Arizona "explorer" Roger Naylor returns to Sibley's West on Saturday, March 7, for a slide show and talk on his newest book, "Arizona State Parks: A Guide to Amazing Places in the Grand Canyon State." The event begins at noon, with a book-signing to follow.
Here is a recent story by Scott Shumaker on the book and a Naylor talk in Sedona that was printed in the Sedona Red Rock News.
Roger Naylor, a prolific Arizona travel writer based in Cottonwood, started and ended the multimedia tour in the Verde Valley, opening with Dead Horse Ranch State Park, his go-to park, and ending at Slide Rock, which he suggested locals re-visit during the colder months.
In between, Naylor took the audience in the Sedona Heritage Museum’s heated apple-packing shed to Picacho Peak and Lost Dutchman state parks for wildflowers in the spring, to the sandy beaches strung out along Arizona’s “West Coast” — the shores of the Colorado River forming the state’s western border — and to remote Alamo Lake for a break from Wi-Fi and the best night’s sleep of his life in solitude in a cabin by the lake.
“That’s my charge to you: Get out and see all these parks,” he said at the start of his talk.
Naylor, who has previously worked as a stand-up comedian, peppered the talk with jokes, anecdotes, facts and vivid descriptions of the parks. He compared walking into Kartchner Caverns, with its humid air and sounds of dripping water, to “walking through the chambers of a beating heart.”
He also provided a poignant introduction to one of the state’s newest parks, the Granite Mountain Hot Shots Memorial State Park outside of Yarnell.
The Sedona Red Rock News caught up with Naylor before the event to learn more about his thoughts on traveling to all the state parks.
How did this book project start?
“I’ve been wanting to tell this story for a long time. For personal reasons — because I live in Cottonwood and I’m hiking at Dead Horse Ranch State Park week in and week out and have been for 25 years now — and I know how important the park is to me personally and also to the community. … Then also as a travel writer … so often when I’m working on a story, no matter what it was, whether it was ‘kid friendly hikes’ or ‘great camping spots’ or ‘wildflower sightings,’ or just about anything, it seemed like there was always a state park that was a perfect fit for that. … I started putting all the pieces together and realized that all of Arizona’s scenic diversity is captured in the state parks; every chapter of Arizona history is captured in the state parks, and I just thought, you know, these are kind of overlooked a little bit.”
What is the state park book’s target audience?
“It’s geared largely toward Arizona residents to get out and appreciate what we have in our backyard. I’m not discouraging in any way not to go to the national parks, national monuments. Holy cow, get to the Grand Canyon every chance you get. Get to Petrified Forest, get to Chiricahua [NM], always go to those places. But we shouldn’t overlook these little hidden gems that are sometimes not as well known. The state parks are going to be less crowded and certainly less expensive than the national parks.”
Were there any places that surprised you in making the book?
“Yeah, I mean I’m always surprised by this astonishing state. One of my favorite trips, and I’ve done it a couple times since then, too, is just bouncing up the west coast of Arizona there. Starting at Yuma, hit the two historic parks … then you start up and you start working your way up the west coast and they’ve got four scenic state parks perched on the Colorado River between Parker and Lake Havasu City there, and they’re just spectacular. It’s just this really rare combination of desert hills and white sandy beaches with palm trees and sparkling water and seagulls circling overhead, over and over. We live in kind of an arid state, so water tends to always take our breath away.”
What’s your next book project?
“I’m doing the final edits before it goes to the layout design phase. It’s called ‘Arizona’s Scenic Roads and Hikes: Unforgettable Journeys in the Grand Canyon State.’ It’s all about our 27 state-designated scenic roads. I’ve kind of paired up each road with places to eat, places to stay and a few little hiking trails along the way. The Verde Valley is very heavily represented. Every paved road that comes into Sedona is an official scenic road. So, Sedona’s in several of the chapters here. That will be out in October.”