* click on photo to enlarge

When my wife suggested a drive to some of our old stomping grounds to kick off the New Year it seemed a perfect idea. The original game plan was to spend New Years Day taking care of loose ends such as repairing a shelf at my mothers house and then set aside Sunday afternoon for the adventure.

I was really glad to discover a storm was scheduled to move in to the area over the weekend. That meant I would not have to wait for the weekend to enjoy three of my favorite things; the stunning solitude of the desert and a pleasant drive through some of the most beautiful country on earth with my dearest friend.

So, I spent the morning repairing a shelf, stocking up moms kitchen for the week, and topping of the fluids, including the gas tank, in old Barney. This left the gorgeous sunny afternoon for us.

I have always enjoyed the drive north from Kingman along old Stockton Hill Road. The landscapes are quintessentially western – sweeping desert plains studded with dark stone outcroppings bordered by towering snow covered peaks, colorful rock bluffs, and a dry lake bed on the far horizon.

The name sake for the road was the mining town of Stockton Hill, now long vanished, that nestled on the steep flank of the Cerbat Mountains. This is not the only historic gem hidden among these rocky hills and there is even an authenticated story of a stage hold up at the station near the C.O.D. mine and missing loot. http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/stockton.html

When my wife and I were dating some 27 years ago Stockton Hill Road from a point just north of Northern Avenue to the Dolan Springs/Meadview road was a graded gravel track that turned to pudding when it rained. With Kingman spreading across the wide Hualapai Valley and up the lower slopes of the Cerbat and Hualapai Mountains the county recently paved the road in its entirety.

McMansions and ranches for Rexall rangers are springing up all along the road and in the surrounding hills so we really didn’t have high hopes of finding one of our old hang outs unmolested. This, however, was a day of blessings.
This jumbled pile of stone on the stark desert plain was as we remembered. The old stock tank was dry, the views were stunning and the pristine solitude as a cold drink of water on a blistering July day.
When we were dating money was a very scarce commodity. My “home” was a caretakers small, one room cabin in the shadow of the Cerbat Mountains. Water was hauled, heat for warmth or cooking came from the wood I split, and when the sun went down the lamps were lit. For the average visitor only my old truck parked outside broke the illusion this wasn’t the 1880s.
From day one, though at the time I thought it was luck, the good Lord has blessed me with dear Judy to share life with. Money has never been a priority and it is the simple things that she enjoys most.
When we were dating this often meant drives in the desert, long walks, picnic lunches or a dinner cooked over a wood fire and enjoyed in the glow of a kerosene lamp. One place we really enjoyed was this little island of stone in the desert where curious vestiges of the ancient people who once called this desert valley home abound.
Perhaps that was one reason my wife’s suggestion seemed such a perfect way to start a New Year, a little of the old with a little of the new.
It was truly a delightful afternoon. Friendship and sunshine, the desert and ice cold spearmint tea, my smiling wife at the wheel of old Barney with the sun dancing in her hair as a halo and the residual effects of a flu bug fast fading.
What a wonderful way to start a New Year! I am truly a blessed man.
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