|Stockton Hill Road|
Circumstances can change plans rather quickly. A lesson learned long ago is that it is better to play the hand dealt with a smile than to dwell on what might have been if a different dealer was sitting at the table.
If things had gone as planned we would be in Springfield, Missouri this weekend meeting with friends and enjoying the music of the Road Crew at the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival. Instead we made the best of a bad situation and had a bit of adventure in our very backyard. As a bonus, this weekend we will visit with Anja and Wolfgang, friends from Germany and their tour group, have dinner with Kerrick James, an internationally acclaimed photographer, and take in Chillin’ on Beale that will include a showing of Edge of Eternity sponsored by the Route 66 Association of Kingman.
Several weeks ago we received an invitation from Robert Bravo to come and enjoy an afternoon at Grand Canyon Ranch Resort, which is actually located on the historic Diamond Bar Ranch. As the past ten days or so have been a rough tough ride, and as there is a great deal of solace in a road trip, my dearest friend and I took him up on the offer yesterday.
Stockton Hill Road north from Kingman, one leg of an alternate scenic route to Las Vegas, has always been a favorite drive of ours. Several decades ago, when my dearest friend and I were courting, this was where I called home.
Now, however, the old road is paved from end to end and a bit of suburbia has changed things a bit, at least in the first few miles. Still, it is a pleasant drive through vast and stunning landscapes.
Shortly before Stockton Hill Road terminates at the junction with the Dolan Springs and Meadview highway, a thick forest of towering Joshua Trees presses in on the road and stretches toward the towering Grand Wash Cliffs on the horizon. As you drive further toward Meadview, and then onto Diamond Bar Road, the forest of Dr. Seuss type trees adds a rather unique feel to the trip.
Diamond Bar Road was a bit of a shock. Today it is an excellent, modern paved road with wide shoulders and sweeping turns. It wasn’t to many years ago that this road was rougher than a cob.
As an example, on one trip some years ago the road was so rough the front hub assembly on my Ford F150 4×4 shook loose. Still, we have a long association with this country; we camped where the Skywalk is located today, made excursions along the Buck and Doe Road into Peach Springs and before meeting my dearest friend, I occasionally worked as a hand at the Diamond Bar Ranch.
Today this old ranch steeped in history that predates the arrival of American pioneers by centuries is a delightful resort, a blending of modern and rustic with the attributes of a working ranch intertwined with the romanticism of the American west framed by awe inspiring landscapes.
We started our Grand Canyon Ranch Resort visit by catching up with Robert over an excellent lunch of barbecue beef sandwiches, and discussions about ranch history with “Cowboy Dave”, the ranch historian and one of the strolling minstrels. Pounding rains put a damper on plans to saddle up and ride to the ridge line where the visitors are awarded stunning views, and sunset champagne. So, instead we made the trip via Robert’s truck.
American bison are not native to the area but this is a place for people to experience the west, as it was and as envisioned. So a small herd grazes along the ridges above the ranch. Up there are million dollar plus views of the deep canyons, the towering mountains, and as a bonus on our trip, thunderheads that add ever changing cloud shadows to the dramatic landscapes.
In between downpours, we visited with the ranch hands, checked out the cabins, talked with guests, and explored the old ruins as this is one of the oldest ranches in northern Arizona. To say the very least, we had a most delightful adventure.
The ranch is but one more reason why I often refer to Kingman as the most overlooked vacation destination on Route 66. This wonderful little oasis is a mere sixty miles from Kingman on good paved roads.
The next time you motor through Kingman on the way to Las Vegas, may I suggest a scenic detour? And if your in need of some down time to simply relax, perhaps a restful nights sleep in a quaint cabin after a wonderful dinner and comp fire songs and music might be in order.