Saturday, January 29, 2011

An Unplanned Trip on the Only Road to the Bottom of the Grand Canyon!

When I pulled up to the dealership to return my loaner car, the lady I handed the keys to took one look at my car in disbelief as it was covered with reddish-brown dust, inside and out.  I proceeded to tell her that I owed her a car wash because I took the car to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  She just chuckled and said “Good one!”  I half suspected that if I told her the truth, she wouldn’t believe a single word…

A few days earlier I had meetings in Kingman but was going to be finished around 1 pm and had the rest of the afternoon off.  So, I set out to travel north on Route 66 with my camera and hiking gear to see what I could find.  After going through the sprawling (not really) towns of Valle Vista, Hackberry, Valentine and Truxton, about an hour later I stopped in the Hualapai Indian Community of Peach Springs because I noticed a road on my map titled ‘route 6/Diamond Creek Road’ that appeared to dead end at the Colorado River.  Huh???  Even though my map showed a route, there really wasn’t any signage that I could see to get me on it.   I pulled into the Hualapai Indian Lodge off Route 66 and inquired.  Turned out to be the place to stop as that road was only accessible with a permit and the lady I talked to was the only one who sold them!  I was a little anxious hearing that I would be the only person to purchase a permit that day.  However, she assured me the road was accessible by sedan and that’s all I needed to hear! 

About 19 miles and an hour later (and driving through several small streams) I was sitting by the side of the Colorado River.  As I peered across the rapids to the Grand Canyon National Park boundary on the other side, the sun began to cast long shadows on the canyon walls. 

Although the river itself still had harsh sunlight, it was the perfect time to begin hunting for photographic treasures back in the canyons.  First up was Diamond Creek.  I’ll let the pictures speak a thousand words for a bit…

As the sun began to set, the sky and canyon walls just came alive.  

I was torn between staying put and knowing that I didn’t want to drive this road in pitch black.  On the way out as the last colors in the sky started to evaporate, I slammed on my brakes…. Before me was an old tree that had seen better days, but was being fed by a small creek that drizzled across the road before me.  The leafless, almost lifeless tree limbs were reaching up into the night sky just searching for the final rays of light.  

What a great conclusion to an unplanned trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!  If anyone wants to experience God’s Fullness and Majesty on display, try sitting alone (and I mean ALONE) at the bottom of the Grand Canyon… Having absolutely no idea that I would be here just hours before, I was speechless for a while and thanked Him for this divine appointment.  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) 

These pictures and more can best be viewed at: - Grand Canyon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Get your Kicks... On Route 66... (from Kingman to Cool Springs & Oatman)

Taking Route 66 south from Kingman to Oatman is one of the most intriguing drives in the State.  After stopping at the PowerHouse Museum in Kingman (dedicated to all things Route 66) and obtaining important driving instructions, I headed southwest on the Mother Road.  The ascent up the Black Mountains included several narrow, hairpin curves and switchbacks with seldom seen guardrails (that were built in ancient times for vintage cars anyway!)  All the while I couldn’t help but think that this famous highway was one of the only routes that brought travelers out to California over a half century ago.  Thinking about the vintage cars that traversed this particular mountain left me in awe, as it is not for the faint of heart in a modern car, let alone what our grandparents and great grandparents drove.  As I pulled off onto a dirt road to find a good place to capture this iconic highway at sunset, I had the opportunity to hike through the rugged desert wilderness and just be still, taking in the moonlike mountainous terrain and the changing colors of a setting sun bouncing off the cliff walls.

Earlier in the day as I started up the mountain, I came across the first historic attraction, a replica of the Cool Springs camp, originally established in 1926.  “The gas station, restaurant and cabins thrived until the new highway opened in 1952.  Once Route 66 was bypassed, Cool Springs became a dying business.  It was abandoned in 1964 and then burned down.  Cool Springs was partially rebuilt in 1991 to be blown up for the film Universal Soldier starring Jean Claude Van Damme.  A new owner in 2002 resurrected the landmark by building around some of the original stone structures.”  (source:  Images of America – Route 66 in Arizona by Joe Sonderman).  For more on Cool Springs Station, check out the website by the new owner:

Further west as you finish climbing the mountain pass and begin the descent, one eventually comes across an old mining town named Oatman.  Now a tourist attraction, wild burros (descendants of the burros let loose by gold miners long ago) now roam the streets and wooden sidewalks freely… I actually pet one on the head by reaching my hand out the car window while going 10 mph.  Is that some sort of traffic violation on my part or jackass jaywalking?

Since Clark Gable frequently visited the Oatman Hotel, I felt compelled to visit as we have a lot of striking similarities (for those that don’t know me, that was a joke).

After Oatman, I chose to go back up the mountain to watch the sun set on this historic route.  The view from Sitgreaves Pass (at 3350 feet) was not to disappoint!

To see these pictures and more, please visit:  Route 66 (Kingman to Cool Springs & Oatman) on

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Don Robertson's Gold King Mine (Jerome, Arizona)

The drive through Jerome is a must for everyone.  Last November a colleague of mine and I were traveling through Jerome and we came across a strange road that had a sign marked “Gold King Mine”.  About 2 miles down the road we started to approach an ancient copper strip mine and then heavy mining machinery along the road.  As we approached the Gold King Mine, we were both wondering if we should go any further…..

Fortunately, we went through the main entrance and were pleasantly surprised by the authentic turn-of-the-century mining camp.  In addition to the mine, there were antique gas engines, a blacksmith shop, working sawmill and over 100 antique trucks and mining equipment.  The vintage Caterpillar machinery was a favorite of mine...

Needless to say, this was a photographers dream find (the mother load!)  I actually met owner Don Robertson and this old timer was glad to show me his 1940’s Harley Davidson motorcycle (with NOS attached) and 1928 Indy Race Car.  Don has a full crew of workers restoring the various machinery on this historic property.  Although some might call this a junkyard, I would venture to guess that his property and equipment is worth millions at auction.

If you are interested in finding something authentic off the beaten path in Jerome, then this might be the place for you (especially if you're a photographer or interested in mining equipment and vintage trucks/machines.)   This Arizona Excursion was a jewel of a find and I would highly recommend a visit to Don Robertson’s Gold King Mine!  
See these photos and more at:
Gold King Mine Photos on

Brief History of Jerome, Arizona:  “The history of Jerome is a story of tough men against a rough mountain.  It’s a story of hard rock, hard work, hard liquor and hard play.  Jerome is a mining town propped on a thirty-degree mountainside two thousand feet above the Verde Valley floor in central Arizona.  Few towns, if any, are more precariously anchored on an inclined plane.  The town’s main streets are switchbacks in an arterial highway that snakes over Mingus Mountain.  Fifteen hundred vertical feet separate the upper-level houses from the lowest dwellings in the Gulch.

In 1876, Al Sieber, General George Crook’s able scout who knew about copper, staked the first claim in these hills.  By 1929 the population of Jerome had soared to fifteen thousand.  There were 2,345 working mines.  More copper was coming out of Arizona than any other state, and the United Verde produced $29 million worth of ore in one year alone.  However, the stock market crash of 1929 foreshadowed the Great Depression.  The bottom fell out of everything including copper.  The miners of Jerome scattered to WPA jobs, leaving only 4,748 hillside dwellers.

Along came Phelps Dodge and, with faith in the future, set to reopen the mine and smelter in 1935.  During the Second World War the great demand for copper needed for shells, ships, power and communications equipment rapidly depleted the known ore deposits.  Fortunes were spent in electronic geophysical explorations for more ore-bearing bodies.  The known deposits of ore at Jerome were exhausted and in 1950, the smelter fires were again shut off.  On January 30, 1953, headlines in a Phoenix newspaper read “END COMES TO FAMED JEROME MINING CAMP—PD Drags last Ore From Holes—Jerome, one of Arizona’s great mining camps, will die as a mining town in about two months…”  (Excerpted from a Western National Parks Association pamphlet titled “Jerome – Story of Mines, Men, and Money)