Chapter One: History of the Great Western Trail – Part 2

The first leg of the trail is Bulldog area, and it was dedicated in April 1 added. This passes the Seven Spring Conservation Corps almost 100 years ago, as it winds its way to Bloody Basin Road. The Sears-Kay Ruin, at the beginning of the trail, is a nearby “Point of Discovery.” From here you can drive through the Agua Fria National Monument to I-17 or, if you are more adventurous, turn north on a rocky trail that crosses shale ledges and rivers to Dugas and then to the San Dominique Winery before it crosses Interstate 17. It then winds its way through grasslands, across riverbeds, and over Mingus Mountain, to Highway 89A where it enters Martin Canyon, also known as Smiley Rock because of a pumpkin sized rock on the side of the trail that has eyes, nose, and a mouth. It is a leisurely ride to Jerome, a mining town that became a ghost town half a century ago, and which, according to the locals, is home to specters. Artisans have revived it and it is now a well-known tourist destination. The town sits on unstable ground and is in constant downhill motion as astute visitors may notice from necklaces that swing almost imperceptibly on their stands in jewelry store display cases. After Jerome the trail goes north to Perkinsville in the Verde Valley and then onto the Mogollon Rim and the world’s largest strand of Ponderosa pine trees.

Sycamore Canyon with its red sandstone sculptures, near White Horse Lake, is another “Point of Discovery.” The trail continues to Parks and Williams on I-40 where you will find food, lodging, and gasoline. It is less challenging as it continues north of Parks though the grasslands and forests of the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest, before entering the Tusayan Ranger District. This section, after a bewildering patchwork of unmarked paths on the Navajo Nation, (not officially part of the Great Western Trail), slips off the Coconino Rim south of the Little Colorado River Gorge into the austere world of red and white sandstone, to Highway 64. The Trail ends here before restarting at House Rock on Highway 89A, but before driving into the mountains, stop at the Navajo Tribal Park Ranger Station at the junction of Highways 89 and 64 to pick up a permit to camp on the reservation near the Hopi Salt Trail. In Cameron you can also get supplies, a mouthwatering Navajo Taco, and Native American jewelry and pottery.

After crossing the Navajo Bridge over Marble Canyon, and skirting the beautiful and colorful Vermilion Cliffs on Highway 89A, the Trail starts anew at House Rock Valley Buffalo Ranch with a difficult ascent into the mountains along a trail beginning at the base of the Kaibab Plateau. A marker states that Spanish priests Dominquez and Escalante traded for food with the Paiute Indians in 1776. North of South Fork Canyon the Great Western Trail ascends the north plateau of the Kaibab National Forest where California Condor soar in the thermals above the Vermillion Cliffs. A few miles southeast of Jacob Lake, the last leg of the trail travels north to Orderville Canyon, descends the North Kaibab Plateau toward the Buckskin Mountains, and ends in Utah with spectacular views of the Chocolate, Vermilion, and White Cliffs.

The Great Western Trail is a primitive route without water, fuel, or fast-food restaurants. It will challenge the most adventurous, and will enlighten and amaze those searching for an exciting respite from the hustle and bustle of civilization. Wildlife is abundant along this trail, and you may see Rocky Mountain elk, white-tailed and mule deer, horses, antelope, black bear, skunk and many other species. Contrary to picture-postcards sold in many tourist stops, however, the Arizonan jackalope, a jackrabbit with antelope horns, does exist, but it is not native to the state.

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