From the Petrified Forest National Park, we headed into Flagstaff for errand day, after which we planned to camp in Sedona. We arrived at Red Rock State Park only to learn that camping isn’t allowed there! We spent a couple hours walking on the trails at that park before heading off to nearby Cottonwood where Dead Horse Ranch State Park is located, which does have a campground (a very popular and quite full RV campground).
The odd name for the park came with the land when the state acquired it. The family that sold the land to the state bought it in the 1940’s to relocate from Minnesota. At one of the ranches they considered purchasing they found a dead horse lying by the road. When the father asked his children which ranch they preferred, they said “the one with the dead horse”. The family bought the land and named it “Dead Horse Ranch”. When they sold it to the state in 1973, retaining the name was a condition of the sale. Despite the name, it was a pretty park with many activities in what appears to be a nice town.
The park has many short hiking trails within the boundaries and connects to longer trails in Coconino National Forest, even one that leads to Red Rock State Park 15 miles away. The park is on a river with canoe/kayak opportunities, offers an orienteering course, horseback rides, and is popular as a fishing destination on its lagoons. The area is the northern edge of the Sonoron desert, where it transitions into the Colorado plateau. The desert landscape is thick with large creosote bushes, which really scented the air. The smell of the creosote bush is said to be the smell of desert rain because the plant has a waxy coating to prevent evaporation, but when moist the coating opens up and releases this characteristic scent. Perhaps it was more humid than normal during our visit; it didn’t rain but the smell of these bushes filled the air in a really pleasant way.
Driving up to the park we discovered that just outside the state park is a city park, with a disc golf course and a skate park, which is basically John’s dream park. Additionally the park had a BMX track, skate hockey rink, playground, ball fields and even a hang glider landing zone! We spent a day playing disc golf, and John went back the following day with his skateboard while I went for a long hike.
Since the weather was warm and our schedule was relaxed, I made an effort to restore my yoga habit, and practiced nearly everyday just before sunset. People in the RV campgrounds of state parks tend to walk around and socialize in the morning and around sunset, so this made for a little awkward timing for my yoga practice. People walked by me frequently, staring as they attempted to figure out what I was doing. Despite the looks, I felt great after the practice.
On our final night we decided to have a campfire, only the second on our entire trip. John wanted to cook steak on the fire, so we rode our bikes to the store to pick some up. We took a wrong turn that led us by a bike shop where John tried to get new tires (but they only had one in stock of the correct size), a “farmers market” which turned out to really sell produce from California, several bars and cafes, and we hit a walkable downtown area where we discovered the mistake and turned around. But it was a good mistake, because it showed us a part of the town with a vibrant independent character.