken a turn toward the east.  No big jumps, mind you, and certainly not a direct easterly course, just small incremental moves that gradually had shifted eastward, to terminate ultimately at our home base in Indiana.  There would come the time when longer, more undeviating stretches would be required, but for now just some slight eastward movements were all we could manage.  If you’ve followed our posts in the past, you’ll know that being homeward bound is usually not a direction we eagerly embrace.

With that in mind, we checked the map for someplace in a general eastward direction that seemed appealing . . . a place not yet seen  . . . somewhere to hold our interest for just a few days at least.  Nothing too far from our current location, but at least somewhat to the east of where we were.  That was when the town of Prescott caught our attention, right there on Google Maps.  A place we had once come close to in past travels, a town recommended by fellow RVers we’d met, it was one of the few remaining Arizona cities we had never had the chance to visit.  Until now.  So we set our course.

Once again, a big chunk of desert scenery needed to be covered.  What else was new—as far as this whole trip was concerned?  Nearly 300 miles of mostly desolate, unchanging scenery . . . with scarce signs of civilization or towns of any small size.  One of our more unremarkable drives of the past two months.

Perhaps knowing that, you’ll understand the joy, the downright elation we experienced when the unceasingly bland horizon finally gave way to undulating ridges of mountains ahead.  Now that was something to take note of!  Our anticipation was barely contained.  Soon the flatlands would be a place of the past.

Long weeks spent in a basically unchanging environment seems to have a way of altering one’s frame of reference.  At least that’s where we seemed to be coming from when finding  ourselves suddenly surrounded by a totally different landscape.  Dark, lush, heavily-forested hillsides was a sight unfamiliar to our eyes.  Wow!  In what seemed the blink of an eye we found ourselves in a totally different life zone.  One thing was for certain—this had ceased to be a monotonous drive.

Although the Sonoran Desert was merely one mountain ridge below, the town of Prescott sits at a mile-high elevation.  In an entirely different ecosystem than where we had just come from, there was a cool crispness to the air and a scent of pine wafting on the breeze.  We were back in the mountains again  . . . a place we had too long been gone from.  And it was very welcoming indeed.

Sitting on the flanks of the Bradshaw Mountains, Prescott is an old town that has its roots as being the first capital of the newly formed Arizona Territory, back in the mid-1800s.  Many downtown buildings were built from that time, and around the courthouse square there are many historic landmarks.  Although several fires swept through town, the buildings were rebuilt (of bricks, second time around) and now have been converted to boutiques, art galleries, bookstores and restaurants.  All in all, it is a downtown worth strolling and enjoying, both by visitors and locals alike.  It was a big drawing card for the town we soon discovered.

Thumb Butte, a local landmark, towers above Prescott, easily seen from most locations. (photo credit: 55Places.com)

Another aspect of Prescott’s downtown is their Courthouse Square.  Bordered by tall old elm trees hemming in  the walkways, the plaza is quite an attractive asset.  We later learned it is a popular gathering place, a location for cultural events and performances many nights in the summer.  Its wide encircling sidewalks, shaded by the canopy of tree branches, makes for very pleasant ambling.

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Prescott likes to show off its western style and portrays a cowboy feel, it  actually has a distinctive Americana look about it.  The early settlers and residents of Prescott built their homes and businesses with a character clearly reflecting their Midwestern and Eastern roots.  The town plaza, with its courthouse surrounded by landscaped lawns shows an influence of the larger American culture rather than that of the Southwest, contrary to many Arizona towns.  Nevertheless, that same town plaza has been enhanced with the addition of excellent sculptures that clearly reflect the Western influence.  It is a town that can simply combine the best of both worlds.  And therein lies the essence of its character.

Prescott’s town center isn’t the only draw to this attractive town—there are many natural assets yet to note.  Topping the list might be the most distinctive one of all, that being the Granite Dells.  Known locally as simply ‘The Dells’, just north of town is one big area of spectacular piles of boulders.  Formed over a billion years ago by the cooling and stressing of buried molten rock, weathering eventually uncovered them.  Through eons of erosion, these rocks were transformed into the rounded weathered shapes and other unusual formations that characterize the Dells today.  It’s a feast for the eyes as well as a natural outdoor playground.  Hiking trails abound—paths wind through, around and over these gigantic piles.  Whether photographing or exploring, they offer a temptation impossible to resist.

Two very scenic artificial reservoirs—Watson and Willow Lakes—lie within the Dells.  Both are very scenic, offering trails that encircle and wrap around the waters’ edge.  The rounded and colorful boulders make up the shoreline, as well as creating semi-submerged tiny islands and narrow promontories.  The honey-colored rock, combined with water mirroring the sky as well as the emerald green foliage of trees and bushes managing to somehow sprout from solid rock, all comes together to present a multitude of photographic possibilities.  And endless hours of exploring—both on and off the trails.

Perhaps the best part of all was finding a campground in the perfect setting—nestled within these fabulous rocks!  Point of Rocks RV Park, with nearly 100 full service sites, is all about location.

From the campground you have views of rock formations or long extended views over the Prescott area.  What’s more, the park is a short drive to the heart of town.  This is a place that gives you the best of both worlds for sure.  We liked it so much, we extended our stay an extra couple days.  (Having wonderfully warm, above-normal temps probably played into that choice.)

When camping amongst the scenic locations there’s an added bonus besides the convenience.  When access to photographic opportunities is a short walk or drive from your door, it’s much easier to catch those fleeting moments when the golden hours of day seem to transform the natural features.  That’s when you and a camera need to be Johnny-on-the-spot.

Late afternoon light can illuminate the otherwise lumps of plain rock.  They can burn with a golden glow for mere short minutes at the end of day.

In moments after sunset, a featureless sky is painted in pastel shades.  The soft twilight colors bring a subtle look to the often ordinary rock, accentuating patterns and shades.  A moment later and the effect can be gone.

When you have the opportunity to familiarize yourself with your surroundings, and there’s scenic potential just outside your door, then all you might require is the right timing and SHAZAM!! you might be rewarded with a full moon rising.  It’s all about location and good luck.

Is it any wonder that we added extra days to our stay?  Don’t think I’m trying to gloss over what Prescott has to offer—there’s really lots of perks to this town.  From our point of view it was the scenery and the seasons (not the usual Arizona climate), a diversity of trails—through the rocks, up the mountains, around the lakes, into the pine forests, a traditional downtown center where strolling with an early morning latte makes a good start to your day.  For sure we weren’t the first to be attracted to Prescott’s charms—this town is seeing quite an influx of new blood and retirees.  It’s sure easy to understand—being a place we could see ourselves living.

For now, it was time once again to hit the road and to leave those rocks behind.  While the good weather was holding and the warm temperatures weren’t cooling down, we had our attention on one last Arizona town.

Streamin’ on down the highway,

Airstream Travelers,

Melinda & Chris

  • Other pertaining links:
    • More trails with maps, click HERE and HERE
    • More campground listings, click HERE
    • Historical background on Prescott, click HERE

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About airstreamtravelers

An Airstream Flying Cloud suits our lifestyle perfectly. The two of us are now spending several months each year on the road. We hope our posts and accompanying photos give a vivid description of where we travel, illustrating to our followers what's out there, just beyond their horizons.
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