Sunday, May 1, 2011
The Apache Trail (Route 88 out of Apache Junction), AZ
A.k.a. the afternoon we took a rental Kia Sephia down 22 miles of dirt road in the Arizona mountains.
See the album here.
So, after the Desert Botanical Gardens the morning of my birthday, we took a look at the AAA material the BF had picked up before we left Maine, and decided it would be fun to take a drive up Route 88 out of the valley. It promised a ghost town (tourist trap), stops at Tortilla Flat (tourist trap) and some cool canyon scenery. What it didn't mention was that 22 of the 40 mile trip was on dirt road, sometimes one lane dirt road, and that many people are hauling boats in their huge pickups on the way to the lakes on the road. Fortunately, there were plenty of pull outs... But our tiny Kia sure looked out of place amongst the rest of the traffic.
I do need to state up front that no camera can hope to do justice to the scenery we saw on that drive. It's not the Grand Canyon, but in a couple of places, it comes really close. A few notes on the photos:
Ocotillos are my new favorite desert plant. I didn't even notice them the last time we were out there, because most of the year, they look like dead sticks poking out of the ground. This time of year, they actually get leaves, but even better, they get the coolest orange flowers on the top of each branch. They frame photos beautifully. So beautifully, I could probably do an entire overstuffed album of shots I have with ocotillos.
My second favorite desert plant is now the palo verde. It's blooming this time of year, so you get these vasts swathes of yellow in the most incredibly random places. It's a really lovely sight to come upon.
The most interesting part of the drive was the descent into Fish Creek. It's one lane here, and goes down a mountain to a one lane bridge at the bottom of the canyon. I've included a picture of the bridge warning sign because it also shows the shadows that the mountain is casting into the canyon. It cools down enough that you come to a cottonwood forest once you're down far enough. And, once you're down far enough, you can look back up at the road you just descended, and let your eyes goggle. I could never have done that drive. I don't have the nerves of steel required. But oh, was it beautiful to be driving on it with someone that does have nerves of steel.
I've included a picture of the Roosevelt Dam because it is a pretty impressive structure, mostly because it's made of cut stone, not concrete. The other funny thing about the dam is that it's right off the end of Route 88, so there are people stopping off from Route 188 to take a look. You can tell who didn't come up from 88, because their vehicle is not coated with a fine layer of dust.
What we didn't realize at the end of 88 is that you then have to take 188 either to US Route 60 or State Route 87 to get back to Phoenix. So we ended up taking a 120 mile road trip that afternoon. Again, well worth it. We stopped at a Sonic in Globe for dinner, because the BF had never been to one (and I've only had ice cream at one). BF now loves them forever for the chili cheese tator tots.
All and all, it was an amazing trip. I'd totally do it again, but try to get a vehicle with four wheel drive. And BF wants to mount a camera on the dash for the drive into Fish Creek.
The other thing we want to do is check out the cave dwellings in the Tonto National Monument on Route 188. They were already closed by the time we got up there, but looked really interesting. However, we later heard there's enough hiking that it's a better trip to do the relative cool of winter.