February 16, 2010

In October we drove through part of the Apache Trail (see October 28th). Yesterday we drove through the rest of it. The second part started at Tortilla Flats, which is also the last touristic stop. Tortilla Flats is not much more than a couple of buildings, but its claim to fame is that all the interior walls are covered with dollar bills from customers or fans of Tortilla Flats. The original building burned down once and folks sent in dollars from all across the world to replace them. While the dollars were being stored during reconstruction, someone stole them. And people sent in more dollars to replace those! They write their names or a note on the dollars, which are stapled to the walls. The current guesstimate, based on the size of a US dollar and the amount of wall space covered, is that there might be over 120,000 pinned up now!

The rest of the trail was incredibly scenic. About 22 miles of it are not paved and the road gets quite narrow in some places. Along the way are 3 lakes – Canyon, Apache and Roosevelt lakes. The general area is part of the Tonto National Forrest. It’s not a forest in the Midwest sense – no towering trees. But the mountains are covered in cactus and scrub brush, and topped with rocky crests, and it’s all really beautiful. I took about 260 pictures but none of them really captured the beauty, and unfortunately by the time I cut them down to a size that will fit here, they are even less impactful. But the views are really beautiful! At one point I heard a nearby lady said that this was just about as beautiful as the Grand Canyon, and she was right. It’s not as accessible and it’s not well publicized, but it is worth the trip.

The last stop on the trail was the Tonto National Monument – an Indian cliff dwelling estimated to be about 700 years old. It’s very accessible – just a short walk up the hill and then we were able to walk around inside. We had to be quiet because some Africanized bees are nesting there and apparently they don’t like noise. Or sunglasses – the range asked me to remove mine because the bees might attack them. There are several rooms open to visitors, and it's really interesting to imagine how (or why) people lived up there. It would be safe from enemy attacks, but it would also be very difficult to carry water and supplies into the houses. Times must have been tough to make it worthwhile to live up in a cliff house.

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