Travel Tips & Adventures

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Ridin’ the rails – Traveling on the Verde Canyon Railroad

We took a trip on the Verde Canyon Railroad.  Starting from a depot in the little town of Clarkdale, Arizona, the Verde Canyon Railroad offers a chance to relax and watch the scenery.  The four-hour adventure takes you through open areas with wildlife and scenic vistas to a little depot with only one family in the even tinier town of Perkinsville.

Perkinsville - this is now whats left of it

Perkinsville - this is now what's left of it

Mining is what made Clarkdale a destination in its heyday, but now it’s a place that could be a set from The Music Man. You almost expect to see Marian, the librarian, show up and burst into song.

So, hopping aboard the town – we were booked for first class – we settled in, It was a very chilly, rainy day and the open-air cars where you could view the scenery were not very enticing.  Poor Anthony, the engineer in training, had to go out on the open-air car any time someone showed up.  And, he seemed impervious to the rain, but it was COLD!

First class cushy!

First class cushy!

The first class accommodations were great – cushy couches and special service with a small buffet.  Drinks cost, but Dorene, the “attendant, bartender, tour guide and chief cook and bottle washer” was friendly, helpful and informative.

Verde Canyon Railroad chugs along

Verde Canyon Railroad chugs along

The 18-car train chugged along past the slag heap that was a reminder of Clarkdale’s mining past.  The 40 acres of slag – 50,000,000 tons!!! -was quite a dark monolith.  Anthony said that the slag was being hauled away by truck courtesy of a company that thought it could retrieve enough gold and other minerals to make the effort worth it.

We could see the old cliff dwellings of the Sinagua Indians, who left the area by 1400 AD.  They were indicated by the smoky entrances to their cave dwellings.– obviously, they knew about fire.  What a difficult life. They grew their own crops – corns, beans and squash – and had a life expectancy of 35-40 years.

Sinagua Indians inhabitated cave prior to 1400 AD

Sinagua Indians inhabitated cave prior to 1400 AD - see smoky entrance

In the distance, you could see the glimmering red rocks of Sedona.  Also visible were the remains of a massive storm that left water levels higher near the tracks.

Although we didn’t see the 74 varieties of waterfowl, fish and other wildlife – they were probably smart enough to take refuge from the cold rain – we did see cottonwood trees that had mistletoe – you know that plant people stand under and kiss – living symbiotically in the trees.

We chugged along, listening to the rhythm of the train on the tracks and occasionally hustling outside to catch a view.  Our friendly neighbors on the train, Ellie and Gary from Illinois, let us peer over their shoulders and out their windows so we could take photos and see the sights.  The sights mostly seemed to be on their side of the train.  (Looking toward the engine – that would be on the right side.)

We tried some hot chocolates – to warm up, you know – the vanilla in the hot chocolates was vanilla vodka.  At first, they tasted a little bitter to me, but as they went down, they tasted better and better.

We finally saw our eagle!

We finally saw our eagle! (See lower left)

At one point, Dorene beckoned us to the window where there was an eagle perched in a tree. My husband swore that it looked like the bird was especially posed for us within ten minutes of our return.

We enjoyed our time riding the rails.  I recommend it for adults, but some patient children who enjoy wildlife might also enjoy the experience. The train was a relaxing and scenic interlude.  Next time, I hope the trip I book falls on a day when it doesn’t rain!

Verde Canyon Railroad –

Come back Monday for more on the small town of Clarkdale and its neighbor, Cottonwood, Arizona. Next week, we’ll also visit the Blazin’ M Ranch ( and a fun,boisterous cowboy show!

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