I wanted to see Arizona’s high (higher) desert again, so I went to Jerome, Arizona, for two nights. It’s an Old West frontier town that enjoyed a wild mining boom followed by a long bust. It’s since reinvented itself as a cool mountain town popular with artists, tourists, and anyone who prefers rustic and weathered to new and sterile. I don’t know why old mining towns so consistently get reputations for being haunted, but references to ghosts abound in Jerome. I didn’t spot any, but I don’t doubt there’s some restless energy (spirits?) there.
Jerome is an easy drive north from Phoenix. Get on I-17 towards Flagstaff and get off at Camp Verde / 260. Head towards Cottonwood and follow the signs leading up the mountain to Jerome. I stopped for lunch and coffee, so I lost track of how long it took me, but Google Maps estimates about two hours. I overheard several people mention that they thought the drive up the mountain was frightening. I’m not a fan of windy roads and steep drop offs, but this drive seemed fine. Maybe they were discussing a different route. Regardless, if driving and mountain heights aren’t your thing, keep it in mind.
I got there in the evening, just in time to see the sun setting on the Mogollon Rim. That’s the view I came for. Layers of red and rose colored rock. I saw a few places advertising their million dollar views, and I think they’re lowballing it. If you get up on the rim you’re on the Colorado Plateau. I don’t know if this is technically correct, but I’ve always associated that with Arizona’s high desert, and it’s beautiful.
I got the sense that most of the tourists were calling it a day and heading back down the mountain. I found a room pretty easily at the Hotel Connor, right on the corner of Jerome’s main intersection. I liked the hotel and would definitely recommend it. I think you can get rooms with a good view. I didn’t have one and didn’t worry about it, figuring I’d be out of the room all day.
I spent most of the short visit wandering around taking photos. I made the mistake of taking too many cameras. It’s a mistake I’ve made a few times recently. It gets confusing, especially when you’re working with film cameras. I need to remember to keep it simple. I am glad I grabbed my grandfather’s Beauty Super II on the way out the door, though. I realized there was some film in there, probably dating back to the late 1960s. I shot the rest of the roll – there were old images on there, and I got partial results from the new shots.
Jerome is quiet this time of year, especially in the mornings and evenings. I ate dinner at Grapes (Italian food) the first night and The Haunted Hamburger the second night. They were both good. The restaurant at the Jerome Grand Hotel might be another option. I had breakfast at Mile High Grill and Inn both mornings. Good and fast. Caught some live music at the Spirit Room and had a nightcap at Paul and Jerry’s saloon.
George, the bartender at Paul and Jerry’s, is friendly, soft-spoken, and low key. I listened as a couple asked him how long he’d been in Jerome and what brought him there. As someone who is always wondering where home will eventually be and how we know when we’ve found it, I love these sorts of questions. George mentioned that he was from New York and was in Jerome in the early 1980s for work. His young son visited at the time and said, “Dad, I want to live here.” So we moved. George also said, “Smart kid.” After George walked away the couple compared notes, with one mentioning that a reporter should come out and interview George. I agree. (If I’m going to make this freelance photojournalism work, I need to ask the Georges of the world if I can take their photos and write up their stories.)
I’ve added some photos below, but first, some final notes. Keep an eye out for a friendly, inquisitive German Shepherd. I was eating breakfast at the Mile High Grill and Inn when I saw him (her?). He was with a group of people. I thought they were all Jerome firefighters, but after they left, a staff member told me that the dog was with the chief of police. Turns out the dog’s skills just didn’t match up that well with police duties, so he’s transitioning to Jerome’s civilian life. Be sure to duck into Puscifer on Main Street. It’s a great record store, design shop, and old school barber. The store also has an amazing view of the mountains and a private residence that is on the market for $6 million. At some point you should also make the drive up the hill to the Grand Hotel. Cool building, interesting history, and more million dollar views.