I wanted to find a place that was remote and would mirror the images from the old westerns, meaning deep canyons, rocky faces, winding roads with no guard rails, cloudless skies, cacti, intense heat, Akk Dogs, and possibly, Tusken Raiders (more commonly known as "sand people"...all things digress back to star Wars). I found such a place along highway 88 northeast of Scottsdale.
HWY 88 is in the Superstition Mountains range. the Superstition Mountains are supposedly the home to the lost dutchman gold mines and Geronimo's favorite hide-out cave. Geronimo's Apache tribe attacked all who "dared to pass", but the Mexicans were the most hated by the Apaches as they killed Geronimo's mother, first wife and children. The Superstitions are said to be mystical (UFO's, ghosts, spirit animals, etc.) and people come from all over the world to visit, though this area is not a tourist trap.
Along the dusty road were tiny, dusty shops selling dusty finds from the desert (rocks, bones, pottery shards) and art made by local artists. Yes, each dusty shop has at least one dusty dog and water is at a premium, though people generously offer bottles of water for free every where you go. Not so in NYC. Each dusty dog owns one or 2 dusty shop keepers who have wizened ,leathery faces and all migrated from cold climes, and oddly, 98% of them seemed to have served in Vietnam in some form or fashion.
The desert is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to and the biblical directive, "be still, and know that I am God..." seems perfectly plausible and explains why the desert is a favorite destination for hermitiging and spiritual exploration. I picked up recovery, balance, wholeness, humility, submission, simplicity....I also collected some interesting rock and stories.
I stopped in one touristy spot which was a reconstructed mining town filled with shops and a museum with an authentic cache of treasures from the region. The destination was tolerable only because the saloon was sponsoring an incredible cowboy singing classic range songs and some which he had composed himself. He sang me a song he had written called "Rock-a-bye Joe" which was about a cowboy highly favored by the cows for his ability to comfort them and lullaby them to sleep. He sang and strummed his guitar against the back drop of Superstition Mountain and an azure, motionless sky. The wind blew hard while the sun blazed hard and life seemed simple for 30 precious minutes.
Eat at the Tortilla Flats restaurant where the chili is HOT (they sell the spice packs) and the bar stools are saddles. I did not visit Canyon Lake because I am from WI where lakes are no big deal. There are alos lots of parks along HWY 88 and there are places to camp and rent a horse or mule for a exploration trip.
Fun "Facts" from the locals:
The Sonora Desert, in the Phoenix area, has too much water.
Dr Seuss loved the desert and used desert imagery and lines in creating his landscapes and characters.
The Apache where ruthless protectors of their land and many of their fighting tactics were employed by the US military.
The desert is dangerous and unpredictable. While the day time requires as little clothing permissible without arrest, the night time demands at least a jacket.
One of the most dangerous cactus is the one that contains drinkable water and flesh. Most cacti contain salty mineral water which was/is used to preserve meat and other food.
The cochineal scale insect produces a waxy, soft, white, sticky substance that looks like mold on prickly pear cactus. The cochineal is also called crimson scale because its body interior is a bright, intense-red colored substance used as a dye. The Indians used this to paint their bodies and this is where the term "red man" came from. There is prickly pear flavored every thing in Arizona, but I am pretty sure it is a totally made up flavor, which oddly, tastes like fruit loops.
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