Recently, Chris and I visited the Sedona area in Arizona. We’d always heard that the hiking there was great, and we weren’t disappointed.
We hiked the beautiful red hills that surround the town.
And we explored the cliff dwellings and petroglyphs left by the Sinagua people who occupied the area more than 1200 years ago.
Neither of us had been to the Grand Canyon before, and it was only a few hours from Sedona.
Meanwhile, back in Sedona, reservations were essential at almost every popular restaurant. There were spas, resorts, and upscale shops. There was everything that a tourist could want.
But that just wasn’t enough for me. I’m the weirdo who wants to duck under the velvet rope and see what’s behind the curtain. I always have to find a story.
So we found three little towns near Sedona with stories to tell.
We didn’t actually stay in Sedona. Thanks to Airbnb, we found a charming one-bedroom bungalow in the nearby town of Clarkdale for less than similar lodging in Sedona would have cost.
After we settled in, we sipped wine on the front porch and watched the neighbor’s chickens stroll through the front yard.
But on our first walk around around the quiet neighborhood, we noticed something interesting: Almost every house was a version of our house. They were all the same one-bedroom bungalow. Blocks and blocks of them.
Some had been added on to or altered over the years. And every paint job was different. But it was obvious that at one time they had all been almost identical.
Every now and again the pattern was interrupted by a different, and slightly larger, Craftsman-era house. And some blocks had only the same repeating Spanish-style bungalow.
A chat with a local confirmed what we were beginning to suspect: Clarkdale was built as a company town. It was founded in 1912 to house employees of a large copper smelter.
We learned there were several styles of repeating cottages, including Spanish Colonial, Craftsman, Tudor Revival, English Cottage Revival, and Eclectic. Most were built between 1914 and the mid-1930s.
What a fun little town! This brochure has photos of the different house styles.
Downtown Clarkdale is small.
But it’s home to the Arizona Copper Art Museum.
And the train station for the Verde Canyon Railroad – a pleasant four-hour train ride through beautiful, rugged countryside that is otherwise inaccessible.
And the bungalows and cottages weren’t the first buildings in Clarkdale. It’s also home to the Tuzigoot National Monument, an ancient pueblo that unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore.
So Clarkdale is where the copper was smelted. But where did that copper come from? Nearby Jerome.
Perched precariously on a hillside, many buildings in Jerome seem ready to slide. And some have.
In the early 1900s, Jerome was a bustling mining town of over 10,000. But by the 1950s, it had become Arizona’s largest ghost town.
Today, Jerome is a colorful tourist stop with a strong and active art community.
But despite the galleries, studios, shops, and restaurants, that old ghost town remains. These days, artists and ghosts live side by side.
A ruined building stands sentry over a glass blower’s studio.
Visitors toss coins into the skeleton of the Bartlett Hotel. In the 1930s, the hotel was declared unstable because of slides. It was slowly picked apart for salvage, and today this is all that remains.
We visited Jerome State Historic Park, which includes a nice local history museum in the Douglas Mansion.
Remnants of Jerome’s mining past sit idly outside the mansion.
Down the road a bit, a tiny pocket park encloses the 900-foot-deep Audrey Shaft of the Little Daisy Mine.
And this is how miners got down there – basically in a big tin can!
But it’s time to say goodbye to the ghosts of Jerome and head over to nearby Cottonwood.
The greater Cottonwood area includes conveniences like large grocery stores and big box home stores. But for a charming diversion into yesteryear, there is Old Town Cottonwood.
Formerly a farming community, Cottonwood today has restaurants, shops, galleries, and antique stores.
We enjoyed the relaxed, retro vibe. And we never knew what kind of old architectural detail we’d discover just by going into a coffee shop.
So would we visit this area again? Absolutely. There is much more to see.
But there are a few things we will do differently next time. Here is a breakdown of what we did wrong and what we did right.
What we will do differently:
- Allow more time to get to and through the airport (we nearly missed our flight).
- Book the flight for when there isn’t a special event causing crowding at the airport and slowing airport security screening (see above).
- Bring binoculars!
- Rent a 4-wheel drive. Roads to some of the best hikes are unpaved and bumpy.
- Stay longer – and plan more time for the Grand Canyon.
What we did right:
- Found a “home base” that really felt like home – that bungalow in Clarkdale.
- Checked the weather forecast for Sedona before we left home and made sure we brought appropriate clothing. We were prepared when it snowed on one of our hikes!
- Visited an old friend on the way back to the airport in Phoenix. She took us on a beautiful desert hike. It’s always good to catch up with old friends when you can.
- Brought only carry-on luggage. We always do this, and good thing this time or we would have missed that flight.
How I Make Using Carry-On Luggage Easier
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Not everyone can or wants to travel with only carry-on luggage, but in case you are interested, here are a couple of small ways I make it more pleasant:
I pack simple, wrinkle-resistant clothes. I place them into a 17 X 12 packing cube.
It fits perfectly into my carry-on case. I toss in a small bamboo charcoal air freshener to keep my clothes smelling fresh during transport.
Of course I pack things under and on top of the packing cube to make the most of the space I have. And I take a medium-sized day pack as my other piece of carry-on.
When I get to my destination, I just put the packing cube in a dresser drawer in the bedroom and unzip it, and voilà! My clothes are unpacked.
I also toss the charcoal air freshener into the drawer to keep my clothes fresh.
This works especially well on road trips where I’m staying somewhere different every night. Keeping the clothes in the packing cube, I can easily plunk them into a drawer in the evening and them put them back into the suitcase the next morning. Then it’s off to the next destination.
It just feels more civilized than living out of a suitcase – yet it takes almost no time.
Of course, packing cubes come in many sizes and are also handy for larger checked luggage.
And after I get home and unpack, the air freshener stays in my empty suitcase to keep it fresh until the next time I travel.
Which I hope will be soon.
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