Northern Arizona

Text: Uwe Krauss • Photography: Uwe Krauss

Something is rustling outside. I'm lying in the tent and my thoughts circle around bears. But bears here in this semi-desert area of Arizona? Can't be! I just want to continue sleeping. no way. The strange visitor outside rustles more. I shout through the canvas of my mobile accommodation, shake the tent's walls. Doesn't bother him. Finally I decide to get out and scare the harasser away.

When I open the door the sight is scary. A hungry bear could not have been worse. In the brightest moonlight I’m looking directly into a white backside and a lifted tail both belonging to a skunk. If I don’t want to throw away my tent and anything else the little devil would likely hit with its biological warfare, I have to retreat. Immediately. While I’m cursing about never leaving any empty food cans in front of the tent again, the skunk finally finishes his play close to an hour later.

Prescott: a Desert Oasis

Lying in my tent not thinking about the skunk gives me time enough to ponder about the day’s ride, which was beautiful. The morning hours found me heading towards Prescott, where the Weaver Mountains arose on the horizon. Still the 2770-foot high Merritt Pass was rather a hill. After the town of Wilhoit, Highway 89 came alive – perfect corners without a pause for more than ten miles. They led me directly into Prescott, a bustling town that offers everything a traveler yearns for in the deserts of Southern California and Arizona: trees, parks, cool air, and nice street cafés. The surroundings were beautiful too. Just out of town, red granite knobs, an unexpected and fascinating sight, encircle Watson Lake. The next highlight was waiting just around the corner – historic 89A climbing up Mingus Mountain.

History Buffs Delight

On the other side, the charming atmosphere of the former mining town of Jerome forced me to stop. The view from there reached over the large Verde River Valley as far as the red rock formations of Sedona, my next destination. Before I headed out, the town’s history kept me for a while. In the old cinema, the Liberty Theater, the wooden building was beautifully restored with a museum on the second floor. Among many other aspects, it was interesting to know that Jerome would prove to be one of the richest mines in the world. At its peak in 1929, the population was 15,000, dwindling down to less than 100 people in 1955. Today, Jerome supports its 550 inhabitants mainly through tourism.

Sedona, just 30 miles down the road, is a completely different world. The town has some of the most stunning settings in all of North America. Red rocks in all shapes and sizes surround it like the coulisse of an open-air theatre. Plenty of amenities for tourists are on display, but nothing particularly special for me, apart from a great exit. As one of the locals looks at my KTM, he immediately shouts: “Did you go on Schnebly Hill Road?” When I shake my head no, he insists that I must.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2011 back issue.