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Outside and east of Phoenix, not far from Scottsdale is the Apache Trail. We made the trip the first full day once in town. It's noted in National Geographic 's book Drives of A Lifetime. 500 of the Worlds Most Spectacular Trips. It's a large table-top book I received from my wife, Carolyn, for Christmas. I just had to get on a few of the roads mentioned in the book. In fact Arizona had some six or seven such roads listed. We were privy to catch three or four of them, this being the first.
The Apache Trail is noted for its treasures of scenery, fun towns, picturesque play grounds on the waters of a few lakes and historic ruins of the "Ancient Ones" the Anistazi. The road starts as Rt 88 starting at Apache Junction. The road winds through the Superstitious Mountains, a imposing looking range of craggy mountains continuing to Roosevelt Lake. (Teddy Roosevelt thought it as one of the finest trails he ever road on horseback through) It ends at the Tonto National Monument. Though most of the 40 mile or so trail, named after the Apache Indians who used it ,is paved, dirt roads and rough steep grades are encountered further to the east.
Our Encounter with the Apache Trail!!
We left in the morning and found the trail in the town of Apache Junction noted as RT 88. We started out and came to a stop almost immediately. Behind an Elk's Club was a small marked trail. Somehow we happened upon it. We parked behind the building and followed a marked trail that had a sign indicating its name, Desert Elks Nature Trail with the names of Kimberly Doss and Elizabeth Stanfe. We grabbed our cameras and took a walk. It was our first nature encounter in Arizona walking up close and personal to the dry lands with spectacular cactus and wildflowers.
The trail that we spent some twenty minutes on and walked perhaps a 1/2 mile into was marked with posts indicating what we were looking at. We had a ball checking out this and taking pictures of that with Superstitious Mountain looming in the background.
Goldfield Ghost Town
From there we hopped back in our rented Jeep Compass and headed for a Ghost Town. This new Goldfield town, the original was all but a few run down little shacks, was built upon the site of a mining mill. All the new structures built to look like they were there when Roosevelt was riding through these hills, comprise historic looking buildings making up an active and fun filled town that sits atop a hill riding higher as ya move deeper into town. There were mine tours, horseback riding, light-train rides, mountain tours, a jail house, a church, a bordello and a saloon.
I liked Goldfield Ghost Town with its touristy and chotsky attitude and not being able to tell where the real deal of this historic town ends and the rebuilt hoopla begins. It is a fun town that we enjoyed for what it was. The small walk able town offered an amazing opportunity for fun photos. It's a place to wonder and not depart with a dime takin' pictures and enjoying the look and tempo or takin' out the wallet and trying a few new experiences. No, that bordello, though open, is not open for business if ya get my drift.
After that we continued driving Apache Trail stopping often at pull-offs to be sure we got this picture and that. After so many desert shots with mountain tops it was a pleasure to see bright blue waters of Canyon Lake. One car only bridges allowed a slow entrance into the area that sports a restaurant that my wife loved the looks of (we went elsewhere to eat, at Tortilla Flat) camping, a huge marina area, camping nearby and also the opportunity to take a ride on a steamboat, (The Dolly Steamboat). We passed on all, including a swim (too cool yet in April) but I can see how the Apache Trail appeals to all kinds of pleasures.
Tortilla Flat and a Bit More
We continued on the road taking more pictures and finally hitting Tortilla Flat. This small historic town sports a restaurant where we made our stop for lunch. No paint or wall paper here. Every inch of the walls and most of the ceilings were covered in dollar bills. Yup, the real deal. Ya could actually see where some poor fellas, snatched some. (probably big spenders tipping the wait staff) The bar was cool. Everyone sat on a saddle and the restrooms are a hoot. Remember to bring your camera. "For Real!!"
I enjoyed just sittin' on a bench on the porch watchin' bikers and families mix together while my wife shopped for this and that.
We continued on past Tortilla Flat a bit but then we had to turn around and head on home to Scottsdale. We had more plans for the evening. I would have liked to have gone through to Tonto National Monument to get my National Passport Book signed but ya know what, ya can't do everything. Though we missed the ancient ruins at this monument, we knew we were about to see a number of others starting the very next day just south of Sonona at Montezuma's Castle, Montezuma's Well and Toozigoot National Monument too. (reviews to soon follow)
Final Thoughts of the Apache Trail
Carolyn and I had a good ol' time that day. We were on the road perhaps five hours. When backtracking, (you can instead take a loop off rt88 to US 60 as another way back to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area) we stopped at Goldfield Ghost Town to have a couple-a-beers and listen to a cowboy sing and play his geetar. Fun it was with multi levels, all kindsa cowboy stuff all over the walls and personal that gave that official and authentic western feel.
I can see how Apache Trail can too easily become a full day or week if camping along the way. We didn't even get to spend time in the Suprstition Mountain Museum, The Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Lake, Roosevelt Dam and more.
I'm quite pleased Carolyn and I did it. It made for the perfect introduction into what the state of Arizona has to offer, fun people, magnificent sites and a way of slowly chippin' away at the wallet.
I can highly recommend The Apache Trail for its beauty and diverse elements of fun, surprise and eats.
Goldfield Ghost Town: A fun stop on the Apache Trail
Tortilla Flat Also on the Historic and Scenic Apache Trail. Good eats and put your butt in the saddle at the bar.
Arizona, It Makes For a Most Perfect Vacation Area
National Geographic Drives Of A Lifetime : 500 of the World's Most Spectacular Trips The Apache Trail is one of the 500!
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