About Me

An avid traveler I have had the good fortune to have spent my career in the travel and vacation industry. From Bali to Copenhagen and all points between is where I have been or intend to go. This blog however is specific to the Western half of the United States as I explore this part of the world.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Verde Canyon Railroad in Clarkdale, AZ and Jerome, AZ

A couple of months back, my wife treated me to a little weekend getaway starting in Clarkdale, AZ  with the Verde Canyon Railroad excursion.  Now a wilderness/green adventure, it was once the rail line that supported the Jerome copper mine, according to our guide, and was the richest in Arizona during its heyday.  She had scheduled us in a "first class" rail car which essentially provided VIP table like seating, for larger groups couches and coffee table, for couples a nice cocktail table and comfortable seating along the windows with the best views (facing the front of the train, windows on the left provide the best views of the canyon). Ours was called the Flagstaff as each is named after an Arizona town.

We were informed to arrive early as seating was not assigned, only rail car.  There is food available at the rail station as is some shopping to kill time while waiting for the conductor to give the green light to board.  I was pleased to discover that food was also served on our rail car and a good thing too as it helped stave off the affects of the full service bar which we took full advantage of.

The train was set up to have alternating rail cars of different types.  Between each closed car was an open air car that allowed for observation of the canyon while enjoying the breeze and smells of Verde Canyon while mingling with some interesting passengers.  I brought along my telephoto and wide angle lenses and was able to capture a few interesting sights.

One shot I wanted to get heading out was a Bald Eagle that everyone was chattering about... I may have been too involved with exploring the wine menu but by the time I moved out onto the observation car it had passed beyond my ability to see it.  I promised myself that I would keep my eyes open on the way back.  So we ordered a couple of experimental drinks from the bar followed by one of their touted Arizona wines...

If you take this train ride... pass on this particular AZ wine... I would rate it less than okay.  Maybe it was the plastic cups but I don't think so.  The ride was a very relaxing and pleasant 4 hours and I was very glad to experience it.  It isn't often that I ride trains, I think the last (not counting subways and airport shuttle trains) was from Norfolk, VA to Orlando, FL on Amtrak in '90 or '91.  That may have actually resulted in my last ride ever if I had given into the impulse to throw the two Cub Scouts off the train that thought the kick plates that opened the doors between cars was the most fun ever, kicking them over and over again as hard as they could at 12:30 am... not parents, no scout master to be seen, eventually they got board or someone more impulsive actually threw them off the train...

Back to Verde Canyon.  the views from the train were spectacular and I have added a few shots I took, including the Bald Eagle I was able to capture on the way back.

Once we returned to the station we still had some daylight left to go back up to Jerome and do some exploring.  We had come through the town on the way from Las Vegas to the train and it struck us both how interesting this small, historic town was.  First it is perched high on the mountain and it seemed many buildings and houses facing the street had no back yard but rather a sheer cliff providing some excellent views from the shops we visited.

If you do go there from Vegas, once you get onto 40 from Kingman, make sure you take the Rout 89 exit and then 89a route to Jerome if you are a driver and aren't afraid of heights.  What a great climb and decent up and down a very curvy road through the mountains with sheer drop offs to one side most of the way!  No problem for the Infiniti M35x... though the 928 would have been a thrill >;).

Jerome was a great place to explore... it felt like a hidden gem much like the small, quaint and historic towns I used to discover driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and West Virginia.  No chains, unique restaurants, bars and stores and a lot of history.  Worth the trip.

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