Rocks Of Ages

Posted June 17, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
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When the desert fired up to a blistering 102 degrees, we broke camp and pulled out of Fisher’s Landing heading up toward cooler ground.

We took U.S. Route 95 north to 60 east to 71 into North Central Arizona, and ascended the Bradshaw Mountains on the 89 into the Prescott National Forest.

For three soul-searching weeks in late Spring, we would acclimate at 5,367 ft. in the centuries old domain of The People of The Sun.

We would like to thank all who have expressed concern about our health and safety during the pandemic and who have reached out to offer help. We’re happy to report that we’re doing just fine. Oh sure, there have been a few hurdles, but any minor inconveniences we suffer due to park closures, and the anxiety about COVID-19 surging to the leading cause of death in the United States, is currently eclipsed by the darkening umbra of white privilege, a moral dilemma which Jim and I have explored ever since we began LIB.

Though we are comfortable in almost any social situation, our bohemian SoCal existence simply did not prepare us for the almost exclusive whiteness of the outdoor recreation community in the USA.

Race disparity in the camping world is an enduring symptom of racial segregation in the early history of the parks, and is compounded by centuries of frontier hate crimes. This shameful history has robbed many black and brown people of their connection to the land – both physically and spiritually.

But despite signs of a rough road ahead, Jim and I are determined to press on. What else is there to do in these uncertain times?

And, as for COVID-19 … I am a resilient person by nature, but I am losing sleep over lines drawn in the sand. And I know that I am not alone as I try to make sense of the constantly shifting social cartography of staying healthy. It’s a struggle to decipher the political and economic kabuki that has been staged on the blurred lines of this pandemic. Navigating coronavirus is like an ongoing game of rock, paper, scissors except real blood is spilt and real rocks are thrown and real relationships are severed.

Maybe that’s why I find myself humming that comforting old church hymn,

Rock of Ages

My love for natural stone formations must be embedded in my mother’s faith where so many of the hymns are about rocks. I’m more of a root person when it comes to metaphors, but Rock of Ages is a great hymn because it riffs on every poetic note in sacred writing, invoking The Christ in both feminine and masculine imagery.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
    Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
    From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
    Save me from its guilt and power.

         – Augustus M. Toplady

The Granite Dells

From atop a scenic viewpoint, The Granite Dells looks like a giant bubbling, brewing, flesh colored sonogram.

But these shrinking formations inform the past, not the future. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had been here before.

The Granite Dells, named “Point of Rocks” in the 1800’s, is located about five miles from downtown Prescott, near Willow and Watson Lakes.

About 1.4 billion years ago this Precambrian granite protruded one to two miles from the valley floor.

Today, the highest point is just a few meters. Whoa … How the mighty have fallen.

I’m sure what the geologists say is true, but as I paddled around the lake those whisperin’ cottonwoods, had another story to tell.

When did it happen? Where did it happen? When and where did it not happen?

Once upon a time…

… a plague ravaged the land and Mr and Mrs God grew weary of isolating with their beloved but precocious brood of stair-step children.

Jonesing for a night out, they begged their neighbor’s daughters Magma and Wind, to watch the children so they could have a much deserved date nite.

“Sure, whatever,” the sisters said.

“Woo-hoo!” shouted the Gods. So, before the daughters of Chaos could change their minds, the Gods squeezed into skinny jeans, slipped on their boots, dove into the jeep and blazed a winding trail into Prescott.

Before the red road dust cleared, Wind murmured a sigh of resignation, “Bummer.”

“Yeah,” Magma condoled, “Cute kids, but they give me a headache.”

“Yeah,” Wind said. Then, she shifted. “No. I mean …Yeah, about the kids, but it’s a bummer that Andreas is dancing on Mesoamerica’s Got Talent tonight and we’re stuck with the little monsters.

Magma closed her eyes and percolated four even little sighs, “He. Is. So. Hot.”

“And,” said Wind, “it’s the finals.”

So, the sisters formulated a plan. They gathered the children together …

and presented each with a slingshot woven from scraps of rainbow …

and a bucket of Play Dough (They had Play Dough back then, but it wasn’t called that). Then, the daughter’s of Chaos strolled back home to the far side of the valley to watch Andreas’ excellent moves on the big screen, oblivious to all they had wrought.

Around midnight, Mr and Mrs God returned from Whiskey Row. They opened the door, turned on the lights (you can still hear their gasp pulse across the surface of the lake) and found the children sleeping blissfully, each in his or her own unique cove.

The Gods smiled and kissed each sweaty forehead before collapsing wearily into their glorious new La-z-boy thrones.

“I always wanted a place with edgy world class art and custom built-ins,” said Mrs God.

Mr God said, “Granite details. Radon spa. Nice touch. Our children are geniuses.”

“I’m sure they had some help from the sitters, so please tip generously,” she said.

Mr. God, gazing love-struck into her eyes, said “You know, the kids take after you.”

“Uh-uh. Don’t pin that on me. You get all the blame,” she teased.

“No. You” he said, taking her into his arms.

“Oh, you …” she said.

And thus, the adorable banter continues to this day.

Watson Lake is a place for lovers to paddle together and picnic on a favorite island.

And, it’s a place for old guys to fetch the dinner.

Both Watson Lake and Willow Lake are full of bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and carp – and stocked with trout in the wintertime. If you don’t catch the fish, the birds will.

A crusty local fisherman in a kayak said he had named all of the mallards in the lake – claimed he regularly hand-feeds a seventeen year-old female named Rosie.

Motorized boats are limited to 5 mph, so fishing along the shoreline or from kayak or canoe is preferable.

The Granite Dells attracts rock climbers who use the cliffs adjacent to the lake for top-roping and lead climbing.

And, it is a place of legends. The scenic Point of Rocks Campground where we stayed in Yavapai County has a colorful pioneering history. Tall tales and folklore about buried gold in The Dells are woven into Prescott’s founding fabric.

But, be warned. The pareidolia can make you crazy.

But back to the buried gold.

The story goes, in the 1800s, a party of successful prospectors returned from the Big Sandy River with a load of canvas bags full of gold dust and nuggets. Stopping beside a spring in The Dells to rest before the journey’s final stretch into Prescott, they rejoiced, for on the morrow they would all be wealthy men. But, alas, their fortune took a turn when they were caught off-guard by a surprise Indian attack. But, even as arrows zipped around them and ricocheted off the rocks, the prospectors somehow managed to bury the gold. Tragically, all but one prospector was killed. 

The lone survivor escaped to Prescott, formed a search party, and returned to the site. But the gold was gone. Countless campaigns to recover the lost gold continued for decades. Had the Indians discovered the gold and reburied it in a different location? Or did the gold move naturally in a flash flood? Or did the ghosts of the dead miners ferry it off to Hades? If anyone knows, they’re not sayin’ but most believe the treasure still remains hidden, somewhere in the Granite Dells.


At the end of the month, we hitched up and descended the mountains, heading toward Cottonwood in the Sedona area. Taking 89 North through the Black Hills of Yavapai County, and then up Mingus Mountain and the perilous and frightening 89-A into Jerome – almost rivaling Jim’s Smuggler’s Notch episode of a year ago.

We made it through okay, but next time we’ll take a different route into Cottonwood. It took nearly a week to find my nerve, but we returned unhitched, to inspect the scene of the crime.

Later, we masked up and did some window shopping for graduation cards and gifts and overheard shop owners express their fears of contracting the infection.

They call it the Wicked City – Yeah, with a wink and a smile – but Jerome is really a good-natured little ol’ mining town that has capitalized on their precarious situation.

But COVID-19 puts them at a high level of risk as they are entirely dependent on tourism. Just do us a favor and throw money out the window as you (slowly) drive through watching out for pedestrians, of course.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park

We chose Dead Horse Ranch because our dear friend, Cyndie Sands and her husband, Lee, live and work here as camp hosts. We had been isolating for months and decided to form a Covid Bubble with Cyndie and Lee.

I’ve used Young Living oils for decades and Cyndie is my consultant. I was amazed how Thieves Household Cleaner gently and smoothly removed hard, dry cottonwood sap from aluminum – easy as wiping a baby’s butt.

When we weren’t cleaning Prescott’s cottonwood sap off the trailer and truck, we fell into the relaxing rhythms of ranch life.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park was once an actual ranch of the same name. Today, it is suburban camping at its finest – just a short drive to Old Town; twenty-minute drive to historic Jerome; and a thirty-minute drive to Sedona.

Dead Horse Ranch is for relaxing, fishing, horseback riding, cycling and hiking the rolling hills on beautifully maintained trails.

There’s also wine country,

and paddling on the Verde river which I missed because of the sap.

Our two-week maximum stay at Dead Horse State Park went way too fast. We said our farewells, hitched up and – to escape a predicted heat wave – drove up into Flagstaff …

where we boon-docked in a comforting stand of pine woods just outside of town.

Jim found a nearby source for Happy Hour supplies.

Though warmer than usual for Flagstaff, the nights stayed cool.

But other than the weather report, we haven’t much to say about those two weeks abiding with the trees. Serenity, says it all. We commenced with our isolation plan. Pico soaked up the midday sun …

Jim got acquainted with his new drone

… and I settled down with a good book. My friend, Julia introduced me to Paul Theroux. His book, Deep South, triggered a hankering for the food of my people.

So, on that last restful Sunday morning in the woods, we whomped up a mess of biscuits and gravy, and celebrated Pico de Gallo’s 12th birthday.

We would have stayed longer but rain was predicted, and Cyndie who is knowledgable about the area advised us to skedaddle before the downpour.

So, we packed up and drove through a wind storm into the Navajo Nation …

Sadly, a very strict COVID-19 shutdown was in progress. All but essential businesses were closed due to the extremely high number of cases.

Thankfully, the management at Teec Nos Pos Trading Post – where we stocked up on provisions – granted us permission to park overnight on their property.

The next morning we drove a couple of miles to the Four Corners Monument

… where the very important lines drawn in the shifting sands were closed until further notice.

On to Colorado to see what we can see.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

24 thoughts on “Rocks Of Ages

    1. Thank you, Larry! Love and xoxo’s to you Jacquie. Wow. Colorado is gorgeous.

      Maybe see you this winter.

      – Carmen

  1. Hi Camen and Jim!!!
    You are so close by. We are still hunkered down in Santa Fe and will remain through July and even early August. Settled in nice and safe. My cataracts are going bye bye beginning on Thursday. That will begin the inner itch to go exploring and to see what I have been missing. Staying put isn’t what we signed up for…

    So good to hear that you are both safe and healthy. The photos and story are wonderful!!! You have been cruising around in our parts of the SW. Heaven on Earth to us.

    Let us know if you get any closer to us. Sending love and hugs to you both.
    You know we WILL meet again.

    Susan and Ed

    1. Susan and Ed! Oh my goodness! Wonderful to hear from you. Is it hot in Santa Fe? Ever since we left Fishers Landing, we’ve been catching every area at least 10 degrees above normal. It’s beautiful here in Colorado Springs and this is one of the best campgrounds we’ve ever seen, but it’s too hot to do much between noon and 5PM. Fortunately, it stays light till 9PM.

      Ohhhhh yes. We will meet again. Can’t wait!


      Carmen & Jim


  2. Just moved from Phoenix. We’ve stayed at Point of Rocks a few times, it’s a wonderful place.

    1. Hey Scott! Yes, we loved the campground. How often do you find a campground with a National Park vibe in a gorgeous natural environment but with private park amenities? Never! Point of Rocks is a unique campground.

      It flourished with nature – we had roadrunners, squirrels, rabbits and deer go right through our site. Most private parks over-develop and chase off the wildlife.

      Shady, with cottonwoods and pines, there are campsites that suit all sizes of trailers and tents. With Watson Lake a short walk from the site, Point of Rocks hits all the marks of a top-notch campground. From our campsite beside the rocks, we could walk out our door and step onto the rocks and hike for miles.But it was only four miles from shopping – Trader Joe’s is only four miles away!

      Also, we had a good-enough Verizon signal that with the help of our booster we could live-stream.

      Great park. But it’s not very large so reservations are a good idea.

      Be well and prosper, Scott!


  3. Happy 12th Birthday Pico! Thank you for such an informative, and fun, post to read. The Granite Dells looks like an amazing area, as does Point of Rocks RV Park. We haven’t been to that area yet. Had heard of Prescott, but never heard of these other areas. Going on my list of “to be visited one day.”

    1. Brenda! Thank you for the Pico Birthday wishes. Our little traveling companion is going strong into his senior years and we hope he continues for a long, long time. Most of our dogs live to their late teens. Pico’s companion, Miss Winnie, almost lived to 20 – 2 weeks short. Traveling long term with a dog puts them in a unique position – definitely more than a pet. He keeps us safe and asks for very little. Yes, he bites our friends and even us sometimes, but he doesn’t mean to. His hypervigilence is the result of his feral childhood. He’s a very good dog and we love him so.

      It’s great to hear that Point of Rocks is on your list – a fabulous place for Spring or Summer. But I’d also like to see it in Autumn. There is so much to do there but it was still in shut-down so we missed the visitors center, museums and courthouse and Whisky Row. So, there will be a “next time” for us.

      Safe and Happy Travels, Brenda!


  4. Love Jerome, I drove a 30 foot UHaul truck on that narrow hairpin road on our way moving from Omaha to Vista, California about 11 years ago – my husband was in the passenger front seat, hugging his door in fear the whole time! That wall is very close, especially with traffic coming at ya the other direction…. But I wanted to show my Nebraska born and lived husband Sedona and Jerome on our trip out there. Great pics and story, thanks for sharing!

    Lula West

    1. You are amazing Lula! I’ll bet you didn’t sweat a drop either. When we got down the mountain I wanted to pull over and erect an altar to Almighty God for our deliverance.

      Jerome is such a lovely town – it tries to be sassy like New Orleans but it’s just too sweet. I wish them well during this pandemic. I fear that many small town treasures will turn to ghost towns if help doesn’t come through.

      Be well and prosper, Lula.



  5. Thank you again Jim/Carmen, we feel very fortunate to have found this wonderful RV lifestyle, but as you mentioned, it’s a closed door to many of my race, either through economics, or exclusion.

    Hopefully very soon the world will live the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” ❤️

    1. I think we are all learning that Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision extends to us all. ALL of our lives are better when ALL of us have equal access to the American Dream. White supremacy is a plague on ALL citizens.

    1. Thank you, Barbara. It’s so wonderful to hear from you and to know that you are well. This pandemic has reinforced our love and concern for our friends. We miss you, but hope to see you soon. I wish you could be in Colorado right now.The fabulous cycling trails made us think of you when as we were driving in.


      Carmen & Jim


  6. Thanks for sharing this and your wonderful photos. We love Dead Horse Ranch and Jerome, but had never heard of the Granite Dells. We will definitely visit on our next trip, hopefully in September. We did have to drive into Prescott last time to get a new tire and were glad we weren’t pulling the trailer on that highway!

    1. Hey Dana!

      We highly recommend Point of Rocks for your visit to The Dells. There is also a campground in the County Park on Watson Lake with large spacious campsites on the hills overlooking the lake (electric only and with showers, 2-week maximum) but that campground was closed while we were there and will probably remain closed for the season.

      Thank you for being with us. Always great to hear from you. Stay safe out there and …

      Happy Travels!


    1. Hey Nancy!

      Yes, I just can’t get enough of those rocks. The hikes are spectacular and the paddling, unsurpassed – but the area does get crowded on the weekends. I wish we had visited the other lake and it would have been great to visit Prescott but it was still in shutdown while we were there … next time.

      Thank you for being with us, Nancy!

      Safe and Happy Travels!


    1. Hey Christiana. Your powerful prayers seem to be working. We are still here, still roaming and have a truck and trailer to live in. When are you two setting out again? It would be so great to plan a meet-up.

      Jim and I can’t ignore the injunction to publicly acknowledge that the lifestyle we have been living for the last four years – freedom to roam without fear – is a benefit of white privilege. Yes, we have met a few – very, very few – people of color and mixed-race couples like yourselves taking advantage of America’s amazing highways that everyone’s tax dollars have made possible, but the absence of people of color is a glaring feature of the parks and the RV and tent-camping community.

      A couple of years ago we were prompted to do some research about camping and the deficit of black people on the trails and campgrounds and we were flabbergasted. Most campers we’ve spoken to about the history of racial discrimination in the national parks are similarly shocked.

      As much as I love our national parks, the dirty little secret is that the national park system was set up for rich white intellectuals and business people to escape what they had wrought in the cities and to momentarily relieve their anxiety of the class system they depend on for their wealth. Remnants of that exclusive white privilege – the ability to “escape” into nature – still lingers in some of the parks. In order for all citizens to feel welcome, that era must be honestly confronted by the park systems so change can happen and all citizens can exploit Americas greatest legacy.

      Safe and Happy Travels!


  7. Hello Jim and Carmen
    Love reading your posts, always a delight! Those biscuits in the picture looked amazing!!
    Glad to hear your both doing fine, love your comments on ‘white privileged ‘ – all so very true and very sad. Love you guys.
    Pattie and Paul

    1. Those biscuits were delicious – and, if you can believe it – gluten free. Just to be ironic, I made non-gluten free gravy to go with it. But since then, I’ve found a gluten-free red-eye gravy that sounds very good – fattening, but very good. I will send you the report.

      Patty, if you’re interested, here’s the biscuit recipe I used:

      I plan to make them again next Sunday to have with some local blackberry jam. The Farmer’s Markets in Colorado remind us of the markets in B.C. – not as fabulous, but better than most.

      I met a woman the other day who said that she wants to go to Canada just for the Farmer’s Markets. I totally get it. The produce in the US right now is dismally sparse and the quality is middling but is much better than it was when the pandemic began. A Farmer’s Market and Winery tour in Canada sounds fabulous right now,

      So great to hear from you two. We love you and miss you and hope you are finding plenty of safe things to do and fun places to go. Be well and prosper.

      When all of this is over, we hope to meet you up north.


      Carmen and Jim

  8. Wow, absolute Beauty! I would love to see these with my own eyes if given the chance to travel soon! I would greatly miss out if I wont be able to travel one of these places! Wouldn’t miss it in my lifetime!

    1. We agree! This place was filled with beauty. We are grateful we were able to spend some time in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It allowed us to practice social distancing and still have a blast. Definitely a bucket list place.

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