• Tucson's Abandoned Cemeteries
• What's Up With This Cover? [See page 9]
A P R I L 2 0 0 8
A Quiet Hike
Why Al McCoy
OF OUR FAVORITE PLACES
TO GRAB A BITE TO EAT
contents april 2008
In Arizona, it adorns everything from T-shirts to
freeways — the flute-playing figure known as
kokopelli. This month at arizonahighways.com, our
writer explores the myth and magic surrounding this
iconic symbol of the Southwest. You’ll also find loads
of things to see and do with our online trip planner.
WEEKEND GETAWAY Arizona’s Colonal William Boyce
Thompson’s legacy includes more than his botanical
garden. Visit this silver miner’s historic home,
Picketpost Mansion, in Superior.
DISCOVER ARIZONA Find out what’s happening this
month with our online Calendar of Events.
Photographic Prints Available
n Prints of some photographs in this issue are available
for purchase, as designated in captions. To order, call
866-962-1191 or visit arizonahighwaysprints.com.
2 EDITOR'S LETTER
4 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
5 THE JOURNAL
People, places and things from around the state, including
cowboy chef Robert McGrath, Suns announcer Al McCoy, and
the historic fire that wiped out Whiskey Row in Prescott.
44 BACK ROAD ADVENTURE
Stronghold Canyon: The Dragoon Mountains of South-eastern
Arizona are bizarre and beautiful. See for yourself
— the views from the dirt roads are out of this world.
48 HIKE OF THE MONTH
South Canyon: If you want to escape the
5 million people on the South Rim, this small corner
of the Canyon offers some incredible scenery.
IMAGINATION STATION Boulder-strewn hills earmark Council
Rocks in Southeastern Arizona’s Dragoon Mountains, where
Cochise brokered a tenuous peace for his people.
Photograph by Edward McCain
FRONT COVER In Arizona Highways’ first major use of digital
photographic illustration as cover art, Dot’s Diner is plucked out
of Bisbee’s Shady Dell trailer park and dropped onto the Willcox
Playa, 70 miles north. For more information, see page 9.
Photographic illustration by Edward McCain
BACK COVER A setting moon casts an orchid-colored hue on
Joshua trees near Lake Mead in Northwestern Arizona.
Photograph by Neil Weidner
n To order a print of this photograph, see information above.
14 Forks on the Road
When you’re at the Canyon, you eat at El Tovar.
Everybody knows that. But where do you go when
you’re in Page or Payson or Patagonia? It’s not always
obvious, so we’ve put together a list of 25 of the
state’s best places to grab a bite. There are plenty of
others, but this should fill you up for a while.
BY KELLY KRAMER
24 Twisting Their Arms
You wouldn’t know it by looking at them, but Joshua
trees are in the lily family. Really. We’re not making
that up. Despite their lack of any family resemblance,
these crooked monocots are well worth the drive to
A PORTFOLIO BY NEIL WEIDNER
32 Left Behind
When a Tucson man discovered a sinkhole in his front
yard, he was curious. When he started digging around
and found bones, he was speechless, and more than a
little concerned. Turns out, his 90-year-old bungalow
was built on an old cemetery, and even though the
headstones were moved, as many as 6,000 bodies were
BY JANA BOMMERSBACH
PHOTOGRAPHS BY EDWARD MCCAIN
38 Artwork in Progress
Three decades ago, Leda and Michael Kahn began
work on Eliphante, their evolving monument to the
world of art. It’s an unusual compound, to say the
least, but for the two artists, it was a dream come true.
BY KATHY MONTGOMERY
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DON B. & RYAN B. STEVENSON
by Robert Stieve editor’s letter
the “corn squeezings” are long
gone. In the days of Prohibition, though,
a barrel of the local moonshine could
always be found at Jake Renfro’s cabin in
Pinetop. Whether you needed to thaw
out or get comfortably numb, that’s
where you went. The cabin is still the
place to go, but the menu has changed.
After Prohibition, Jake went legit
and opened Jake Renfro’s Famous Log
Cabin Café. That’s when the corn squeezings disappeared.
In 1938, he sold the place to Charlie Clark, who opened a
steakhouse that remains a must on any road trip to the White
Mountains. Snowboarders in the winter, hikers in the summer,
fishermen, birdwatchers, moms and dads with rugrats in the
backseat … everybody, at one time or another, finds his way to
And why not? The steaks are hot, the beer is cold and the
atmosphere is exactly what you’d hope to find in this neck of
the woods — the stone fireplace, log walls and knotty-pine
patio will make you think of the Ponderosa, with pool tables
and Amstel Light mixed in. There’s no “Hoss Ate Here” plaque,
but you’ll channel his spirit, especially when you bite into one
of Charlie’s bacon-wrapped filets.
In this month’s cover story, we’ll tell you how to get to
Charlie Clark’s, along with 24 other restaurants around the
state. If you’re a longtime reader of Arizona Highways, you
know this subject is new territory for us. As a travel maga-zine,
though, it makes sense. Think about it. When you’re at
the Canyon, you eat at El Tovar. Everybody knows that. But
where do you go when you’re touring the rest of the state? It’s
not always obvious, but you have to eat, and that’s where our
roundup comes in. The 25 restaurants on our list are among
the state’s best, for various reasons.
As Kelly Kramer writes in Forks on the Road, “When mea-suring
the quality of a restaurant, there are three key elements
to consider: food, service and ambience. The best restaurants
get high marks on all three.” Of course, not every place on
our list hits the trifecta, but several of them do, including the
Velvet Elvis in Patagonia (great pizza, but no peanut butter and
bacon sandwiches), Mattina’s (yes, you can get butter-drenched
escargots in Kingman) and Feast, which has been a favorite in
Tucson for a long time. When you’re in the Old Pueblo, drop
by. The food is spectacular, the atmosphere is casual, and there
aren’t any poltergeists, which isn’t always the case in Tucson.
Just ask Moses Thompson.
You don’t know Moses, but if you did, you’d sympathize.
Turns out, the Craftsman bungalow he bought in a historic
neighborhood in Tucson was built above an abandoned cem-etery
— the coffins were exposed when a sinkhole showed up
in his front yard.
“There was a split in the earth and I feared a broken pipe,”
Moses recalls. “I dug down until I hit a board. I reached in and
found three diamond-shaped copper ornaments, and then I
pulled out finger bones.” Creepy.
Although the headstones in the Old Court Street Cemetery
were relocated in the early 1900s to make way for new homes,
as many as 6,000 bodies are still buried there. It’s bizarre,
to say the least, but it’s not the first abandoned cemetery in
Tucson. It’s the third. The first was within the walls of the orig-inal
Presidio, and the second, the National Cemetery down-town,
still holds 1,300 bodies, which will be moved to make
room for the new Pima County Courthouse.
In Left Behind, Jana Bommersbach shares the details of this
intriguing story. A few pages later, in Artwork in Progress, Kathy
Montgomery shares another story of intrigue. Hers, however,
won’t give you the willies. In fact, it’s more of a love story, about
two artists who lived a dream life in Cornville, on the banks of
The story began about 30 years ago, when Leda and Michael
Kahn started work on Eliphante, their evolving monument to
the world of art. Sadly, Michael passed away recently, but Leda
plans to keep their home open to anyone with an appreciation
for their art, which is anything but mainstream. As Kathy
writes: “Gifts of stained glass and fabric became windows and
wall coverings. Chipped pottery, beads and tapestries encrust
the walls like jewels. The Kahns even embedded the truck they
rode in on.”
There are paintings and sculptures, too. And other oddities.
As you’ll see, there’s a little bit of everything at Eliphante, except
maybe corn squeezings. Still, Eliphante is a must on any road
trip to Central Arizona. It’s the Charlie Clark’s of Cornville.
— Robert Stieve
APRIL 2008 VOL. 84, NO. 4
80 0 - 543 - 5432
ar i zonahighways . com
Publisher WIN HOLDEN
Editor ROBERT STIEVE
Senior Editor RANDY SUMMERLIN
Managing Editor SALLY BENFORD
Associate Editor PAULY HELLER
Book Division Editor BOB ALBANO
Books Associate Editor EVELYN HOWELL
Editorial Administrator NIKKI KIMBEL
Director of Photography PETER ENSENBERGER
Photography Editor JEFF KIDA
Art Director BARBARA GLYNN DENNEY
Deputy Art Director SONDA ANDERSSON PAPPAN
Art Assistant DIANA BENZEL-RICE
Map Designer KEVIN KIBSEY
Production Director MICHAEL BIANCHI
Promotions Art Director RONDA JOHNSON
Webmaster VICKY SNOW
Director of Sales & Marketing KELLY MERO
Circulation Director NICOLE BOWMAN
Finance Director BOB ALLEN
Information Technology CINDY BORMANIS
For Corporate or Trade Sales 602-712-2019
Letters to the Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
2039 W. Lewis Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85009
Director, Department of Transportation
VICTOR M. MENDEZ
ARIZONA TRANSPORTATION BOARD
Chairman S.L. Schorr
Vice Chairman Delbert Householder
Members Robert M. Montoya, Felipe Andres Zubia,
William J. Feldmeier, Barbara Ann “Bobbie” Lundstrom,
Victor M. Flores
International Regional Magazine Association
2006, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001 Magazine of the Year
Western Publications Association
2006, 2004, 2002, 2001 Best Travel & In-transit Magazine
Society of American Travel Writers Foundation
2000, 1997 Gold Awards Best Monthly Travel Magazine
For more coverage of the Grand Canyon State, check
out Arizona Highways Television, an Emmy award-winning
show hosted by Robin Sewell. For broadcast
times and more, visit arizonahighways.com and click
the Arizona Highways Television icon at the bottom
of our home page.
Arizona Highways® (ISSN 0004-1521) is published monthly by the
Arizona Department of Transportation. Subscription price: $24 a
year in the U.S., $44 outside the U.S. Single copy: $3.99 U.S. Send
and change of address information
to Arizona Highways,
P.O. Box 653, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0653.
Periodical postage paid at Phoenix, AZ, and at additional mailing
office. CANADA POST INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATIONS MAIL
DISTRIBUTION) SALES AGREEMENT NO.
41220511. SEND RETURNS TO QUEBECOR WORLD, P.O. BOX 875,
WINDSOR, ON N9A 6P2. POSTMASTER:
Send address changes to
P.O. Box 653, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0653.
© 2008 by the Arizona
Department of Transportation.
in whole or in part without
permission is prohibited.
The magazine does not accept and is not responsible for unsolicited
Produced in the USA
highways on tv
2 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 3
C O N T R I B U T O R S
is no stran-ger
ripped the lid off
murder case in her
book The Trunk
Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd, and probed the
2004 slaying of Tempe resident Loretta Bow-ersock
for her new book, to be released this
fall. When she was assigned a story about a
cemetery that was unearthed below a Tucson
home (see Left Behind, page 32), she thought
it would be a straightforward interview
job. “That’s when I discovered the pattern,”
she says. “This is the third time homes have
been built on cemeteries in Tucson, and I’m
not sure anyone has ever come to grips with
the harsh reality of this.” It took a month of
reporting to dig up the details of this unusual
story. Bommersbach, a North Dakota native,
says she dreaded moving to “a big chunk
of desert” when she landed a job with The
Arizona Republic in 1972. The rattlesnake on
the cover of her state map didn’t help matters.
But, she’s fallen in love with Arizona, and
along the way, she’s won multiple national
awards for her writing.
As a “problem
child” in the
tried to imagine
what it would
be like to be in
head. He loved visual arts because they
“allow one to see through the eyes of another
person, if only for a split second.” That em-pathy
shines through in his photographs for
Left Behind (see page 32), which details the
discovery of thousands of unmarked graves
under a Tucson housing development. “The
greatest challenge was the somber nature of
the story, and how to capture that,” McCain
says. “I was completely unsure what I would
do until I spent time talking with the subjects.”
McCain was struck by the homeowners’ and
archaeologist’s efforts to honor the dead, and
he imbued his portraits of them with that
sensitivity. In addition to Arizona Highways,
McCain’s work has appeared in National
Geographic Traveler, National Geographic
Adventure and Sports Illustrated. He was
nominated for the Arizona Arts Award for his
photography of Mission San Xavier del Bac,
which he wants to make into a book.
“If there’s a better
way to pay the
light bill than
unaware of it,”
says Leo W. Banks,
with his characteristic sense of humor. For this
month’s Back Road Adventure, he traveled
with photographer and fellow Tucsonan
Edward McCain through the Dragoon
Mountains (see page 44). As a side trip, the
two drove along Middlemarch Road to
Middlemarch Pass in the southeast corner of
the Dragoons. They hiked up to a promontory
that Banks considers one of the 10 best views
in Arizona — it overlooks Sulphur Springs
Valley and the Chiricahuas. The only problem:
“The wind was so strong it nearly sent us on an
unexpected parasailing journey,” Banks says.
He and McCain have collaborated on many of
Banks’ whopping 320 stories for Arizona
Highways. Banks has written or contributed to
nine books for Arizona Highways. His work has
also appeared in National Geographic Traveler,
Sports Illustrated and the Wall Street Journal.
Don and Ryan
the outdoor art
(see Artwork in
Progress, page 38), which is nestled among
the cottonwoods along Oak Creek, they got
closer to nature than they’d bargained for.
“While setting up our photo equipment in an
underground tunnel in one of the art exhibits,
a bat decided to lay claim to the underside
of our tripod,” Ryan says. “Dad thought it
was best that I finish the photograph while
he shouted directions.” The genetic link
between these two is obvious both in talent
and appearance, as evidenced by the digitally
manipulated photograph above that joins
half of Ryan’s face with half of Don’s. As an
Arizona Highways contributor for 23 years,
Don recently paired with Ryan to shoot more
than a half-dozen stories for the magazine.
Their work has also appeared in corporate
publications, as well as National Geographic
and The New York Times.
DON & RYAN
Although saguaros are the
main attraction in the
Arizona desert, Joshua
trees are something special,
too. On page 24, we tell
you where to find them.
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 5
P E O P L E R E S T A U R A N T S L O D G I N G P H O T O G R A P H Y H I S T O R Y N A T U R E T H I N G S T O D O
4 a p r i l 2 0 0 8
You Name It
Since reading The High Life in your Janu-ary
2008 issue, I’ve been trying to find
out how the name White Mountains
came about. I’ve asked the chambers of
commerce in Show Low and Overgaard,
the Arizona Game and Fish Department,
several librarians, and they all guess, or
say they will get back to me. Any chance
you have the skinny?
Carole Rock, Queen Creek
editor’s note: According to Will C. Barnes’
book Arizona Place Names, the White
Mountains were called the “Mogollon”
mountains on a 1701 Kino map and an 1852
Sitgreaves map. A Hartley map from 1865 called
them “Sierra Blanco” (sic), misspelling the
Spanish word for white. In an 1871 message,
Arizona’s then-governor called them the White
Mountains. Father Kino also noted the Sierra
Azul on his map, probably after the Blue River.
Possibly a Spanish Franciscan priest or
missionary called them Sierra Blanca, but the
real origin is lost, as far as Barnes knows.
Ghosts & Castles
What a wonderful surprise when I
opened my October 2007 issue of
Arizona Highways. Not that every issue
isn’t a treasure, but some hold special
meanings and treats. First, there were
the intriguing tales of the hotel ghosts.
And then there was “my” Copper Queen
Hotel. I was born in Bisbee, and I have
the most wonderful memories of the
beautiful Queen. I still return at every
opportunity to have a beer at the bar,
reminisce in the restaurant, watch the
sunset from the balcony, and wander the
halls (like a ghost?). Next time I’ll pay
more attention to the presence of Julia
and the other departed guests. Then, as I
turned the pages, I happened upon “my”
Mystery Castle. My family moved from
Bisbee in 1944, my sixth year. And
where did we go? South Phoenix, to a 7-
acre ranchette on Desert Lane. We lived
on that glorious desert for 10 years. And
during those years, I walked every inch
of land, climbed every trail on South
Mountain, and spent endless hours
perched quietly out of sight watching
the activity surrounding this awesome
“Castle.” I saw the ladies (Fran and Mary
Lou) working endlessly on the property.
I didn’t know the story of the Castle (at
that time), and kept trying to gain the
courage to approach them. But my
youth and good manners kept me at bay.
It wasn’t until many years later (about
1995), on a vacation to Phoenix, that I
finally got my wish and visited the Castle
of my youth. Ms. Gulley was a wonder-ful
hostess, filled with incredible stories
and facts. I’m so grateful for the oppor-tunity
of meeting her. True, South
Phoenix is no longer the wide-open
space of my youth, but as long as the
magnificent structure stands, I can still
“go home.” Thanks for the memories!
Joan Cunningham, Oro Valley
For the Birds
Dull? You called her dull [Arizona Cardi-nals,
December 2007]? Anyone depict-ing
the female half of any species as dull
either flirts with death on a regular basis
or has numerous incarnations yet to en-dure.
The female half of Ohio’s state bird
is distinctive with her identical orange
beak against her “muted, more reserved”
colors. You might even call her “more
sophisticated,” but never dull.
Steve Haber, Cincinnati
The Marilyn Hawkes article on the
Arizona cardinal [December 2007]
brought to mind an Easter spent at
Gilbert Ray Park in our RV. We awak-ened
Easter morning to an unbelievable
sight — snow had gently fallen in the
night, and out our window in a snowy
paloverde sat the most beautiful, star-tling
Gail & Donna Andress, Nelson, Nevada
Brushes With Greatness
Thank you for your wonderful magazine.
My fourth-grade class used your beaut-iful
photographs of Arizona for an art
project that got rave reviews. My
husband’s cousin, John, had passed
along your magazines a few years ago,
and I kept them until I could think of a
project. I pasted a photo in the middle of
a 12-by-18-inch drawing paper, and my
students finished the photos. They were
featured at our open house last year, and
everyone was impressed.
Denise Gumaer, Hidden Trails Elementary,
Chino Hills, California
Once again your publication has shown not only the wonders of
Arizona, but also the fantastic abilities of those who take the great
photographs that appear in Arizona Highways. I wonder how many
people will view the “Spiritual Journeys” photo on pages 8 and 9 of
the December 2007 issue and see the “puppy” that appears near the
bottom center of the two-page photo. The big eyes and long, floppy
ears just jumped right out at me when I turned to that page. If
photographer Randy Prentice had been there a week earlier or
a week later, this unusual view might not have been there.
Fletcher Johnson, Vancouver, Washington
If you have thoughts or comments about anything in Arizona Highways, we’d
love to hear from you. We can be reached at email@example.com, or
by mail at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85009. For more information,
Monument Valley’s remote and stately
slickrock gets a visit from a whimsical
1967 camper. It belongs to a member of
Sisters on the Fly, a 630-strong club of
fly-fishing, river-running adventuresses
who haul vintage trailers around the
country in a “Cowgirl Caravan.”
n For information about the caravan,
visit sistersonthefly.com. For infor-mation
about traveling to Monument
Valley, call 435-727-5870.
6 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 7
robert mcgrath isn’t your ordinary
cowboy. Sure, he has the boots and the Stet-son
and the friendly, untailored attitude; but
he also has what it takes to venture beyond
the standard franks-and-beans cowboy fare.
A five-time James Beard nominee (and one-time
winner), McGrath started making his
mark on Phoenix’s culinary scene in 1992,
when he moved to the Valley to serve as chef de
cuisine at Windows on the Green at the Phoeni-cian
Resort. Later, he forged a decidedly South-western
menu at the acclaimed Roaring Fork,
where he harnessed Arizona’s finest flavors.
“There’s a simple and sensible approach to
the lifestyle out here, and that carries over to
the food and the restaurants,” McGrath says.
“That characteristic, tempered with the prog-ress
of our ongoing evolution, is the bridge.
Arizona has a wealth of ingredients due to the
diversity of the microcli-mates
throughout the state.
There are so many differ-ent
ways to exercise so
Although McGrath sold
his interest in Roaring
Fork last year, he is, by no
means, out of the business.
Shortly after the death of
his friend, Chris Pischke,
McGrath scooped up
Pischke’s Paradise in Scotts-dale,
revamped the menu,
and returned much of the
glory to one of the Valley’s
most storied restaurants.
“The sentiment was to
keep some of the business-es
[in Scottsdale] alive and
running and not let every-thing
be assimilated into
the chain program — keep
local businesses run by lo-cals,”
he says. “This build-ing
has housed two of
Scottsdale’s true land-marks,
Pischke’s Paradise and Mag’s Ham Bun.
Hopefully, we can continue to keep Scottsdale
in the hands of Scottsdale.”
What’s more, McGrath added another new
restaurant to his Scottsdale saddlebag, open-ing
REM in Scottsdale, which he describes as
a throwback to “old-school continental cuisine.”
When he’s not in the kitchen, the chef
doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of the state.
“Horseback riding is one of my favorite pleas-ures,
and spending time at our home in Pine-top
is always relaxing,” he says. “We enjoy Ari-zona
in slow motion. We enjoy a little here, a
little there, and make a stop over there.”
And when it comes to his ideal Arizona
road trip, McGrath’s itinerary would be root-ed
in what he knows best — food. “I’d visit
Tubac and eat at the Country Club. Then, I’d
head south to Bisbee, spend the night at the
Shady Dell, and enjoy breakfast at the Break-fast
Club,” he says. “Next, I’d be off to Spring-erville
to take in the Chavez family’s New
Mexican cuisine at Los Dos Molinos — ado-vada
ribs. The next stop would be Payson to
enjoy some great Italian food at Chef Gerar-do’s
Italian Bistro. And finally, I’d stop in Sedo-na
to visit Café Elote for Jeff Smedstad’s Mex-ican
cuisine. Then, of course, I’d bring the
road trip back to Pischke’s Blue Ribbon in Old
Town Scottsdale.” — Kelly Kramer
C E L E B R I T Y Q & A
as he presents the grilled scallops mingled with
marinated red cabbage and citrus in an emerald pool of mint
sauce, manager Dustin Christofolo proudly explains the ori-gins
of the ingredients. “The oranges are from a farm in Peoria,
and the grapefruit is from that tree over there,” he says, point-ing
to the front yard.
In an era of increasingly glob-alized
cuisine, Quiessence in
South Phoenix strives to use
ingredients so close to home
they’re actually point-at-able.
The menu is about 90 percent
local, with much of it plucked
from the surrounding 13-acre
Farm at South Mountain.
Quiessence abides by the
Slow Food philosophy, a move-ment
formed in reaction to fast
food. It means “simple food pre-pared
well and sourced well,”
says chef Greg LaPrad. “Instead
of looking for the most efficient
way to do things, we look at
more classic ways.”
Thus, the bread is baked in
a wood-fired oven, the pasta is
completely handcrafted, and an-imals
are purchased whole so
that every part can be used. “It’s
really elemental and back to the
roots,” LaPrad says.
Slow food is eco-friendly,
so the fish is flown in overnight
from sustainable fisheries, and
the produce is organic. Slow
food is also slow: The relaxed
staff spaces out the courses so
diners can be in the moment,
savoring good food, company
The result satisfies body and
soul. The scallop dish is a jewel-colored
trove of textures and
flavors as subtly complementary
as the nuances of wine. Warm
focaccia, gilded with local olive
oil, melts in your mouth. Inef-fably
spiced acorn squash from
One Windmill Farms is swad-dled
in toothsome tortelli and anointed with a creamy sauce
of pistachios from Queen Creek Olive Mill.
Ingredients from farther afield are so fresh they transport
you to their source, not the other way around. The brothy, but-tery
seafood and fennel cream soup catapults you to the New
England seashore, by way of nearby herb and dairy farms.
Whole roasted redfish recalls brisk ocean fishing trips. Raw
farmstead cheese conjures a vision of contented Holsteins in
Wisconsin grazing on a green hillside.
LaPrad rewrites the menu daily based on what’s freshest
and seasonal, so what appears one day might disappear the
next. All the more reason to be in the moment.
n Quiessence is located at 6106 S. 32nd Street in Phoenix. For more
information, call 602-276-0601 or visit quiessencerestaurant.com.
— Keridwen Cornelius
On the Farm
Tired of fast food? The “slow food” at
Quiessence in South Phoenix will make
you want to eat for hours.
R E S T A U R A N T S
Announcer, Phoenix Suns
by Dave Pratt
AH: If you were trying to
convince your colleagues in
the Eastern Conference that
Arizona is one of the most
beautiful places in America,
where would you take them?
AM: Without question, I’d start
in Sedona. There’s no place in
the world quite like it.
AH: When you go hiking in
Arizona, what’s the one
thing — other than water —
that you always carry in your
AM: My idea of hiking is to
take a brisk walk around the
block. And since I don’t own a
backpack, I’d be in trouble. But
if I did, probably a nice pillow
would be in my backpack!
AH: If you were making a solo
road trip to Sedona, which
would you choose: Harley or
AM: No big decision here, I’d
make the trip in a Ford Mustang
with the top down,
enjoying one of my
favorite jazz CDs.
courtside at a
AM: Well, of course,
Sedona pops up again, but also
the White Mountains. They’re
two very different places in so
many ways, but both are so
unique to our great state of
AH: When you travel around
the country, what do people
ask most about Arizona?
AM: Having traveled all over the
world with the Suns these past
36 years … when Arizona
comes up to folks that have
never been here, it’s that same
old story: “My God, how do you
live there in the horrible summer
heat?” I just laugh to myself,
and when I get home, I crank
up the AC.
— Dave Pratt is the host of the
“Dave Pratt in the Morning” show
on KMLE 107.9 FM in Phoenix.
He’s not an Arizona native, but
you’d never know it by tasting
one of Robert McGrath’s
P E O P L E
8 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 9
when it opened its doors in 1919, Tucson’s Hotel Con-gress
was regaled for its grandeur and praised for its modern
comforts. Its fame didn’t extend far beyond Arizona, howev-er.
Located across the road from the Southern Pacific depot,
it was just one of the many upscale lodgings in the West that
rode the railroad boom into existence. Not until January 23,
1934, when a fire led to the capture of John Dillinger, did the
hotel and the sleepy city it was in grab the nation’s attention.
John Dillinger, America’s “most wanted,” never slept at the
Congress, but two members of his gang, Charles Makely and
Russell Clark, had registered there under false names. Forced
to evacuate the burning building, the pair tried to return to
their rooms to grab their valises, but were forbidden access.
Distraught, Makely and Clark offered two firemen a reward to
retrieve their bags. The firefighters complied, hauling down
the gangsters’ heavy luggage — later found to contain $23,816
in cash and several Tommy guns.
In the process, the jittery out-of-towners aroused the sus-picions
of the firemen, who decided to do some sleuthing.
Combing through photos in True Detective magazine, one of
them recognized Clark. The hunt was on — and quickly over.
Without firing a shot, the cops in the “hick town” of Tucson
had accomplished what several state police forces and the FBI
had failed to do: Put the cuffs on Dillinger.
In the hallway behind the Cup Café, today’s visitors to the
downtown landmark can view photos of the players in this
But the Hotel Congress had far more going for it than the
occasional gangster guest. In the 1930s and ’40s, for example,
its Tap Room was the favorite haunt of rodeo cowboy and art-ist
Pete Martinez. His nationally renowned Western scenes —
New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was among his early ce-lebrity
collectors — still hang on the walls of this atmospher-ic
watering hole. Contrary to rumor, however, Martinez didn’t
settle his booze tab with his art; he donated the pieces be-cause
he liked the bar and enjoyed his drinking partners. The
hotel inspired generosity in later artists, too. In 1989, Larry
Boyce arrived on a bicycle from San Francisco and volun-teered
to paint the lobby with the distinctive Southwest Deco
designs that are still there today.
The Congress pays homage to its history in many ways. The
rooms still boast many pieces of their original furniture, as
well as vintage radios, windows that open and steam heat in
winter. A handout available at the front desk — behind which
you can glimpse the same switchboard used to alert guests to
the 1934 fire — notes that four of the rooms also offer a differ-ent
type of blast from the past: ghosts, several of whom are de-scribed
in rather specific detail. Room 214, for example, often
plays host to a “little man, nicely dressed in a seersucker suit.”
And the annual Dillinger Days in January celebrate the hotel’s
claim to fame with re-enactments of the capture.
Nevertheless, the Congress is far from living in the past.
The Cup Café, a popular Tucson gathering spot, dishes up de-licious
contemporary fare. And Club Congress, dubbed one
of the top 10 rock venues in the country, is a hub for hipsters
of all ages. Today’s outlaws might carry guitars, not guns, and
the heat might be generated by dancing, not a conflagration,
but the hotel still gets pretty fired up.
n Hotel Congress is located at 311 E. Congress Street in Tucson. For
more information, call 520-798-1618 or visit hotelcongress.com.
— Edie Jarolim
Cozy rooms, great bar, ghosts, gangsters …
there are plenty of reasons to spend a night
in Tucson’s classic old hotel.
L O D G I N G
by now you’ve probably noticed the striking photo-graph
on the cover of this issue, and you might be wondering
why Arizona Highways has never featured this place before —
a place with a quaint little diner standing like a neon mirage
in the middle of nowhere.
The answer is simple. It doesn’t exist.
Oh, the diner’s real. Dot’s serves up some
of the best home-style cooking you’ll find.
That’s why it’s featured on our list of the
state’s best restaurants. To highlight this
iconic eatery, we lifted it from its earthly
setting in Bisbee and set it down in front
of a mythical backdrop. If the cover of
this issue caught your attention, mission
What we did is called photo illustra-tion
— digitally melding disparate ele-ments
into one believable fantasy. This
isn’t the first manipulated photo Arizona
Highways has ever published, but it
breaks new ground in our use of digital
technology to create a cover from multi-ple
The idea of doing a photo illustration
came about when we decided to feature one of the top restau-rants
on the magazine’s cover. The challenge was finding a
restaurant or diner that would be visually appealing. As you
know, many of the best restaurants are known for their food
and service, not necessarily the beauty of their architecture
Creative minds went to work on the project. The concept
progressed rapidly during the thinking-out-loud phase as we
brainstormed ways to treat the cover. Once the base elements
for a strong image were decided, execution and refinement got
At that point, photographer and Photoshop wizard Edward
McCain was brought into the loop. Edward, who is a long-time
contributor to Arizona Highways, first photographed Dot’s
Diner in Bisbee, and then, on his computer, experimented by
blending different backgrounds with the classic diner. As the
cover evolved, several mockups were e-mailed back and forth
between McCain’s studio in Tucson and the magazine’s office
“For this photo illustration, I wanted the image to be some-what
believable,” McCain says. “Even the sky, which is a Photo-shop-
generated gradient. When I’m working in Photoshop, I
give an image certain visual rules and then work within those
rules to create the strongest expression I can. Tools for this in-clude
composition, lighting, perspective, color, shape, form,
content, and anything else I can bring to the image.”
After 16 hours of computer time, McCain’s final image was
approved and put into production. From
our perspective, it was time well spent
— it’s important that we stay on the cut-ting
edge and explore the digital technolo-gy
available in modern publishing. For us,
however, it’s the kind of thing we’ll do only
with a very specific purpose in mind.
“By removing the diner from its natu-ral
environment and placing it on a desert
playa at sunset, I believe we created a very
striking image that’ll make people do a dou-ble
take,” McCain says. “I think that’s part
of the function of a successful cover image.
As long as the image is clearly identified as
a photo illustration, I don’t have a problem
with it. I do have a problem with photogra-phers
retouching images to ‘improve’ them
without letting the reader know. One of the
great assets of photography is that of be-lievability.
In my role as a photojournalist, I
never want to lose that credibility.”
It’s the same for Arizona Highways. We don’t want to lose
your trust in the beautiful photography published in our mag-azines,
calendars and books, so we’ll never abuse the technol-ogy
at our disposal. Our litmus test is very narrow and strin-gent
when making the decision to modify an editorial photo-graph,
and we’ll always let you know if we do it.
— Peter Ensenberger, Director of Photography
P H O T O G R A P H Y
The Right Touch
Photoshop has become a household
word. At this magazine, however, it’s
something we use sparingly. This month,
we used it on the cover. Here’s why.
Because of the mechanics of sensor
design, digital images always look a
little softer than they really are.
Almost all digital photographs can
be improved with some sharpening.
When software sharpens an image,
it looks for an edge and then bumps
up the contrast along that edge. So
it doesn’t have much effect on a
clear blue sky, but dramatic effect on
something with a lot of texture, like
a brick wall. Over-sharpening can
wreck a photograph. The resultant
halos make edges look artificial and
magnify the noise. Sharpening can
always be added to a photograph,
but once applied, it can’t be undone.
So don’t go crazy.
P H O T O T I P
editor’s note: Look for Arizona Highways
Photography Guide, available now at
For more photography tips and information, visit arizonahighways.com
and click on “Photography.”
before arizona became
a state, most people east of
the Mississippi thought the
Territory was little more than
a giant, raucous mining camp.
Although it’s true that many
Arizona towns in those days
revolved around the prospect
of discovering gold or silver,
mining wasn’t the only mon-eymaker
in the camps.
When those hard-working
prospectors hit the mother
lode, they’d head into town
to spend their fortunes. And,
of course, some early entre-preneurs
knew exactly how
to capitalize on the commer-cial
opportunities. One such
capitalist was Prescott sal-oon
owner Robert Brow.
In the latter part of the
19th century, the 100 block
of South Montezuma Street
in Prescott became known
as “Whiskey Row” be-cause
of the many saloons
that lined the street. Miners,
prospectors, ranchers and
loggers quenched their thirst
at those watering holes, but
one saloon offered more than
hard whiskey. Known as one
of the finest establishments
on the Row, the Palace Bar,
owned by Brow, was a gather-ing
spot where men not only
drank, but ate meals, looked
for work, voted, and bought
and sold mining claims.
The Palace hosted some of
the Territory’s toughest cus-tomers,
including Doc Hol-liday,
Wyatt and Virgil Earp,
and other famous (and infa-mous)
On the night of July 14,
1900, the Palace, along with
other Whiskey Row saloons,
was filled with some of those
gamblers, plus miners, cow-boys,
businessmen and bar
girls when the fire alarm on
the town’s Courthouse Plaza
sounded. A blaze was burn-ing
at the OK Lodging
House on South Montezuma
Street, and the flames quick-ly
spread across Goodwin
Street and continued up
Whiskey Row. Before the
flames reached the Palace,
some enterprising patrons
carried the saloon’s oak bar
and most of its liquor across
the street to the town plaza.
By the time the fire made
it to Gurley and Cortez
streets, drinks were already
being served in a makeshift
Palace Bar. Over the next
couple of days, a provisional
tin building took shape, and
on it, a sign read: “Brow’s
Palace, And Not Ashamed of
It.” There, Brow and his two
new partners, Ben Belcher
and Barney Smith, served
customers and made plans
to rebuild the saloon.
In 1901, at a cost of
$50,000, the new Palace
Hotel and Bar reopened and
was considered the finest sa-loon
in Arizona, where, once
again, customers could belly
up to the bar. Constructed
of native gray granite, iron
and ornamental bricks, the
building boasted a central
pediment atop its façade,
which carried the seal of the
For the last 127 years,
that same saloon has served
cold beer and sarsaparillas
to thirsty Whiskey Row pa-trons.
The Palace is listed on
the National Register of His-toric
n Information: 928-541-1996.
— Sally Benford
Among other things, the April 1958 issue of Arizona Highways invit-ed
readers to explore the “lofty Chiricahuas … the broad and sunny
Sulphur Springs Valley … and such modern places as Douglas, Bis-bee
and Fort Huachuca.” Fifty years later, the gently rising foothills
and mountains of Southeastern Arizona are still worth exploring.
y ears ago in arizona highways
T H I S M O N T H I N H I S T O R Y
■ On April 10, 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant issued a
patent to Judge John T. Alsap for the original Phoenix
town site, which comprised 320 acres costing $550 per
acre, including all expenses for services.
■ On April 26, 1981, the largest bank robbery in U.S. his-tory
took place at the First National Bank of Arizona
in Tucson — in all, more than $3.3 million was stolen.
■ On April 23, 1993, Cesar Chavez, a Mexican-American
farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist, died
of natural causes at his apartment in San Luis, Arizona.
He was born on March 31, 1927, near Yuma.
10 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 11
if there were an
avian version of Survi-vor:
Arizona, most parrots
would get voted off the
show in the first episode.
Yet peach-faced lovebirds
— hand-sized green and
blue parrots with faces
the color of papaya — are
thriving in the urban
wilds of Phoenix and Tuc-son.
The population of
this non-native bird is es-timated
to be in the low
“Wild” lovebirds start-ed
cropping up in the late
1980s between Mesa and
Apache Junction, just east
of Phoenix. It’s believed
they either escaped or
were set free by their own-ers
— the birds are popu-lar
as pets because of their
flashy good looks and gre-garious
aren’t uncommon, but
rarely do they result in a
For example, if you were to release a rainforest-native par-rot
with a genetic hankering for tropical fruit and no instinct
for finding water in the Sonoran Desert, the bird would fare
about as well as a stray penguin. It might eke out a living on
cracker handouts from neighbors, but it would hardly thrive.
The peach-faced lovebird, however, hails from the deserts
of southwestern Africa, where it has cultivated keen abilities
to seek water in Namibian cattle-grazing ponds, and forage
for choice Angolan berries. In Africa, lovebirds live in small
flocks, congregating from miles around to devour all the fruit
on a tree. They cleverly stake out farms, sometimes stripping
fields of grain, fruit or vegetables in a matter of days.
Here in Arizona, the peach-faced lovebirds have found a
kind of Utopia. Irrigation, bird feeders, prefab housing carved
into saguaros by other birds … the list goes on. Snakes, cats
and hawks pose an occasional danger, but otherwise, love-birds
have no natural predators.
However, what’s good for this parrot might be detrimental to
other Arizonan birds. Scientists are growing increasingly con-cerned
about invasive species taking over the habitats of na-tive
flora and fauna. Lovebirds can usurp sagua-ros,
displacing other birds such as woodpeck-ers.
And it might be only a matter of time before
lovebirds start using farmland as a buffet table.
Many environmentalists advocate eliminat-ing
lovebirds before the population gets out of
hand. The pro-parrot contingent, however, ar-gues
that so far there’s no evidence they’ve done
any harm. Plus, they’re cute, people say. For
now, this controversial little squawker’s fate re-mains
— Keridwen Cornelius
Look at the Lovebirds
No. You weren’t hallucinating. That green parrot you
saw flying around Phoenix was real. And he’s not alone.
N A T U R E
Whiskey Row Fire
On July 14, 1900, a devastating fire wiped out the
Palace Bar in Prescott. The bar itself, however, was
saved, thanks to some enterprising barflies.
H I S T O R Y
Although pronghorn antelopes sprint at
speeds of up to 60 mph, the animals refuse
to leap over objects, preferring instead to
navigate under or around fences and other
obstacles. Pronghorn antelopes are the
second-fastest land mammals in the world.
Only cheetahs are faster.
BRUCE D. TAUBERT
COURTESY SHARLOT HALL MUSEUM
BRUCE D. TAUBERT
12 a p r i l 2 0 0 8
Railroad hobbyists and enthu-siasts
will enjoy Winslow’s
annual Railroad Days (April 21-
27). Highlights include
more than 2,000 linear
feet of model railroads,
a historic photograph exhibit
from the Old Trails Museum,
archives from the Santa Fe
Railroad and eclectic displays of
n Information: 928-289-2434 or
Ride the Rapids
if you’ve never experienced the rush of the Colorado
River from the seat of a raft, now’s your chance — without
getting wet. This month, IMAX theaters make a splash with
a new 3D film featuring noted environmentalists Robert
F. Kennedy Jr. and Wade Davis as they journey down the
Colorado with their daughters. Grand Canyon Adventure: River
at Risk, which was directed by Academy Award-winner Greg
MacGillivray and features the music of the Dave Matthews
Band, explores the Grand Canyon and the issue of global
water supplies. The film will be showing all month at the
IMAX Theater in Phoenix’s Arizona Science Center and in
Tempe at Arizona Mills.
n Information: Arizona Science Center, 602-716-2000, azscience.org;
or IMAX Theater at Arizona Mills, 480-897-4629, imax.com/tempe.
Blessed are the vintners
— especially in Southeastern
Arizona, where the weather
can be unforgiving during the
prime grape-growing season.
To ensure a good harvest, the
owners of Sonoita
Vineyard cover their
(potential) losses by
asking for a little celestial help
during the Blessing of the
Vineyard (April 19). Local clergy
bless the vines, after which it’s
time to celebrate with a wine
tasting, winery tours, live music
n Information: 520-455-5893 or
COURTESY SHARLOT HALL MUSEUM
Photographer Edward McCain has
spent many years in Southeastern
Arizona shooting some of the most
spectacular landscapes on the planet.
Plan now to join him in November
in the Chiricahua Wilderness for the
area’s dramatic display of fall color
during a Friends of Arizona High-ways
n Information: 888-790-7042 or
T H I N G S T O D O
Heart & Soul
when you convert the heart and soul
of Hispanic tradition into a sound, the air
resonates with the lyrical harmony of guitars,
violins, harps and trumpets. The sound is
known as mariachi, and it’s in the spotlight
this month during the La Frontera Tucson
International Mariachi Conference. This
colorful music, used for hundreds of years to
celebrate formal occasions in Mexico and the
Southwest, will be the focus of a four-day event
(April 23-26) that includes mariachi
musicians dressed in traditional
silver-studded charro costumes and
strumming guitarrons (a deep-noted
five-string guitar) and vihuelas (a high-pitched
12-string guitar). Originally created in 1983 to
showcase the talent of music students from all
over North America, the event now features
workshops and a mariachi Mass, as well as
several performances by professionals, students
and ballet folklorico dancers.
n Information: 520-838-3908 or tucsonmariachi.org/
It’s a Blessing
unite and head
for the 11th
and other events that
celebrate the written word.
Scheduled authors include
Greg Pape, Tim Seibles and
n Information: 928-380-8682
19 april DON B. & RYAN B. STEVENSON
COURTESY MacGILLIVRAY FREEMAN FILMS
For our new book, we combined the Seventh Natural Wonder
with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Jack Dykinga.
The result — IMAGES: Jack Dykinga’s Grand Canyon — is out of this world.
Offer expires April 30, 2008. Visit arizonahighways.com or call 800-543-5432 to order item #AGVH8 for $33.95 (reg. $39.95).
Shipping and handling not included. You can also visit our retail location at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue in Phoenix.
CIRCLING THE CANYON North. South. East. West. In this unique portfolio, which features
80 spectacular photographs, Jack Dykinga visits every side of the Grand Canyon — 35 sites in all.
As he writes, “My hope is that you’ll enjoy this visual journey and come to appreciate
our nation’s most precious treasure.”
Images j a c k D y k i n g a’ s g r a n D c a n y o n
w i t h c h a r l e s B o w D e n & w a y n e r a n n e y
and save 15%
Use promo code 584
ROAD When you’re at the Canyon, you eat at El Tovar. Everybody knows that.
But where do you go when you’re in Page or Payson or Patagonia? It’s not
always obvious, so we’ve put together a list of 25 of the state’s best places
to grab a bite to eat. There are plenty of others, of course, but this should
fill you up for a while. Bon voyage and bon appetit. B BY KELLY KRAMER
WWhen measuring the quality
of a restaurant, there are three
key elements to consider: food,
service and ambience. The best
restaurants, of course, get high
marks on all three. Most, how-ever,
hit one or two — if they’re
lucky. And that’s OK. Think
about it. If there’s a place with
unbelievable eggplant Parme-san
and friendly servers, you’ll
probably overlook things like
peeling paint and bad lighting.
That’s how it is. What follows
are some of our favorite res-taurants
from around the state.
Needless to say, this is only a
sample of what’s out there, but
it’s a worthy sample that we
think will come in handy the
next time you hit the road. By
the way, if you have a favorite
restaurant that’s not on our list,
we’d love to hear about it. We
can be reached via e-mail at
14 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 15
A LA CARTE Diners can enjoy L’Auberge
Restaurant’s French-accented fare indoors
on linen-napped tables or al fresco on the
banks of beautiful Oak Creek. Photograph
by Geoff Gourley
Pressure-fired bricks were
relatively new in 1907, when
Bisbee’s Costello Building
was constructed. But thanks
to those bricks, the Costello
was spared from a
fire that leveled much of the
mining town in 1908. Now,
100 years later, the building
houses Café Roka, a three-level,
that’s been serving up some
finest fare since chef-owner
Rod Kass moved into
the Costello in 1993. Whether
you’re a sucker for sweet-potato
strudel or have a hankering for
New Zealand rack of lamb, the
café has something for every-one,
including history buffs.
35 Main Street, Bisbee, 520-432-
5153 or caferoka.com.
Although the tiny township of
Cave Creek is known mostly
for being cowboy chic and
chock-full of Old West honky-tonks,
there’s at least one
restaurant where you might
want to wear your dress boots.
Under the guidance of chef-owner
Kevin Binkley, Binkley’s
offers contemporary American
cuisine that changes frequently
— based on the availability
fresh, local ingredients and the
seasonality of items that the
chef must order in. So while
one evening’s cold appetizers
might be hickory-smoked halibut
with three-beet salad or
Wellfleet oysters with mari-nated
fingerling potatoes, the
next week’s entrees might in-clude
blue cheese-crusted rib-eye
or bacon-wrapped pork
6920 E. Cave Creek
Road, Cave Creek, 480-437-1072
With only a handful of linen-topped
tables and a menu that
incorporates market-fresh in-gredients
and homemade cre-ations,
Piñon Bistro is a favorite
among Cottonwood locals and
tourists alike. Owned and op-erated
by pals Terri Clements
and Donna Fulton, the bistro
is two parts funky and one
part swanky. Decorated with
fresh flowers and the works of
local artists, the restaurant of-fers
a menu that self-taught
chef Fulton creates based on the
season and the availability of
fresh produce, meats and chees-es.
And don’t forget to explore
the wine and dessert menus.
They’re loaded with delightful
options, from blanc-de-blanc
to Cabernet and homemade ice
cream to decadent mud pie.
1075 S. State Route 260, Cotton-wood,
FUNKY, FANCY, FOODIE Café
Roka’s creative, vegetarian-leaning
menu and historic building (left)
embody Bisbee’s artsy, old-meets-new
vibe. Photograph by Edward McCain
NORTHERN EXPOSURE Ingredients
fresh from Northern Arizona’s farms
and ranches shine in the cuisine
(right) at Flagstaff’s Brix, named one
of Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 95 New
Restaurants in the World. Photograph
by Geoff Gourley
16 a p r i l 2 0 0 8
18 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 19
Northern Arizona is a mecca for
family farms and ranches. And
so, Northern Arizona restau-rants
are turning to those farms
and ranches to add the fresh-est
produce, poultry and beef
to their menus. Brix, located in
the historic Carriage House in
Flagstaff, is no exception. With
a dinner menu that features
such selections as braised Fox
Fire Farm lamb shank, grilled
Cedar River Farms rib-eye, a
variety of artisan cheeses and a
wine list that rivals any big-city
eatery, Brix is to Flagstaff what
a place like Lon’s is to Paradise
Valley: the go-to spot for a deli-cious
meal in an intimate, relax-ing
setting. 413 N. San Francisco
Street, Flagstaff, 928-213-
KELLY’S BROAD STREET
No one would be foolish enough
to consider a J.C. Penney store
a “hot spot.” But that’s not to say
that bars and restaurants housed
in former J.C. Penney stores can’t
be. That’s the case with Kelly’s
Broad Street Brewery. Located,
naturally, on Globe’s historic
Broad Street, which is home
to buildings constructed in
the early 20th century, Kelly’s
is a favorite among the locals.
What’s more, it serves up some
pretty good food, albeit of the
bar variety, and a handful of
drink specials, along with a
healthy helping of dancing and
karaoke. 190 N. Broad Street,
EL TOVAR DINING ROOM
South Rim, Grand Canyon
Built from native stone and Or-egon
pine, El Tovar Dining
Room at the El Tovar Hotel on
the Grand Canyon’s South Rim
is one of the state’s most famous-ly
historic restaurants. Although
the dress code is casual, dining
at El Tovar is often a more ele-gant
experience than dining at
a five-star eatery, primarily be-cause
several tables look direct-ly
out across the Canyon itself.
That might explain why reser-vations
are recommended as
much as six months in advance.
Well, that and a menu including
dishes like wild Alaska salmon
tostadas, natural lamb chops
with roasted portobello demi-glace,
pork chops with Pinot
Noir glaze. Grand Canyon National
Park, 928-638-2631, ext. 6432.
There’s something particularly
rustic about life in the White
Mountains, and it’s a character-istic
that translates well into the
local cuisine. Take, for instance,
Greer’s Rendezvous Diner. Built
in 1909, the quaint little restau-rant,
which has been in busi-ness
for a little more than 30
OFF THE EATIN’ PATH Tucked away in tiny Cottonwood but worth the
trip for any foodie, Piñon Bistro (left) serves haute food in a homey, funky
setting. Photograph by Geoff Gourley
NARROW ESCAPE Shaped like and named after Manhattan’s slim Flatiron
Building, the Flatiron Café in Jerome (above) makes an ideal retreat for a
homemade pastry and a coffee klatch. Photograph by Kerrick James
20 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 21
Lake Havasu City
When it came to naming their
steakhouse, Tom and Laurie
Moses stayed close to home. A
tribute to their college-aged
son’s nickname, Cha-Bones is a
welcome departure from the
typical bar/grill establishments
that pepper Lake Havasu City.
Here, inspired pastas, pizzas
and chicken dishes prove the
perfect complement to the res-taurant’s
signature steaks and,
of course, bones — five selec-tions
ribs, served with fresh
vegetables and a savory starch.
And, naturally, where there’s
steak, there’s wine. Cha-Bones’
list includes plenty of inexpen-sively
priced bottles, as well as a
few “special occasion” reds, if
you’re so inclined. 112 London
Bridge Road, Lake Havasu City,
928-854-5554 or chabones.com.
THE DAM BAR & GRILLE
If a trip to Glen Canyon Dam is
on your to-do list, prepare with a
visit to the Dam Bar & Grille in
Page. Here, a 30-foot etched-glass
wall and a scaled-down version
of the dam will wet your whistle
until you can witness the real
thing. So, too, will the Grille’s
selection of pastas, salads, sand-wiches
and steaks. The menu
features standard bar fare as well
as items for more sophisticated
palates. Try the surf ’n’ turf, a
combination of bacon-wrapped
filet mignon and snow crab legs,
or the slow-roasted
in balsamic glaze. 644 N. Na-vajo
Street, Page, 928-645-2161 or
AT THE HERMOSA
Although they once dotted the
Arizona landscape, authentic
haciendas are few and far be-tween
in the state. Lon’s at the
Hermosa is one of the few. Once
the home of famed artist Lon
Megargee, Lon’s is now one of
the metro-Phoenix area’s most
intimate and beautiful restau-rants,
capable of accommodat-ing
12 to 150 people. For a ro-mantic
dining experience, sit
on Lon’s patio, nestled perfectly
in the shadow of Camelback
Mountain, and sample chef Mi-chael
Rusconi’s inspired cre-ations.
Typical appetizers in-clude
soups, seared ahi and
braised beef short ribs, while
entrees encompass the best of
Southwestern cuisine, from
roasted Fulton Valley free-range
chicken breast with goat cheese
gnocchi to rack of lamb cased
in sun-dried tomatoes and
served with goat cheese herb
grits, smoked peppers and
Queen Creek olive jus. 5532 N.
Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley,
602-955-7878 or lons.com.
Cecilia San Miguel has one mis-sion
and one mission only: to
“introduce customers to deli-cious
and healthy dining alter-natives.”
And in the striking
Southern Arizona town of Pata-gonia,
that task is becoming less
daunting, as more and more
restaurateurs and chefs are
turning to locally grown and
organic produce, meats and
cheeses. Consider, for example,
the menu at Velvet Elvis, where
San Miguel has combined the
vibrant flavors of the Southwest
with a dose of vintage kitsch to
create such items as the “Pan-cho
Villa” pizza, a combination
of homemade beef chorizo, fresh
tomatoes, yellow onions, cilantro,
fresh jalapeños, and Asiago and
mozzarella cheeses. The soups,
salads and calzones are equally
delightful — and the King would
not have it any other way. 292
Naugle Avenue, Patagonia, 520-
394-2102 or velvetelvispizza.com.
Arizona is known for its Sonoran-
style Mexican food, and in
that vein, this list would be in-complete
without a couple of
real Mexican restaurants. For
more than 30 years, El Rancho
has been plating some of the
Southwest’s finest fare — a fact
that’s been noted by the Payson
Roundup, which consistently
honors the restaurant as having
the “best margarita in town”
and as being the town’s “best
Mexican restaurant.” And it’s no
wonder. El Rancho’s menu is
stocked with the requisite tacos,
chimis and burritos, along with
a fine sampling of signature fare,
including a bowl of piping hot
green chile stew. 200 S. Beeline
Highway, Payson, 928-474-3111
Chris Bianco is the king of pizza.
Although contenders might dis-pute
the claim, they’d be hard-pressed
to prove it wrong, espe-cially
considering that Bianco is
a 2003 James Beard Award win-ner
and that his downtown
Phoenix bistro was given an
29 out of 30 points by
the Zagat Dining Guide. In fact,
the only person who disputes
the claim is Bianco himself, who
contends that it’s not about him
— it’s about the pizza. That’s a
truth evident in every pie that
leaves the wood-fired oven at
Bianco, where most
guests wait hours just to be seat-ed.
Although the menu is small,
it’s mighty, featuring a handful
of decadent pizzas, handcrafted
country bread and a selection of
fresh, flavorful salads. 623 E.
Adams Street, Phoenix, 602-258-
8300 or pizzeriabianco.com.
Charlie Clark’s is old — not in
the Grand Canyon sense of the
word, but old nonetheless. In
fact, the two log cabins that cur-rently
house this steakhouse
were built long before Prohibi-tion.
After the nation’s liquor
began flowing freely again in
the early 1930s, Jake Renfro
added on to the original struc-tures
and began operating his
very own “Famous Log Cabin
Café.” Renfro sold the property
to Charlie Clark in 1938, and
ever since, hand-cut steaks, ribs
and prime rib have become sta-ples.
1701 E. White Mountain
Boulevard, Pinetop, 928-367-4900
years, is in one of the town’s
oldest buildings, and prides it-self
on down-home, homemade
cooking. The simple menu fea-tures
soups, sandwiches and a
slew of just-like-mom-used-to-make
desserts, along with chef-owner
Pauline Merrill’s famous
sweet rolls, meatloaf, and bis-cuits
and gravy. 117 N. Main
Street, Greer, 928-735-7483.
Shaped like an upended shirt
box, Jerome’s Flatiron Café
might be named for New York’s
famous building, but there’s
nothing flat about its assortment
of breakfast and lunch entrees.
Small and simple, Flatiron
serves a variety of inexpensively
priced plates, from omelets and
fresh-baked pastries to original
sandwiches, wraps, soups and
salads. There are several inno-vative
dishes on the menu, too,
including smoked-salmon que-sadillas
and black-bean hum-mus.
And although the food is
good, the coffee’s even better.
Whether you are a fan of fla-vored
lattes or regular old joe,
pick up a cup for your explora-tion
of Jerome’s other attrac-tions
— the former mining
town is known for its art shops
and “haunted” hotels. 416 Main
Street, Jerome, 928-634-2733.
To the casual observer, Kingman
might appear to be little more
than a stopping point on the
long and winding road to Las
Vegas. But this town, known as
the “heart of Route 66,” is home
to more than 60 buildings that
are listed on the National Regis-ter
of Historic Places. Although
Mattina’s Ristorante Italiano
isn’t one of them, its building is
old. In fact, the 106-year-old
house recently underwent a
major renovation. Despite the
dust, chef Carlo Peddycoat still
managed to whip up his signa-ture
fare following the restau-rant’s
Mafia theme, including
prime “Al Capone” cuts of beef,
ravioli and fresh, butter-drenched
escargots. 318 E. Oak Street,
RAILWAY REDUX The Turquoise
Room at La Posada Hotel (above)
retains many of the original touches
from its former railroad-car origin.
Photograph by Nick Berezenko
22 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 23
For casual family dining in Willcox,
try Plaza Restaurant. It’s
open 24 hours a day and fea-tures
Mexican food and Ameri-can
fare, from burgers and fries
to a Friday night fish buffet
that’s popular with the locals.
Plaza also offers takeout service,
banquet facilities and an ultra-friendly
service staff. 1190 W.
Rex Allen Drive, Willcox, 520-
RED RAVEN RESTAURANT
Beyond its red front door, Wil-liams’
Red Raven Restaurant is
a charming, intimate space,
loaded with local artwork and
plenty of charm. And beyond
the kitchen doors, you’ll find
chef David Haines whipping up
some of the finest meals in the
area. His focus is on comfort
food — the kind of food you’d
want to eat snuggled up on a
Sunday afternoon — but with a
decidedly fresh twist. Take, for
example, Haines’ basil-butter
salmon served with cranberry-pine
nut couscous, or his ten-derloin
of pork scaloppini. Add
fine service to the great menu
and the aforementioned ambi-ence,
and the Red Raven is one
restaurant you’ll want to visit
again and again. 135 W. Route
66, Williams, 928-635-4980 or
THE TURQUOISE ROOM
The Turquoise Room at La Posada
Hotel and Gardens has its
origins in a railroad car. In 1935,
Mary Jane Colter designed the
private dining car for the Super
Chief, a train that ran from Chi-cago
to L.A. She dubbed the
dining car The Turquoise Room,
and the modern version of the
restaurant, opened in 2000,
many of the original
accents — green brocade booths
and leather-and-wood chairs, to
name a few. Just as elegant is
The Turquoise Room’s menu. It
features a variety of entrees that
incorporate fresh ingredients
flown in from as far away as
Ninilchik, Alaska, as well as
plenty of homegrown items,
among them piki bread made
by local Hopi women. 303 E.
Second Street, Winslow, 928-289-
2888 or theturquoiseroom.net.
Although Lutes Casino is cur-rently
one of Yuma’s most be-loved
restaurants, it wasn’t al-ways
like that. In fact, the
that houses the restau-rant
— which serves up popu-lar
diner-esque lunches and
dinners — was once a pool hall
where the patrons were notori-ous
for illegal gambling and
other bad behavior. Today, how-ever,
crowds line up outside
during the winter months when
the weather’s cool and sunny,
and many of them order the
special, a $4.50 cheeseburger
topped with an unusual condi-ment
— a hot dog. 221 S. Main
Street, Yuma, 928-782-2192.
In case you missed it, Dot’s
Diner is featured on the cover of
this month’s issue. Like the
other 25 restaurants in the story
you’ve just read, Dot’s is one of
the state’s best. The 10-stool eat-ery,
which is named in honor of
Dot Bozeman, the restaurant’s
first cook and bottle washer, is
a blast from the past if ever
there was one. The next time
you’re in Bisbee, check it out.
Old Douglas Road, Bisbee, 520-
432-3567 or theshadydell.com.
When it comes to wine cafés,
Bin 239 ranks right up there
among the state’s best. Located
on charming Marina Street in
Prescott, this quaint café offers
an amazing selection of wines
at reasonable prices, from
Oakville Cabernets to Argentin-ean
Malbecs. What’s more, the
Bin’s food menu features fresh
selections of soups, salads,
cheeses and bruschetta, and the
friendly staff is always happy to
offer its recommendations for
food and wine pairings. For the
ultimate Bin 239 experience,
sample from the tasting menu.
At four wines for $12, it’s a bar-gain
and a blast. 239 N. Marina
Street, Prescott, 928-445-3855 or
ON OAK CREEK
Chances are plenty of pretty
things come to mind when
you’re thinking about Sedona,
like red rocks and sunsets and
all of the other clichés. But
L’Auberge Restaurant is just as
pretty — not only because it sits
on a prime piece of real estate
on the banks of Oak Creek, but
also because of its stunning
menu. The chef keeps things
interesting, mixing up the menu
daily to reflect changing themes
and changing seasons. It’s a
method that works, having gar-nered
the restaurant a “Best of
Award of Excellence” designa-tion
from Wine Spectator for 14
consecutive years. 301 L’Auberge
Lane, Sedona, 928-282-1667 or
HOUSE OF TRICKS
Just a block or two away from
busy Mill Avenue in downtown
Tempe, House of Tricks has been
letting the good times roll for
more than 20 years. Here, chef
Kelly Fletcher tackles French
and Southwestern cuisine, wrapping
the two styles up into a
unique fusion of flavors. At the
same time, wine manager Ryan
Brown selects some of the finest
bottles available, creating a list
that rivals that of restaurants
three times Tricks’ size. And al-though
this tiny restaurant is
well endowed in the good-food
department, dinner is as much
about the experience as it is
about the eats. Mature trees and
a variety of colorful plants sur-round
the patio, so book a table
and enjoy the scenery. 114 E.
Seventh Street, Tempe, 480-968-
1114 or houseoftricks.com.
There’s nothing fancy about
Feast. It’s just a regular building
in a regular old neighborhood
in Tucson. What’s special about
the place is that it’s a restaurant
and a catering business — ev-erything
chef-owner Doug Levy
creates is available for eating-in
or taking out. With a menu that
rotates twice monthly, Levy cre-ates
eclectic offerings perfect for
constructing a made-to-order
meal. Try a parsnip salad paired
with seared opah, served over
rice with yellow vegetable curry
salad and fried garlic. Or, get
adventurous and taste any of
Levy’s other clever creations. For
an after-dinner treat, or while
you’re waiting for your order,
splurge on one of his home-made
desserts, like a triple chocolate
terrine or chocolate truffle
cookies. 4122 E. Speedway Boul-evard,
Tucson, 520-326-9363 or
There are plenty of resorts in
Arizona, but not many of them
are “ranch” resorts, like Wick-enburg’s
Rancho de los Cabal-leros.
You’ll find plenty to do at
this splendid retreat — from
horseback riding and golf to hit-ting
the spa or the pool — but
when you’re done, you’ll want to
try the ranch’s restaurant. Fea-turing
plenty of meat-and-pota-toes-
type meals, as well as sig-nature
dishes that highlight the
flavors of the Southwest, this
isn’t your typical beans-and-franks
cowboy restaurant, and
that’s a good thing. Among other
things, try the Southern quail.
It’s pan-fried and served over
fingerling potatoes with green
beans and lavender butter. 1551
S. Vulture Mine Road, Wicken-burg,
928-684-5484 or sunc.com.
Stepping into Willcox is a little
like stepping onto a Wild West
movie set. It’s in the heart of
Apache country, which means
it’s a bit rugged. It’s also smack
dab in between Phoenix and El
Paso. But that’s not to say the
area is a wasteland of good eats.
WELL RED Co-owners Rozan and David Haines (above) dish up a warm
welcome at Red Raven, an epicurean outpost in the railway town of Williams.
Photograph by Geoff Gourley
FEAST, NOT FAMINE Tucson’s Feast (right) redefines ho-hum takeout with
its imaginative fare, which you can order online, pick up to go or savor in the
restaurant’s cozy confines. Photograph by Edward McCain
Kelly Kramer is a Phoenix-based
writer and a frequent contributor to
You wouldn’t know it by looking at them, but Joshua trees
are in the lily family. Really. We’re not making that up.
Despite their lack of any family resemblance, these crooked
monocots are well worth the drive to Western Arizona. A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 25
wisting T heir Arms
A Portfolio by Neil Weidner
26 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 27
on’t hate them because they’re not
beautiful. Like Quasimodo, the
Joshua tree’s freakish looks
mask an admirable complexity.
Its hirsute trunk and dagger-like
leaves belie its sensitivity to
weather patterns and an endear-ing
reliance on a clever moth. Its
tough, stringy limbs have fueled miners’
steam engines and woven Indian baskets.
Endemic to the Mohave Desert, the Joshua tree
graces its namesake national park in California and parts of
Western Arizona. Fantastical forests twist and sprout along
U.S. Route 93 to Kingman — dubbed the Joshua Forest Scenic
Parkway — and on Grapevine Mesa near Lake Mead.
How long they’ve been there, no one knows, because their
fibrous trunks lack rings to count. Most scientists peg them
at 100 to 300 years old, but some say they could be as old as
a thousand years.
The Joshua tree’s survival depends entirely on winter
freezes and a symbiotic relationship with the yucca moth.
A pregnant moth gathers a golden ball of pollen and flies to
another Joshua tree, laying her eggs in a flower. She then rubs
the pollen along the stamen, pollinating it. When the seeds
germinate, some of them become food for her larvae; others
grow into new Joshua trees.
If you think about it, it’s beautiful.
— Keridwen Cornelius
LUNAR LANDSCAPE Backlit by a full moon and pink-streaked sky, the
grotesque, spiky contours of Joshua trees (pages 24-25) lend an other-worldly
presence to a surrealistic landscape in Western Arizona.
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
PRECIPITATION, PLEASE The Grand Wash Cliffs (left) serve as a back-drop
for Joshua trees that survive the Mohave Desert’s arid conditions
with biological adaptations such as sword-shaped leaves, which channel
rain toward the plants’ bases. Bristly, green, spearlike leaves form a bul-wark
around a Joshua tree’s white, waxy blossom (above).
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
28 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 29
DESERT VESSEL With spent leaves drooping
like shaggy beards, Joshua trees tower over
other desert plants at the base of monolithic
Shiprock near the Joshua Forest Scenic Park-way,
whose 54 miles run from Wickenburg
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 31
SCARRED ARMS Freezing temperatures
damage the tips of Joshua trees (left), causing
them to bloom, then form branches.
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
PRICKLY PRAYERS Named for the biblical
figure who led Israel into the “Promised Land,”
Joshua trees holding spiky arms skyward
reflected the Mormon pioneers’ hope for
successful settlement in the West (above).
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
CLOSE CURLS Joshua tree blossoms never
fully open (right), but remain curled, resulting
in the plant’s classification as an indehiscent
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
32 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 33
When a Tucson man discovered
a sinkhole in his front yard, he was
curious. When he started digging
around and found bones, he was
speechless, and more than a little
concerned. Turns out, his 90-year-old
bungalow was built on an old
cemetery, and even though the
headstones were moved, as many
as 6,000 bodies were left behind.
BY JANA BOMMERSBACH
MAN OF HONOR When a neighborhood was
built over a Tucson cemetery in 1909, the head-stones
were moved to Holy Hope Cemetery (left),
but many bodies were left behind. Moses Thomp-son
(above) is honoring two of those dead, a man
and girl found under his property, with a shrine of
St. Francis, the patron saint of reunited families.
Photograph by Edward McCain
ARIZONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, TUCSON
34 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 35
ground, piece by piece. “What surprised me is how thorough
the process is,” Moses says. “One person is in the hole taking
out 5-pound buckets full of dirt, which is put on a sifter screen.
Another person is doing measurements of what they find, and
a third is drawing everything. Her head came out in separate
pieces, and the skull fell apart. It struck me that she had all her
baby teeth — her teeth were just perfect.”
Only later would he think about how much this little girl
resembled the Latino children he counsels at Manzo Elementary
School. After that, he no longer thought of this as just a skull
with perfect baby teeth; he thought of her as a little girl who
didn’t rest in peace.
< < <
J. Homer Thiel wanted to be an archaeologist since he was a boy
growing up on a farm in Michigan. He now holds a master’s
degree from Arizona State University in anthropological archaeol-ogy,
specializing in human history from 1700 to 1950. He led his
team to the Thompsons’ front yard to dig up the latest of 14 bod-ies
found since the 1940s at the Old Court Street Cemetery site.
These days, Thiel is a private scientist with Center for Desert
Archaeology, and he probably knows more about the old graves
and graveyards of Tucson than anyone in town. The 44-year-old
can rattle off cemetery records from memory.
Court Street was the town’s third official cemetery — the third
time town fathers had tried to place a cemetery out of the way
of a growing outpost. It was “out in the country” then, far away
from the village struggling to make a go of life in a remote part
of the Old West. From 1875 to 1906, Court Street was Tucson’s
only cemetery, divided into a Catholic section and another part
for everyone else. Although the village was responsible for this
graveyard, it didn’t take very good care of it, and within two
years of opening, local newspapers were calling the condition
of the cemetery a “disgrace.”
But then, in 1880, the railroad came to town; nothing in the
Old West impacted life more than the arrival of this lifeline to
the world. “Now you could order any product through the mail
and have it delivered [by rail],” Thiel explains. “It transformed
Tucson from an adobe town into one with new buildings that
were more Victorian.”
The Court Street Cemetery ended up between the new rail-road
tracks and the northern edge of the community, and it was
obvious this was the direction of growth. By 1906, Old Court
Street Cemetery joined its predecessors and became the town’s
third cemetery to be in the way.
Businessmen found another new cemetery site “far out” in
the country. They promised to move pauper graves, while vil-lage
officials told others they had to move their own family
members and buy a gravesite in the new cemetery. Plots sold
for $50 (the equivalent of nearly $2,000 today), a cost few could
even consider. The move began in 1907, and in 1916, the village
council declared Court Street an “old and abandoned cemetery.”
Immediately thereafter, the village sold the land to a developer,
who subdivided it into 88 lots and sold them for the princely
sum of $10,000 — an amount equal to nearly $200,000 today.
The graves were supposedly moved to the new Evergreen and
Holy Hope cemeteries on present-day Oracle Road — so far out
that Tucson would never grow to them. One of the great ironies
is that today they sit in the middle of Arizona’s second largest
Did she have a favorite doll? How ready was her laugh?
Was her mother holding her when she died? No one really knows
anything about the 4-year-old girl dressed in a cotton gown — a
gown closed in the back with nine small milk-glass buttons.
Five more buttons adorned the pillow on which her head rested.
Buttons, after all, were one of the few things in ready supply on
the frontier to “fancy up” a plain item, and it was necessary to
give this young lady some measure of finery as she was placed
in her coffin.
Had she been sick? Was she felled by an infectious disease?
She was probably contagious, because the rest of her wardrobe
was stuffed around her feet. None of the material would last, but
120 years later, all 58 buttons were still there.
Sadly, we’ll never know the girl’s name. However, we can guess
that she was called mija — my darling girl — by the Hispanic fam-ily
who cherished her. We can also guess that she didn’t die alone,
because directly below her, in what was once an official cemetery
of a small town in the Arizona Territory, lay a coffin similar to
hers — the remains of a father, an uncle or a cousin, perhaps?
Whoever he was, he was buried with his pockets full: a “shield
nickel” minted as early as 1867; a heavily worn 1877 Liberty
quarter; an 1886 Seated Liberty dime. This was real money back
then, and normally wouldn’t have gone to the grave. Maybe his
people were afraid of infection, so they just left him intact when
they put him into the Douglas fir coffin with brass handles and
56 diamond-shaped copper appliqués.
As in the case of the little girl, we’ll never know the name
of this man who died at the age of 25. We’ll never know if he
played an instrument or if he prayed or if he’d fathered any chil-dren.
What we do know is that both of their bodies were aban-doned
by the village of Tucson in 1909, when the Old Court
Street Cemetery was closed to make way for a subdivision of
88 homes. We know this because in October 2007, their coffins
were exposed when a sinkhole appeared in the front yard of what
is now the Dunbar/Spring neighborhood of downtown Tucson.
If these graves had been marked with a wooden cross, it long
ago crumbled to dust. If they were ever memorialized with a
headstone, someone took it away decades ago, leaving no clue
of what this land still held.
Moses and Kelly Thompson — he, an elementary school coun-selor,
she, a pediatrician — had no clue about any of this when
they bought their Craftsman bungalow in 2006. The couple was
thrilled to find their dream home in the historic part of Tucson.
“There was a split in the earth and I feared a broken pipe,”
32-year-old Moses Thompson recalls. “I dug down until I hit
a board. I reached in and found three diamond-shaped copper
ornaments, and then I pulled out finger bones.”
He showed his discovery to Kelly, hoping she’d explain that
this wasn’t what he’d feared. “Is there any chance it’s an animal?”
he asked. She took one look at the carpals and dorsals in his
palm and answered with a simple “no.”
Thompson called the city, which sent over an archaeologist
who’s getting used to digging up old graves in the city. They
found a cross below the girl’s casket and knew there had to be
a second grave underneath. And that’s when the Thompsons
learned their beautiful old home was built above 100 graves.
“The neighborhood lore is that families had to pay to move the
graves when the city decided to close the cemetery,” Thompson
says. “The poor couldn’t afford it. [The city] ran an ad in English
about removing the bodies, so non-English speakers were out of
the loop as well. I can imagine a father or grandfather coming
to visit the grave and finding houses built — not knowing what
had happened to their loved ones.”
It’s disturbing for the Thompsons to know that they’re living
on top of a cemetery, but not for the obvious reasons. “I’m kind
of superstitious, and I get spooked,” Moses says, well aware that
Hollywood has made three horror movies about people living
above cemeteries. “But I feel more of an injustice to the families
than I do creepiness. It looks like the developer just moved the
headstones and left the people behind.”
Moses took a personal day off from work when the authori-ties
excavated, watching the little girl’s remains come out of the
SACRED GROUND More than 6,000 graves could still remain under the
Dunbar/Springs neighborhood (above), constructed over the Old Court Street
Cemetery. One archaeologist estimates that only 10 percent of the bodies
were moved to Evergreen Cemetery and Holy Hope Cemetery (below).
Photographs courtesy Arizona Historical Society, Tucson
The Mason’s entrance gate of the Court Street
Cemetery. arizona historical 36 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 society, tucson
“We weren’t quite sure what we’d find,
but we were surprised at what we found.”
Roger Anyon is the cultural resources
program manager for Pima County, and
these days, he’s fixated on the excavation
of the old National Cemetery in down-town
Tucson, which is making way for the
county’s new courthouse.
He says the county was well aware a
cemetery had once existed on part of their
building site, but they thought it had been
moved more than 130 years ago.
“In the 1880s, people were told to disinter
their loved ones and rebury them in the
new Court Street Cemetery,” he says.
“But we’ve discovered that was a very rare
occurrence. Most people weren’t moved.”
He says it looks like about 1,130 bodies
will be taken from this old cemetery before
they’re done. He knows the number is
astonishing, but so is the price tag for finally
moving this cemetery: $15 million. That
makes this the largest and most expensive
cemetery excavation in Arizona history.
Despite the cost, Anyon says, Pima
County is trying to do the right thing by
these bodies; some of the deceased were
founders and early leaders of this historic
Before a shovel went into the ground,
he says, the county conducted two back-ground
studies and spent a year talking
with “descendant groups,” who likely have
people buried there — including veterans,
Hispanics and Native Americans.
They will do “no destructive analysis”
of the remains that are carefully removed
from the site, but plan to rebury all the
bodies — either through their relatives,
if identities can be established; through
descendant groups, if their cultural affili-ation
can be learned; or in the All Faiths
Cemetery in Tucson.
Excavations began in November 2006
and were scheduled to be completed this
spring. In October, a report will be made
public on whatever identifying factors were
learned from the remains, and the pub-lic
will then have six months to respond.
Reburials are expected in April 2009.
“Today it strikes us as really strange that
these cemeteries were abandoned and
people forgot they were there,” Anyon says.
“I’m not sure about the thinking back in
the 1800s, but clearly, it was different than
the values we have today.”
— Jana Bommersbach
ally a new idea in this country, and it came about primarily as
a way to protect ancient Indian graves from being looted for
pots and other treasures. The federal Native American Graves
Protection and Repatriation Act became law on November 16,
1990. Arizona’s laws followed.
“It’s sad those individuals didn’t get moved,” Madsen says. But
he knows not everyone would be upset. There’s a diverse set
of philosophies when it comes to graves, he says. “I’ve gone to
meetings with people in tears over a single individual. And then
there are other meetings where people say, ‘Let’s move on.’ ”
But he envisions an outcry if Tucson were to try to abandon its
Evergreen and Holy Hope cemeteries these days. “I think people
would be really upset, because a cemetery is supposed to be safe,
where bodies aren’t disturbed and can rest in peace,” Madsen says.
Tucson’s media has covered this intriguing story, but some-times
in a tone that seems almost cavalier: “Your Underground
Neighbors,” one headline read, noting that the neighborhood
had a “grave problem.”
Moses Thompson doesn’t think it’s funny. He thinks the
media is trying to trivialize “what amounts to desecration.”
Homer Thiel doesn’t think it’s funny either. “I wonder about the
people we find,” he says. “Did they have a happy life? I think it’s
sad that the cemeteries were built over, but that’s history.”
city, with thousands of cars racing by every day.
Thiel has studied the gravestones in Evergreen and Holy Hope,
looking for those moved from Court Street. He reports a disturb-ing
truth: “I found only 100 headstones that came from Court
Street, and 54 of them had no bodies, just stones.”
Anyone who’s shocked by that reality doesn’t know the history
of cemeteries in Tucson, he says.
In 1776, when the Spanish established a presidio that would
become Tucson, they designated a cemetery site within its
walls — a spot that now sits under the old County Courthouse
and Presidio Park. It was used until the Mexican Army left the fort
in 1856. No records remain of the bodies buried there because
the soldiers used the record books for cigarette papers, Thiel says.
However, he thinks at least a thousand bodies are packed into the
small space. Eventually, the presidio graveyard was abandoned
and forgotten, and the land was used for a growing town. About
15 years ago, officials took 20 complete skeletons and parts of
another 80 people out of the old Presidio Cemetery.
Tucson, which likes to call itself the “Old Pueblo,” got a new
cemetery in 1862, thanks to the U.S. military. It was called the
National Cemetery, but it didn’t last long.
By 1875, the town thought the land could be better used, so
the cemetery was closed, although some bodies may have been
buried there later. The burial ground was sold to developers,
who first subdivided it for houses, and later converted it to com-mercial
use — a bowling alley, bank, lawyers’ offices, a parking
lot. Today, that land is in the heart of downtown, where Pima
County wants to build its new courthouse. As a result, the old
cemetery is finally being excavated (see Rest in Peace, page 37).
Unfortunately, the Old Court Street Cemetery will probably
never be uncovered, because 88 homes — now prized for their
historic designs and significance — stand above it. Still, one
wonders how many bodies remain under the neighborhood.
“We know from Catholic burial records that there were more
than 4,600 burials in the Catholic section of the Court Street
Cemetery where we found the girl,” Thiel says. He notes there are
no records to count the numbers of Protestant, Jewish and frater-nal
groups buried there, but he thinks maybe there are another
2,000 or so. “My guess is only 10 percent were moved,” he adds.
That means more than 6,000 graves might still exist under
the homes in the Dunbar/Spring neighborhood.
< < <
John Madsen has several titles at the Arizona State Museum in
Tucson, but he’s commonly known as the “burial coordinator.” He’d
prefer that task were labeled the “repatriation coordinator,” but it’s
the same thing — when bodies are unearthed, he’s the one who
administers Arizona’s laws on disturbed graves.
It’s not just that he deals with these things every day, it’s that
he sees the big picture of antique gravesites. “What happened in
Tucson is not unique,” he says. “If you look around the country,
you find a lot of cemeteries being abandoned.”
For example, a large African-American cemetery has been
uncovered in New York City; part of Savannah, Georgia, is built
over a cemetery; small plots on ranches or family property have
been forgotten over the years in many states.
But nobody — not Madsen, Thiel, nor the State Historic
Preservation Office — can cite another example of a community
repeatedly building over its official cemeteries.
Under Arizona law, Madsen notes, the same thing could happen
today — and is happening on private land. “The laws were written
to protect property owners,” he notes. “They say you shall not
disturb bones, but if you just cover them over, that’s OK.” So
landowners who discover graves on their property have the
option of simply ignoring them. Or they can contact the Arizona
State Museum to have the bones removed and reinterred.
All of this might sound ghoulish to a society that looks upon
cemeteries as hallowed ground, but protection of graves is actu-
If it is any comfort, Madsen notes, the people of today treat
these bodies with far more respect than they received in their
own time. Soon after the little girl and her male counterpart
were unearthed in the Thompsons’ front yard, Madsen sent
a note to the Catholic Bishop of Tucson, asking if the church
would accept the remains and have them reburied.
The Catholic Diocese of Tucson readily accepted. The church
has a special place in its All Faiths Cemetery for the remains
of people whose faith cannot be determined, and it’s there that
many of those unearthed in Tucson finally rest in peace.
Moses and Kelly Thompson planned to be there when the
little girl was buried for the last time. They’ve also erected a
shrine on their own property to commemorate her and the
unidentified man — a statue of the patron saint of reunited
families, St. Francis, now graces the site where they lay for all
“You know, the roots of a mesquite tree grew right into the
casket and through the skull and straight down her body,”
Thompson says. “I feel like a part of the girl is in that tree.”
< < < R E S T I N P E A C E < < <
A SAD DISCOVERY Archaeologist J. Homer Thiel unveils his drawing of the
remains of a man and young girl found in an unmarked grave under Moses
and Kelly Thompson’s property. Photograph by Edward McCain
Jana Bommersbach is a longtime contributor to Arizona Highways. She’s
won numerous national magazine awards, and her book, The Trunk
Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd, won the prestigious Don Bolles Award for
38 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 39
A Three decades ago, Leda
and Michael Kahn began
work on Eliphante, their
evolving monument to the
world of visual art. It’s
an unusual compound, to
say the least, but for the
accomplished artists, it
was a dream come true.
Artwork in Progress By Kathy Montgomery • Photographs by Don B. & Ryan B. Stevenson
NO ORDINARY ORGY A smorgasbord of
colors and textures (left) entices visitors to feast
visually at Eliphante, an art environment show-casing
the work of artists Leda and Michael Kahn
in Cornville, 21 miles southwest of Sedona.
40 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 41
VVisit Leda Kahn and you’ll likely find her sitting at the kitchen
table of her Cornville home, a cordless phone and a copy of
The New York Times within reach. A more banal scene is hard
to imagine, except that Leda’s kitchen — refrigerator, sink and
all — sits inside an open-air ramada that hums with the music
of cicadas instead of the drone of air conditioning. Around the
kitchen in all directions stand the whimsical buildings, sculp-tures
and galleries that make up Eliphante, the 3-acre sculptural
village she calls home.
Eliphante unfolds like a dream along the banks of Oak Creek.
Various writers have described the place as an oddity and a work
of art in the tradition of Los Angeles’ famed Watts Towers. Free-form
buildings dot a field of Astroturf scattered with sculptures
of stone and driftwood. At the center stands a subterranean art
gallery called Pipedreams, named for the crown of twisted pipes
rising 30 feet from a curvy roof, dappled in primary colors.
For Leda and her late-husband, Michael, Eliphante repre-sented
a life’s work. Now Leda worries about how to preserve it.
Leda is past 80. Michael, who suffered from Pick’s disease, died
last December. Leda would like to find a way to keep Eliphante
running after she’s gone. Even more, she wants to find a home
for Michael’s paintings, so he’ll be remembered as the great artist
she believes he was.
Eliphante is a monument to art, but it owes as much to the
generosity of nature and the Kahns’ friends. Michael turned
the bounty of driftwood from Oak Creek into sculptures and
mosaics, tunnels and doors. The couple dragged rocks from
nearby washes and fitted them together to form cool, smooth
floors. They troweled rammed earth onto building walls. Gifts
of stained glass and fabric became windows and wall coverings.
Chipped pottery, beads and tapestries encrust the walls like
jewels. The Kahns even embedded the truck they rode in on.
Michael and Leda arrived in Sedona in 1977 with nothing but
an idea. Michael, whose art education included the prestigious
Art Students League of New York, had a vision for seven large
canvases, but no space to paint them in the couple’s cramped
quarters in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Max Ernst drew
inspiration from the famed red rocks of Sedona, and Michael
thought he could, too. So the Kahns built a makeshift camper
on an old flatbed Ford and headed west. They called the truck
Botchy because their friends told them it looked like a botched
job, but it got them where they were going.
They arrived penniless, surviving on food stamps, wanting
nothing more than a place to pitch a tent and plant a vegetable
garden. That’s when they met Bob and Joan Crozier, who were
looking for caretakers for land they owned in Cornville. Michael
and Leda didn’t take the job, but the Croziers let them live on
three acres anyway. The Kahns erected a wooden shack, using
cardboard and old rugs for insulation, and lived in it while
they worked on a permanent home, and they never stopped
The first building was the compound’s namesake, Eliphante,
so-called for its entrance, which rolls outward like an elephant’s
trunk. They used it for musical gatherings. Next came the
vaguely hippo-shaped Hippodome. It was originally meant
to be Leda’s studio, but Michael’s creative impulses took over.
He embedded a mattress into the floor, fashioned a conical
stand-up hot tub, and added a loft, a small office and an indoor
kitchen to use during inclement weather. When it was done,
they moved in.
In 1996, with help from friends David O’Keefe and Michael
Glastonbury, the Kahns broke ground on their most ambitious
undertaking. The new building, Pipedreams, would display “the
They arrived penniless, surviving on food stamps,
wanting nothing more than a place to pitch a
tent and plant a vegetable garden. ”
CREATIVE PARTNERS Leda (above) and Michael Kahn, who died last
December, share a moment in the personal paradise they created at Eliphante.
ENTHUSIASTIC ART Putting all they had into it, the Kahns created
Pipedreams, a serpentine exploration of Michael’s artistic evolution within
2,000 square feet of partially underground space, including a floor-to-ceiling
glass-and-ceramic mosaic (right).
42 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 43
process,” an exhibit of Michael’s paintings that documents his
transition from representational to abstract art. The interior of
the 2,000-square-foot subterranean gallery flows in a circuitous
path leading visitors through intimate, fabric-draped exhibit
spaces highlighting one painting at a time. An assortment of
pillows and orphaned chairs encourages lingering. There are
fabric rainbows, carpet mosaics and stained-glass portals. A
giant tassel hangs near the exit door, which is painted with the
“Maybe. That’s what Michael felt about life,” Leda explains.
“Everything is maybe. There are no expects.”
Living life with no expects hasn’t always been easy. For many
years, the Kahns were poor, and art always took precedence over
comfort. But if the lifestyle has taken its toll on Leda, it doesn’t
show. Though her skin is brown and sun-creased, she looks
younger than her years. Her silver hair remains thick and soft,
and her brown eyes, gentle. Her hearing has begun to fade, but
Leda’s mind remains sharp, thanks, perhaps, to a mostly veg-etarian
diet and the New York Times crossword puzzle.
Michael was diagnosed with Pick’s disease in 2004, a form of
right frontal lobe degeneration for which both cause and cure
are still undiscovered. The disease robbed him of the ability to
communicate. Still, he continued to paint and build, collect-ing
driftwood and rocks during daily walks along Oak Creek
and adding them to the sculptural forms and groundwork at
Preserving that work has been Leda’s toughest challenge.
She’d like an organization like The Nature Conservancy to take
over the property, and she hopes to donate Michael’s paint-ings
to a museum. Her various attempts to secure these ends
fill a binder. Recently, the Provincetown Art Association and
Museum accepted a painting of Michael’s for their permanent
collection: a small victory, but a start.
Despite the hardships, Leda can’t imagine living anywhere
else. When she was a child, one of her favorite books was about
a girl who got stranded on an island. The girl made everything
from the materials that came her way and built a life. Leda
believes her life has turned out like that of the heroine in that
book. “It’s a blessed life,” she says.
Back in the Hippodome, Leda watches the screen of a small
TV as she fast-forwards through a DVD of a French art docu-mentary
to a short segment about Eliphante. Throughout most
of the film, Leda provides the narrative. But in a scene in which
Michael and Leda appear together, Michael says, “Together, we
“I’m not sure what he meant by that,” Leda says. “But it makes
me weep every time.”
Kathy Montgomery is a Mesa-based writer and a regular contributor to
The father-son photo team of Don and Ryan Stevenson have visited num-erous
art galleries and exhibitions, but nothing compares to the unique
open-air setting of Eliphante along serene Oak Creek near Cornville.
Hours: Eliphante is open on a limited basis through Blue
Feather Tours in Sedona. The “Artist Extreme Home” tour
is a four-hour tour that includes a visit to a vortex.
Travel Advisory: Eliphante is best enjoyed alone or with one
or two people. It’s not appropriate for large groups.
Information: 877-733-6621 or BlueFeatherTours.com.
BOLD STROKES To the end of his life, Michael worked in the bold colors
characteristic of his exuberant style (left).
TRUNK SHOW Eliphante’s namesake trunklike entrance (above) leads to a
spacious room the Kahns formerly used for musical gatherings.
NO SWIMMING The Hippodome’s painted-cement floor (below) resembles an
overflowing pond cascading into the kitchen.
BALANCED SCALE A 6-foot-tall balanced-rock sculpture (right) stands in
simple counterpoint to the carved-door exit from Pipedreams (below, right).
CANVAS FRIDGE Caretakers Lonnie Haught and Vicky Kennedy relax in the
outdoor kitchen (below), where even the refrigerator became a canvas.
44 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 45
the dragoon mountains
sit brooding in the distance.
What stories will the rock cas-tles
tell us today? What acts of
magic will they perform?
McCain and I begin our win-ter
venture into this special
range with high expectations.
We’ve been here before, and
know what the experience
offers — choice hiking trails,
fine picnic spots in the shade
of rustling Emory oaks, and
great views from dirt roads
that won’t cause you or your
vehicle to spring a leak.
But the bizarre, creature-like
boulders of the Dragoons
make the experience different
each time, depending on the
weather, the light and how it
hits them, and your own state
of mind. It sounds strange
to say, but the rocks here are
full of personality. They seem
to dance, change shapes and
colors, and even stare down at
you with their granite eyes.
Cochise, the Dragoons’
most famous former resident,
noted their human quality
in a meeting with Arizona’s
Territorial governor. “For a
long time, the only friends
[Cochise] had were the rocks,
and behind them he had
concealed himself, and they
had often protected him from
death by warding off bullets,”
Governor Anson P.K. Safford
The Dragoons stand on a
relatively flat desert plane,
giving travelers a good look at
them on approach. To get to
Stronghold Canyon West, we
choose Middlemarch Road, a
washboard track that begins
north of Tombstone and runs
through mostly flat mesquite
and greasewood desert.
After 9.9 miles, we reach
Forest Service Road 687,
the main access road. It’s a
twisting, northbound roller
coaster that bears deep
slashes from recent rains. The
road, one of the area’s most
scenic, contours the west
side of the Dragoons, cutting
through fields of yellow grass
dotted with yucca plants.
Every change in the after-noon
sun brings us a different
view of the mountains, and
even though FR 687 runs
only 7.3 miles before veering
to the right onto Forest Ser-vice
Road 688 into Strong-hold
Canyon West, the
Dragoons indulge us with
many mood changes in that
Some of the most striking
moods are found at Slavin
Gulch, where the rocks part
to welcome foot travelers.
Hikers love this mysterious
spot, as do photographers.
The road into West Strong-hold
parallels a plank-and-pipe
fence, and in just 3 short
miles, it shows off the full
wonder of the Dragoons. The
rocks tower above us, and
seem to move with the car as
we go deeper into the moun-tains’
The sensation intensifies as
the road narrows, along with
our field of vision, and pretty
soon we’re limited to ghostly
cottonwoods and alligator
junipers scratching at our
doors, and those rocks glow-ering
I point out that it’s like
being stared at by mischie-vous
giants. But McCain is
lost to the horizon. His eyes
have settled upon the spires,
pinnacles and rock domes
above. There’s one in particu-lar.
“Look,” he says, “it’s two
parents and their baby. See,
right up there.”
He’s pointing out two large
standing rocks, with a third
smaller rock leaning against
the other two for support.
Seeing people in the spires’
wild shapes makes an inter-esting
game that visitors have
played for decades.
On our drive, I have with
me an article written in
1964 by Grace McCool. In
the rocks she found a nun in
robes, and “a forever land-locked
shark and a frog with
rounded eyes, among other
I search for the nun, but
she is lost to me. That’s not
surprising, because everyone
by Leo W. Banks photographs by Edward McCain
The Dragoon Mountains of Southeastern Arizona are bizarre and beautiful.
See for yourself — the views from the dirt roads are out of this world.
back road adventure
DRAGOONS’ LAIR The sun sets
peacefully over Cochise Stronghold
(left), the former bulwark of
Chiricahua Apache Chief Cochise,
whose warriors watched from
pinnacles and swooped down on
SLAVIN’ AWAY The Slavin Gulch
Trail (below) starts off bone dry but
drops into a riparian gulch, where
songbirds, coatimundi and coues
deer can be seen among sycamore
and cottonwood trees.
46 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 47
who comes here sees and feels
At the end of the road, we
hike through the catclaw,
manzanita and oak brush
along Forest Trail 279. It leads
us deeper into Cochise’s lair,
the place from which he
watched his beloved home-land
The toughness of the land-scape
provides a kind of tem-plate
to his character. By walk-ing
where he walked, we can
glimpse how he lived, what
he prized and what Western
settlement took from him.
We also can understand
how he held out so long, in this
maze of caves and natural forts
and bulwarks that his enemies
found so impenetrable.
We spend the last part of
the day at Council Rocks,
immediately south of the
West Stronghold road off
Forest Service Road 687K, a
spur of 687. At this spot in
1872, Cochise met to make
peace with O.O. Howard, the
so-called praying general.
The Chiricahua leader
made the best deal he could,
forcing Howard to center a
new reservation on Apache
Pass, rather than in New
Mexico. The reservation
idea didn’t last, but Cochise’s
famous words still echo:
“Hereafter, the white man
and the Indian are to drink of
the same water, eat the same
bread, and be at peace.”
I love pondering the his-tory
made here. McCain’s
interests are more short-term.
As the fading light brings
the Dragoons to even more
vibrant life, his instincts have
gone hyper, and he is racing
down the road, camera and
tripod in hand, trying to beat
the sunset and find the per-fect
spot to photograph.
What must it be like to
make a living chasing light?
But I understand his excite-ment;
everything we could
want is right here with us now.
A jackrabbit bounces
through the brush. The air
turns snapping cold and the
night songs of the coyotes
begin. We watch the rocks
turning rosy in the sunset, a
silver moon hanging above
them, and before long, the
falling shadows will find
every crack and defile, until
the Dragoons go black.
WELL-TRODDEN Middlemarch Pass
(left), the halfway point for military
trekking from Sulphur Springs Valley
to Tombstone, has historically been
trodden by ranchers, miners and
CENTURIES UPON CENTURIES A century plant (a.k.a. agave) spikes the
southern end of the Dragoon Mountains — a deeply faulted limestone-and-granite
range, where the geology reveals ancient floodplains and shifting
layers of the Earth’s crust.
Vehicle Requirements: Four-wheel-
drive is recommended.
A high-clearance vehicle is
probably sufficient for careful
drivers in dry conditions.
Portions of Forest Service
Road 345 are very rocky, as
are portions of Forest Service
Road 688. Although rutted in
places, Forest Service Road 687
is in generally better condition.
Warning: Back-road travel can
be hazardous. Be aware of
weather and road conditions.
Carry plenty of water. Don’t
travel alone, and let someone
know where you are going
and when you plan to return.
Travel Advisory: Forest Service
signs advise travelers to drive
only on marked roads.
Douglas Ranger District,
Forest, 928-364-3468 or
Travelers in Arizona
can visit az511.gov or dial
511 to get information
road closures, construction,
delays, weather and more.
DRAGOON MTS .
San Pedro River
Note: Mileages are approximate.
> From Tucson, drive east on Interstate 10. Take Exit 303 at Benson and
follow State Route 80 almost to Tombstone.
> Just before town, turn left (east) onto Middlemarch Road and drive
9.9 miles to the Coronado National Forest boundary, and the intersec-tion
of Forest Service Road 687 and Forest Service Road 345.
> Turn left (north) onto FR 687, and after 2.8 miles, go to the entry to
Slavin Gulch on the right side of the road.
> Drive 4.5 miles farther north on 687 to its intersection with Forest
Service Road 688.
> Turn right onto FR 688. Follow the steel rail-and-pipe fence into
Stronghold Canyon West. The road ends after 2.9 miles, and drivers
must turn around and retrace their route back to Middlemarch Road.
n For more back-road adventures, pick up a copy of our new book,
The Back Roads. Now in its fifth edition, the book ($19.95) features
40 of the state’s most scenic drives. To order a copy, call 800-543-
5432 or visit arizonahighways.com.
48 a p r i l 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 49
hike of the month
there’s never a sherpa
around when you need one.
And right now, I think I need
one. I’m standing at the head
of South Canyon Trail, and
I’m looking at a route that
drops away steeply.
The first mile of this trail
in the eastern part of Grand
Canyon National Park is the
most difficult — it descends
1,060 feet down a talus slope
that ends at South Canyon’s
stream bottom. At that point,
the hiking gets a little easier.
The trail zigzags across the
streambed, which requires
quite a bit of rock-hopping.
By the time you’re done, it’ll
feel like 2 miles have been
stretched to 6.5 — as if the
Park Service deposited the
trail into a low-yield savings
account and is now trying to
live off the interest.
After reaching the stream-bed,
continue down the can-yon
about 3 miles until you
reach the top of the Redwall
limestone. Here, the path
will lead you up and around
the Redwall narrows on the
north side of the canyon. The
hike concludes with a final
steep descent from the top of
the Redwall limestone to the
I’m pretty tired when I
finally reach the water. I
knew the trail was going to
be difficult, but I also knew
that this small corner of the
Canyon offers some incred-ible
I work as a Grand Canyon
river guide, and I think this is
one of the most beautiful and
historically interesting sec-tions
on the entire Colorado
River. Vaseys Paradise, a fern-shrouded
from the Redwall limestone a
few hundred feet downriver.
Maybe that’s why ancestral
Puebloans used South Canyon
from a.d. 1050 to 1150. By
the way, petroglyphs and a
few ruins on the rock ledge
above the river also can be
After a lengthy nap, I bait
my fishing pole and wade
into the large eddy that
circulates in front of South
Canyon. A hot frying pan,
butter, lemon and herbs await.
Turns out, I’m not the only
one trying to catch his din-ner
this evening. In the cool
air, hundreds of violet-green
swallows and stealthlike bats
swoop and swirl through the
air, catching insects.
Like a lot of trails in the
Grand Canyon, this one isn’t
for novice hikers, but if you
can handle 6.5 miles of chal-lenging
terrain, a fishing pole,
and birds whirling through
the air, then South Canyon is
right up your alley.
by Steven Wesley Law photographs by Elias Butler
ROCK BOTTOM Rocks etched with
petroglyphs stud the riverbanks
(above) along the South Canyon Trail.
Vaseys Paradise (right), named after
a botanist who traveled with explor-er
John Wesley Powell, rewards
weary hikers with a lush cascade of
water and ferns.
If you want to escape the 5 million
people on the South Rim, this small
corner of the Grand Canyon offers
some incredible scenery.
onli n e For more hikes in Arizona, visit our hikes archive at arizonahighways.com.
Length: 6.5 miles one way.
Elevation Change: 2,500 feet.
Payoff: A quiet trail in the eastern part of Grand Canyon National Park.
Location: 67 miles south and west of Page.
Getting There: From Flagstaff, drive north on U.S. Route 89 for 61 miles to
U.S. Route 89A at Bitter Springs. Turn onto U.S. 89A and drive to House Rock
Valley Road (Forest Service Road 8910) at Mile Marker 559 and turn left
(south). Follow this road south approximately 18 miles to Forest Service Road
632 and turn left (east). Drive 1.5 miles, and as you approach the buffalo
ranch, just short of the ranch fence, turn right and drive 1 mile to the South
Warning: The streambed through which you’ll be hiking is prone to flash
flooding, especially during monsoon season. The best time to do this hike is
mid-April to mid-June or mid-September to early November.
Travel Advisory: Permits are required for overnight camping.
Additional Information: 928-638-7864.
MA R B LE C ANYON
House Rock Valley
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.