Camping in the Prescott National Forest and a quick trip to Montezuma’s Castle National Monument

Sunday morning we drove north to Prescott Valley. Prescott National Forest reaches from the cool peaks of the mineral-rich Bradshaw Mountains to the sun-baked Sonoran Desert. It crosses Chaparral flats to Pinon and Juniper woodlands over desert grasslands to Ponderosa pine forests. We were an hour outside of Phoenix and in a different world. I love Arizona’s diversity.

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For this trip, we let the boys play in the woods. If the boys were older, Yavapai county is full of mining ghost towns with romantic names like Big Bug, Crown King and Bumble Bee.

We spent the night at Powell Springs Campground in Prescott Valley, AZ.  This 11 site campground is primitive and free to camp. It had a bathroom, but no water and no hookups. My husband is nice about my obsession with American history. He picked this campground because it was built by the CCC in the 1930’s.

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Men between the ages of 18 and 25, and unemployed veterans, could enlist for a period of six months with an option of extending the service to two years. They were paid $30 per month with $25 being sent home to help their families. The government furnished room, board, clothing, and tools.

The CCC was a New Deal program to provide work for men during the Depression.

Powell Springs campground

To learn more about the CCC in Arizona, this article has a good overview of their arrangement and activities.

It makes it easier to understand the Depression, when you spend the night in this campground. I asked the boys to imagine a time where the men went away to work planting trees and making campgrounds. Because of rampant homesickness among the men, men were sent hundreds of miles from home to prevent runaways. Thus, if you were from Arizona, you could end up in Maine living and working for 6 months to 2 years.

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At its peak in 1935, the CCC employed 502,000 men in 2,514 camps. Most camps were segregated. Native Americans worked on their reservations but did not live in organized camps.

At Powell Valley, you can see the picnic tables, foundations for old outhouses and intact hitching posts at the campsites. They strung wire to protect the National forests from the range cattle and installed cattle guards. Their work is intact today.

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A view of one of the campsites adjacent to ours

We picked Campsite #2. Because it was a Sunday night, we had no neighbors. We made s’mores and the boys played Minecraft by pretending to find diamond pickaxes and boxes of infinity. They built a fort.

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For now, we keep it simple. I think Max had three s’mores and an unknown number of chocolate bars. He was a fixture by the fireplace from dusk to dark.

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We did not make it to Montezuma’s Well, it was 11 miles away. You can learn more about MW here and here. It sounds like a perfect sojourn if you want to beat the heat, given it’s unique quality.

The boys played in the woods until nearly noon and then we packed up the car and head out to nearby Montezuma’s Castle National Monument. I did not know what to expect, basically picking MCNM because my GPS recommended it as the closest touristy option. It is a visitor center, 1/3 mile paved loop, picnic area, to see the castle and viewing area of Beaver Creek interspersed with loads of gorgeous sycamores.

Arizona Sycamore

This is the prettiest grove of sycamores I’ve seen since moving from the East Coast.

Any excuse for a kiss

Sycamore’s are only leafless for a brief window in March. They have a 10 month growing period and at the park they are quite stunning.

Mistletoe in the Sycamore

Cliff Swallow nests

Cliff Swallow Nests along the base of the Castle

Beaver Creek

Spring-fed Beaver Creek, one of only a few perennial streams in Arizona.

Beaver Creek, this view point is an easy paved 5 minute walk from the Visitor’s center. We spent about a half hour at the park, mostly watching the boys walk along the stone walls. Then an easy 2 hour drive back to Phoenix and the real world.

I wish I picked this book for our book club, it is readable and heartbreaking and absorbing and brilliant. If you like historical fiction, look up Whose Names Are Unknown.

I wish I picked this book for our book club, it is readable and heartbreaking and absorbing and brilliant. If you like historical fiction, look up Whose Names Are Unknown.

Well, almost back to the real world. I still have a book to finish. 🙂

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