After my series of cat naps in the Walmart parking lot the night before, I had a one track mind – COFFEE. I was super slow moving but still stoked to drive the Apache Trail that day.
About the Apache Trail: “The Apache Trail in Arizona was a stagecoach trail that ran through the Superstition Mountains. It was named the Apache Trail after the Apache Indians who originally used this trail to move through the Superstition Mountains. The current Apache Trail links Apache Junction at the edge of the Greater Phoenix area with Theodore Roosevelt Lake, through the Superstition Mountains and the Tonto National Forest.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache_Trail
As I neared the entrance point for the trail, I decided to go radio silent the whole way. I turned off the radio, turned off the ringer on my phone.. and just wanted to be in the moment and enjoy my surroundings as much as I possibly could.
My first stop was to quickly glimpse at Goldfield ghost town (which looked a bit touristy to me) – but given the early hour it was closed.The trail is VERY twisty with sharp turns and one way bridges. Not going to lie – I pictured my car driving over the cliff at least a few times throughout my drive. THANKS imagination!
For the majority of the trail I was the only car! Which looking back was probably a good thing given the amount of times I stopped to take pictures and enjoy the views – anyone behind me would have definitely been super duper annoyed haha.
After an hour or two (my concept of time is pretty messed up when I travel), I reached the end of the trail where I was greeted by the Roosevelt Bridge… a gorgeous light blue, arched bridge that was named one of 12 outstanding bridges in the nation (alongside Golden Gate & Brooklyn bridges). I continued on my way and a few miles down the road saw a sign for cliff dwellings – DETOUR time!
I spoke with the ranger inside the information area and learned it was only $3 entry fee to the dwellings. SCORE! I headed back to my car to pack a hiking bag since she told me it was about a mile and would take an hour (I was a little skeptical on that calculation of time and distance but I wasn’t about to question her). I could see the dwellings from the parking lot and it was a steep climb up the hill.
About Tonto National Monument: Situated within rugged terrain in the northeastern part of the Sonoran Desert, these well-preserved cliff dwellings were occupied during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonto_National_Monument
Fifteen minutes later and I was in this 700 year old cliff dwelling overlooking the Roosevelt Lake..another HOLY CRAP moment. I read the brochure I was given and took a tour of the rooms. It was crazy to imagine what life was life for those people way back when. The rocks were still blackened from smoke! What an incredible impromptu stop!
From Tonto National Monument I “drop pinned” route 10 so I could continue making my way east. The drive down through Arizona and into New Mexico was scenic but nothing major to write home about. However I did drive through a few rain clouds which was actually exciting since it barely ever rains in SoCal!
I made my way and was back on the 10. I had nothing in mind to do aside from drive drive drive and get as close to Austin, Texas as I could. I was cruising along probably singing loudy (sorry LaRoo – deal with it) when a billboard flashed by about some white sand dunes. I grabbed my phone and decided to google it (how did we live and travel without google and iphones? Probably take a LOT more wrong turns. Thank You modern technology for making my travels easier to navigate). I found the Yelp page (another one of my favorite travel reference sites now) and the review for the white sand dunes had me SOLD in less than a minute.
When I mapped it, it was 1 hour 18 minutes out of my way to Austin. I would get there just at about sunset if I didn’t hit any traffic. Time to put the pedal to the metal (well not in my Saturn Vue but you get the point). I was on my way…
After a short while I came across an “Inspection Point” – my second or third on my journey so far. The dude usually just waves me through and it’s no big deal.
Well this border patrol officer was a bit more all up in my business. There was a group of them and there were quite a few lookers in that group! BUT not the one I got…meh. He started asking me me all sorts of questions, wanted my license and registration blah blah blah. He then proceeded to ask me to roll down my back window and was looking around in my stuff. After a few minutes I was dismissed and on my way. If you really want to check out my underwears and whatnot just ask boys – there aint nothing special in the back of this car.I want to put something witty about smuggling drugs right here but given it is 1:15am and I’ve had a long, emotional day (more on that later in my Austin entries), my ability to form thoughts is at an all time low.
A short drive later and I was entering White Sands National Monument — finding two national monuments in one day that I didn’t even know existed?? Heck yea!
About White Sands: “Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.” – http://www.nps.gov/whsa/index.htm
$3 later and I was through the gates and driving into these magical dunes. I had butterflies in my tummy just looking around at these white dunes. I have never seen anything like it… the closest thing I can liken it to would be snow covered hills…but these dunes were seriously breath taking. I grabbed a plastic lid from the back of my car and attempted to sled down a dune. I got all of 6 inches before I got stuck. NOOO sledding for me I guess.
I did decide to be a bit of a rule breaker though. The sign at the entrance said no collecting… but I so took one of LaRoo’s clean plastic poop bags and scooped up some sand. Shhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone! I figured my nieces and nephew would find it cool to play with.
The sun was setting so I put LaRoo back in the car (she’s not so into site seeing – unless it involves food) and I climbed up another dune. At the top I sat down and fell back into the sand and had a special moment I will never forget. The feeling that I felt was that of such gratitude and joy for being exactly RIGHT there. Do you ever get that feeling when you are somewhere special that you the only person that touched a particular thing?? I like to think that I am the ONLY person that touched that one area of sand…or hopefully at a minimum at least one grain of sand was all MINE!
I brushed the sand off the best I could and I was back on the road — destination: as close to Austin as I could get. It was getting close to 10:30 and I was in desperate need of a shower and good nights rest so I pulled off in El Paso. When I looked at google maps it looked like the last town before a whole stretch of NOTHINGNESS. I called around and found a motel 6. Cheap fees and pet friendly — works for me.
I checked into my room and immediately went to the shower. After sleeping in my car the night before and exploring all day in 100 degree heat I had some scrubbing to do! Finally back to feeling fresh and clean it was time to turn in for the night. Like the OCD person that I can sometimes be, I closely inspected the sheets and laid a towel down over the pillow since I have a thing about stuff touching my face. I’m slowing learning to just get over this because I know I will be faced with MANY times of not having proper resting places.
Ahhhh finally sleepy night night time… and in a bed nonetheless! Whooowhooo!