2016 Trip Four, Southwest Discoveries, May 13-16

Show Low, Arizona, Monday May 16, 2016

Well we are back on the road, with a trip of just under four weeks scheduled. I say scheduled since for each of the last two years, we had some medical issue that forced changes to our travels scheduled for this time of the year. Hopefully not this year. The planned route takes us from Scottsdale AZ to Santa Fe NM to Las Vegas NV. Numerous side trips and excursions are planned, particularly in Arizona and New Mexico.

This trip is 1/3 family and 2/3 adventure. We started out on Friday with a flight to Phoenix (Scottsdale) to spend the weekend with Lou and Joyce. Minnesota was 41 degrees (F) when we departed. Scottsdale was 102 degrees F when we landed. So what do you do in hot weather? Jump in the pool!

Lou and Joyce have moved and are living in a community of condos, townhouses, homes, etc. Their community has several pools, along with other amenities. We enjoyed the pool Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The community does have a number of owners who are only there for the winter months so the pool, despite the high temperatures, was not crowded, had shade and sun areas, and was just the right temperature to cool off without being cold.

Saturday morning walk

Saturday morning walk

Saturday morning (early, before the heat) the four of us went for an hour walk with Manning, their Corgi. Flowers are blooming everywhere; oleander and bougainvillea being particularly overwhelming. Saguaro, and other, cacti are flowering also.

Remember our houseboat ‘adventure’ on Lake Powell with Lou and Joyce in May 2014? Well,their friends Dave and Toni had joined us on the houseboat for that 2014 weekend and on this trip we met them for lunch on Saturday. We went to Ted’s Hot Dogs in Tempe where we were able to get burnt, grilled hot dogs for Chris and a chocolate malt for Ed. Great!!

Sunday brunch at El Charro

Sunday brunch at El Chorro

Sunday was Pentecost Sunday and we went to services, coffee and danish, and a pre-service discussion at Lou and Joyce’s church, Christ Church of the Ascesion. Brunch afterwards was at a Scottsdale landmark, El Chorro. Dinner was at The Thumb, a BarBQ restaurant located in a gas station. Like the gas station restaurants in Lee Vining CA and Franklin NC, the food was worth the stop.

Monday morning we were on the road by 7:30 AM. Monday night’s stop is in Show Low, Arizona. We had a stop at Dunkin Donuts for Chris to get her fix before we tackled the Apache Trail. The Apache Trail is the scenic route from the Phoenix area up to Lake Roosevelt and Tonto National Monument. However, every time I tried to schedule a trip on Mapquest or Google Maps, this road would be ignored and the infinitely more intelligent computer routing system would refuse to use this road. It really is not that bad.

The Apache Trail

The Apache Trail

The Apache Trail goes over the Superstition Mountains northeast of Phoenix. It had its beginnings centuries ago as an aboriginal highway through the mountains and was used as a horse trail for settlers and Indians. In 1905 construction began on the Roosevelt Dam and the Bureau of Reclamation “improved” the road so supplies could be brought to the site.

The Apache Trail is a scenic byway, is 39 miles long, winds through awe-inspiring scenery, and is unpaved for much of its length. Portions are narrow, slightly more than one lane, with steep elevation drops. The Trail is within the Tonto Natonal Forest, one of the largest national forests in the US with nearly 3 million acres. The forest encompasses desert, mountain forests, mining regions and some lumbering.

We took the route and enjoyed it. We have experienced many roads which were more narrow, with bumpier road surfaces, and had scarier cliff side drops. Luckily the gravel portion did not have huge ruts or rocks jutting up that might threaten the under carriage of your vehicle. That said, I was glad we were using a rental car. The road surface was like an old-fashioned washboard and even at low speeds was extremely rough. Two Germans who tried to ride it on motorcycles had to turn back. I would have turned back also if I had been driving our old Saturn with the much worn suspension. It took us three hours to drive the 40 miles but that included numerous stops for hikes and pictures.

While the trail was not crowded, we encountered a few cars at each major vista. Some of the people we kept seeing for the next four hours. Most of them had heard of the horror stories about the Apache Trail, but all of us had also heard so many positive opinions on the scenery that we were bound to take the road anyway. While cell phone coverage was spotty, if there had been a problem, other people would have been driving by shortly.

Apache Lake

Apache Lake

The Apache Trail parallels portions of the Salt River that begins in the White Mountains. The Salt River Project is a cooperative utility providing power and water to areas in central Arizona. They manage Roosevelt Dam (and two others) on the Salt River that create Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Roosevelt Lake. All three lakes provide for recreational use even though their earliest purpose was for agricultural irrigation and water supply to further the development of the West. We took advantage of numerous vistas to view and photograph the lakes and canyons. Roosevelt Dam at its completion in 1911 was the largest masonry constructed dam in the world. It was renovated and heightened in the 1990s due to concerns that the floods it was designed to control might actually be greater than had been projected in the early 1900s. With 4,000,000 people in the Phoenix area, this could cause problems. Currently the water level in the lake behind the dam is at about 50% of its capacity.

Theodore Roosevelt Dam

Theodore Roosevelt Dam

Lou works for Salt River Project so we wanted to make sure we saw the dam on our way up to Show Low. Technically we could reach Roosevelt Dam by taking a quicker, longer route which would have avoided the Apache Trail but the journey is half (or more) of the experience. Right?

After completion of the Apache Trail and seeing Roosevelt Dam, we visited Tonto National Monument. Luckily we had packed granola bars and cold (thanks Lou and Joyce) water since the Roosevelt Dam area is basically a no food zone. Tonto National Monument preserves two examples of cliff dwellings belonging to what is called the Saloda people. The cliff dwellings are 700 years old.

The creators of the cliff dwellings are long gone although they may have migrated and become part of other Native American groups in the area. This area of the Tonto Basin underwent growth and contraction as flooding, drought, and plant and animal depletion impacted on the ability to live in the area. It is thought that the earliest inhabitants arrived around 100 CE. By 1250, the inhabitants were reacting a form of pottery now called Salado pottery which was traded widely. By 1450 the area was basically deserted.

Part of the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument

Part of the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument

Two hikes to two different cliff areas are part of the National Monument. We took the shorter one-it was the only one open today. The hike is only a half mile one way but has 350 feet in elevation gain. The day was warm, temperatures in the mid-80s so we made sure we had plenty of water. Original portions of the dwellings can still be seen although vandals did destroy portions of the dwellings before the monument was created in 1907.

Salt River flowing from the White Mountains

Salt River flowing from the White Mountains

From Tonto we drove to Show Low. Show Low is a resort community in the White Mountains, about 200 miles northeast of Phoenix. Show Low is at an elevation of about 6350 feet. This makes it a cool retreat from the scorching temperatures in Phoenix, elevation about 1100 feet above sea level. The route from Roosevelt Lake follows much of the Salt River, through two Indian reservations, and another national Forest. This road, while paved, also is curvy with frequent, significant elvation gains. Road speed at times is listed at 25, 35 and 45 mph. Smoother surface than Apache Trail but still a slow go if you obey the speed limit (we did).

Salt River Valley

Salt River Valley

Dinner tonight was as the Lion’s Den in Pinetop, another resort community maybe 10 miles south of Show Low. A great burger place, just what we were seeking. It was quiet, no music tonight and the worm crawl is not scheduled until May 29th. Sorry, I did not ask the rules for the worm crawl.

Tomorrow we drive to Ramah NM.

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “2016 Trip Four, Southwest Discoveries, May 13-16

  1. Joyce

    Sounds like a perfect way to begin your road trip! Lovely photos.

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