The road less traveled is as a magnet for us. With the acquisition of Jeepe we find ourselves less able to resist the lure of the lost highway.
After our delightful stay in Prescott on Saturday evening it was with reluctance that we began to contemplate the return journey. In part the heaviness associated with these thoughts was the result of what has been lost in Arizona in recent years as made manifest in the urban sprawl that has transformed the communities of Chino Valley and Paulden as well as the surrounding plains and hills.
Compounding these thoughts was the fact that we were celebrating 26 years of marriage. When we were dating I worked ranches and other projects in this area. On weekends I drove my battered 1946 GMC to Kingman, via Route 66, to visit.
At that time Paulden was a wide spot in the road where I got my mail and on occasion a cold beer to cut the dust in my throat. The drive to Prescott, and through the quaint farming community of Chino Valley, was across wide plains where antelope still roamed.
Today the antelope are little more than memories. The farms have sprouted houses and mini “ranches”. The traffic flows in an endless stream, sandals have replaced dusty, mud caked boots as the foot wear choice, and pick up trucks are dust free boulevard cruisers. Plan “B” was to return via Skull Valley, Bagdad, and Wickieup. Here the west that I knew still is to be found but only marginally but to take this route meant traversing US 93, a river of traffic on most days.
With that as a background you can imagine our elation when I discovered Williamson Valley Road on a Prescott real estate map. There was a road with the same name in Seligman just south of Route 66! How could we resist the lure of exploring the road less traveled, of discovering what was in between Seligman and Prescott.
Even the fact that it had rained most of Saturday evening couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm to explore more than sixty miles of Arizona back road. We had the Jeepe and a shovel!
The journey began as a drive through suburbia and all that entails. Still, the landscapes were beautiful and traffic was light so it was with eagerness that we savored the unfolding of each mile. After about a dozen miles or so the homes and roadside properties began to look like real ranches rather than the generic urban ranches that dominate most of suburbia in Arizona. Then we came to the end of the pavement and a sign that warned this road was not maintained. Our pulse quickened with anticipation.
As it turned out the road was in good enough condition that with a modicum of ground clearance a little common sense, and slow speeds an automobile could make the drive. For the Jeepe it was a boulevard cruise.
It was a drive through the Arizona I remember. Stunning landscapes of rolling hills, forested plains, and road side streams. On this portion of the trip we saw but one other vehicle.
The ranches were working ones with cowboys tall in the saddle. The open range gave cattle the right of way. It was delightful and refreshing, this was a rare opportunity to experience Arizona as it was.
The frosting on the cake were two delightful and unexpected surprises. One, was a beautiful, one lane, steel girder truss bridge dating to at least 1950. The second was a small herd of buffalo!
Prescott holds a special place in our hearts and now we have a new reason to count the days until we can visit again.