Dry Creek Scenic Road, Devil's Kitchen

The Dry Creek Scenic Road is only 6.5 miles of beauty in the Red Rock Country of north-central Arizona. The route follows US Highway 89A from Sedona to the southwest (toward Cottonwood), across the Verde River Valley. This area has seen human inhabitants since about 650 CE. Back in those days, the Sinagaua people lived in pithouses and farmed the rich soils of the Verde Valley. It was centuries after that before they began building the cliff dwellings that we still see today. But when Highway 89A was expanded to 4-lanes some years ago, a series of pithouses were dug up during the construction. Work stopped while archaeologists worked the site over, then the road went on, burying the pithouse village at Spring Creek. Southwest of here, at Tuzigoot National Monument outside of Cottonwood, you'll find a major Sinagua ruin still standing.

The early European settlers in this area had a thing for planting fruit orchards, and the Scheurmans were no exception when they first arrived in 1884. Henry had been running a hotel in Prescott and took title to a piece of land in this area to settle a $500 bill. When his wife Dorette arrived in Prescott from Germany that year, they spent 5 days getting to the property in a horse-drawn wagon. By 1891, they had built a road, dug irrigation ditches and planted a vineyard and several small orchards. Their homestead and property is preserved today as part of Red Rock State Park (just a couple miles off the Dry Creek Scenic Road).

This is an area of incredible red rock formations, created by millions of years of water and wind erosion eating into the sides of the Colorado Plateau. The bottoms of the valleys are typical desert scrub while the tops of the mesas are covered with pinon pine, juniper and Ponderosa pine. Anywhere you stop along the road around here, you've got about 15 minutes before the $5 day use fee for Red Rocks Country (Coconino National Forest) comes into effect. Taking photos is one thing but if you want to park and take a hike, go to the Chamber of Commerce in Sedona or Cottonwood and pay the $5 for a one-day permit (they do have sliding fee scales for longer term permits). Since real estate in the Sedona area went crazy back in the 1970's and 1980's, the place has boomed and many areas are now crawling with people. But once you get away from the towns and the pavement, it's just you and the rock formations and the desert... bring plenty of water, a good hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and a good map.