Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Having decided to visit only really as a spur of the moment thing, I’m really happy to have been there.
In the previous few days I had been to the Grand Canyon and Phoenix International Raceway (NASCAR) race, and after getting a good nights sleep I decided to drive in a random direction from Phoenix and see what was out there.
As I said in my Grand Canyon post, Arizona is an amazing state. As you drive, you see different types of trees, weather conditions, and climates. What I wanted, most of all, was to see something that looked like an old Western movie, because I’d been surprised to find that the Grand Canyon didn’t look much like a desert to me at all (damn you, Hollywood)! I especially wanted to see some Saguaro Cactus plants close-up.
I got off the freeway at Apache Junction, west of Phoenix, then drove north-east up Apache Trail (AZ Rt 88). It didn’t take long for the city to feel a lifetime away, as the cactus plants and mountains really were not far at all! Suddenly I found myself having to stop the car to take photos!
The buildings even started to look like something out of a spaghetti western!
Honestly, the scenery was just gorgeous and exactly what I wanted to see. Most of the time there were beautiful mountains in the background, and the big Saguaro Cactus plants were everywhere, too!
The lighting was also really nice, with some pretty solid cloud cover, letting the sun peep through occasionally. I imagine everything feeling a bit washed out by the sun a lot of the time, so feel pretty lucky to have had nice photography weather.
Along the same road, I stumbled upon a chapel that I immediately stopped the car to check out. It ended up being a movie set called ‘Apacheland‘ where people like Ronald Reagan, John Wayne and Elvis Presley had filmed.
Apacheland – Want to see more photos from this location? Click here.
In the on-site museum I learned about the ‘Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine’, a story where a man who who died with a huge gold nugget in his bed set off a chain of searches to find where he had got it from. Still, nobody really knows where it is, but the locals obviously love the story, and the museum contains quite a few of the old maps and trinkets from people who tried to find it.
Apacheland was a really cool place to visit, with a lot of western town buildings, etc. It’s a shame that it has been burned down a few times, so most of what you see now isn’t what you’d see in old movies.
A little bit further down the road I found Goldfield Ghost Town. This is somewhere I had read about before coming to Phoenix, so I was a bit shocked to stumble upon it! It’s a pretty cool ‘old west’ town with each building occupied by a vendor or activity of some sort, essentially making it feel like a working movie set. It was a great location to take some photos…
Goldfield Ghost Town – Want to see more photos from this location? Click here.
I continued driving up Rt 88, then turned off onto Service Road 78 towards ‘First Water Trailhead’ once I had entered Lost Dutchman State Park. This was so I could get some different views of the mountains and desert I was driving through. After snapping a few photos, I went back to Rt 88 then continued to follow it north along a fantastic stretch of road that I really enjoyed driving, but would have made my wife vomit if she were in the car.
Eventually, the valley opened up and I was presented with Canyon Lake…
Canyon Lake – Want to see more photos from this location? Click here. This photo is a stitch of multiple pictures.
At this point I began to notice a lot of geological differences between the rock types and a lot of folds in the layers. These weren’t really visible to me just down the road, so it was really interesting to see them here.
Very cool to see these massive folds within the rock.
At this point, I had to turn around and head back to the airport. But I feel like Arizona is somewhere I have to visit again, it’s so overwhelmingly beautiful. I don’t think I did too badly really, I only had 24 hours in the Grand Canyon, spent almost two days at the NASCAR races, then did a little Superstition Mountain exploration to finish it off. Well worth the effort.