In search of the Wild West : on the Apache Trail in Arizona
When I was young, not so long ago, the West, they said, was wild. I believed it when they said so in the movies I saw, with their cowboys and bounty hunters, and the lone horseman riding into the sunset. So, when I visited Arizona recently, I decided to discover the Wild West for myself. What I found was the wild land where the horsemen once rode, but, alas, the cowboys were all gone.
The Apache Trail is where, they say, the wild west still lives. It used to be a stagecoach route that passed through the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix, Arizona, all the way to the Roosevelt dam, the largest masonry dam in the world. In its heydays, where there was gold in the Superstition Mountains, they say, it was a busy, busy, gravel road, passing through some incredible scenery. Now it is partly paved, partly gravel, but still wild and beautiful all the way.
On a rainy day in Phoenix, R and I started our drive down the Apache Trail. As you can guess, rain is not a habitual visitor to Phoenix, so we were on to some stroke of luck there, seeing the Apache Trail in a different light, so as to say. A few miles from Apache Junction near Phoenix, we came upon the incredibly beautiful Superstition Mountain, shrouded in a cloud, and looking stunning and mysterious. A few miles further was the “ghost town” of Goldfield. Well, a fake ghost town, to be precise, since now its really filled with fake everything: fake saloon, fake railroad, fake bordello, fake church, fake cowboys with strange (fake?) accents, even a fake mine. Its one of those tourist attractions designed to part you with your money. You will lose nothing if you give Goldfield a miss.
Further on the Apache Trail, the civilization kind of fades away, as you enter the beautiful hills. The hills were strange, with the rocks covered mostly with something green. Lichen, perhaps?
The roads are steep, turning and twisting all the time. Somewhere we came across, down in the canyon floor, carcasses of rusty vehicles that had possibly gone over the precipice one foggy, rainy morning. We stopped to take a few pictures, and wondered whether it was part of one of the western movies we saw, where cars hurtle down the mountain side and explode into fireballs.
After one of the many turns in the road, you come across the Apache Lake, a true jewel of a lake with vertical cliff faces on two sides. It was not as pristine as we would have liked to have seen, what with a marina, and boats parked. But if you could keep the eyesore of the marina out of your sight, it was a beautiful lake.
And finally, we reached our destination for the day: Tortilla Flat; a privately owned town of population six. It has one of the most charming restaurants I have ever seen, with dollar-bills plastered all over the walls by happy customers. The “Killer Chili”, incredibly spicy, is highly recommended. So is the “Prickly Pear ice cream”. It was worth the drive on the Apache Trail.
The road continues for miles after Tortilla Flat. We went past some flooded sections of road, till the road gave way to gravel. Now the sky was cloudy, it was drizzling, and, unfortunately, it was the time to turn back, because they had a jet waiting for us in Phoenix, and I had not heard from the pilot.
Which meant that they would be taking off on time this time.
- February 20th, 2010