We woke surrounded by clouds. From the campground at the summit, the sides of Mingus Mountain dropped steeply down to the wide Verde Valley. The evening before, we’d watched gathering storm clouds turn pink over the distant red rocks of Sedona; now the edge of our campsite was a swirl of grey. The wind blew coldly. Rain gave way to the ratatatat of hail, drumming down on the roof, bouncing off the wet ground. It gathered in small white drifts while we watched from the warmth of the Minnie, eating toast with almond butter.
About halfway down the mountain, the town of Jerome, Arizona clings to the slopes. Formerly a copper mining location, the little city is now an artist community. The old high school houses studios and the streets are lined with unique shops offering handmade jewelry, prints, clothing and more – a refreshing change from all the mass-produced tchotchkes we’ve seen at other tourist destinations.
One shop in particular is dedicated to enchantment and wonder – descriptors most often applied when talking about places for children, but this store is most definitely for adults. Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes features gorgeous, intricate versions of the classic toy, reimagined in stained glass, brass and smooth polished woods. Though the pieces were intricate works of art, the atmosphere was quite the opposite of a stuffy fine art gallery. We were encouraged to touch everything. We spun small wheels and turned dials, peered into the mirrored scopes, watched as the colored beads and oils and chunks of colored glass formed ever-changing patterns. It was wonderful. As I looked around, I realized everyone in the store was smiling. Have you ever thought about how rare that is? Adults, just smiling, indulging in play and beauty?
This whole planter box was a kaleidoscope – both the scope and the basin of the box spin to create beautiful designs. The atmosphere in Nellie Bly kept us smiling long after we had driven away, feeling warm and cozy despite the chill in the air. It’s definitely been one of our favorite stops so far.