Cutting through the rugged Superstition Mountains from the towns of Apache Junction and Tortilla Flat to Roosevelt Lake, Arizona's Route 88 -- a.k.a the Apache Trail Highway -- is a gorgeous ride with endless spots of oohs and ahhs. Unfortunately, it is also one of the worst, most treacherous roads I've driven in all the United States. It winds its way around cliffside after cliffside on a pothole-infested, one-lane road that somehow is declared suitable for two lanes. And those two lanes are filled with large pickups pulling boats to the various recreational spots in the area. But if you survive, it's hard to mind a slow ride through unspoiled southwestern desert wilderness. If you're going, the best vehicle to take is a small car with good shocks. (And air conditioning!)
Tonto National Monument, Arizona
In March 2016 I had a quick trip to Sedona, Arizona, to take pics for Visit Sedona. After Sedona, I swung by the Tonto National Monument above Lake Roosevelt. It's a stunning site, where 800 years ago people created villages into the cliffsides. You can still tour one of the dwelling spaces at the top of a trail that winds through gorgeous cacti and wildflowers.
In March 2016 I had a quick trip to Sedona, Arizona, to take pics for Visit Sedona. I stopped for lunch at the L'Auberge resort, a little oasis of calm right in the middle of town. Their Cress restaurant is a lovely, relaxing spot along Oak Creek with ducks, squirrels, and amazingly for the desert location, a lot of trees. Definitely I would return here on my next trip through Sedona.
Arizona Route 60 between Superior and Miami
This winter before some shoots in Sedona, I traveled up the Arizona Route 60 highway through the Pinal mountains between Superior and Miami (pronounced "My Amma"). With the altitude the desert there in the Tonto National Forest can get more moisture than the valleys and so it bursts full of life. It is a rugged, rocky area, home I'm told to some of the world's largest tin and copper deposits.
The Painted Cats of Miami, Arizona
Miami (pronounced "My Amma"), Arizona, sits nestled at the edge of the Pinal Mountains and beneath a massive copper mine. It's a quiet, dusty town, so small you could blink and miss it. But those are some of the best towns around, and I found if you pull off the main road, Route 60 (see my previous blog post on this drive), there is a charming strip of antique stores along with a couple bars and a couple restaurants. Quiet, dusty, small, but with some flair. You will find, if you take the time to stop, that the town is covered in public art. Of particular delight to me were the countless cat paintings found on street corners, shop fronts, nooks and crannies.
Rainier Day 1: Trail of the Shadows Hike, Longmire
After lunch we entered the Mount Rainier National Park and took the Trail of the Shadows hike across the road from the Longmire National Park Inn. It's a short hike, but with lots of quick changes of scenery to make it interesting to all ages. As you leave the inn, you get breathtaking views of Rainier and then you travel through swampy meadows and into the forest whose giant fir trees give the trail its name. There are also several springs along the trail, including the vibrantly colored and slightly poisonous Iron Mike spring, and even a restored homestead cabin from the 19th century.