It takes about 6 hours from our front door to drive to the ocean; it is something my husband and I joke about if we ever decide to sell our home in this desert city…only 6 hours from the beach is how we will advertise it. Yes, if we move, that’s probably where we will end up, somewhere by the sea. It’s a nice dream but I do love Arizona so I will stay in this state where I was born and instead we will drive 3 hours to the tall pines and the woods, which I also love.
This 3 hour drive to the woods doesn’t start out too pretty, in fact, it starts out pretty boring. With tons of traffic if you don’t pick the right hour (avoid rush hour in Phoenix) there are a lot of freeways to drive through before you get to the highway.
Once on the highway we are on the reservation.
In all the reservations I have been to I always think of how sad some seem, with land that to me is not very pretty in parts. If you are looking for raw land the way it was intended to be then visit a reservation. There aren’t hundreds of homes that are the same style or pockets of green parks. It is just how the desert should look in its natural environment and reservations give you an idea of how Arizona looked before all the buildings were built and roads were put in.
There is a Canadian artist named Edward Burtynsky who has shot aerial images of Arizona and how different these two worlds look side by side in his exhibit called water (www.phxart.org/exhibition/water). His photos look more like paintings instead of an actual photograph taken from above. I took my daughter downtown to see this exhibit one day and the photographs were just amazing. The photo of an Arizona Native American reservation next to one of our richest cities here (Scottsdale Arizona) is scary to me and shocking. Shocking because of the differences of the two sides. The Scottsdale side had beautiful green lawns and huge golf courses with lakes and beautiful trees and the reservation side just had dry desert land with dirt and small pockets of homes everywhere. The Scottsdale side had several homes next to each other and almost every home had a beautiful green back yard with a sparkling blue pool.
I always think of that photo when we drive through this part of our road trip. Then we get to the river on the reservation and as soon as we do I always stay alert, just in case a herd of wild horses are out drinking from the river while we drive by. Sometimes we have driven this route during sunrise or sunset when the horses are around the river drinking. Seeing wild horses on that beautiful riverbed reminds me that there is still beauty out there in the driest and barren of lands. You just need to be patient and eventually you will run into it and be given that gift of witnessing something very breathtaking. No horses out this trip, we left late in the day and it was a hot day, so the horses were probably hanging out under some shady trees somewhere.
In this photo below, there is a rumor that somewhere off in the distance there is a lab in the middle of nowhere that does research on monkeys. With my active imagination and all the zombie movies I watched growing up which includes the classic Night of the living dead, you know exactly what I am thinking. I even told my husband driving up one time “ Hey, did you know somewhere out there is a monkey lab” my husband just laughed, not believing me. “ No, really, like in the movies, like Hot Zone or Walking Dead, creepy huh?” I still don’t think he believes me.
Now when ever we drive by this spot I always think about monkeys and how if one jumped out at us I would think that was it, we are officially in a movie like World War Z and Brad Pit is only an actor, he’s not saving us.
Once we pass the monkeys, we hit an area I call the Flintstone’s home with all kinds of boulders everywhere. My husband’s aunt from Italy once couldn’t believe all the boulders just lying around everywhere and even hinted about picking one up for the trip back home. My husband gave her one of his “your insane” looks and kept on driving, saying “ You have no idea how heavy those stones are do you?” anyway it is illegal to remove things from our deserts.
The views start getting better when we start climbing. Our ears also take a beating with this drive from the altitude changes. Nothing chewing gum won’t cure or help.
When we get to Payson we are in the pines now. The smells are wonderful. The city smells are behind us and now we are surrounded by beautiful tall trees. This is up by the Mogollon Rim, “ A 7,000 foot high, 200-mile long escarpment” which is located in the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the world. Who would have thought Arizona was home to that. We are mostly known for the Grand Canyon and Sedona, which are beautiful, but this forest of ours is also something everyone should visit as well.
There are huge ranches everywhere around Payson and the surrounding areas as well. This ranch here in the photos below is one of my favorites. It comes with the most beautiful tree I have ever seen, right in the middle of the ranch. This is one of my favorite views; this drive by photo doesn’t do it justice. My father always loved seeing this tree on his drives into Rim country.
We are climbing more now and the views just keep getting better.
Right before we turn off to our place, there is a lake. You can’t see it from the road except one little spot where there is a tiny bridge with the lake view in the background. Up by the rim area with all these trees there are so many hiking trails and lakes to explore, no wonder it is so popular during our hot summer months. People from Phoenix crowd the camp spots during our hot months to escape record temps in the desert. Big hint here if anyone plans on coming during the summer months…get to those camping spots early.
At the turn off there are also a couple of signs warning people about falling trees and that there is no shooting in the camping areas.
The road into town starts out nice with pavement then turns to dirt. This is where most people turn around and never drive down. If they would keep going they would discover a beautiful little town.
There are tons of pine trees and cliffs now and then, which the trees help block. Because the forest area up here is so dense they have been working on thinning it to help keep it healthy, Forest fires are so scary in this area. I remember one time last summer when several small forest fires surrounded us up on the rim driving home. So we turned around and went another way to avoid the smoke but even driving the backroads we were surrounded by smoke in some areas . Thinning our forest should help if a fire starts, we all hate fire season up in the mountain towns.
Once in town we pass Cherry creek, it had a little water in it but not much. This was a dry Winter season, so there will not be a lot of runoff in the creeks. This makes it very dangerous for forest fires. The fire danger this day was very high. A Smokey the bear sign greeted us on the way in let us know about that. So no smoking outside anywhere, no fires, no barbeques, no roasting marshmallows…you get what I am saying. Please be cautious and extra careful in any forest you visit out there in the world, it doesn’t take much for these forest fires to get out of control.
We pass the old Baptist church, which is now a museum. This town reminds me of little house on the prairie.
Then another ranch.
To finally our little red house.
Hope you enjoyed the road trip. Here are some photos of our return trip back to the city. It takes about 6 hours round trip. There have been many trips where we drove up for the day, very early in the morning, worked on restoring our little red house and then got back into our truck to drive back to the city. Those were extremely exhausting and painful days. I call it house yoga when we remodeled that place. The next day we had house yoga hangovers. Those were the days I wished we could have hired people to remold but we were on a very strict budget. Anyway, everyone knows that the best things in life we earn, it means in the end we appreciate and take care of it more. Thanks for being a passenger on this Arizona road trip.
It’s a long trip.
Coming up Saturday, part two of this road trip…a weekend at the Little Red House.