On Friday, the 16th, the sun rose over the limestone cliffs to expose a clear and crisp day: delightful weather for a train ride. We mailed out three LED orders, collected our general delivery mail, then headed over to the Clarkdale train station to catch our ride.
We boarded our car, the Phoenix along with its observation platform, shortly before one p.m. Our hostess passed out complimentary champaign, and we sat back to wait for our departure.
The train travels over 20 miles of standard gauge track from Clarkdale up the Verdi River canyon at a speed of 10 to 12 miles per hour. It takes about two hours to reach its destination at Perkinsville where the engines switch from one end to the other of the eleven car train, and then another two hours to return to Clarkdale. It is a laid-back ride through the deserts and canyons of the interior of Arizona, with scenes of plants and animals amongst the rocks and geological formations along the way. We did see about six homes along the way, but that was about the extent of civilization.
The track was laid by a crew of 250 in 1911 and 1912 to service the copper mine at Jerome. Senator Clark of Montana had purchased the mine and proceeded to develop the property. The smelter operated until the 1950s. He paid for the railroad. It is still in use as a freight-line, connecting into the Sante Fe line to the north, as well as serving as the excursion line to Perkinsville.
As we left Clarkdale we went by the huge slag heap from the foundry that processed the ore from the mines on the side of Mingus Mountain. There is talk about reprocessing the "waste" for the uncollected gold and copper using the cyanide process.
As we moved up the Verdi River valley, our guide pointed out the cliff dwellings alongside the tracks in the cliffs to the west. Native Americans occupied the entire valley before the Europeans arrived. Further downriver are the Tuzigot ruins, a site we visited several years ago.
As we moved further into the canyon, we traveled close to the cliffs. Some places the rocks were within touching distance, though they warned us to keep our extremities safely within the observation car. At times the river was several hundred feet below us.
Along the way the guide pointed out an eagle's nest on the far side of the river canyon. There are a couple of mating pairs that hang around all year, and during the winter several other american and golden eagles spend time in the canyon. The eagles primarily eat fish from the river. It appears the chicks have taken flight, and we did not get to see any birds, but the guide swore they were around somewhere.
In the distance we could see the red cliffs that make up a portion of the mesas surrounding the Verdi River valley. Once in a while we could see a ranch house in the distance, but rarely was there any other signs of civilization.
We moved into a deeper canyon as we went along, and at places there were high sandstone and shale walls alongside our path. The guide pointed out all the different peculiarly shaped rocks they had named: turtle, elephant, three monkeys, etc. They swore the early people who traveled the canyon had invented the names. The views were best from the observation car.
Finally, we came out of the deep canyon into a wide valley and the old station of Perkinsville. There was very little left. At one time it had been the headquarters of a ranch of almost 150 sections of land, then a watering station for the train and a slack-lime mine for the smelters downstream. Today there is a caretaker but little else. We saw no people, though there were some jeans hanging on the clothesline.
After switching the engine to what had been the back of the train, the journey began again as we retraced our steps back to Clarkdale. The objects along the way were the same, but the lighting was different. It was pleasant just to sit back and watch the world go by.
It was a good trip, and very low stress. We had first class tickets, and that made it even nicer with soft seats and complimentary hors deuvres and a wide selection of drinks available. And it was a good may to make the wife happy.
the Prudent RVer