Thursday, April 02, 2009

Review-- Images of America: Apache Trail

Title: Images of America: Apache Trail
Author: Richard L. Powers
ISBN: 9780738558622/ Arcadia Publishing, 2009
Genre: Arizona History
Rating: A

First Line: The Apache Trail, located in central Arizona, is one of the most picturesque, well-known roads in America, if not the entire world.

Hundreds of years ago, the road was a footpath leading down from the mountains to the low desert. The Anasazi of the higher elevations used it to trade with the desert-dwelling Hohokam. Left to its own devices for centuries, little attention was paid to it until the construction of the Roosevelt Dam around the year 1900. Using manual labor and rudimentary tools, the mainly Apache work force from the San Carlos Apache Reservation turned the footpath into a narrow, twisting road that brought supplies to the dam site and allowed the workers to try to find some nightlife on the weekends.

Today the Apache Trail is paved through Tortilla Flat and then reverts to dirt. Thousands of people (many of them "snowbirds") travel the trail in spring because when the winter rains are plentiful, this is what you'll see in every direction:

The desert floor, the hillsides and mountainsides covered with acre upon acre of wildflowers: Mexican gold poppies, scorpionweed, California sage, fairyduster, arroyo lupine, white tackstem, brittlebush, Gila live-forever.... It takes the breath away.

Winter visitors read their guidebooks and see that the Apache Trail is marked "easy". It is...until you reach the descent to Fish Creek. There the trail descends 1600 feet in less than three miles. It's only wide enough for one vehicle in most places, and the guardrails are patchy at best. The "easy" that the guidebooks refer to is the road surface!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the history of one of my favorite local drives. Powers explains everything in an easy to read style that's never boring or dry. But it's really not the history that you get these books for; it's the photographs.

If you know an area well, it's fascinating to watch it change through the years by turning each page and looking carefully at the photographs.

Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series is excellent. I own several books in the series, all about special Arizona places. However, when I looked up their website for this review, I noticed that they have books about places I'm very familiar with in the state in which I was born: Illinois. I'll be hard-pressed to leave them alone! I'd also be willing to wager that, if you take a look through their catalog, you'll find a few books that you'll want to buy!

[If you want to see more of the Apache Trail, April's slideshow at the very bottom of the page contains 28 photos I took there in the spring of 2008.]


  1. Lovely photos and great post.

  2. I am not sure this post makes me want to read. I think it makes me want to travel. One of the (many) things I enjoy about your blog is the ´setting´. So just like I enjoy novels with a strong sense of environment, I appreciate all your photos and descriptions of your part of the world :)

  3. Thanks, Beth!

    Dorte--Setting matters to me as well, so if you have a sense of place when you read my blog, I'm happy. I've often been told that I'm an unpaid employee of the Arizona Department of Tourism, which doesn't bother me a bit! :)

  4. Love the photos and review! I've never been near Arizona before but I do enjoy going there in books. Off to see what other books Arcadia Publishing has!

  5. Happy hunting, Jen! It would be easy for me to break the bank there!

  6. A few years ago my husband and I fell for the "easy" title on this drive also. In spots it was actually treacherous. But amazingly beautiful. We were spending a month in Casa Grande and we got back much later than we planned. I guess you could call us snow birds as we like to spend the winter in warm areas.

    Arizona has a very unique beauty. You are definitely a wildflower lover. Your picture are gorgeous. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

  7. Margot--were you traveling the road in a sedan? There are parts of that trail that I wouldn't want to be in anything other than 4WD! You might be a snowbird, but I think most snowbirds are sensible, seeing as I'm a snowbird who stayed! I'm glad that you liked my photos and that I brought back some good memories...although it sounds as though at least part of the Apache Trail may not have been a good memory.


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