Travels with Charlize, in search of living alone

Dr. David Gross

Dr. David Gross

Part 50: Old stomping grounds-continued

After eating overpriced Mexican food — fancy presentation, ordinary taste — in Sedona, Charlize and I braved the traffic to Cottonwood. The old road is now a divided highway. The last time I was in this part of the world, there were no divided highways and Cottonwood was a small village, 20-odd miles from Sedona on a twisting two-lane road. Another CSU veterinary school graduate, who graduated two or three years behind me, established a practice in Cottonwood in the mid-1960s. He barely made a living for several years. I lost track of him after leaving Phoenix but if he stuck it out it appears plenty of population moved in for him to make a go of it. The whole valley, from Camp Verde to Cottonwood to Clarkdale, is now full of houses, strip malls, big box stores and hobby ranches on both sides of highway 260.

Here is a view from Jerome, on Cleopatra Hill, looking down into the valley. The cluster of buildings in the left center is Clarkdale. The distant mountains are home to a portion of the Prescott National Forest, the Tuzigoot National Monument, Dead Horse Ranch State Park and the Camp Verde Indian Reservation.
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It is only 43 miles from Clarkdale to Prescott and another 14 from Prescott to Granite Basin, where in the summers of 1950 through 1952 my Dad and I built a cabin in the shadow of Granite Mountain. My brother Joe, three and a half years younger, worked with us but he claims his only job was to straighten bent nails. I seem to remember him doing a lot more, but he is expert at straightening bent nails.

We built the cabin on U.S. Forest land with what was supposed to be a 99-year lease. Along the way, a lot of rules got changed. After Dad retired, he and Mom lived in the cabin except in the winter when they traveled to Guyamas, Mexico where they parked their travel trailer near the breach. After Dad died, it fell to Joe — living in Cave Creek north of Phoenix — to use and maintain the cabin. It became more and more of a chore as the years passed. In the last few years, every time he and his wife went to the cabin they both had to work at repairing, maintaining, cleaning and cutting away brush for a fire break. They worked so hard they usually returned to Phoenix ill. Along with all the labor necessary, and insisted upon by the Forest Service, the place was costing thousands of dollars each year. The ground rental increased from $35 a year in the 1950s to over $2,000, plus taxes; association dues to maintain the water system and roads; property insurance and the cost of repairs and maintenance. Joe was finally able to sell the place recently. It is now a place of fond memory rather than a constant financial drain and worry.

I have not been back to the cabin since we scattered Mom’s ashes there in 2001. I decided to rely on my memory of the good times rather than revisiting the place. I have it well pictured in my mind, along with a few old snapshots tucked away someplace. I need to find those photos.

Whitey took us up the steep road to Jerome. Back in the day, the family sometimes drove from the cabin, through Prescott Valley to Jerome. Then it was a true mining ghost town, full of abandoned houses and buildings just made for kids to explore and create our own stories and imagined legends. When Charlize and I arrived this time, we found the place full of tourists taking photos of other tourists with their digital cameras. So Charlize and I joined them.

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Many if not all of the buildings and houses have been resurrected. People have returned to live in Jerome, living off the tourist trade, I presume. All the shops indicate thriving tourism, but that’s yet another subject I know little to nothing about.

We didn’t tarry in Jerome and less than two hours later we were in Cave Creek at my brother’s house in the desert north of Phoenix. My runny nose and allergy-clogged head remind me of the almost forgotten reasons leaving the Valley of the Sun was not difficult. This photo of the Sonoran Desert in February, as represented by Joe’s back yard, doesn’t seem to provide any reason for allergy problems but a close look shows the cacti blooming.
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– By Dr. David Gross

After losing his wife of 52 years to cancer, Dr. David Gross continues his road trips with his dog, Charlize, and is writing about his experiences.

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