Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Following the train tracks, Gila Bend to Prescott

This last weekend, I had planned a trip to Flagstaff for a meeting at the USGS. However, when I talked to the folks up there last week they said they weren't ready for a meeting yet. Bummer! I always enjoy visiting Flagstaff and this was a chance to make the trip into a photo trip. I decided to do part of the trip anyway so on Saturday, I drove up to Wickenburg by way of Gila Bend to avoid Phoenix and then on Sunday drove from there up to Prescott and then around through Payson and home, avoiding Phoenix again! Much of the trip I was following the railroad, I picked it up in Salome, AZ and followed it to as far as Skull Valley, AZ. Generally, the landscape was non-spectacular, just desert and small hills and mountains. What I found interesting were the small towns along the way that probably grew because of the railroad but are now shrinking because the train no longer stops and the interstate highways have taken most of the automobile traffic. Each small town has a character of its own, very few chain stores to be found. I particularly enjoyed some of the old motel signs, many of which are in disrepair but are still charming. I found this motel in Aguila, AZ, I think some of the neon is still working:

Driving up old highway 80 from Gila Bend to Hassayampa, I found that Phoenix is starting to leak out west of highway 85. This is really the town of Buckeye, but I consider it to be the western edge of the human infestation called Phoenix. I found this development getting started which has a water skiing lake surrounded by lots for sale. I talked to an owner of one of the lots and it turns out he is from California and bought his lot so he can build a second home to get away from the crowds and go water skiing. Of course, he is just becoming part of the same problem in Arizona! Here is the sign for the place:

Along the way north of Cotton Center, where Komatke road joins the highway, I crossed the Gila river and was glad to see water in the river. There is a dam there and pumps that take water out of the river for the various wheat and cotton fields that need to be irrigated. This is also a favorite spot for quite a few water foul and a few fishermen. I also crossed the Hassayampa river a couple of times but never saw any water in it. Here are some herons at the Gila dam:

More about this trip in my next blog post.

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