As conceived in early December the plan was to transform the scheduled book signing in Flagstaff, Arizona, into a grand adventure on Route 66. As it turned out the grand adventure included a book signing.
In the original plan we we were to drive to Flagstaff (Route 66 to Crookton Road exit near Ashfork and then finish the drive on I40) sign books at Hastings Books, Music & Videos, do a drop by signing at Barnes & Noble, have a late lunch at the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams and then on the return trip sign books in Seligman and Hackberry. Heavy snow in late December that caused the Hastings roof to collapse, the subsequent postponement of the signing until late spring, and an assignment for Route 66 magazine led to development of a plan “B”.
So, Sunday, just as the first rays of the morning sun were breaking over the Hualapai Mountains we saddled up and headed east on Route 66. The first scheduled stop was Peach Springs.
Even for fans of the old double 6 this dusty remnant from the glory days of the old highway is seldom given a second look. Hopefully a feature I am writing for Route 66 magazine will rectify that. http://www.route66magazine.com/
The modern, recorded history of Peach Springs dates to a visit by Franciscan explorer Father Garces in the summer 1775 who named the spring Pozos de San Basillo (St. Basil’s Wells). Lt. Beale, en route with his camel convoy, designated this as Indian Springs on his stop in 1858 and noted a proliferation of peach trees. With the arrival of the railroad the importance of the springs as a water station led to the establishment of a community that in 1883 listed ten saloons among its businesses.
Upon establishment of the Hualapai Reservation the small railroad community became the center of tribal government as it remains to this day. The railroad, and then the National Old Trails Highway and Route 66, that fueled tourism in the area became an integral part of the tribes economy.
With the bypass of Route 66 the community fell on hard times and the majority of businesses closed. Others, such as the trading post built in 1927, found new use as tribal offices.
An interesting bit of Route 66 trivia pertains to the service station. This structure was also built in 1927 and had the reputation of being the oldest continuously operated service station on Route 66 until it closed a couple of years ago.
The resurgent interest in Route 66 and the tribes efforts to capitalize on the many natural treasure on the reservation, including Grand Canyon West, have sparked several new enterprises. Most notable is the new lodge and restaurant. http://www.grandcanyonskywalk.com/mainmenu.html
The change in elevation was noticeable as we rolled east. In Peach Springs snow still clung to the north facing slopes and by the time we made Ashfork patches of snow were to be seen in every shadowed nook or cranny and in Williams the snow was still piled high along the streets.
My wonderful wife took the frustration of the cancellation and transformed it into a delightful adventure. As our original plans were little more than dust in the wind she did some research and suggested we forgo dining at our favorite spot in Williams and seek out the unknown.
So, after signing books at Barnes & Noble we set out down Route 66 in search of Mexican food and a new dining adventure. Salsa Brava was the result. It is without reservation that I can recommend this eatery on the east end of Flagstaff on Route 66. The prices were average ($8.95 for a large fire roasted vegetable enchilada, chips, salsa, refried beans and rice). The highlight of any visit is the salsa bar, a veritable cornucopia of every type of salsa imaginable.
With our appetites satisfied we continued east to Walnut Canyon National Monument, another one of those little treasures often overlooked by folks on I40 obsessed with the destination and Route 66 enthusiasts seeking the Winnona made legendary in the famous song.
Located about ten miles east of Flagstaff and four miles south of Route 66 this incredible time capsule of a lost civilization encapsulated in a world of stunning canyon scenery is a definite must see attraction. http://www.nps.gov/waca/
The highlight of any visit is the one mile “island trail” that provides access to some of the most stunning vistas as well as a few of the restored cliff dwelling apartments.
Though the trail is paved this is not a hike to be taken lightly. As an example there are 185 steep steps involved as well as steep grades involved in this trek.
We were richly blessed on our visit. The weather was perfect for the hike with temperatures in the mid 40s. The snow added wonderful contrast to the towering pines, colorful rock walls, and haunting ruins. Visitors were minimal providing us a wonderful opportunity to savor the silence of the canyon broken only by the sound of the various birds and the wind in the pines.
The sun was low on the western horizon as we began our trip home. Still, we rejoice in the extra twenty miles it takes to drive home via Route 66 instead of I40. We always breathe a sigh of relief as we turn onto Crookton Road and leave the need for speed traffic of the interstate behind.
As exciting as the adventure was, when all things are considered it really was just another ordinary adventure on legendary Route 66.