I am on the road again. Don’t tell anyone. I have mixed feelings about what we’re doing, given the latest escalation of plague. I had not planned to write about this one, but today’s drive was noteworthy. To back up briefly — I will be joining a couple Austin climbers for Thanksgiving in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas. Driving, of course.
Originally, I planned to stay Thursday night in Socorro, New Mexico. But their travel restrictions are the heaviest in the Southwest and the situation is serious. So I drove through on a lonely scenic route — US 380 and US 60 — that re-traced some fun routes from past trips. I’ve come to love New Mexico with all our adventures there in the last three years; it pained me to sneak through without doing anything. So I stopped for a trunk-snack on the side of the road at the VLA.
I rolled into Show Low, Arizona rather late, but it put me almost a night ahead of schedule. On Friday, I survived an onslaught of meetings and ejected myself into my first week off since I started my new job. To celebrate, I asked George and Evan to help me find something fun to do between Show Low and “somewhere vaguely headed toward Vegas, but who really cares?”
Yeah, that’ll do. I got a late start getting out of town, but there was a dramatic sunset waiting for me when I got there.
At the end of Rim Road, I rejoined AZ 260 headed toward Camp Verde on I-14. From there, the suggested route to Vegas was to continue southwest to Prescott Valley before turning north again. But for just a few miles extra, I could go through a ghost town I’d heard about.
As it happens, Jerome is not a ghost town exactly, though its tourism provenance comes from being called that. It looks like mountain town and vacation destination that has built up next to the decommissioned copper mine, which still stands as a state historic park. In the 1920s, the population peaked near 10,000. Now there are less than 500 permanent residents. The whole town is situated precariously on dramatic cliffs with steep hills and sheer drop-offs. Homes and businesses are wedged into every available crevice, pressed up against the rock, or hanging out over the Verde Valley below.
What doesn’t come through in the dashcam is that this was a steep, constant uphill climb that someone decided to perch a town in the middle of.
Between Jerome, Rim Road, and the forest lands that surround them both, I might propose we put Arizona on the list to come back to.