Monday, April 26, 2010

Unknown Arizona!

Arizona is a big state. Though we get out of the house pretty frequently, we tend to go to the same places (Grand Canyon, Kitt Peak, Chiricahuas), and generally always take the interstate to save time and mileage. There are huge swaths of the state we've never seen, let alone explored.

But we've expanded our horizons a bit - we took a quick 2-day road trip to meet friends in Flagstaff Sunday afternoon (a future post), returning today (Monday). Melinda had never seen Meteor Crater, and it has been nearly 15 years for me, so we took the side trip there on the way home. While it would have been shorter and much faster to return to Flag and back on the Interstate system, we decided to take an alternate route and explore a bit of the state neither of us have seen. As shown on the map, our trip up is in green (about 260 miles, 4 hours), the return trip in blue (335 miles, 6.5 hours)

So with the extinct volcanoes of the San Francisco Peaks fading behind us (Arizona's highest peaks at 12,640 feet) we headed the 40 miles east to Meteor crater. Located just 6 miles (10km) south of I-40, believe it or not, it is easily visible from that distance. In fact, we first spotted it from about 20 miles (32km) away! As with most impact craters, it has a raised rim that is visible if you recognise it. We took the tour, but will post separately about that. The pic is from the Interstate, 6 miles distant.

Hitting the I-40 after the Crater, we headed east for Winslow, yes, the destination of the Eagles' hit song "Take it Easy" from the '70s, which has been fully taken advantage of by the local Chamber of Commerce, where it is mysteriously piped out of hidden speakers on the sidewalks of town. We didn't hang out, or even examine the sculpture of the singer and the mural of the woman in the flatbed Ford of the song. We hotfooted it south into the wilderness of pines and mountains.

It was a beautiful trip, and while we went the speed limit, the lack of busy Interstate traffic somehow seemed to make the trip more leisurely. There were still snowbanks among the pines, burbling brooks, and a multitude of tiny to midsized towns I'd mostly heard of, but have never seen. Today's list included Strawberry, Pine, Payson, Rye, Punkin Center, Globe, Christmas, Winkelman, Dudleyville, Mammoth and finally Oracle before hitting the Tucson suburbs...

One of the really incongruous sights was the view of Roosevelt Lake in the middle of the desert, with Egrets and Herons nesting in the lakeside trees! There is a whole series of lakes that not only act as a water source for the metropolitan Phoenix area, but also generate hydroelectric power for the State. It just seems a shocking blue against the earthtones of the arid desert.

The springtime desert was spectacular too. With all the life zones we passed in dropping from the Ponderosa pines at 7,000 feet Flagstaff, to the 2,000 feet of the San Pedro Valley, we saw hillsides covered in the pink flowers of the early-blooming hedgehog cacti, to hillsides covered in the bright yellow Brittlebush among the Saguaros. As we approached Globe, 100 miles north of Tucson, we encountered the mining district, and even then the geology distinctly changed with the strong tilted rock layering shown in the picture here, to mineral veins exposed in the road cuts, and the truckloads of copper plates from the mines headed north.

It was a fun drive, demonstrating that allowing a little extra time and miles can reveal more about where we live here. We certainly saw places we'd like to return and spend more time, so today's first explorations were well spent!

1 comment:

Andrew Cooper said...

Thanks for bringing back some memories! I have driven those same roads and visited those same towns.

Once upon a time Lake Roosevelt was shallower and the dam was lower, the highway crossed over the top of the dam itself. Then they poured a few thousand cubic yards of concrete over the beautiful cut rock dam to raise the lake and built the bridge. I have the photos somewhere.