Getting back to normalcy in April for Carolyn and I meant returning to all of our outdoor activities. Carolyn was back to running longer distances and both of us hiking the great outdoors without worry of Covid aftereffects. Easter Weekend had us in Payson with Carolyn’s mother and we decided to follow Arizona Governor Ducey’s advice on visiting a state park. For some background information the Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego had closed all city parks for picnics and gatherings due to fears of another Covid outbreak. Governor Ducey didn’t much care for that so he promoted in a video that state parks were open and mentioned two as possible places to visit. One was the Tonto Natural Bridge in Payson area and the other mentioned was Rockin’ River Ranch in the Camp Verde area.
We decided to travel to the Rockin’ River Ranch. This state park had never been open and has gone through a long process of making it into a state park. I made the assumption that Governor Ducey knew something that I didn’t and that maybe the state was doing a “soft” opening as a gift to the residents. We travel the 60+ miles only to discover that it still was closed and somebody had given the Governor some bad information. I’m guessing we weren’t the only ones to travel to a closed ranch state park based on his recommendation.
Rockin’ River Ranch is located close to the Copper Canyon Trailhead and we decided to head there for a hike. We took Carol on part of the loop trail to the waterfall area. Carolyn and I had hiked this area last year and it is a nice area with little traffic. The waterfall is spring fed and a very peaceful area to visit. Our total hike was about 2.7 miles with little difficulty. I highly recommend doing the close to four mile loop trail that is moderate with some elevation gains.
Every good hike deserves a good beer and we head over to the Verde Brewing Company located in a warehouse area off of I 17. We have been here multiple times but they had been closed for almost a year during the Covid shutdowns and had recently reopened. Verde Brewing doesn’t get much for style points on location and ambiance but their beer and food are winners. The Gold Buckle Blonde Ale is one of my all-time favorite craft beers. It contains Verde Valley honey and is phenomenal. Their Wildflower IPA is also exceptional brewed with wildflower honey. I don’t always rave about specific beers but these two are Allstars. We shared the “elote” style nachos and some chili and they are fantastic. If you are ever in the area, this place is great. Just do it.
After our noon stop at the brewery we drive to Cottonwood and the Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Our first state park attempt failed so we were determined to visit another. In all my years, I had never been to this state park. It is located close to Old Town Cottonwood along the Verde River. Very nice and we hiked around the lagoons for a peaceful walk. The park has multiple trails and Carolyn and I are determined to return and just maybe hike the 15 mile one way trail that goes to Red Rock State Park near Sedona. I might make the 15 miles but to certain how I would get back. I suppose I will have to figure that one out.
While in the area, we decided to visit a new to us brewery, Smelter Town Brewery, located in the old mining town of Clarkdale. Clarkdale has a cool vibe and they are restoring and repurposing some of the historical buildings. The Verde Canyon Railroad is located here and brings in many visitors. The brewery opened in the Fall of 2020 (Covid time) in a 100 year old restored building that also has a hotel. The ambiance of this place is something else. It is a beautiful building and we order samplers to taste their different beers. It is good to see that a small town can work together to get projects off the ground and completed. Clarkdale just might be on to something and the Smelter Town Brewery could be a cornerstone for other projects. Another spot you need to see.
Our trip back to Payson is nice and easy with little traffic on a late Saturday afternoon.