Road Miles: 195
Trail Miles: 7.5
Sites: Kingman BLM, Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area
I drove into Chloride to check out this old mining town. It was Sunday morning, though, and nothing was open. Judging from the quirky homes and businesses here, I imagine that the current residents are at least as colorful as the characters who inhabited the place during its heyday as a 19th-century silver boomtown. So, I headed south toward Kingman, avoiding the Interstate as long as I could, although 93 isn’t too bad, as Interstates go. My route was more direct, and also via a dirt road. Slow travel, indeed! I stopped to take some pictures of the profuse wildflower bloom before turning back on to I-93.
I’ve only ever raced through Kingman, just stopping for gas or some crappy fast food on my way to other places. I always associated it with tweakers, yay-hoos, and for a long time it was notorious as having been a place of residence for domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh. But because I was going to hop on old Route 66 from here, I decided to explore Kingman a little more. The Powerhouse Visitor Center here is GREAT, and the volunteers are super friendly and helpful. Of course, there is plenty of touristy Route 66 kitsch available for purchase, but they also have tons of free information on things to do locally.
I picked up a couple of free local hike guides and asked the volunteer manning the desk for recommendations. He told me about a couple that were nearby: one going up Hualapai Mountain to the park at the top, where you can see and sometimes even feed elk that wander around up there; the other a loop around a bunch of giant rock formations that he said was his favorite. I was hesitant to try to push Freya up the mountain, and also on a limited time schedule because I was due in Flagstaff that evening, so I went for the closer and presumably quicker Monolith Garden Loop Trail in the Cerbat Foothills Recreation Area.
The Loop is about 7 miles, although for me it was 7.5 because I took a wrong turn. If you do this hike using the green hike guide they give out at the Visitor Center, know that the map shows only about half of the trails that are on the ground markers once you get on trail. Also, the hike guide and ground marker maps are not oriented the same. It took me forever to figure out where I was by comparing the two, and I could have taken a lot more wrong turns before I finally got myself located on both.
Navigational difficulties aside, it was an easy, gorgeous hike, and here again, the desert was in full bloom. Normally I’d have been done in a couple of hours, but I couldn’t stop stopping to take pictures of the rocks, flowers, mesas, buttes, colors, all of it. I never thought I’d say that I actually look forward to visiting Kingman again, but sure enough, I even went back to the Visitor Center just to thank the volunteer for turning me on to this little gem of a hike. And now that I know there are a bunch of additional trail miles to explore here, I foresee a backpack out there in my future, ideally in the shoulder season under a new (for stargazing) or full (for wildlife watching) moon.
From Kingman, I hopped on old Route 66 toward Peach Springs. For all the times I’ve driven I-40 back and forth between New Mexico and Southern California, I’d never gone this way before. Well, in the future, I’ll take this longer, more indirect route EVERY time. It’s a gentler grade, less stressful (the I-40 in Arizona is in terrible condition and everyone is going around 80mph), and infinitely more scenic. I stopped at the Hualapai Lodge on their reservation in Peach Springs, and was done for when I saw the restaurant has Indian tacos. Oh… Yes, please! It was enormous, and delicious. I think they were surprised I ate the whole thing. I had to leave most of the fries behind though… hikertrash demerits for that. I joined back up with I-40 at Seligman and drove it into Flagstaff because it was getting late. There is a more indirect back route I’ll take next time, though, because it looked a lot more interesting.