|Snow on the Hualapai Mountains as seen from
Winter is the only time of the year when it is possible to drive from Oatman to the Colorado River and enjoy the trip. So, we plotted a course that would take us over Sitgreaves Pass, to the river, and then home through the twenty plus mile long strip mall that is Bullhead City.
I never tire of this drive. Cool Springs may have risen like the proverbial Phoenix from the flames, discernible traces of Fig Springs station are becoming harder to find, Oatman continues on the course of replacing history with fantasy, and traffic may have increased in direct proportion to the resurgent interest in Route 66, but the vast, awe inspiring landscapes that enamored me with the deserts in the early 1960s are still there.
Our first stop was made at Cool Springs, a recreation that does a fair job of providing a hint of what like travel via Route 66 was like circa 1960. The challenge on this trip was in pretending that we were seeing this for the first time, a difficult task as I played among the ruins forty years ago.
Stop two was the forlorn, junk strewn remnants of Ed’s Camp. Most who stop by to take photos of this fading remnant framed by stunning western landscapes realize this place has a history spanning centuries or that even in its heyday, it was a place without a great deal of polish.
In a future post I will provide a bit of history about this place. Or you can read all about it in the forthcoming Route 66 encyclopedia. Consider that a very early plug as the book isn’t finished yet and the scheduled date of release is October of 2012.
We chose to skip a favorite stop of ours, Schaeffer’s Fish Bowl Springs, and look for a place closer to the summit to pull over. In looking east toward the Sacramento Valley from this vantage point, I am always amazed to consider this was THE main highway until 1952.
The site of Snell’s Summit Station at the top of the pass was as busy it was when there was actually a store and station there so we moved west before making the next stop. The recent rains had settled the dust and as a result there was an almost startling clarity to the air.
Below us the old road, clinging precariously to the edge of the canyon wall twisted and turned its way toward Golroad. To the west row upon row of raw boned ridges stretched to the distant horizon in Nevada.
Then with poorly concealed excitement my wife pointed to the ridge line behind us where a herd of big horn sheep were framed against the blue skies. Fortunately I had the telephoto lens on the camera. Unfortunately there was a row of power lines between us and the sheep on the ridge line.
We continued our westward journey past the fast vanishing remnants of Goldroad, another favored location for playing amongst the ruins when I was a kid, threaded our way through the crowds and burros in Oatman, and made another stop between the old mining town and the river.
During the mid 1960s, this segment of Route 66 had become a strip of broken asphalt filled with sizable chuck holes large enough to swallow a VW. Still, that didn’t keep my dad from making the trip in his new 1964 Ford Fairlane – in the middle of August, without air conditioning, so we could have a picnic in Needles.
Topock and Golden Shores are holding fast to being a place that does little to inspire or that is a vacation destination. It is refreshing to see some things on the old road don’t change.
Likewise with the Fort Mohave-Bullhead City corridor. Sorry, no offense to those folks who call the place home on purpose, but I just can’t seem to find reason for enthusiasm regardless of how I try. Perhaps the whole thing is just a bit to modern, to generic for my tastes.
So, we stopped at Chilli’s to make use of a gift card given to us by neighbors, and to fill that empty spot created by an afternoon of fresh air, long walks, and a delightful drive. I am truly a very blessed man.