June 25th, 2011
Our journeys took us across New Mexico on I40 and into Arizona today. We are staying in the central eastern region of Arizona in a mountain town called Show Low. The elevation is around 6,500 and so we are looking forward to a break from the heat that has descended into our Texas region since the beginning of May. Not many think of Arizona as being a place where it is cool. However it does have a mountain region on it’s east side (yes the one on fire right now) and from the research I have done it looks as if they experience daily weather in the summer in the upper 80’s. We will be traveling 400 miles today and it should take about 6 hours drive time plus the additional doggy/Sharon stops.
Leaving Santa Rosa we hit a stretch of road on I40 that is screaming for the traveler to stop and visit. From the sight of all the signs posted along the interstate one would envision a natural wonder or huge tourist destination ahead and not a “travel center” AKA gas station. As you travel along sign after sign advertises everything from gas and drinks to jewelry and authentic Indian memorabilia. We have yet stopped at the Flying C Ranch but maybe one day we finally will.
Today as we near Albuquerque, instead of the normal clear skies across the horizon there is a haze that has settled in. There are two very large fires that are currently raging across the state. The Wallow fire that first began May 29 in eastern Arizona has now reached the New Mexico boarder. This fire has consumed over 538,000 acres of land in Arizona and over 15,000 acres in western New Mexico. To the north of Albuquerque they are also battling the Las Conchas Fire that has consumed over 150,000 acres. This is going to be a bad season for fires with severe droughts in most of the southern states of the US and extremely hot, high winds blowing in from the south. As we drive towards and past Albuquerque what looks like rain falling into the mountain region is actually the smoke lifting into the skies. It is strange how this one event can change your perspective on the landscape. Usually we comment on the beauty of the land as it sits under the clear blue skies. Today however it is the bleakness that is all we see.
Leaving New Mexico we stopped at a rest stop on the border of Arizona to eat a bite for a late lunch before heading out on the last stretch of the journey for today. This particular rest area is somewhat a tourist want-a-be. At the entrance there were several stands selling blankets, jewelry, fried bread etc. They even had fake animals positioned up on the rock formation overhead staged like they were real.
We originally planned to detour off I40 and head through the mountain country of New Mexico and Arizona to our destination today. However with the fires still burning in the area we were forced to remain on I40 and exit at Holbrook, heading south on Hwy 77. Driving down Hwy 77 we encounter true southwest terrain – flat and barren. Wish to have thought about raising the camera and taken a few shots to preserve the moment. Around an hour south of Holbrook the terrain suddenly does a 180 and we find ourselves in a small and out of place VERY GREEN town interestingly enough named Snowflake. Shocked at seeing any living specimen taller than 12 inches we stop to stretch our legs for a minute or two and to make sure we are not seeing things. The town was founded in the late 1800’s by Mormons (very common in this region) and is surprisingly clean and very quaint indeed.
What we first thought was possibly a town center building we later discovered was actually a Latter Day Saints church. The building was surrounded by green lawns, beautiful flowers and huge trees. The entry doors made for some interesting shots. This area is known for having a large number of historical buildings that have been preserved. Would be interesting to wander through them if we get a chance sometime this week.
Snowflake borders another small town called Taylor. They are so close to one another that it is difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins if you missed the welcome signs. Both towns had these beautiful light poles every 30 feet or so that featured beautiful blooming plants. Very “Norman Rockwell” fell about them, even though most of his work portrayed people. Maybe more Kinkade then. Or you might relate it with Andy Griffith Show and imaging yourself on Mulberry street with Barney Fife, Andy Griffith, and Odie. Leaving this small community marked our ascend into the White Mountains where we would finally set up camp at Fools Hollow Lake in Show Low, Arizona.
We arrive in Show Low around 5 pm and with only a few miles left to go our GPS decides it is time to start misguiding us. It would seem that the directional system has been deceived into believing that the entrance to the park lies within a housing development. I believe at one time the entrance actually may have laid there as we can actually see the lake and park. However it is apparent that after many turns and quite a few stares from the locals that the DEAD END sign that we have just found ourselves arriving at is no longer going to allow us entry. With some tricky maneuvers we back track using intuitive and Sharon’s excellent directional mind powers we locate the park. We have a wonderful site set among tall pines. Our site is the only one located inside the loop and so is very private and spacious. Plenty of room for Shyla to define HER area. The campground is very quiet and by 9 pm most are snuggled up tight in their campers, as are we.