“I want to drive the Apache Trail,” Ric indicated as soon as we arrived in Arizona. “It’s a day long trip so we’ll have to make sure you’re comfortable: bring along drinks and food and blankets.”
I googled it. It’s a forty-five mile trek through the mountains beginning from Apache Junction, where we are staying. The reviews say to allow six to eight hours to drive it. They also report that there are stops along the way with restrooms and restaurants.
“Let’s do it!” I said, one morning when my energy was good.
Ric had some paperwork to take care of first (he still works part-time), so it was three o’clock before we set out. Probably too late for the whole trail, we thought, but we could at least see part of it.
Except once we committed we were in. The trail passes by The Lost Dutchman museum, and a mining ghost town (both bypassed for this trip in order to save time) and leads to Canyon Lake, the first of three mountain lakes on the trip. There is something about the sight of water mingled with the mountains that stirs the imagination. The colours, the texture, the sheer perfection of the weather that day urged us onward.
The trail winds and twists, and the higher we went the steeper the drops. Ric kept pointing out the incredible landscapes and suggesting I get a shot, but the dizzying heights were making me nauseous, so I tried to keep my focus either up or at eye level.
Then we would descend, the scene before us an awe-inspiring panoramic valley, and all along the turns were tight and we were forced to creep along. The Tortilla Flats came into view and again we opted not to stop at the saloon or historic buildings, but drove on to the scenic lookout, where we met two bikers who shared that this was their first tour of the mountains since a devastating accident in December. Despite their history, they could not stay away such is the allure of the mountains.
At some point the paved roads end and dirt and gravel become the surface to navigate. The trail also narrows creating challenges for oncoming traffic. Fortunately, there were few others on the road, and only once were we forced to pull over. Bridges connecting mountain passes were single lane, and at times the rocks hung so low over the road I questioned our ability to pass, but our pickup carried us through.
Apache Lake is the second body of water we came upon, and the Salt River joined up with us for a while until we reached the Roosevelt Dam. The hues of the rocks, and the variations in the strata are so inspiring. By the time we reached Roosevelt Lake the sun was beginning to set, and we were both tired, so I only managed one shot with my iPhone. (It’s the one with the bridge mirrored in the water.)
Ric was anxious to get back on paved, well-lit roads before dark, so we didn’t linger. In the end, it took us three hours to drive the forty-five mile trail, with quick stops for photos only.
Driving the Apache Trail feels a bit like a work out for our ailing bodies, and we’re glad we did it, but this is one trek that won’t be repeating as the all the jarring didn’t just take a toll on us, we ended up with a flat tire. Fortunately, the tire held out for the trip home, but the next morning we had to replace it with a new one.
(Roosevelt Dam is the featured image.)