text by Barbara Cowlin, US Route 89 Appreciation Society
photos by James Cowlin (©2008 James Cowlin)
Yarnell is a quintessential example of what the US Route 89 project is all about. Who could guess that such a beautiful, unique and fascinating little town would be nestled on Route 89 between Wickenburg and Prescott? Certainly not those buzzing along on the Interstate, in a rush to get to their destinations!
The drive itself is worth the trip from either direction. From Wickenburg, the highway crosses the desert than ascends to Yarnell up the side of the Weaver mountains gaining 2,500 feet in only 4 miles. Heading south from Prescott, the traveler winds along a mountain road that reaches the Peeples Valley at Wilhoit. From there you will pass beautiful pastures, an idyllic setting of ranches and fields of grazing cows.
There are wonderful, hidden treasures in and around Yarnell. The Shrine of Saint Joseph of the Mountains is situated in a grotto of granite boulders shaded by oak trees just off 89. Joseph is depicted with his carpenter tools carrying Jesus in his arms. The rest of the shrine leads the visitor through the last day of Jesus’ life as described in the Bible. Religious or not, this is a serene and strangely refreshing place to visit.
Near the Shrine of St. Joseph are the quirky remains of the Alessio Carraro home. The designer/builder of Tovrea Castle in Phoenix, he spent his waning years in Yarnell and constructed a home in the granite boulders. As you climb the path to the “Top of the World” you will encounter boulders named by Carraro for their animal shapes, a sort of fantasy land of rocks.
On Broadway (this is the main street and also Arizona Route 89) you can find wonderful shops filled with antiques and unique arts and crafts. The Painted Lizard features an eclectic array of fascinating items for the curious tourist.
The Cornerstone Bakery has some of the best pastries I’ve ever eaten and I’ve eaten a lot!
Best of all, the people are friendly. So friendly, in fact, that we were invited to visit several residences. Both local homes were built right into the boulders. I mean the boulders actually formed some of the walls. The owner of one is an artist who does wonderful mosaic tile work. It was a treat to see her work in progress and to see the ways in which she enhanced her unique home with furniture and art that fit the architecture perfectly.
Another home we were invited to see is owned by Vicki Velasquez. I’m told that she rents this house out. It’s a fascinating place and would be a wonderful spot for a family retreat or romantic getaway. You can reach Vicki at the Painted Lizard at 928-427-6262.
That we were invited into these places reinforces the idea that taking your time when traveling, stopping and talking to local people may take you to places of which you might never have dreamed. What great stories to tell your friends.
For more information about Yarnell, visit the Yarnell-Peeples Valley Chamber of Commerce Web site.