The Apache Trail(er)
Leaving Sedona’s seduction was like saying goodbye to your favorite art piece. You hope you’ll see it again just to feast your eyes on its loveliness….one more time.
We headed southeast and landed in a forest service campground outside of Payson called Houston Mesa Campground. Each camp spot was surrounded by pines and juniper. The only drawback was being the sole campers in the rounds. What? Drawback? Yes!
This site is managed by a firm called Resource Management and I would have to say that they were into micro-managing. Not an hour went by that we weren’t approached by an employee or one was scooting by the camp site on a golf cart to check on us. Our Forest Service pass was checked as well as our ID. Another employee came to make sure we knew we had to be gone by 1:00 (it was 9:00 am when we got this message). In addition an over-zealous camp hands gave us the hard sell on buying firewood from them vs. in town. Overall I would say that we felt as if a hovering house mother was watching our every move.
Next stop—Apache Lake. After driving along Theodore Roosevelt lake we turned onto Highway 88. The map we were using shows this as a scenic drive and an improved road. Ha! We soon found ourselves on an extremely curvey, upaved road called The Apache Trail. Originally this byway was a trail used by Apaches in their travel. Now it’s a 44 mile short cut to some of the most lovely spots in Arizona.
One night camped by Apache Lake was enough for us as a group of three from Flagstaff filled the entire space with their brand of drum thumping rock and roll all day and night.
The Apache Trail is infamously known to most Arizonans and when any we talk to find out we towed a trailer over the trail they are duly impressed. Especially the mile long Fish Creek Hill. It starts at the bottom of a granite mountain and curves right around the side of it…straight up. EmBee kept reassuring me that hundreds of thousands of people drive this road annually and they all survive. All I could keep thinking about was the campground host’s comments: “When you get to the top of Fish Creek Hill make sure you stop at the little Rest Stop and look over the rail. You’ll see all the cars down there that didn’t make it. The tow companies don’t bother pulling them out. The only one they ever took the bother to pull out was the Sheriff’s car.” Now that instills a deep level of comfort in any driver heading toward the hill. EmBee chuckled at me as I leaned on the horn at every curve on this road wide enough for just one car. There were occasional pullouts and we were lucky to meet only one car. I’m sure when they came around the corner and saw my big Chevy pulling Gina they weren’t feeling so lucky!