(Map courtesy of http://www.americansouthwest.net/arizona)
Last week it snowed here in Arizona. No, not down here in the ‘Valley of the Sun,’ but in the Superstition Mountains and the peaks of the Tonto National Park. The radio instructed us not to drive north for several days as many roads were impassable. Exciting!
We waited, as instructed, and then set out on the Apache Trail. What is it and how did it get that name? Briefly, according to Tom Kollenborn’s article on the Trail, the general path of the trail was used back in 900 AD by the Salado Indians. Later the Apache Indians used it in raids against the peaceful Pima Indians who lived in the valley.
Theodore Roosevelt Dam at the top of the trail was built from 1905-1911, and there was a need to connect the dam site at Roosevelt with the Valley towns of Mesa and Apache Junction. The road was built from 1903-1905, but access was restricted until completion of the dam. Ironically, the laborers for the road-building project were also Apache Indians. Today the Apache Trail, also known as Arizona Route 88, is one of the loveliest roads in the state, but it is narrow and rugged. One end is in Apache Junction, and the other in Globe.
My pal Mary Ann and I set out at about 9 a.m., and got home sometime after 5 p.m., having covered only 150 miles. We stopped briefly in Tortilla Flat, which is completely touristic and hilarious. (Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat was in California.) It is full of visitors who have enjoyed the scenic ride past Canyon Lake; not many venture farther, especially when the road is under water. (!) Here’s a photo of the dollar-bill papered dining room of the small restaurant there.
We especially wanted to visit Tonto National Monument on the other side of Roosevelt Dam, but didn’t get there until 2 p.m., and we were starving, having not seen a building since leaving Tortilla Flat. Did I mention it’s a really isolated part of the world? So we took a quick peek at the ancient cliff dwelling visible from the Visitors’ Center and motored on in search of a sandwich.
After The Best Pre-Packaged Sandwich I Ever Ate we continued on to Globe where we visited the Besh-ba-Gowah ruins. They are the remnants of a Salado settlement, dating from about 1200 AD. They have been well reconstructed, and one is able to walk through the settlement and imagine what it might have been like to live there 700 years ago. The visitor’s center is extremely interesting and there’s an excellent video and a museum stuffed with archaeological finds from the site. Here’s a model of the ruins:
Evidently they liked ladders. The dark hole labled ‘central corridor’ was a long, dark hall that gave access to the areas within. The ‘tree’ seems all out of proportion to me – it must have been huge.
It was a breath-takingly beautiful drive, especially the old road from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Dam. If you’d like to see more photos, click here, or over on the right under Photographs – Apache Trail in the Snow. As always, I recommend the slide show. You will see there a rare shot that captures both the male AND female jackalope.