Today’s heading photo, available as an 8×10 print, is a view looking west along Route 66 at the end of Kingman Canyon. It is a view I never tire of even though it has been a major part of my life since 1966.
Of course it wasn’t this empty then, after all this was the Main Street of America in a state of transition. At this point on Route 66 it was still 1939 but just a couple of miles to the west you picked up the four lane that was the ghost of Christmas future.
Shortly after rolling into Kingman in the summer of 1966, dad bought a house at the bottom of the valley between Sacramento and Secret Pass Wash right on the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 now designated as Oatman Road. The house was really a block constructed shell that had started as a model home for one of the land boondoggles that swept the area in the early 1960s.
We were modern pioneers in every sense of the word. Initially we had no electricity but this was resolved in the first month. We hauled our water, dad found a job in the Duvall mines, and on weekends he transformed the rough hewn shell into a pretty decent little home.
|Site of Fig Springs Station|
When Jack Rittenhouse stopped here in 1946 the facility built by the Bonelli family was closed. Upon our arrival there was little left but a concrete slab, a few tumble down columns, twisted roofing tin, and a kids playhouse built in the shape of the station that served as a home for pack rats and was subsequently filled with cholla balls.
Little has changed in the past 45 years. On a recent visit we found the empty slab and the columns as I remembered them. The play house was gone, the tank was dry, but the view, the smell of the greasewood, and the whispering breeze that carried the voices of the past still remained.
We tried hauling water from the Kings Dairy, directly to the south of Cool Springs, but the road proved to be rough. Even as a kid, I loved the site of the old dairy with its ruins and stunning view of the valley that unfolded below with the towering Hualapai Mountains as a backdrop.
My first solo camping trips were to this site and the various springs in the canyon behind it. The dog and I would leave early in the morning and follow Route 66 to a point near the Little Meadows Wash and then set out across the vast fields of stones.
When I first moved to this forlorn, empty, and somewhat scary corner of the world it seemed to be the place warned of in Sunday school. Of course, I was just a kid and my experiences had been with the forested hills of southern Tennessee and north Alabama, and the farmlands of Michigan.
I am not sure when the transition occurred but by the age of 13, I was hopelessly in love with this wild and rugged land. When the world presses in as it has this past few weeks, I think of those camping trips, the comforting silence, the solitude, and awe inspiring wonder of watching the shadows of morning and evening creep across the valley.
I introduced my dearest friend to this little hide away on our first camping trip. At the time I drove an old ’70 Chevy truck and the return trip was, to say the very least, an adventure as the steep, rocky, washed out road was just about to much for that old truck.
Today, I would be hard pressed to take the Jeep into the canyon. So, now we have the excuse for long walks.
Every kid in the valley drove long before they had a license and I was no exception. With my dad’s old ’53 Chevy truck, and a hunger fueled by tales told by Ed Edgerton, the founder of Ed’s camp that kept us supplied with resh tomatoes, I wandered the deserts and into the foothills of the rugged Black Mountains.
Fig Springs and Dripping Springs, Cave Springs and Warm Springs, all became my private hideouts. These were grand times.
We left Arizona, moved to New Mexico, I discovered an even more amazing place in Silver City, and then we moved back to Michigan. My hunger fort he deserts of the southwest was so all consuming that I never attended graduation. As soon a school was finished, I provided an address for the mailing of my diploma and worked my way back to Arizona by helping dad relocate the family, again.
The rest, as they say, is history. From that date to this very day it is the deserts and mountains of Arizona and New Mexico that I have called home.
I entertain flights of fancy about moving to Alaska and that is a frontier that will have to be experienced. But it is the deserts that hold my heart, and it is the majesty of the vast landscapes of the southwest where I feel closest to my creator.