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Desert Things

The desert is full of weird things.

I think that’s one of my favorite parts of the desert. How normal it is to stumble onto strange objects or structures in the middle of nowhere.

This thing, we found in Bombay Beach at the Salton Sea. It’s an old airplane that got turned into an interesting art project. We drove past it as we left to go back to Palm Springs. The sun was about to set and a storm was on the way.

I remember feeling stressed, because we still needed to check into our next hotel and it was getting late. There wasn’t specific time we had to check in, I just had envisioned us getting there before dark but now that wasn’t going to happen.

A lot of trips are filled with memories like that. I hope that’s something I can change.

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Unexpected Arizona

I thought Arizona would be flat, and mostly brown.

I was wrong.

We woke up early to begin the long drive to Tucson from Holbrook. I wasn’t really looking forward to it because I thought the landscape wouldn’t be very interesting.

Around an hour into the drive is when we learned that Arizona has mountains. Really tall mountains.

The mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway seemed like little hills in comparison.

We drove up and down these huge mountains.  Through the snowstorm at the top, then back down to calmer weather and then back up again into the snow.

It definitely was not the boring drive I was afraid of.

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There are Dinosaurs in Holbrook

The little, almost ghost town, of Holbrook is off of the old route 66 in Arizona. We spent the night there in the Wigwams Motel and had fun exploring this old retro town on a cold and windy winter afternoon. 
I was surprised, and overjoyed to discover all of the dinosaur statues that are just hanging out around town. They are the perfect addition to a town that looks like it’s straight out of the 1960s.
 
Many of the dinosaur statues live at the Rainbow Rock Shop and were apparently built by the owners of the shop over the course of 20 years.  The other statues once were part of a museum and got relocated to different places in town when the museum closed many years ago.
 
Holbrook is very close to the Petrified Forest, where many actual fossils and dinosaur bones have been found, so these statues are a reminder of the giant beasts that once roamed these lands.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Holbrook was a fun little town to explore, with all its roadside dinosaurs!

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Just Off the Desert Road

Just a few turns off the interstate, in the vast open desert, abandoned towns and buildings sit.

Free to explore, there are no fences or barriers.  No one else is even in sight.

The sun was setting over this forgotten little campground. A place where people probably spent many fun summer vacations, now overgrown on a cold day in early March.

There are so many little things to discover in the desert, just off the interstate.

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Monument Sunrise

Monument Valley was one of my favorite places on the Desert Trip.
It was such a peaceful and calming place. We stayed at the only hotel around called The View hotel, which overlooks the giant rock formations. I woke up early to watch the sunrise, before we raced off to our next destination.  There was some snow on the ground, which was a surprising sight to me.
Sometime I’d love to return to this place, and spend a few days here, wandering around the monuments.

See my other Monument Valley Post here.

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The Trail to Oatman

The last day in the desert led us to the little town of Oatman, which is nestled high up in the mountains between Arizona and California. I didn’t realize the drive to get there would be so scenic.
We left the red rocky landscape behind us and headed towards these jagged rocky ridges. We had to stop every few minutes to get out and take in the views.
I could have spent a long time wandering around and discovering strange desert things.  Like this interesting desert shrine.  Or that forgotten car.
But our flight home was that evening so we had to hurry back to Las Vegas.

This part of Arizona made me want to visit California even more than ever.  Maybe because we were so close, it was just beyond this mountain ridge!  The landscape in this part of the country is so dramatic.

The town of Oatman is home to a bunch of friendly Burros.  As we got close to the town, Burros started to appear along the hills. I couldn’t wait to get to the town to see even more!

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Chloride Ghost Town

In north western Arizona, about an hour and a half outside of Las Vegas, is the little almost forgotten town of Chloride.

Chloride was once a busy mining town with over 5000 residents, but over the years that number steadily declined to around just a few hundred and Chloride was on it’s way to becoming a ghost town. For whatever reason though, this town was never completely abandoned and still has a couple stores, a restaurant and a motel.

It’s a picturesque dusty little town, full of eclectic desert character. We stopped at the general store for some snacks to fuel us on our way to the Grand Canyon.

Chloride was a fun place to stop.  I’d love to spend more time there exploring one day.

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A Night in a Wigwam

When I was planning a trip to the desert and clicking around on google maps to get an idea of places to go, I saw the Wigwam village in Arizona and knew it had to be part of the trip.  I had heard of this place before, and seen pictures, but was never exactly sure where it was.
This Wigwam Motel was part of a chain of motels built in the 30s and 40s. There were seven total; two in Kentucky, and one in Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana, and California. Unfortunately all but three of them survived, but they are now on the national register of historic places. The surviving ones are in Cave City Kentucky, San Bernardino California, and Holbrook Arizona.
This one, in Holbrook, is just a straight shot from my house down the interstate in my backyard!
The wigwam village was the final stop at the end of a long day which started at Monument Valley included a long drive through the Petrified Forest and then a trip to Two Guns Ghost Town.
This was the first day that I really experienced the crazy desert wind, and wished I had brought something to keep the hair out of my face.
Each Wigwam was paired with it’s own vintage car. It felt like stepping back in time.
We stayed in Wigwam #8.
The interior was cozy.  Nothing too fancy, but it was a blast to stay in this funny little Motel.

It was a frigid night, but luckily there was a nice heater inside our wigwam.  We awoke in the morning to find the lightest dusting on snow on the ground!  Snow in Arizona!  I couldn’t believe it.  But soon I was about to see even more…

I am dreaming up trips that involve staying at the other two wigwam motels.  Kentucky is close by, and I still can’t get California out of my mind.

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A Desert Painted

Parts of northern Arizona had reminded me of what Mars might look like.  But upon entering the Petrified Forest and seeing the Painted Desert, this area really looked like we had just been transported over to the red planet.

The bright sun gave a false impression of a warm day. The air was cold, and the zero humidity made it even colder.  The wind was unreal. Pulling the breath out of your lungs and not giving it back. It certainly felt like another planet.

I wanted to hike down the trails, and be immersed in the strange landscape, but the elements seemed too rough. So we just drove along the road, rarely passing another car.  Stopping at the overlooks, mostly alone on this strange red part of our planet.

I’ll never forget how weird the desert looked.

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Two Guns Ghost Town

Just off of interstate 40, formally the old route 66, is Two Guns Ghost Town.
The land where this ghost town now sits, holds many stories.
A group of Native Americans were killed by an enemy tribe that set fire to a cave where they were hidden.  After that tragic event, the area is now known as the Apache Death Cave. Years later the beginnings of a settlement started to appear as construction began on a railroad and bridges over the Canyon Diablo where the Apache Death Cave was. But this new settlement was a town of outlaws and bandits. Reportedly a group of men once robbed a train, stealing close to $200,000 and then buried it somewhere near the canyon rim.  It has never been found.
Eventually a man named Harry Miller, who referred to himself as Crazy Chief Thunder, began the major construction of a town he wanted to call Two Guns.
The town included a small zoo with mountain lions, snakes, and other interesting creatures. He also apparently sold the skeletal remains of the Native Americans who died in the cave nearby.
Crazy Chief Thunder skipped town eventually after shooting a guy to death with whom he’d had a disagreement.  The man’s widow kept the town going and opened a gas station, tourist store and campground. Unfortunately the gas station burned down in the 70s, and Two Guns slowly declined into a ghost town.
Now it sits, right next to the interstate, just some lonely graffiti covered buildings in the middle of the empty desert.
The setting sun was casting extreme shadows over the crumbling buildings as we arrived at the ghost town one chilly February day. The wind was tearing across the flat open land. No one else was around.
The desert is such a strange and mysterious place.