M A R C H 2 0 0 8
Cycling AZ: 10 of the State's Best Bike Routes
Exposed by Fire
The Coolest Diner
in Metro Phoenix
lupine, verbena …
we've got more blossoms
than Mother Nature.
contents march 2008
Spring is bustin' out all over Arizona. From the mountains
to the valleys, March weather allows for great outdoor
opportunities. Dust off the ol' Schwinn and take it for a
spin using our expanded cycling guide. Along the way,
you might see one of the most beautiful spectacles in the
Sonoran Desert — brightly colored fields of wildflowers.
If the drought stymies the flowers, experience virtual
blossoms through the magnificent photography in this
month’s slide show — all at arizonahighways.com.
WEEKEND GETAWAY March is the prime time
to see Picacho Peak from the saddle.
EXPERIENCE ARIZONA Plan a trip with our
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
the coolest diner in Phoenix, the history of the Cactus
League and the allure of the Hassayampa Inn.
44 BACK ROAD ADVENTURE
Ajo Mountain Drive: Saguaros get most of the attention
in Arizona, but organ pipe cactuses are nothing to scoff
at, and this loop drive offers a great introduction.
48 HIKE OF THE MONTH
Hot Springs Loop: Coatimundis, running water and a healthy
dose of history are just some of the reasons to explore
this Nature Conservancy property in Southern Arizona.
YOU TALKIN’ TO ME? Two curve-billed thrashers bicker atop saguaro
cactus blossoms, Arizona's state flower. Photograph by Bruce D. Taubert
n To order a print of this photograph, see information on opposite page.
FRONT COVER A river of owl clover and Mexican goldpoppies runs riot
through the hills of Saddle Mountain near Tonopah, about 50 miles west
of Phoenix. Photograph by George Stocking
BACK COVER Organ pipe cactus blooms, open for just one night,
attract nocturnal bats to their bright white petals.
Photograph by George Raymond
n To order a print of this photograph, see information on opposite page.
14 Cycling Arizona
Lance Armstrong trained for the Tour de France in
the Santa Catalina Mountains, but you don’t have
to be an elite athlete to hit the road in Arizona.
Whether you ride a Madone 6.9 Pro by Trek or a
Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat and sissy
bar, there’s a road-biking route in this state that’s
just right for you. Ride on. BY CHRISTINE MAXA
22 In Living Color
In Michigan and Massachusetts, April showers
bring May flowers. In the desert, there are
no guarantees. Rain is rare, and without it,
wildflowers are unlikely. That’s where we come
in. Regardless of the weather, our pages come
alive with poppies, clover and verbena — as you’ll
see, we’ve got more color than Mother Nature.
34 Under Fire
In the aftermath of Rodeo-Chediski, the largest
wildfire in Arizona history, silver linings were
inconceivable. A few years later, things are different.
As it turns out, in the process of scorching the
landscape, the blaze unearthed the ruins of a 12th
century ceremonial center — a place that includes
one of the largest known kivas in the Southwest.
BY CRAIG CHILDS PHOTOGRAPHS BY NICK BEREZENKO
40 Judge of Character
Even in the days of Dobson Ranch, Mesa was
never confused with Bedford Falls. Still, there’s
at least one man in town — Judge Hamblen
— who’s a character straight out of a Frank Capra
movie. Homespun, no-nonsense, unorthodox …
that’s how you’d describe this throwback to the
old school. BY KATHY MONTGOMERY
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DON B. & RYAN B. STEVENSON
by Robert Stieve editor’s letter
hippies, coleridge and the
Sonoran Desert. That’s what I think
about when I think about flowers.
Although I had no idea who Alan
Ginsberg was in the late ’60s, I remem-ber
preaching “flower power” to Wally
Elderkin and the other kids at Lake
Delton Elementary. They didn’t listen.
The Coleridge link comes from Youth
and Age, my favorite poem by the
English poet: “Flowers are lovely; love is flowerlike; friendship
is a sheltering tree.” More than anything, though, flowers make
me think about the Sonoran Desert.
As you’ll see in this month’s cover story, there’s nothing more
spectacular than our desert’s annual explosion of wildflowers
— it’s Arizona’s version of the aurora borealis. Unfortunately,
the explosion doesn’t always have a lot of pop. In order for the
flowers to fully erupt, they need a good dose of winter rain.
Fortunately, we did get a couple of inches in early December,
but as I write this column — a week before Christmas — it’s
sunny. Too sunny. Time will tell.
Regardless of the weather, our pages come alive every March
with poppies, lupines, clover, globemallow and verbena, among
others. So, even if Mother Nature lets you down, we certainly won’t.
In all, we feature 12 pages of brilliant landscape photogra-phy
by some of our best contributors — Jack Dykinga, Robert
McDonald, George Stocking. It’s the next best thing to being
there. Of course, if the weather cooperates, you’ll want to get
off the couch and see the flowers in living color, whether you
pile in the Honda or set out on foot. Another good option is to
buy a bike and hit the road.
Turns out, road-biking in Arizona is something special
— flowers or no flowers. As Christine Maxa writes in Cycling
Arizona, “With its rolling hills and soft curves knit with steely
climbs, twitching descents and breathtaking stretches of open
space, Arizona is rife with the classic road-biking topography
that cyclists crave.”
Among those with an affection for our neck of the woods is
Lance Armstrong, who trained for the Tour de France in the
Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. You don’t have to be an
elite athlete, however, to enjoy the state’s back roads. Whether
you ride a Madone 6.9 Pro by Trek or a Schwinn Stingray
with a banana seat and sissy bar, there’s a road-biking route in
Arizona that’s perfect for you.
If you’re a beginner looking for an easy route, the Cactus
Forest Drive in Saguaro National Park is right up your alley.
In addition to the aforementioned wildflowers, this 8-mile
loop offers an up-close look at the park’s namesake, as well as
every other cactus endemic to the Sonoran Desert. At the other
end of the spectrum is the Mining-Country Route, which, as
the name suggests, snakes through Central Arizona’s mining
country — Superior, Globe, Winkelman. “Climb. Climb. Then
climb some more.” According to our writer, that’s how cyclists
from around the world describe this route. Good luck.
Somewhere in the middle is the Mogollon Rim route.
Needless to say, you’ll have to wait until summer for this one,
but it’s worth the wait. The course, which begins in Show Low,
takes you past 40 high-country lakes and a boatload of scenery.
It also passes through the world’s largest stand of ponderosa
pines. The same stand that was hit by the Rodeo-Chediski Fire
If you’ll remember, the fire scorched a half-million acres,
making it the largest wildfire in Arizona history. At the time,
it was hard to imagine a silver lining, but something good did
come out of it. In particular, the blaze cleared oak and manza-nita
underbrush, revealing the ruins of a 12th century ceremo-nial
As Craig Childs writes in Under Fire, “The site, which was
being excavated by a team from the University of Arizona,
turned out to be one of the largest known kivas in the South-west
— a great circular building with a cluster of smaller
rooms gathered on one side.”
It’s more than just another site, however. The discovery also
reinforces the theory that some Puebloan cultures had arsonist
tendencies. Like other ancient sites around the Southwest, this
one had been set ablaze, presumably by the people who lived
there. No one knows for sure why, but a growing number of
researchers think it might have been a kind of cultural signa-ture.
In the same way the hippies used flower power to make a
statement, maybe these people used fire power. Maybe. Maybe
not. This much I know: Their audience had to be more receptive
than the kids at Lake Delton Elementary. They had to be.
— Robert Stieve
MARCH 2008 VOL. 84, NO. 3
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
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Director of Sales & Marketing KELLY MERO
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2 m a r c h 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
has rafted an
in Tibet, played
trombone in the
written a column
for the L.A. Times.
For Under Fire (see page 34), he indulged the
fiery side of his personality. “Maybe I’m a py-romaniac,”
he admits. “I get addicted to wild-fires
and going out with crews.” The lure?
“Fire seems like it has a mind of its own, like
it’s alive.” Inspiration for this story sparked
when Childs joined an archaeological dig to
research his book, House of Rain. It was a
kiva site destroyed by ancient ceremonial fire,
then exposed in the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski
blaze. “I just thought, ‘Fire on fire,’ and that’s
how I got the idea,” he says. During the exca-vation,
Childs wandered through the charred
woodland. “It was like walking through
obsidian statues,” he recalls. “I remember the
sound of the wind groaning through these
black trees.” Childs has written 14 books. His
work has appeared in Outside, Backpacker
and Men’s Journal. A Tempe native who has
spent half his life in Arizona, he now lives off
the grid in Western Colorado.
journey to Ari-zona
up in Chicago,
his mother was
a cleaning lady
whose boss subscribed to Arizona Highways.
When the boss finished reading, he’d toss
the magazine into the trash, and she’d sneak
it home to her family. They fell in love with
the photographs, and eventually moved
to Arizona. While shooting Under Fire (see
page 34), Berezenko found out how difficult
it can be to get those photos. “It was the
assignment from hell,” he says. First, no one
knew where the site was. Through detective
work, he tracked down the site’s name. But
the Forest Service wouldn’t give him direc-tions.
So, he drove on his own to the area, a
charred wasteland littered with tree stumps
that chewed up the bottom of his truck. “It
caused over $1,000 worth of damage,” he
says. He was forced to turn back and hike up,
only to find … nothing. “The archaeologists
had covered the kiva up!” He still managed
to capture spectacular photographs, thanks
to imagination and luck: “There were a lot of
great clouds,” he says.
(see Judge of
40) came to our
a reader called
to gush about a
he’d had in traffic court. Hamblen was
right out of a Capra movie, the caller said. A
real Jimmy Stewart character. Kathy Mont-gomery
took on the assignment and headed
to the West Mesa Justice Court, where she
hoped to sit quietly in the back and observe.
It didn’t work. On the first morning, Hamblen
spotted her and, afraid she’d fallen through
the cracks, asked why she was there. Then he
proceeded to charm her, too. “When writing
a profile, you usually need to spend a lot of
time with your subject, hoping to catch them
in unguarded moments,” Montgomery says.
“But Hamblen laid himself bare from the be-ginning.
His sincerity was disarming.” Mont-gomery
is a former editor and reporter for
The Arizona Republic. She’s lived in Arizona
since 1996, and enjoys watching the sun set
over Weaver Peak with her husband.
When Tom Vezo
ventured out to
Hike of the
Month (see page
48), he had a
vision: to shoot
Mountains reflected in Bass Creek. “I always
have a vision,” Vezo says. “And most of the
time it doesn’t work out.” This hike was no
exception. “I took about 140 pictures, but still
didn’t get anything that excited me,” he says.
Fortunately, this avid birder is tenacious.
“[Photographer] Jack Dykinga and I have this
argument,” Vezo explains. “Jack says, ‘How
can you photograph animals? It takes so much
patience.’ I tell him, ‘Jack, I do both landscapes
and animals, and they’re the same. With land-scapes,
I wait for the light. I’m always
waiting.’” When Vezo hiked out later, the
afternoon light was brilliant. He abandoned his
“creek shot” vision and pointed his camera at
the mountains. Mission accomplished. In
addition to Arizona Highways, Vezo’s photo-graphs
have appeared in National Geographic,
Nature Conservancy and Audubon.
From easy to strenuous,
there are all kinds of
road-biking routes in
Arizona. This month,
we’ll tell you about 10 of
the best. See page 14.
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 m a r c h 2 0 0 8
First Time for Everything
I’m a first-time subscriber, first-time
writer, so bear with me. I just wanted to
say that your magazine is very inspiring
and inviting. What I mean by that is
this: It says, “Get up and come on over
and visit us.” I’ve never been west of
Erie, Pennsylvania. I’m a Native Ameri-can,
of the Seneca Tribe of the Iroquois
Confederacy. I live here in New York
state on the Allegany Indian Reservation.
I’d like to come visit your beautiful state
someday. The photographs, people and
stories of that part of the country are
breathtakingly memorable. There’s just
so much to see and do, I wouldn’t know
where to start. Unbelievable. I plan on
keeping my yearly subscription, and I
thank you very much for publishing
such an exquisite magazine.
Jon Dowdy, Salamanca, New York
I’ve never written a letter to the editor
before, but I was so inspired and moved
by the October issue I felt compelled to
write and give a heartfelt thanks for such
an amazing issue. I felt like every article
and picture was fantastic, and I read it
cover to cover several times throughout
the month. I have relatives who live in
Cottonwood, and they kindly intro-duced
me to your wonderful magazine.
I’ve made several trips to visit them, and
have enjoyed many travels throughout
the northern part of the state. Unfortu-nately,
too much time has passed since
my last visit, so I really enjoyed this
issue in particular. It contained many of
the familiar sites I’ve been missing.
Getting to see the San Francisco Peaks,
my favorite little town of Jerome, and
the view of Cottonwood from Mingus
Mountain was a thrill. I also enjoyed the
article titled The Inner World of Stone. In
all my visits, I’ve never been to the
Petrified Forest, but after seeing the
beautiful photos by the talented Bill
Atkinson, I can’t wait to go. I didn’t
realize how amazing petrified wood is.
In addition, fall is such a beautiful
season, and I love Halloween, so this
issue was also perfect for getting me in
the spirit. I have a busy schedule, but
this issue reminded me of how great fall
is and made me stop and take a moment
to appreciate that. My birthday also falls
in October, so this issue was an unex-pected
and much appreciated birthday
surprise. Thanks again for reminding
me how special Arizona is each and
Lauren Adduci, Loveland, Ohio
Through the Years
I don’t know if it’s of any value to you or
not, but every year I give a calendar to
each of my sons and married grandchil-dren
for their birthdays. I missed one
year and really heard about it. Everyone
loves the photos in your calendar.
Betty Finton, Kingman
editor’s note: Thank you, Betty. Your
support is extremely valuable to us. We’re very
proud of the photography we feature in our
annual calendars, as well as in our books and
magazines. By the way, we’ve recently rede-signed
our Web site and all of our products can
be ordered online at arizonahighways.com.
We’d hate to have you miss another year.
Thrown for a Loop
My husband and I drove to Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument mentioned
in your September issue [Hikes to Write
Home About, page 22]. To our surprise
(and, admittedly, we are Midwesterners),
we were greeted at the door to the
visitors center with a large sign eulogiz-ing
the death of a young ranger there.
Apparently, it’s no longer safe to wander
this area due to the prevalence of drug
runners and illegal aliens. The camp-ground
is closed, and the 52-mile
driving route is closed after the 6-mile
marker. We just drove the 21-mile loop
and enjoyed that. I’m not a political
person, so I’m not writing this to
comment on drugs or immigration
policies, but it’s just kind of sad.
Katherine Gorski, Champaign, Illinois
editor’s note: You’re not alone, Katherine.
According to the National Park Service, the issue
of illegal immigrants is serious, in terms of both
safety and the environment. “Most criminals
operate after dark and in remote areas of the
park,” government officials report. To help
protect visitors, some of the roads in the national
monument have been closed. However, much of
the park remains open, including the scenic loop
drive, which we feature in this month’s Back
Road Adventure; see page 44. For safety tips
and other information, visit nps.gov/orpi.
I recently inherited the family home
here in Barrie, Ontario. While cleaning
the attic of close to a century of accumu-lated
“stuff,” I came across your maga-zine.
To my knowledge, my parents
never traveled to Arizona, but they
obviously enjoyed your magazine and
added it to their “treasures.”
Elaine Smith, Barrie, Ontario, Canada
I awakened for some reason at 5 a.m. to a cold fall morning here in
New England. With a cup of coffee in hand, I opened my December
issue of Arizona Highways. Being mesmerized by the Editor’s Letter, I
began reading from cover to cover. The stories were so moving; the
photography so outstanding that at times I found myself in tears.
Thank you from a sometimes visitor to Arizona and a longtime reader
of Arizona Highways.
Betty Ripsom, Chelmsford, Massachusetts
If you have thoughts or comments about anything in Arizona Highways, we’d
love to hear from you. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or
by mail at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85009. For more information,
Like Chocolate for Water
Taller than Niagara Falls but practically unknown, the Grand Falls of the Little
Colorado River — nicknamed “Chocolate Falls” — flows just east of Flagstaff on the
Navajo Nation. It’s dry most of the year, but in March and April, during the spring
runoff, this cocoa-colored cataract plunges 185 feet n Information: 928-679-2303
6 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 7
a museum, to most people, is a series
of exhibits. To Norma Jean Coulter, it’s an
extended family. Since 1962, Coulter has vol-unteered
at the Heard Museum, guiding tours,
serving as guild president for two years, and
helping foster the museum’s growth from a
family run affair to a world-class destination.
Despite being a history buff, Coulter would
never have guessed she’d devote so much
of her life to the Heard. Born in Tucson, she
studied history at the University of Arizona,
where she met her husband, Rufus, then a
law student. After graduation, they moved to
Phoenix, and it was there that a friend nudged
Coulter into volunteering. “She said, ‘You’re
the wife of a prominent attorney, you have to
get involved,’ ” Coulter recalls.
The friend ushered her around cultural
institutions brimming with sophisticated
ladies dressed to the nines. Their last stop
was the Heard Museum, where, in addi-tion
to the hats-and-gloves entourage, there
were women in Levis and traditional Indian
dresses. Coulter had found her place. “I was
also comfortable there because it was about
history,” she says.
In 1962, the museum looked nothing like it
does today, she says. It was a sleepy little place
where fourth-graders took field trips to ogle
a mummy and a lineup of shrunken heads,
and then they’d buy the “recipe” for shrunken
heads in the gift shop. (Visit today and you’ll
see perhaps the finest collection of Indian
artifacts, jewelry and contemporary art in the
nation, but no shriveled bodies.)
In those days, Coulter and other guild
members traveled around the state scout-ing
out talented native dancers to perform at
events. Now, the best dancers in the country
come to them. Guild members also hosted
Indian artists in their homes. “It was a fam-ily
affair, a bonding experience,” she says.
Though visiting artists now stay in hotels,
the family atmosphere continues. “They’re
still guests in our home,” she says. Home, of
course, being the museum.
As the museum evolved, so did its volun-teers.
“In the ’60s and ’70s, women came to
the museum to help,” Coulter says. “Today,
there’s a tremendous desire for learning.”
Coulter’s own thirst for knowledge and love
of her home state prompted her to join the
Arizona Historical Society, where she served
as president from 2004 to 2006. She also
taught Arizona history and government to
junior high students.
You can still find Coulter volunteering
at the Heard Museum shop, likely wearing
Indian jewelry and Levis. If you do, be sure to
ask her about the early days of the museum’s
fair, when they gave away a burro, or anything
else about Arizona history. “I’m very much an
Arizonan,” she says. “Working at the museum
gives me the chance to showcase and talk
n The 50th annual Heard Museum Guild Indian
Fair & Market takes place March 1-2. For infor-mation,
call 602-252-8848 or visit heard.org.
— Keridwen Cornelius
The Heard Museum is world-renowned,
and for nearly 50 years, Norma Jean
Coulter has been donating her valuable
time to this precious repository.
P E O P L E
C E L E B R I T Y Q & A
1928. a lot happened that year. Walt Disney released
his first Mickey Mouse cartoon. Penicillin was discovered.
And MacAlpine’s, a small pharmacy in Central Phoenix,
opened its doors. The world has changed a lot since then, but
the pharmacy, which became MacAlpine’s Restaurant & Soda
Fountain in 1991, has remained about the same.
Like most old drugstores, Mac-
Alpine’s featured a soda counter,
which, although cracked and rusted,
still stands today. In addition, the
walls are covered with nostalgic pieces,
including a huge Wrigley’s Gum sign
and a Coca-Cola poster; several diner
booths with miniature jukeboxes
complete the vintage feel.
Cary Heizenrader has owned the
restaurant with his wife, Monica,
for seven years. He appreciates the
history of MacAlpine’s, and tries to
incorporate the building’s past into
“A lot of former employees and
customers come in, and they haven’t
seen the place for 15 or 20 years,” he
says. “We haven’t changed anything.”
The couple hopes to hear from oth-ers
who remember the place fondly.
Well-known fans from the past
include Barry Goldwater and his
family, Wayne Newton and Frank
Naturally, the hostesses and serv-ers
dress in retro black-and-white
skirted diner uniforms, designed
with help from Amanda Newsum. If
you’re lucky, you’ll meet Amanda, a
perky waitress who looks like a cross
between Betty Boop and Betty Grable,
with her pinned-up hairdo and a
1940s red polka-dot dress.
The food, like the ambience, is
simple, with several hot and cold
sandwiches and four salads — noth-ing
is more than $8. Standard diner
fare is what MacAlpine’s does best.
The tuna salad sandwich is popular,
and the Mac burger will make you
think twice about ever ordering fast-food
And then there’s dessert — a key part of the MacAlpine’s
experience. The old-fashioned shakes are made with six
scoops of ice cream, and they’re blended in a jadeite-green
Hamilton Beach shake machine.
For a bonus blast from the past, you can browse the
antiques store attached to the diner — look for things like
a 1960s carousel horse and old phone booths. Although
you might leave the shop empty-handed, you won’t leave
MacAlpine’s with an empty stomach. They’ve been making
sure of that for 80 years now.
n MacAlpine’s is located at 2303 N. Seventh Street in Phoenix.
For more information, visit macalpinessodafountain.com or call
602-262-5545. — Hilary Griffith
Now in its 80th year, the coolest soda
fountain in Phoenix is serving ice cream,
burgers and a blast from the past.
R E S T A U R A N T S
by Dave Pratt
AH: If you were making a
solo road trip to Sedona
— no wife, no kids, no
— which would you choose:
Harley-Davidson or Mustang
DH: Without question, I’d
choose the Harley. I’d feel one
with the land on my bike. There
are so many beautiful sites in
Sedona; it would be nice to
have the freedom of the motor-cycle,
to just pull over anywhere,
anytime, to take in the scenery,
without worrying about where
AH: What’s your favorite
place in Arizona and what’s
your favorite memory?
DH: My favorite place, not only
in Arizona, but also in the world,
is Sedona. … I can remember
my wife for
her first visit,
driving her up
out slowly to
near the edge
of the scenic
the look of joy
face when she first set eyes on
the whole valley there.
AH: If you had designed the
new Arizona quarter, what
would you have put on it?
DH: I’d have put the 2001
Arizona Diamondbacks World
Series celebration image on
there ... or the Grand Canyon.
That’s what defines our great
state, and it’s why we have our
name. It’s one of the wonders of
the world, and it deserves a spot
on our currency.
— Dave Pratt is the host of the
“Dave Pratt in the Morning” show
on KMLE 107.9 FM in Phoenix.
8 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 9
“if aladdin had lived in these modern days, he
would not have thought of building a palace, but would have
commanded the genie to transport him and his fair bride to
the Hassayampa Inn.”
That’s what the Journal Miner of Prescott had to say about
the Hassayampa when it opened its doors in November 1927.
High praise, to be sure, but relative to everything else in the
mile-high city, it was a big deal — not unlike the opening
of the Biltmore in Phoenix two years later. No doubt, Grace
Sparkes was all smiles on the day of the Hassayampa’s debut.
Sparkes, who had been a secretary at the chamber of com-merce
in Yavapai County, first pitched the idea of a first-class
hotel in 1919. There was a practical reason, of course — auto-mobiles
were sweeping the nation, and tourists needed a place
to spend the night — but more than that, she envisioned a
palatial point of pride that could offset the seediness of nearby
Whiskey Row. It took awhile, but the town’s civic leaders
eventually embraced the idea and issued the Hassayampa
Hotel Company prospectus, paving the way for what would
become a publicly owned hotel.
A few years later, in 1925, the Prescott Kiwanis Club
appointed a committee to raise funds for the hotel, and Mayor
Morris Goldwater — the uncle of Senator Barry Goldwater
— urged local citizens to invest in the project. In the end, 400
different stockholders purchased thousands of stocks for $1
Today, the four-story Hassayampa is privately owned, and
it’s still impressive. Although the exterior looks more like
something you’d see in one of the Dakotas, the interior is dis-tinctly
Southwest, particularly the lobby, which features an
incredible hand-stenciled, wood-beamed ceiling. It’s gorgeous.
And then there’s the antique furniture, the chandeliers and the
polished Talavera tile. The tile and the chandeliers are origi-nal,
and so is the Chinese-red, hand-operated elevator.
Along with the elegant porte cochere — the covered pas-sageway
into the hotel — the elevator is one of the things
you’ll remember most about the Hassayampa. It’s a link to the
past, and even though it’s probably quicker to take the stairs
to your room, a ride in the elevator is a must.
Either way, the rooms are cozy and furnished with the inn’s
original oak furniture. And thanks to a major renovation a
few years ago, they’re immaculate. Never mind that the floors
are a little uneven, and the hallways tend to creak, that only
adds to the character of the place — a place Sam Peckinpah
used as the setting for Junior Bonner, his 1972 movie starring
Steve McQueen. Like the Hassayampa, Junior Bonner is one
of Prescott’s claims to fame. It didn’t make as much money as
Aladdin, but where would you rather sleep, in a room named
for a guy who carries a lamp, or the Steve McQueen Room?
n The Hassayampa Inn is located at 122 E. Gurley Street in
Prescott. For more information, call 800-322-1927 or visit
hassayampainn.com. — Robert Stieve
When it comes to historic hotels in Arizona, this
one, built two years before the famed Biltmore
Resort in Phoenix, is one of the very best.
L O D G I N G
“All photography is about patterns.”
— Gary Ladd, photographer
march in arizona. The boys of summer have checked
their cleats at spring-training facilities, and preseason baseball
is under way. Agua Fria Freddie, Arizona’s version of Punx-sutawney
Phil, has spied his shadow, and if the winter rains
have been generous, desert wildflowers will be in bloom all
over the place. What better time to break out the camera gear?
Not enough time for a weekend getaway? Not a problem.
Think small — in terms of both time and scope — and con-sider
the intricate and amazing world of macro (close-up)
photography. No kidding, in a space no larger than the face
of your wristwatch, there are entire botanical universes to be
If you’re one of those people who always seem to be on the
go, doing close-up work is an easy way to slow down, settle
in and relax. Photography like this should be kept simple
— think specifically of patterns and design.
Many of the most accomplished landscape photographers
will tell you that upon arriving at an unfamiliar location,
they’ll scan all horizons to get a sense of place. Their next
order of business is to start shooting details. Not wide views
or panoramas, but textures and nuances. By concentrating on
small vignettes, they begin to get a rhythm of the place and
their own photographic vision.
This might sound unnecessary for a working professional,
but it takes time for all photographers to unwind from the
responsibilities of daily life — unfinished reports, a car in the
shop or having the dog’s teeth cleaned. Photographers must
decompress from even these mundane distractions. Literally,
you need to free up your mind in order to focus on image-making.
And one of the best ways to do that photographi-cally
is by concentrating on making close-up images. Why?
Because when done well, this type of photography is uncom-plicated
Start by putting together a small kit with one camera and a
macro lens — or a zoom lens with a macro mode. If you don’t
have either one, there are close-up filters (diopters) that can be
threaded onto the front of existing lenses, allowing you to get
in tight with your subject. This is an affordable and surpris-ingly
sharp option for photographing close-ups. Pack a cable
release and a tripod. Add drinking water, a couple of granola
bars, and you’re ready to explore.
Soft light created by open shade or clouds is the best light-ing
condition for working in close. If it’s sunny, look for sub-jects
that are backlit, because doing so will keep your subject
in soft, even light, allowing for simplicity in composition.
Watch your background, use your tripod and stop down your
lens in order to carry sharp focus throughout. And remember,
the closer you get to a subject (to magnify), the less the depth
of field will be.
Take your time, compose, simplify and be grateful — you’re
out of the office on a beautiful day.
— Jeff Kida, Photo Editor
P H O T O G R A P H Y
If you’re looking for an excuse to
get outside, grab your camera
and a zoom lens, and enter the
world of macro photography.
DAVID H. SMITH
In the two photos above, depth of field is controlled using the aperture, or
opening, of the lens. The image on the left was shot at f-5.6; the one on the
right at f-32. How much to isolate your subject is a personal choice and is
very easy to control.
When shooting close-ups, careful
consideration should be given to the
interplay of composition and depth of
field. On one hand, you want the
critical portions of your subject to be
sharp and in focus. On the other hand,
choosing the amount of detail in the
background can greatly change the feel
and effectiveness of your final image.
This is simply a matter of choice. Try
photographing the same object using
different f-stops. If you are using the
“aperture priority” mode, the camera
will choose the appropriate shutter
speed as you change the lens opening.
With today’s digital technology, you can
then check the LCD on the back of the
camera and choose the image you like.
P H O T O T I P
editor’s note: Look for Arizona Highways
Photography Guide, coming this month. For
more books, visit arizonahighways.com.
For more photography tips and information, visit arizonahighways.com
and click on “Photography.”
In a typical year, the Sonoran Desert comes alive in the spring with a
wave of spectacular wildflowers. Among other things, our March
1958 issue celebrated the state’s unique flora with stories and
photographs of wildflowers, mesquite trees and Arizona’s cotton
y ears ago in arizona highways
T H I S M O N T H I N H I S T O R Y
■ In March 1939, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were
married in a private ceremony in Kingman; they
honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel.
■ On March 15, 1878, Tombstone founder Ed Schieffelin
filed a claim for his Lucky Cuss Mine. He later sold
his shares for $600,000 in what would grow to be a
$40 million operation.
■ As recently as 1945, there were folks in Arizona who
thought the courtroom was no place for a woman,
but on March 8, 1945, the Arizona Senate passed, by
a vote of 15-3, a bill allowing women to legally serve
10 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 11
Throughout Arizona’s deserts, adult sphinx moths pollinate deep-fluted flowers using their
very long tongues, or proboscises, like straws to suck the flowers’ nectar. These insects, also
known as hawk moths, are sometimes called hummingbird moths because of their ability to
fly very fast and hover in flight.
laurence garvie has seen something even the most
devoted desert rat has rarely witnessed. Several years ago, the
mineralogist was caught in a storm in the South Maricopa
Mountains Wilderness south of Phoenix. He thought he’d
weathered the worst of it when a sudden downdraft set a
nearby saguaro swaying. Garvie knew
this 20-foot giant well. For months, dur-ing
research forays into the desert, he’d
noticed a gummy black liquid oozing
from openings in the cactus’ skin. He
knew the plant’s days were numbered.
The wounds signaled that fungi and bac-teria
had begun to attack its moist inner
tissues. Once infected, saguaros turn into
bags of decaying, fetid goo.
“I heard this weird squelching, crack-ing
sound,” Garvie recalls. “The top half
of the saguaro blew down, but its ribs
went flying back up, flinging bits of rot-ten
black flesh all over the desert in a
200-foot radius. The air was filled with a
putrefying sweet smell. It was quite spec-tacular.”
Garvie, a faculty research associate in
the School of Earth & Space Exploration
at Arizona State University, has become
something of an authority on dead sagua-ros.
Turns out, saguaros are as valuable to
the desert dead as they are alive.
Composed of up to 90 percent water,
the flesh of a newly downed saguaro
forms what Garvie calls an “organic moist
soup that’s teeming with life.” Scientists
at the University of Arizona, for example,
dissected 1 cubic foot of rotting saguaro
and found 413 arthropods, larval flies,
pseudo-scorpions and mites.
In addition, Garvie started noticing
chunks of bone-colored material, as light
and porous as pumice, heaped around the
bare woodlike ribs of saguaro remains.
“Since I’m a mineralogist, I asked myself, ‘What is this?’ I
remember collecting a piece … and subjecting it to powder
X-ray diffraction [a method geologists use to identify miner-als].”
The material was composed of an unusual form of cal-cium
carbonate called monohydrocalcite — a mineral never
before found in Arizona.
The discovery isn’t likely to cause a mining stampede to the
state, but that won’t stop Garvie from prospecting for more
scientific discoveries. “I’ve found that the desert is just burst-ing
with research opportunities,” he says. “Every time I go out
there, I find something new.” — Adleheid Fischer
They All Fall Down
Despite their sheer size and seniority, even
saguaros eventually die, and when they do,
another world comes to life.
N A T U R E
the story of spring
training in Arizona begins,
appropriately, with a pitch.
It was 1946, and Cleveland
Indians owner Bill Veeck
was frustrated with Florida’s
spring-training scene. Segre-gation
laws prevented mixed-race
games, and the Indians’
new black player, Larry
Doby, was forced to stay in a
separate hotel. In addition,
crowds were sparse and rain
regularly canceled games.
Veeck wanted to transfer
to Tucson, where he owned
a ranch, but he knew his
team needed competition.
So, he pitched an idea to
Horace Stoneham, owner of
the New York Giants: “Me,
Tucson, you, Phoenix?”
Thus sprouted the first
seeds of the Cactus League.
The Indians and Giants
were happy with the
Grand Canyon State (with
the Giants leaving for two
years, only to return), but
it wasn’t until 1952 that
another team from
League would join
them, and only after
a fortuitous chain
In 1951, the New York
Yankees were co-owned by
Phoenix developer Del
Webb. Eager to be close to
his team, Webb asked
Stoneham to swap spring-training
sites for one year,
bringing the Yankees —
including Joe DiMaggio and
Mickey Mantle — to
Phoenix, while the Giants
shifted to Florida.
That move enticed Philip
Wrigley, owner of the Chic-ago
Cubs, to ship his team
from Catalina Island in Cali-fornia
to Phoenix for exhibi-tion
games against the Yanks.
Wrigley loved — and owned
— most of Catalina Island,
but his team was essentially
marooned from competition,
so he’d been on the lookout
for a mainland site.
Meanwhile, Mesa rancher
and builder Dwight W. Pat-terson
formed a group called
the HoHoKams, which was
determined to recruit a
major league team to Mesa’s
Rendezvous Park. Webb and
Patterson joined forces to
connect the Cubs with Mesa.
Upon seeing the park, Wid
Matthews, the Cubs director
of player personnel, declared,
“This is it.”
Rendezvous Park was
demolished in 1976 and later
reborn as HoHoKam Park.
Its field was eventually
named for Patterson, whom
many consider the Father of
Cactus League Baseball.
Over the years, those
original teams experienced
a series of changes. The
Cubs were based in Mesa for
14 years, left for a short stop
in California and a long
stretch in Scottsdale, and
then headed back to Mesa in
1979. The New York Giants
morphed into the San Fran-cisco
Giants and moved to
Scottsdale Stadium. The
Indians migrated to Florida
in 1993 to be closer to their
fan base. In addition, several
other ball clubs switched
between the Grapefruit and
Cactus leagues and traded
stadiums within Arizona.
Now boasting nine teams
in Metro Phoenix and three
in Tucson, the Cactus League
is blooming, with atten-dance
topping 1.2 million in
2007. And those numbers
are likely to grow when Joe
Torre and his Los Angeles
Dodgers, as well as the
Cleveland Indians, make the
switch to Arizona in 2009.
Let the games begin.
— Keridwen Cornelius
Spring training has been a hit in the Grand Canyon
State for more than 60 years, and it all began with
one of baseball’s great innovators.
H I S T O R Y
Hall of Famer Ernie Banks (left) played his entire career (1953-1971) with the
Chicago Cubs. Photograph courtesy of Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau
it’s not a historic mis-sion,
and the birds aren’t as
famous as the swallows of
San Juan Capistrano, but
Arizona’s version of a natu-ral
mystery takes place this
month at Boyce Thompson
Arboretum State Park. On
March 22, the annual
Welcome Back Buzz-ards
the park’s resident
flock of turkey vultures as
they return from their winter
grounds in Mexico. Early
birds will get the best views.
Be there from dawn until
around 9 a.m.; after that, the
vultures leave their cliffside
perches to soar above the des-ert
in search of carrion.
n Information: 520-689-2811.
Birds of a
12 m a r c h 2 0 0 8
If your tastes run more to T-birds
than war birds, don’t miss Yuma’s
Midnight at the Oasis Festival
March 2-4, featuring more than
900 vintage vehicles —
everything from Model T’s
to muscle cars. Filling four
baseball fields, the display
gives classic-car buffs a chance to
drool over their dream machines.
n Information: 928-343-1715 or
it’s massive, it’s menacing and it’s a mystery.
The strangest dinosaur skeleton ever discovered
in the United States comes from a 13-foot-tall, 1-ton, sickle-clawed
and feathered creature that roamed the Southwest (as
well as China and Mongolia) 93 million years ago. In 2000,
paleontologists from Flagstaff’s Museum of Northern Arizona
excavated a complete therizinosaur skeleton in southern Utah,
giving them clues about this prehistoric animal’s life on Earth.
Named for its most striking feature — three enormous claws
on each front foot — the dinosaur raises more questions than
it answers. The museum’s exhibit, Therizinosaur: Mystery of
the Sickle-Claw Dinosaur, allows visitors to learn about one of
science’s most bizarre dinosaurs by examining a freestanding
skeleton cast from the animal’s original bones, the genuine
93 million-year-old bones, and scientific illustrations created
by artist and guest curator Victor Leshyk.
n Information: 928-774-5213 or musnaz.org.
Some folks think the word cow-boy
is more about what you do
than who you are. And that’s the
spirit at the National Festival of
the West celebration
in Chandler. Join the
13-18 as Rawhide at Wild Horse
Pass presents the best of the
Old West. The festival includes
a Western music jamboree, a
Western film festival, a chuck-wagon
cook-off, a Western trade
show featuring 200 vendors,
cowboy poetry, square dancing
and more. Kids can learn about
the history of the West, including
the role of Arizona’s 9th Cavalry
Buffalo Soldiers and Mountain
Men — there will be demonstra-tions
featuring authentic clothing
from the 1800s.
n Information: 602-996-4387 or
TERRY L. EMIG
If you’d like to learn from the best
professional photographers in the
business, sign up for one of the
many photography workshops
conducted by the Friends of
n Information: 888-790-7042 or
T H I N G S T O D O
cessnas, pipers and
Swifts, as well as mono-planes,
biplanes, war birds
and historic World War II
training aircraft will fill the
skies above Casa Grande
March 7-8 during the
Arizona Antique Aircraft
Association’s 50th Annual
Cactus Fly-In. Considered
one of the premier avia-tion
events of the
season, the fly-in
of antique, classic, rep-lica
and homebuilt aircraft,
all of which offer enthusiasts
a look at aviation’s history
n Information: 520-836-7447
Offer expires March 31, 2008. Use item code #APGS7. Shipping and handling not included.
You can also visit our retail location at 2039 W. Lewis Avenue in Phoenix.
Our newest book brings together 14 of our
most respected photographers — seasoned
veterans who share their tips, techniques
and favorite Arizona locations.
Learn From the Best
Photography Tip #71
Order now and save 10% off the retail price of $24.95. (Use promo code 583)
Visit arizonahighways.com or call 800-543-5432.
Using contrasting colors to create
excitement is an effective technique
in photography. In this case, the red of
the kayak jumps out of a cobalt-blue
sky reflected in the water. The colors
are natural opposites that act as yin
and yang compositionally.
14 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 15
PEDAL METTLE Mount Lemmon
Highway presents a 6,203-foot
elevation gain through seven
life zones to challenge cyclists
undaunted by the 30-mile
endurance test from Tucson
to Summerhaven. Photograph
by Edward McCain
Lance Armstrong trained for the Tour de France in the Santa Catalina Mountains,
but you don’t have to be an elite athlete to hit the road in Arizona. Whether you
ride a Madone 6.9 Pro by Trek or a Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat and sissy
bar, there’s a road-biking route in this state that’s just right for you. Ride on.
By Christine M axa
PEDAL METTLE Mount Lemmon
Highway presents a 6,203-foot
elevation gain through seven life
zones to challenge cyclists
undaunted by the 30-mile
endurance test from Tucson to
Summerhaven. Photograph by
16 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 17
HHiking is a big deal in Arizona. And rightfully so — few places
offer the kind of diversity that’s found in the Grand Canyon
State. Turns out, cycling is something special, too. With its
rolling hills and soft curves knit with steely climbs, twitching
descents and breathtaking stretches of open space, Arizona is
rife with the classic road-biking topography that cyclists crave.
Indeed, the sight of cyclists clad in bright Lycra is increasing as
word gets out that Arizona has some of the best routes in the
And there’s something for everyone, from the mountains that
provide training for cyclists competing in the Tour de France
and its rival, the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur; to the state’s
high-spirited and scenic blue highways, where resident cyclists
spend their weekends; to the mild-mannered bike paths where
families get a chance to enjoy the outdoors and catch a glimpse
of the state’s grandeur.
“I guess it doesn’t matter if you race and are addicted to that
sound when the pack is working in perfect sync, or if you cycle
alone on a Sunday morning and celebrate each peak,” says Dan
Reeves, a former Phoenix racer who now leads Elderhostel bicy-cle
tours. “Cycling gets into your soul.”
What follows are 10 of the state’s best places to feed your
road-cycling soul. There are other great routes, of course, but
this should be enough to get you rolling.
NORTH RIM PARKWAY
SUNSET CRATER LO OP
ROBERT G. MCDONALD
LES DAVID MANEVITZ
RATING THE ROUTES
Easy/Beginner: Generally flat terrain; manage-able
Moderate/Intermediate: Hill climbs, curves or
moderate traffic; comfortable for cyclists with
Difficult/Experienced: Steep climbs, mountainous
terrain and blind spots; for experienced cyclists
looking for a challenge.
North Rim Parkway
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon gets a fraction of the
crowds that flock to the South Rim, but that’s only part of the
allure. The North Rim also offers one of the state’s best road-biking
routes. The Kaibab Plateau-North Rim Parkway (State
Route 67) is lined with aspen-fir forests, spectacular meadows,
gentle hills and plenty of wildlife. Plus, the route is all downhill
on the way back. No wonder Flagstaff cyclist Frank Loro calls
it “one of the seven wonders of the cycling world.”
Length: 45 miles, one way
Elevation Gain: 2,175 feet
Elevation Descent: 1,870 feet
Peak Season: May-October
Nearest Town: Jacob Lake
Getting There: The cycling route begins at Jacob Lake. From
there, ride south on State Route 67.
Keep in Mind: A $20 entrance fee is required to drive into
the national park; $10 for individuals on bicycles. The road
closes at the first snowfall (sometime after October 15) and
reopens May 15.
Information: 928-643-7298, nps.gov/grca or fs.fed.us/r3/kai
Sunset Crater Loop
One of the San Francisco Lava Field’s most infamous erup-tions
— the blast that created Sunset Crater — happened along
this route. Riding from south to north, the route begins in a
pine forest separated by meadows that fill with wildflowers
in August. Within a few miles, Sunset Crater comes into view,
followed by the lava flows, which blacken the landscape. Next,
a descent of a few thousand feet takes you into the lap of the
Painted Desert, where ancient Sinaguan people built homes in
a place we call Wupatki. This route, with its incredible panora-mas
and cultural history, is a favorite of veteran Tucson cyclist
Richard Corbett, who prefers riding the route from north to
south. “It’s just plain fun,” he says.
Length: 46-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 3,076 feet
Elevation Descent: 3,073 feet
Peak Season: May-October
Nearest Town: Flagstaff
Getting There: From Flagstaff, drive north
on State Route 89 for approximately 13 miles to
the signed turnoff for Sunset Crater National
Monument. The cycling route begins at Sunset
Crater National Monument’s visitors center and leads
to Wupatki National Monument and back again.
Keep in Mind: There’s an entrance fee of $5, which is good
for seven days at both monuments.
Information: 928-526-0502 or nps.gov/sucr
Iron Springs Road
Nicknamed the Back Road to Prescott, this scenic road-biking
route starts in the ponderosa-pine area of Prescott
National Forest, glides past giant boulders near Granite
Mountain, then twists and turns down to the high-desert
floor in scenic Skull Valley. The second half of the route winds
through a series of volcanic-tuff hoodoos near Kirkland, where
masons quarried the material to make the blocks used to build
the state capitol in Phoenix.
Length: 26 miles, one way
Elevation Gain: 1,296 feet
Elevation Descent: 2,565 feet
Peak Season: March-May; September-November
Nearest Town: Prescott
Getting There: From Gurley and Montezuma streets in
downtown Prescott, drive north on Montezuma Street to a
parking area at Milepost 215 on Iron Springs Road. The cycling
route begins at Iron Springs Road, heading west.
Keep in Mind: You can return to Prescott from Kirkland, or
(if you have strong climbing legs) you can turn left (east) onto
Thompson Valley Road, go 4 miles to Kirkland Junction, and
then turn left (north) onto State Route 89 and pedal 16 steep
mountain miles to the route’s high point, and then coast the
last 5 miles to Prescott.
Information: 928-443-8000 or fs.fed.us/r3/prescott
18 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 19
Sedona to Jerome
Starting in Sedona, this scenic ride winds past the beau-tiful
Dry Creek Canyon area in Red Rock-Secret Mountain
Wilderness. As it heads west, picking up the state-designated
Jerome-Clarkdale-Cottonwood Historic Road, the route tra-verses
an impressive stretch of open space — former range-land
for the cowboys who gathered along the Verde River near
Cottonwood. From there, the route joins the same route that
is part of Arizona’s three-day, 325-mile-long “Answer to the
Challenge” endurance event. Phoenix-area cyclist Tom Baker,
one of the masterminds of the Challenge event and a repeat
participant in France’s Paris-Brest-Paris event (750 miles in 70
hours), knows how tough this segment can get as it climbs from
the Verde River in Cottonwood up to Jerome. “Besides having
enough food and water, you have to plan how you’re going to
feel,” he explains. The demanding climb eventually takes you
into Jerome on a segment of road as capricious as the old ghost
Length: 29 miles, one way
Elevation Gain: 2,424 feet
Elevation Descent: 1,793 feet
Peak Season: March-June; September-November
Nearest Towns: Sedona, Jerome, Cottonwood, Clarkdale
Getting There: From the “Y” intersection at State Route 179
and State Route 89A in Sedona, the route heads west on State
Keep in Mind: The 4-mile stretch outside of Jerome requires
experience with narrow and steep grades.
Information: 928-301-1134 or vvcc.us
Traveling across the eastern end of Arizona’s 2,000-foot-high
Mogollon Rim gives an idea of just how lazy and lovely life gets
in the state’s high country. This route goes from Show Low to
40 high-country lakes in as many miles. It also passes through
the world’s largest stand of ponderosa pines near the twin
towns of Pinetop-Lakeside; through pristine conifer forests
with a matrix of aspens on White Mountain Apache lands; past
Greer, one of Arizona’s treasures, as designated by Governor
Janet Napolitano; and on to Springerville, which has a history
as one of the state’s wildest towns. The wide shoulder, moderate
hills and cool summer weather will likely be enough to entice
you to hang around an extra day or two to explore the handful
of shorter routes that branch off along the highway.
Length: 59 miles, one way
Elevation Gain: 3,090 feet
Elevation Descent: 2,329 feet
Peak Season: May-October
Nearest Towns: Show Low, Springerville
Getting There: From the intersection of State Route 260
and State Route 77/U.S. Route 60 in Show Low, ride east on
Keep in Mind: Beyond McNary, you’ll find countryside with-out
services. A permit is required when off-roading on White
Mountain Apache Reservation land.
Information: 928-368-5111 or fs.fed.us/r3/asnf
Of all the roads that lead to the state’s desert lakes, this is the
most bicycle-friendly because of its designated bike lane along
the first 6 miles. The desert scenery on this route includes
stunning panoramas and unique peaks. A pleasing pungency
wafts from the riparian forest along a segment of the Salt River,
and the climb out from the Salt River drainage offers plenty of
kick for cyclists. Even beginners can handle the first half. The
second half — a little brash, sometimes nerve-jangling, but
always beautiful — winds along the Goldfield Mountains, past
Saguaro Lake, and then up to the Beeline Highway (State Route
87) for even more dramatic panoramas.
Length: 15 miles, one way
Elevation Gain: 1,068 feet
Elevation Descent: 490 feet
Peak Season: October-March
Nearest Town: Mesa
Getting There: From Phoenix, go east on State Route 202
and turn left (north) on Higley Road. From there, go 0.2 miles,
turn right (east) onto Thomas Road and continue 1 mile to
Bush Highway. The route begins on Bush Highway, riding
Keep in Mind: The first 6 miles have a designated bike lane.
Information: 602-225-5200 or fs.fed.us/r3/tonto
“Climb. Climb. Then climb some more.” That’s how cyclists
describe this route. The topography, as hard-bitten as the his-toric
characters who traveled it (Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp
and Billy the Kid), draws cyclists from around the world for
the Mining Country Metric Century event that crosses the
stunning, but demanding, mountain terrain. The route snakes
through Central Arizona’s mining country with curves, swerves,
dips and climbs from start to finish. With an 11-percent climb
nicknamed “the end of the world,” and several drops down 10-
percent grades, this ride is anything but entry-level.
Length: 68 miles, round-trip
SEDONA TO JEROME
BURN’S REWARD A view of
Capitol Butte rewards bikers
willing to burn their quads
during a brief-but-strenuous
1.25-mile uphill pedal on
Sedona’s Airport Road.
Photograph by Nick
ROBERT G. MCDONALD
20 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 21
SKY ISLAND BYWAY
Elevation Gain: 6,322 feet
Elevation Descent: 5,409 feet
Peak Season: October-April
Nearest Towns: Superior, Globe
Getting There: From Globe, drive 2 miles east on State Route
70 and turn right (south) onto State Route 77. The cycling route
begins on State 77, heading south to Winkelman; at Winkelman,
ride north on State Route 177 to Superior.
Keep in Mind: You can cycle a complete loop starting and
ending in Globe, which adds 28 miles and 700 feet in elevation
gain to the trip.
Sky Island Scenic Byway
The longest climb in the state — and the most glamorous
— usually lands on the list of challenging routes for hardcore
road cyclists. This scenic byway travels through seven life
zones, from the saguaro-studded desert up to the cool aspen-fir
forests, and along the way displays the same vegetation seen
on a 3,000-mile ride from Mexico to Canada. The scenery and
consistent 5-percent grade lure some of the world’s best cyclists,
including Lance Armstrong, who used this route to train for
the Tour de France.
Length: 27 miles, one way
Elevation Gain: 6,203 feet
Elevation Descent: 1,125 feet
Peak Season: May-October
Nearest Town: Tucson
Getting There: From Tucson, drive east on Tanque Verde
Road, and turn left (north) onto the Catalina Highway. The bik-ing
route begins here, heading north on the Catalina Highway
to the national forest boundary, where the road becomes
General Hitchcock Highway.
Keep in Mind: Temperatures can be up to 30 degrees cooler
in the upper reaches of the route. Take rain gear
from mid-July through mid-September.
Information: fs.fed.us/r3/coronado or
Located in the middle of Southern Arizona’s
nowhere, where jaguars skulk through watered can-yons
and pronghorn antelopes browse in seductive
rolling grasslands, this route has the kinds of rollers
and curves that cyclists dream about. Rows of cot-tonwoods
along streams, oak groves on hillsides,
and misty mountains in the distance evoke poetry.
Even the three-block-long town of Arivaca answers
cyclists’ prayers with a coffeehouse that roasts its
own coffee every week, a bakery with fresh-baked
sweets, and street vendors doling out homemade
Length: 22 miles, one way
Elevation Gain: 966 feet
Elevation Descent: 410 feet
Peak Season: October-April
Nearest Towns: Arivaca, Tucson
Getting There: From Tucson, drive 31 miles south on
Interstate 19 to Exit 48. The cycling route begins here, on
Arivaca Road, heading west.
Keep in Mind: The road’s dips and curves present blind
spots that require caution.
Information: 520-393-7433 or gvbikehike.com
Cactus Forest Drive
Saguaro National Park, because of its namesake cactus, is
one of the most beautiful places in Arizona. It’s also noted for
its unique road-biking route. The route — short, sweet and
scenic — draws beginners and seasoned cyclists year-round.
Generally level, except for the sudden plummet to the desert
floor during mile No. 1 and a mile-long climb midway through
the route, this ride offers plenty of opportunities to gawk at the
gorgeous outlay of cactuses. Keep an eye on the road, though.
All of these cactuses have prickly dispositions — a spill will
stick with you, in more ways than one.
Length: 8-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 430 feet
Elevation Descent: 427 feet
Peak Season: October-April
Nearest Town: Tucson
Getting There: From East Broadway Boulevard in Tucson, go
southeast on Old Spanish Trail for 4 miles to the national park
entrance, where the route begins. At the signed Cactus Forest
Drive, turn left and head north on the loop.
Keep in Mind: The park is open from 7 a.m. until sunset
daily. There’s a $3 charge for cyclists to enter.
Information: 520-733-5153 or nps.gov/sagu
C ACTUS FOREST DRIVE
Christine Maxa is a longtime contributor to Arizona Highways. Her latest
book, Cycling Arizona: The Statewide Road Biking Guide, is available at
bookstores or amazon.com.
LES DAVID MANEVITZ
22 m a r c h 2 0 0 8
In Michigan and Massachusetts, April showers
bring May flowers. In the desert, there are no guarantees.
Rain is rare, and without it, wildflowers are unlikely.
That’s where we come in. Regardless of the weather,
our pages come alive with poppies, clover and
verbena — as you’ll see, we’ve got more
color than Mother Nature.
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 23
24 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 25
BLOOMS WITH A VIEW
The claretcup hedgehog cactus (preceding panel),
so-called for its Bordeaux-tinted blossoms and prickly
pudginess, has edible fruits that Indians make into
sweets. Photograph by George Raymond
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
Strawberry hedgehog, buckwheat and beavertail
prickly pear blooms (left) — peaking around late-March
to mid-April — punctuate the foothills northwest
of Kingman. Photograph by Robert McDonald
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
PRICKLY IN PINK
A thistle blooming in the Tucson Mountains looks frilly and
feminine (below), but it’s spiked with spines from stem to leaf.
Photograph by Gill C. Kenny
Although it has seven letters, drought is a
four-letter word in Arizona. It exacerbates the
fire season, it dries up the reservoirs and it
wreaks havoc on wildflowers. Without win-ter
rain, an explosion of flowers in the spring
is a long shot. At press time, we had no idea
how much rain we’d get — if any. Therefore,
we weren’t in a position to tell you about the
best places to go looking for Arizona’s version
of the aurora borealis. By the time you read
this, though, we’ll have a much better idea. If
you’ll visit arizonahighways.com, we’ll give you
the latest on this year’s wildflower season. For
additional information, call the Desert Botan-ical
Garden at 480-941-1225, or visit dbg.org.
26 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 27
OVER THE RAINBOW
The rainbow cactus flower (above) brightens the grasslands
and mountains of Southern Arizona from June to August.
Photograph by Gill C. Kenny
Yellow brittlebush flowers complement purple owl clover
(below), whose modified spiky purple leaves, called bracts,
intermingle with magenta-and-purple blooms dabbed with yolk-colored
spots. Photograph by George Stocking
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Desert globemallow (right), which flowers year-round in lower
elevations, adds rays of orange to a haze of spring-blooming
purple verbena in the Four Peaks area. Photograph by Paul Gill
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
28 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 29
Purple owl clover and yellow brittlebushes — both
prolific in March and April — reach for the
sky in Alamo Lake State Park.
Photograph by Kirk Owens
30 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 31
In the foothills near Cave Creek, a stand of yellow and pink Mexican goldpoppies
(left) furl when a cloud conceals the sun. Photograph by Jerry Sieve
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
One of the most anticipated spring wildflowers, the Mexican goldpoppy (right)
works its alchemy in the Sonoran Desert beginning in mid-February.
Photograph by Chuck Lawsen
Floral textures and colors are juxtaposed in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
(below): a spiny barrel cactus, delicate indigo lupines, champagne-tinted chollas
and canary-colored brittlebushes. Photograph by Jack Dykinga
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
32 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 33
SPRING TO LIFE
Sometime between February and May, the stark Cabeza Prieta
National Wildlife Refuge (left) luxuriates in a blanket of dune
evening primroses and fuchsia sand verbena.
Photograph by Jeff Snyder
n To order a print of this photograph, see page 1.
LITTLE WHITE LIE
It looks like a different species, but these pearl-colored flowers (right)
are actually Mexican goldpoppies. Photograph by Gill C. Kenny
ALONG CAME A SPIDER
After a rain shower, a small spider (below) clings to a Mexican
goldpoppy with a single strand of web connected to an adjacent
bloom. Photograph by Greg Binon
34 m a r c h 2 0 0 8
A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 35
UNDER FIRE In the aftermath of Rodeo-Chediski, the largest wildfire in
Arizona history, silver linings were inconceivable. A few years
later, things are different. As it turns out, in the process of
scorching the landscape, the blaze unearthed the ruins of a
12th century ceremonial center — a place that includes one of
the largest known kivas in the Southwest.
BY CR AIG CHILDS
Remains of the Day Charred tree trunks
loom above Cline Point in the aftermath
of the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY NICK BEREZENKO
36 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 37
n the powdery
remains of the Rodeo-
Chediski Fire, eight people
walked up a trail carrying survey
equipment and digging gear. Gray dust
from the largest wildfire in Arizona history
puffed up from every step, drifting knee-high like mist, coating
The fire had come through the summer before, in 2002, the
result of two simultaneous wildfires converging and racing
northward over the crest of the Mogollon Rim. One was started
by a firefighter looking for work; the other by a woman lost in
the woods who touched off a signal fire in the ponderosas. In
their wake was a landscape of soft ash and glittering black trees.
The trail topped out on a hill looking north toward dry
Navajo and Hopi country, and south to the charred infinity of
the Mogollon highlands. There, everyone set down his load and
went to work. The blaze had cleared oak and manzanita under-brush,
revealing the ruins of a 12th century ceremonial center.
The site, which was being excavated by a team from the
University of Arizona, turned out to be one of the largest known
kivas in the Southwest — a great circular building with a cluster
of smaller rooms gathered on one side.
In these ruins, workers found evidence of a fire that had
burned through this compound 800 years ago. Old flecks of
plaster and wall-stones were brightly discolored red and yellow
where they’d been oxidized by intense heat. On the floor of a
trench was a nest of charcoal and burned timbers where a ceil-ing
had collapsed in a shower of sparks and flame. The remains
of the fire and the remains of the people who lived here were so
closely intermingled that it appeared the residents were present
for the blaze.
At the time that Neolithic Pueblo cultures dominated the
Southwest, Central Arizona was a burgeoning population core.
I often wonder if these ancient people saw elemental forces
the same way we do now. Has yelling FIRE! always sent panic
straight into the blood?
As I explored the remains of the long-ago fire, I pictured
flames sputtering through dry ceiling wood, smoke billowing
into rooms. Were people running, shouting for each other, par-ents
racing out doorways with babies tucked to their chests? Did
they all stand outside, their faces sweating in yellow light the
way we might now gather around a house burning hopelessly
to the ground?
The dirt was now cool
where I crawled along a
trench looking for charcoal.
I lifted my head as dust devils
spun across the hilltop, creaking the
surrounding dead trees.
There’s a good chance this ancient fire was arson, and that
people were not caught unaware. Similarly burned sites have
been found all across the Southwest; sites where buildings were
set ablaze, stores of corn melted into black masses, pottery
scorched. Experiments have proved that it’s difficult to touch off
a pueblo. Only the ceilings are made of wood, and fires are easy
to contain within rooms, so it must have taken some premedita-tion
to get things burning.
This possibility is a point of much debate among archaeolo-gists.
Some believe fires were a result of warfare or household
accidents — sparks getting out of kitchen hearths, invaders
running through rooms with torches, or even conflagrations
set by residents themselves at the approach of raiders, the same
way Russians once burned their own villages as Napoleon’s
army drew near.
A growing number of researchers believe these fires were
more than accidents or violence. They say the fires were a kind
of cultural signature — a way in which the ancient people
closed their doors behind them. They believe it might have
been a sacred act to burn your house as you left.
T he ancient Southwest was a land of mobility. People fre-quently
abandoned entire pueblos and towns to build
elsewhere. Responding to sharp climatic fluctuations, pre-
Columbian farmers regularly moved in search of better grow-ing
weather. Rarely did they stay in one place for more than 50
years. After a thousand years of living in this fashion, no doubt
a culture as regimented and religious as the Pueblo culture came
up with a way to sanctify their departures. Many archaeologists
believe they did this with fire.
It’s hard to find a large archaeological site in the Southwest
that was not burned at some point — usually at the end of its
Fiery Fury Flames race through the forest near Show Low (above).
Left Behind A burned-out tree (right) frames the devastation caused by the
2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which charred more than 460,000 acres of forested
land and killed millions of trees.
38 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 39
occupation. Dr. William Walker of New Mexico State University
says that up to 70 percent of all early pit-houses were burned
to the ground. “Once I saw that,” he explains, “I began to look
at other contexts later in time [than pit-houses], and I saw the
tradition was carried on. Sometimes you see entire pueblos
burned. I think they treated these burnings like burials for a
pueblo — a funeral, in a sense.”
I’ve heard from several prominent archaeologists around the
Southwest who share this notion. One showed me the burned
remains of a kiva floor in the Four Corners area. Buried beneath
ash and charcoal lay a large ceramic bowl turned upside-down.
When the archaeologist lifted the burned bowl, she found small
baskets containing piles of ground corn.
Some argue that this is evidence of people fleeing suddenly,
leaving their goods in place as an unexpected blaze took their
pueblo. The woman who showed me the piles of cornmeal,
however, saw more than just goods in place. She saw offerings.
Everything about the kiva floor seemed carefully arranged, as if
people had set out jars and ladles in a special way — contribu-tions
to the fire they were about to set before migrating out of
Sometimes the fires seem related to the nature of the particu-lar
use of the structures that are burned. One glaring example is
Point of Pines Sites, a series of ancient pueblos located north of
what is now Safford. During the 13th century, Point of Pines was
a site of mixed ethnicities with a group of northern migrants —
whom some now call Anasazi — living in their own compounds
within a pueblo that belonged primarily to Mogollon people.
The migrants stayed for 30 years, keeping their own customs,
their own pottery, even their own strains of corn and beans.
Then a fire struck Point of Pines and the only rooms burned
were those that belonged to the migrants. The rest of the pueblo
remained intact and was occupied for another hundred years,
with the addition of an impressive new wall enclosing the site.
The northern migrants never returned.
Why? Theories include the speculation that perhaps after 30
years, the Mogollon people had had enough of the northern-ers,
burned them out, and then built a wall to keep any more
of them from showing up. Or maybe the northern migrants
decided to keep moving and set their rooms ablaze as they left,
as might have been their tradition for countless generations.
Whatever happened, it wasn’t an accident — a kitchen fire left
Alexander Lindsay, a retired professor of archaeology, was
at the Point of Pines excavation in the 1950s. He told me he
wished they’d brought in an arson investigator. Even without
an outsider’s opinion, he was certain Point of Pines had been
burned on purpose, and that the arsonists knew exactly what
rooms they wanted to burn.
Now arson investigators are studying prehistoric structure
fires at key sites in the Southwest. They’ve been able to find
points of ignition, putting together sequences of rooms catching
fire, discovering that some fires began in rooms without hearths,
places where a fire would probably not have started by accident.
Fire was no doubt a powerful tool in the hands of these people.
They might have used it to fit the occasion — burning their
enemies’ structures or stockpiles in times of war, and burning
their own homes in times of migration.
I climbed out of the hilltop trench and walked away from the
dig to explore the surrounding burn. Some trees stood as if
in circus acts, balanced on what very little remained of their
From the Ashes The view southwest from Cline Point shows a forest of dead trees and regenerating vegetation.
smoldered trunks. Others had burned out completely, leaving
only cadaverous holes, relief images in the ground where the fire
had worked through the roots. Boulders were onion-skinned by
the heat of the blaze — their flaked fragments lying about.
Bits of artifacts showed through the devastation. Pieces of
pottery were finely dusted in ash between dark, barren stumps.
Floor plans of ancient buildings showed through the ash —
small households that once surrounded the hilltop.
Certainly people living here 800 years ago saw wildfires in
their day. Arizona has always been susceptible with its sum-mer
lightning and dry pines. When the cinder-cone volcano
we now call Sunset Crater erupted in Northern Arizona during
the 11th century, ash and lava buried numerous Pueblo villages
and houses within a 5-mile radius, and probably sent fires in
all directions. Hard, black basalt has been found from the erup-tion
with impressions of corn kernels in its surface. Residents
might have approached semimolten lava and pushed corn into
it — perhaps an act of reverence or sheer intrigue.
Maybe they walked in this same way through vacuous, burned
forests, slowly setting their footsteps, listening to the clatter of
charred branches in the wind as if the place were haunted. I
came upon the remains of someone’s cabin that had been almost
entirely incinerated. Only outlines and a few items remained
— a coffee can full of nails, a metal bucket draped over itself
like candle wax. Sheet metal had been flung from the roof like
unwanted clothing, now half-melted among black trees.
In a sense, the cabin seemed purified. The presence of its
owner had been reduced to dust, leaving a place that belonged
more to the fire than to anyone. The whole forest felt this way.
I remembered an archaeologist explaining to me that for
cultures around the world, there are three ways to deal with
something special you’re leaving behind, be it a person who
has died, a retired religious object or a special building: You
bury it, you let it sink in water or you burn it. He said that in
the Southwest, where the ground is often too hard for burial
and where water is scarce, the best option is burning. It takes a
place out of circulation, renews it, prepares it for the future by
cleansing it of its past.
I walked beyond the cabin through a forest of obsidian shapes.
The trees were dazzling in naked sunlight. At the base of one
gruesome stump, a fresh bouquet of oak leaves had emerged
from the ash. Seeds had waited deep in the soil, buried in former
seasons by squirrels or jays. I knelt and ran my fingers through
the leaves, a first sign of life. Now I understood why people
once burned their homes in this country. There is perhaps no
stronger way to say goodbye. And hello.
Craig Childs grew up enjoying campfires all across Arizona. He now lives
in Colorado. He’s a commentator for National Public Radio and the author
of several highly acclaimed books, including House of Rain: Tracking a
Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest.
Nick Berezenko earned an anthropology degree from Arizona State
University, but switched to freelance photography and writing instead of
archaeology. He still digs occasionally in the basement of his home in Pine
— but only “to keep it from flooding.”
Bits of ar tifacts showed through the devastation. Floor plans of ancient buildings
showed through the ash — small households that once surrounded the hilltop.
Kiva Conceptions A shallow depression (top) marks the spot of the great kiva
at Cline Point. After excavation in 2003, archaeologists filled in all structures at
the site. A photo-illustration (center) reconstructs what the ruins of the Cline
Point kiva might have looked like. Archaeologist Sam Duwe’s theoretical site plan
of the kiva overlays a photo-illustrated reconstruction of the site (above).
40 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 41
One morning in September, a man
named Robert arrived early at the West
Mesa Justice Court to pay a traffic ticket.
As he waited for the court to open,
another man pulled up to the building,
got out of his truck and started banging
on the door, asking where everybody
was. The man looked disheveled, and the
back of his truck was full of used tires.
Although the weather promised to be hot,
he wore a pair of brown corduroy pants
that looked too big and were folded up
at the bottom.
Robert thought the judge was going
to have his hands full with this guy, so
he was more than a little surprised to
find the man in brown corduroy sitting
behind the bench in the courtroom. A
nameplate identified him as Judge
Clayton R. Hamblen, who had “imme-diately
transformed into this very kind-hearted
Robert was charmed.
“He’s compassionate, but he’s firm,”
Robert says. “In five minutes, with a
smile on his face, he was able to coerce
the most hard-looking guy I ever saw in
my life to admit that the story he was
telling the judge was baloney. He did it
by looking him in the eye and kind of
It was like a Capra movie. Robert felt
as if he were watching the whole thing
in black and white. He half-expected the
courtroom to erupt into song.
“I went to pay a traffic ticket,” Robert says.
“When I left, I felt like I’d been treated to
Only one thing bothered him. Robert
overheard that Judge Hamblen’s court is
scheduled to be absorbed into a Maricopa
County regional complex in 2010. He
worried that the move would drain
Hamblen’s courtroom of its character
and, in the process, destroy what might
be the last of a dying breed.
Judge Hamblen’s courtroom is infor-mal,
and he runs it himself with the help
of a computer, a copier and a scanner that
works only intermittently. He speaks
quickly but in plain language. He’s made
rules for himself: No words with more
than seven letters or more than two vow-els
touching each other.
“All-righty then,” he might begin,
“what’s this about?”
The people who parade before
Hamblen’s bench wear T-shirts and work
shirts, ball caps and do-rags. Some sport
piercings and tattoos. They argue traffic
tickets and certain misdemeanors, and
plead to DUIs. They face evictions or pur-sue
small claims. Hamblen treats them
all with respect. He jokes with them. He
lectures like a concerned father.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, a col-lege
student named Stephanie stands
before the bench with her father. She has
a smooth complexion and large blue eyes.
She’s 21, but looks about 16.
Stephanie is pleading guilty to driving
under the influence. Her blood-alcohol
content tested at .20, well above the .15
required to classify the DUI as extreme.
“Did I give you a hard time the other
day?” Hamblen asks.
Judge of Character
ECLECTIC COLLECTION Judge Clayton R. “Bud” Hamblen’s office (left) reflects his varied
interests as an avid collector of military memorabilia and all things Americana. From his
bench, Judge Hamblen (above) maintains a just, yet compassionate courtroom.
B Y K AT H Y M O N T G O M E R Y
P H O T O G R A P H S B Y D O N B . & R YA N B . S T E V E N S O N O
Even in the days of Dobson Ranch,
Mesa was never confused with Bedford
Falls. Still, there’s at least one man in
town — Judge Hamblen — who’s a char-acter
straight out of a Frank Capra movie.
Homespun, no-nonsense, unorthodox …
that’s how you’d describe this throwback
to the old school.
42 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 43
“No,” she says with a shy smile.
“Darn, I meant to. You do this again and
I’ll come hunt you down, OK?”
After sentencing, as Stephanie turns to
leave, Hamblen calls after her, “I hope I
never see you again.”
“Bud” Hamblen looks a little like
William H. Macy. He’s got the same
broad forehead, thin lips and fine, ginger-colored
hair. He admits to having mostly
Scottish and Welsh ancestry, but he’s also
part German, Cherokee, Cheyenne and
North Kaibab Paiute. He’ll tell you none
of it means anything to him. He doesn’t
believe in racial discrimination. That
comes partly from the way his parents
raised him, and partly from growing up
in rural South Phoenix.
“I grew up in the melting pot,” he says.
“It’s hard for me to be a bigot. I never had
But if he’s not a bigot, he is a great patriot.
His courtroom is hung with a collection of
American flags, black-and-white photos of
soldiers, and World War I- and World War
II-era military service flags. He wanted to
be a fighter pilot — his father served in
the U.S. Army Air Corps — but Bud’s eyes
went bad. At age 19, he got a permanent
deferment after a train hit his car while
he was driving to a Veteran’s Day parade.
The accident blew out his knee. So now
he collects military artifacts.
“I can do this because I never served,” he
says, referring to his collections, which
include every issue of Life magazine
published during World War II, mili-tary
uniforms, and patriotic postcards of
children clutching flags and flowers. But
he admits he’ll collect almost anything:
old currency, clocks, cars. He still has
the first car he ever owned — a ’32 Ford
Cabriolet — and the cars that belonged
to his parents. “I never sell anything,” he
says. “It’s been a lifelong problem.”
Hamblen pleaded his first case at
age 16. It was his own. He had gotten a
ticket for having more than three people
in the front seat of his car. To prepare
his defense, he looked up the statute,
which was written in 1919. Then he
found a 1920 Ford Model A touring car
and measured the front seat, calculating
how many inches per person the statute
allowed. In court, he argued that those
allowances, when applied to his own car,
left plenty of room for four.
He lost. But he appealed the decision
and won by default when no one showed
up on behalf of the state.
“I guess I do have a strong feeling about
what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says.
“That was wrong. Shoot-fire, there was
plenty of room in that seat.”
Now, as a judge, he’s heard a million
“A woman gets a ticket coming down
from Payson,” he begins his favorite story.
“She can’t figure out how she’s going 92
mph. And when she got home after get-ting
a ticket, and got undressed and took
off her boots, she realized that all day
she’d been wearing her steel-toed boots,
and coming home they’d been dragging
her foot down on the pedal.”
Hamblen pauses and smiles. “Now
that’s good, huh? That’s good. I like that.
“My worst one is a guy who told me his
Ferrari wouldn’t go 97 mph. A 200-mph
car. I was thinking about putting him in
jail for failing to maintain a prime car.
Abuse of a vehicle.”
Hamblen’s early experience in traffic
court gave him a taste for the law, but
he admits, after 19 years on the bench,
that his career choice wasn’t a shoo-in.
After high school, he narrowed down his
choices to doctor, orthodontist and law-yer,
but he didn’t like blood, and once he
got braces, he found them painful.
“So, I became a lawyer by default,” he
Hamblen attended college and law
school at Arizona State University, be-coming
the first in his extended family to
graduate from college. He was admitted
to the State Bar of Arizona in 1972, and
worked as a criminal defense attorney.
But it wasn’t long before he realized that
that career wasn’t right for him.
“I wanted to change the world,” Ham-blen
says. “By the fifth year, I realized I
wasn’t going to.”
He felt guilty about defending people
he’d just as soon stuff in a closet. He
couldn’t sleep through the night.
“The truth is, I slept with Pepto-Bismol,”
Hamblen says. “I drank it before I went to
sleep. It was my kick in the morning.”
So, in 1988, he quit.
About that time he convinced his boy-hood
friend, Michael Orcutt, to run for
justice of the peace in Phoenix. Orcutt
won, and suggested Hamblen give the
bench a try. “He thought I’d like it, and
he was right.”
Hamblen worked pro tem for two
years, filling in for judges on leave. He
ran for JP as a Republican in 1990, and
hasn’t looked back since.
A man wearing a brown t-shirt with
sand-colored hair and a salt-and-pepper
beard hobbles into Hamblen’s courtroom.
He bends over a cane, wincing with each
step. The man tells the judge his name
is William. He’s in court pleading to an
“Have a seat anywhere,” Hamblen
hails him from the bench. “You own the
“I don’t own it,” William says, “the tax-payers
“It’s a fractional ownership,” Hamblen
“Do you mind if I stand?” William asks
“Stand, sit, whatever you need to do.”
“I can do anything, just not very long.”
“You’re ahead of me,” Hamblen says. “I
can’t do anything, but I can do it for a
Laws govern the minimum and maxi-mum
penalties for DUIs, but Hamblen
exercises discretion where he can. If
defendants work or attend college, he
authorizes work releases. If their incomes
are puny, he waives the incarceration fee.
In this case, the judge wonders if William
is up to the physical demands of jail, and
sets in motion a process that might allow
him to serve his time at home.
“The key thing about being a judge is
we drive people into such deep holes that
An auto enthusiast
since his earliest driving
days, Bud Hamblen
cleans his helmet in
preparation for a figure-
8 race at the Arizona
State Fair. Department
of Public Safety Officer
John W. Anthony chats
with Hamblen in his
they can never crawl out, and they give
up,” he says. “You get a guy who comes
in on a hundred thousand a year and he
gets fined $455. Big whoop. You get a
guy comes in and he’s making 12 grand
a year and you’ve probably just ruined
his chances of making the mortgage
payment for the next three months — if
he’s able to afford a house. Everyone is
unique and different. You have to take it
case by case.”
Hamblen is proud of the fact that he’s
never held anyone in contempt of court,
but he has little patience with people
who are rude or self-important.
To one plaintiff who complained that
a business owner didn’t remember his
name, Hamblen said: “Are you really that
important that he needs to remember
your name? Sheesh!”
As William turns to leave, Hamblen
asks if he goes by William or Bill.
“I usually go by Bradford,” William says.
“Bradford?” Hamblen repeats, sound-ing
surprised. “Well, good luck, Bradford.
Do whatever you need to do to feel well.”
If Hamblen feels compassion for the
people who come before him, it might
be because he’s led what he calls “a glori-ously
“I’ve screwed up as much as anyone I
know,” he says. And some of those strug-gles
have played out publicly. In 1995,
the state bar censured him for violating
the rules of professional conduct for his
work as an attorney on a personal injury
suit in the 1980s. The court found that he
failed to file timely discovery responses,
resulting in the client’s action being dis-missed.
The client was able to get the
case reinstated with new counsel.
“I screwed up,” Hamblen admits. “I
always said that. It was my fault and I
deserved it. Did I learn from that? Oh
yeah. But I will say it makes me a better
judge. I’m very slow to do anything that
will screw someone up.”
Judge Michael Orcutt has known Ham-blen
since they were Cub Scouts. And
while he’s never seen him in action, he
believes Hamblen is an excellent judge.
“I know he cares about people, and I
wouldn’t say he has a soft side, but he does
have compassion appropriately,” Orcutt
says. “There are times to be tough and
there are times to have a little compas-sion.
The art of judging is knowing when
people need to have a firm hand and when
a softer hand is more effective.”
Orcutt calls his friend competitive and
funny, but says Hamblen’s defining char-acteristic
is a big heart.
“He tends to want to show a little bit
of a gruff side, but I think he does that
to hide the big heart part of it,” Orcutt
says. “He’s helped a lot of people, but he’s
usually pretty quiet about it. Back when
he was an attorney, he would do a lot of
pro bono work, and most people wouldn’t
find out about it.”
Orcutt notes the work Hamblen has
done with kids, coaching volleyball, soc-cer
and baseball teams. But the best evi-dence,
he says, is the number of kids he’s
“He has a lot of patience dealing with
each of them,” Orcutt says. “It’s very
challenging, and I’m sure very reward-ing
when they turn out well.”
If Robert had gone to court on
another day, he might have seen a beat-up-
looking yellow ’75 Camaro with a
blue No. 4 painted on the side hitched
to the back of Hamblen’s truck. If he had,
he might have understood the tires in
the back of the truck. Hamblen races on
weekends, but sometimes drags his car
to court when he plans a weeknight prac-tice.
He’s been hooked on racing since
1951, when he was in first grade. That
was when he watched his cousin race at
Manzanita Speedway on opening day.
The first race Hamblen entered was
a demolition derby. He was 17 and had
gotten a Texaco sponsorship.
“In the main event, there were two of
us left. The other guy was crippled, and
I was headed over there to destroy him,”
Hamblen says. “I ran out of gas.”
He chuckles. “I got second because I
ran out of gas.”
Hamblen’s term expires in 2010,
shortly after his 65th birthday. He hasn’t
yet decided whether he’ll run again, but
not because the court is scheduled to
move into a regional complex. He’s not
worried about being forced to change.
“I’d quit before I let that happen,” he
says. “You can follow the law, you just
don’t have to be mean. I believe in my
heart that I handle my court the way
court should be handled.”
Instead, he thinks of all the things
he’d like to do. He’d like to establish a
charitable organization that would help
impoverished kids improve their appear-ance
by providing things like braces and
eye care. He’d like to have a political
talk show and run a political campaign.
He has an idea for a line of salsa and a
fast-food restaurant that would serve a
healthful version of fish and chips — his
favorite food. He’d like to travel the world,
but he’d like to see the United States first.
Above all, he’d like to spend more time
with his children. Including those he’s
adopted, he counts 14. On the other
hand, there’s the law, which he loves as
much as his job.
“I love coming to work,” he says. “You
don’t get luckier than that.”
Kathy Montgomery is a Mesa-based journalist
who teaches magazine writing at Arizona State
University. This is her first story for Arizona
If they ever do have to appear in court,
photographers Don B. and Ryan B. Stevenson
hope it’s in front of Judge Hamblen. They were
impressed by the judge’s blending of humor,
compassion and respect for the law.
“I slept with Pepto-Bismol.
I drank it before I went to sleep.
It was my kick in the morning.”
44 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 45
chollas are sneaky. The
fuzzy, stringy cactuses wait
for an obliging passerby, then
latch onto clothes, skin, fur.
They travel by cow flank or
pant leg to a desired destina-tion,
and then jump off to get
a new plant started. And they
plan their movements well in
advance to take advantage of
any blunder, and I swear they
can see me coming from
That’s what I’m thinking as
I sit on a bank of sun-warmed
rocks alongside the loop road
that winds through the eastern
portion of Organ Pipe Cactus
National Monument, discon-solately
picking at a clump of
cholla that’s “bitten down” on
my left sock. I know all about
chollas through hard experi-ence,
and I keep a pair of extra-long
tweezers in my backpack
to pluck out the attackers
efficiently and painlessly.
That backpack, of course,
is sitting at home. No matter.
As they say in the NBA, when
you’re a pro, you play hurt.
And so, having extricated
myself from most of the
cholla stalk with an obliging
piece of saguaro rib, I hobble
back to the truck and drive
onward, glad the spines
haven’t found a tire — yet.
Fringed by mountains
and spreading out like a fan
southward toward Mexico,
the rocky plain that makes
up much of Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument
is a meeting place for the
comparatively lush Sonoran
Desert upland environment,
so favored by those chollas,
and the hotter, drier, lower
coastal plain of Sonora,
Mexico, and the Colorado
River delta. This is desert
that tends toward extremes
of heat during the summer,
but that’s blessedly mild
in the winter and fall. It’s a
range that seems to please the
imposing organ pipe cactus.
The gateway to the 21-
mile-long mostly gravel Ajo
Mountain Drive loop road
stands just opposite the mon-ument
headquarters on State
Route 85, a few miles north of
the U.S.-Mexico border. The
road is good, as maintained
dirt and gravel roads go.
However, as always in the des-ert,
it pays to keep a close eye
on the weather, because the
heat can be hard on a person
and a vehicle, and the desert
plain is subject to flooding
after a hard rain.
Organ Pipe regulars have
their favorite times of year.
Sue Rutman, the monument’s
resident naturalist, tells me
she has a soft spot for summer,
when the desert is an anvil
for the sun. Since I’m fairly
sensible, mine is early spring,
when, if the winter rains have
been generous, the loop road
passes through sunny fields
of Mexican goldpoppies and
other wildflowers worthy of
The Wizard of Oz.
So it is on this early spring
morning, the broad Sonoyta
Valley carpeted with a pro-fusion
of newly bloomed
flowers. The valley and the
beginning of the loop road
lie in what ecologists call a
“mixed scrub community,”
marked by low brittlebushes
and bursage that sway in the
soft breeze, as well as larger
paloverdes and ocotillos.
The road soon climbs to the
rocky, sun-drenched foothills
country, where saguaros and
organ pipe cactuses thrive. At
the 5.2-mile mark from the
entrance stands a particularly
fine specimen of the latter,
its candelabra arms reaching
into the sky. Take the time to
get out of your car to admire
by Gregory McNamee
Saguaros get most of the attention in Arizona, but organ pipe cactuses
are nothing to scoff at, and this loop drive offers a great introduction.
back road adventure
ROYAL ROCK A natural rock arch
(below) viewed from Ajo Mountain
Drive reigns over prickly pear cactuses
and bright yellow brittlebushes.
Photograph by Randy Prentice
n To order a print of this photograph,
see page 1.
CACTUS SEA For as far as the eye
can see, teddy bear chollas and
organ pipe cactuses mingle with
creosote bushes, mesquite trees and
ocotillos, carpeting the desert floor
at Organ Pipe Cactus National
Monument (left). Photograph by
n To order a print of this photograph,
see page 1.
Ajo Mountain Drive
46 m a r c h 2 0 0 8 A R I Z O N A H I G H W A Y S . C O M 47
this great piece of creation,
but keep an eye out for those
chollas — there’s a particularly
dense patch of them nearby,
and the old-timers didn’t call it
“jumping cholla” for nothing.
The road climbs gently,
drops into the gulch called
Diablo Wash, then climbs
again to give a fine view of the
steep canyon from which the
wash descends. The rocks
here are covered with what
appears to be moss, an
unusual sight in the dry des-ert
— this primitive plant
turns a vivid green after a
good rainfall, which occasions
another old-time name, “res-urrection
plant.” In the
springtime, the moss’ emerald
trail follows the road around a
narrow pass in the foothills of
the sheer Ajo Mountains. The
pass opens up to a view of the
highest point in the range,
Mount Ajo, which, though
only 4,808 feet high, makes a
challenging climb for even the
most experienced hiker. The
tough volcanic mountains
look as if they’d been piped
out by a mad pastry chef with
a blender full of lava, and for
all their scenic quality, there’s
nothing gentle about them.
My favorite section of the
loop road, no matter what
the season, begins at mile 9.4,
where a sight that’s rare in the
Sonoran Desert awaits — a
rock arch 720 feet overhead,
stretching out to a length
of more than 90 feet. Arch
Canyon offers an inviting
hike, climbing from the road’s
2,500-foot vantage to eleva-tions
that sustain shady oak
and juniper trees.
Another hike winds out
from the parking lot at Estes
Canyon, about 1.5 miles far-ther
down the loop road. The
trailhead is at the spacious
parking area, and the trail
makes its way up a rugged
2-mile-long climb to the sur-prisingly
wet and green Bull
Pasture. The round-trip takes
a couple of hours, with a
wonderful payoff of sweeping
views of the low-desert plain
far south into Mexico.
Descending from the
flank of the Ajos, the loop
road passes through dense
growths of jojoba, a Sonoran
Desert plant valued for its oil,
and the curious and uncom-mon
thing called the Mexican
jumping bean, a dark-green
shrub whose seeds har-bor
moth larvae that move
around, less jumping than
At about mile 18, the road
leaves the hills and returns to
the desert floor, traversing
stands of saguaros, organ
pipes, Christmas cactuses,
and, seemingly everywhere,
patches of cholla in its many
magnificent and troublesome
varieties — pencil chollas,
teddybear chollas, chain-fruit
chollas … hunters all, looking
for a juicy calf to sink into.
Organ Pipe is a place of
demands and extremes, but
also subtle and spectacular
beauties alike. The loop road
is the best way I know to
introduce yourself to this
unique place and its wealth of
wildlife — 277 bird species,
70 kinds of mammals, 46 rep-tile
species, 76 butterfly vari-eties
and counting, and more.
Not bad for a desert, a place
whose Latin original, deser-tus,
means “abandoned.” Even
though you’re likely to have
the road to yourself, Organ
Pipe is well-populated, and
it’s an ideal place to experi-ence
STANDING OVATION A colorful
combination of Mexican goldpoppies,
blue lupines and purple owl clover
(left) commands center stage in a
Sonoran Desert spring. Photograph
by Jerry Sieve
n To order a print of this photograph,
see page 1.
Note: Mileages are approximate.
> From Tucson, take Interstate 19 south for 1 mile to State Route 86.
> Drive west on State 86 114 miles to State Route 85 at Why.
> Turn left (south) onto State 85 and drive 22 miles to Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument.
THE TEMPEST Storm clouds loom
over the Diablo Mountains (above) in
Southern Arizona, bringing welcome
rain to the parched desert landscape.
Photograph by Laurence Parent
A JO MOUNTAINS
Ajo Mountain Drive
ORGAN PIPE CACTUS
ARI ZO NA
Passenger cars, no motorhomes
longer than 23 feet; high-clearance
during rainy weather.
Travel Advisory: Organ Pipe
Cactus National Monument
admission is $8 per vehicle.
Warning: Due to its proximity
to the international boundary
with Mexico, some parts of
the monument are closed
for construction and visitor
safety concerns. Several roads
are closed to vehicle traffic,
and all backcountry areas are
closed to overnight use until
further notice. Back-road
travel can be hazardous. Be
aware of weather and road
conditions. Don’t travel alone,
and let someone know where
you’re going and when you
plan to return. There are
no water sources or phones
available, so carry plenty of
water, snacks and a cell phone.
Additional Information: 520-
387-6849 or nps.gov/orpi.
Travelers in Arizona
can visit az511.gov or dial
511 to get information
road closures, construction,
delays, weather and more.
48 m a r c h 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
the tranquility of
Southern Arizona’s Bass
Canyon belies its brutal
history. Nestled between the
remote Galiuro Mountains
and the San Pedro River, the
canyon harbors one of seven
year-round streams in the
49,200-acre Muleshoe Ranch
Area, home to abundant plant
and wildlife. Coatimundi
tracks zigzag along the sandy
stream banks this peaceful
winter morning. It’s hard
to picture Melvin Jones
stepping out from the brush
and gunning down physician
Glendy King for this property
in 1884, yet I can understand
why Jones and others formed
such a dangerous attachment
Our hike begins just down-stream
from the aluminum-lined
hot tubs at Muleshoe
Ranch headquarters. Heading
northwest we climb up
unpaved Jackson Cabin Road.
As we crest our first hill, we’re
already shedding layers of
clothing and stashing it in our
bags. Bass Canyon is just a
mile away, and we can see its
distinctive formations in the
distance — dimpled rock that
looks like carved soap. Two
million years ago, volcanoes
coated the landscape with ash
and rock, likely wiping out all
of the plants and animals in
the area. But this tuff erodes
easily, and over time, has
formed the undulating cliffs
and spires that loom over the
Along Bass Creek’s edge,
we poke at globs of algae and
hunt for lowland leopard
frogs, which have just begun
laying their eggs for the
season. Suddenly, there’s a
rustle upstream and a mule
deer leaps 10 feet across the
water before vanishing into
We continue downstream
and pass the only trail marker
on this undeveloped rocky
streambed route, which
follows a path created by
thousands of years of run-ning
water. Geologists say the
existing mountains in the area
are too small to collect the
kind of rain needed for such
a task, and believe the water
that originally blazed the trail
dates to the last ice age.
As we approach the conflu-ence
with Hot Springs Creek
— which we will follow
another mile for the last leg
of our hike — we spot more
paw prints. This time, it’s a
mountain lion. The tracks
follow the stream for 30 feet
before they disappear. Did
it leap across the water? Or
clamber across this log to
that gully? The cats around
here must know how to be
sneaky; Hot Springs ranch-ers
used to pay $25 for every
scalp. Twenty-two were killed
in one year alone, and Johnny
Jones, Melvin’s brother, once
devised a scheme to exter-minate
them entirely. He
Melvin, the killer, didn’t
get Bass Canyon, either.
Instead, Dr. King’s prop-erty
went on the auction
block, after his brother
failed to produce proper
Henry Clay Hooker
bought the land, adding
it to his famous Sierra
Bonita holdings. The next
year, Geronimo and his band
of Chiricahua Apaches went
on a yearlong rampage in
the area, hiding in its many
canyons, staging attacks and
By the 1890s, however,
wealthy guests were traveling
by stagecoach from Willcox
to bathe in these legendary
springs, among the hottest
in the state. Back at ranch
headquarters, we did the
same — climbing in, sinking
up to our chins and listening
for the sound of spurs and the
click of a trigger. But every-thing
we heard was peaceful
— a whimsical bird and the
rustle of the cottonwood trees
towering above us.
by Brendan Borrell photographs by Tom Vezo
Hot Springs Loop
HANGING ON A white-nosed
coatimundi (above) — a member of
the raccoon family — clings to coarse
tree bark. The agile tree-climber
munches on beetles, ants, termites
and scorpions when hungry.
WILDLIFE WONDERLAND The
jagged peaks of the Galiuro
Mountains (right) tower over the
Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Area,
which is home to many animal
species, including coatimundis,
black bears, javelinas, white-tailed
and mule deer, mountain
lions and desert bighorn sheep.
Coatimundis, running water and a healthy dose of
history are just some of the reasons to explore this
Nature Conservancy property in Southern Arizona.
onli n e For more hikes in Arizona, visit our hike archive at arizonahighways.com.
Getting There: From Tucson, drive east on Interstate 10 to Willcox (Exit 340).
Go south to Bisbee Avenue and turn right. Continue past the high school and
turn right (north) onto Airport Road. After 15 miles, bear right onto
Muleshoe Ranch Road. Follow this road for another 14 miles. The Muleshoe
Ranch CMA Headquarters is at the end of this road on the left.
Length: 3 miles round-trip.
Elevation Gain: Negligible.
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult.
Payoff: Year-round streams, hot springs (for overnight guests only),
abundant birds and plant life, and opportunities to see coatimundi troops in
Travel Advisory: Two-thirds of this hike is in rocky creek beds requiring hikers
to walk in the water. Wear sturdy boots and long pants; carry a walking stick
and a change of socks. Casita lodging is available by reservation from late
September through May.
Warning: The 26 miles of dirt roads from Willcox to Muleshoe Ranch might
require a four-wheel-drive vehicle after heavy rains.
Additional Information: 520-507-5229 or nature.org.
GAL IURO MOU NTA I NS
San Pedro River
Hot Springs Creek
Muleshoe Ranch Road
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