I see a sign!!

By Rick Sprain

If you’re a photographer, then you must love to travel. Especially here in the state of Arizona. No matter where you call home here in Arizona, you’re only minutes from someplace spectacular that’s deserving to be photographed. Having lived in Prescott for a few years now, I would make the trek to Yuma to visit family as often as

Old hotel sign in Wickenburg

possible. Highway 60, the highway traveling between Wickenburg and Highway 10 near Quartzsite, was once the main road connecting Los Angeles and Phoenix. Small towns such as Agulia, Wenden, Gladden, Harcuvar, Brenda, Hope and Salome became popular rest stops for the weary traveler.

Salome definitely had its share of characters over the years, from the towns co-founder Dick Wickenburg Hall to brothers Russell “Bus” and William Sheffler. Hall (born DeForest Hall) was a humorist who lived in Salome and wrote the towns newsletter The Salome Sun. One of his many characters  he developed was the Salome Frog. The frog was a seven-year old bullfrog weighing 18 pounds who never learned to swim because the lack of waterholes in the desert.

1940s postcard of the Sheffler’s Motel

Current sign for Sheffler’s Motel

The Sheffler’s  moved to Salome in 1939 after California outlawed gambling from ships anchored off the coast. The brothers supplied slot machines to the mob that were using on the boats as flouting casinos. With the intent to create their own resort in which Californians would flock to, the Sheffler’s constructed the Sheffler’s Motel and purchased Van’s Cafe. Although appearing legitimate, the business were a front for the brothers  real interest, which was gambling and prostitution. The cafe building is now home to the Salome Restaurant and the Cactus Bar. The Shefflers Motel is still in business and appears today as it did back in the 1940s.

As you travel up and down Highway 60, you can’t but help to notice the old hotel signs along the way. In the 1940s and 1950’s neon signs were all the rage. Hotels and motels all across the county were placing these bright signs along the highways as beacons for their establishments.

The old Sunset Motel in Wendon has
been beautifuly restored and is now used by
local artests to sell thgeir work

The Saguara Motel sign in Aguila

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a few of the old signs are still visible today. Most are no longer operational, but still serve to remind us of days when signs could be a work of art. As you drive along on Highway 60 or Route 66 or any other of the old highways, take a look at the history you are passing. Stop and take photographs of the relics from the past. Some will still have their bright colors reflecting the

1940s postcard of the Blue Star Motel

afternoon sun while others are barely readable.  If you are traveling at night and you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a

1950s postcard of the Ambers Hills Motel and Cafe

working neon sign, pull over to a safe spot, set up your camera on a tripod and snap a few shots.

Current sign of the Amber Hills Motel

Rick Sprain is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

West Clear Creek

Author: Rick Sprain

With the latest issue of Arizona Highways in hand, I walked across the street from work at the Yavapai County Courthouse to Mobster Burger for lunch. Great French fries by the way. While waiting for my Chicago dog, I started flipping through the magazine and came upon the hike of the month article on the West Clear Creek Trail just outside of Camp Verde. If you didn’t see the May issue, you can get the information on how to get there here:  https://www.arizonahighways.com/explore/hiking/west-clear-creek-trail. The article had great timing as my wife and I were heading to Clear Creek to go camping that weekend.

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View of West Clear Creek from Fire road 215 as you drop down into the valley.

On Saturday morning we headed up fire road 619 to fire road 215 and eventually down into a long green valley of large cottonwood trees that was once home to the Bull Pen Ranch. Although fire road 619 could handle most vehicles, I wouldn’t recommend driving anything other than a high clearance vehicle on fire road 215. We parked at the end of the road which by 9:00 am was already nearly filled up. There is a bathroom at the trail head and is the only one along the trail. Also remember to bring plenty of water with you prior to leaving for your hike. Not wanting to carry a lot of camera gear, I only brought along my Canon 5D Mark II with the 35-70mm 2.8 lens.  This setup worked out perfectly for taking pictures of the wide valley as well as photographing the river in tight areas in very low light. There were a few times I wish I had brought along a light tripod for some close up photographs or a long exposure shot or two.

The trail begins along the old ranch road for about the first mile and a half or so and is easy walking. There are a number of trails that take off the main trail that give you access to the river. You can spend hours exploring and taking pictures before returning to the main trail.

Once you pass an old rock ranch building and a few foundations you’ll come to the end of the road trail and begin walking towards the creek. At one point you’ll come to a fork in the trail. Take the downhill trail to the right that leads towards the creek. Don’t take the trail that goes straight as it ends on a dangerous cliff that was used for a flume to carry water to the ranch. Down at the river you’ll come upon some large flat rocks over the deep pools in the water. It’s a great place for a picnic or a short rest before continuing your hike.

Continuing on, You’ll  come to the first of many river crossings about a half mile further along the trail. Not being as balanced as my wife, I chose to walk through the water to cross the river. My wife on the other hand, was able to cross over using rocks and some fallen trees without a problem. I found the river only thigh high which gave me a  better perspective for photographing  the river that I  wouldn’t have gotten trying to balance on a rock.  This also ensured I didn’t slip off a rock or tree into the water ruining my camera.

 

My wife, Nicole, easily walks across the creek.

The first crossing is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see. You’ll find a large pond boarded by a cliff on one side a lush forest on the other. After crossing, walk through the brush along the creek until you come to the opposite end of the bond for another all different view of the cliff and creek. The second crossing is only another couple hundred yards up the river. Once you cross the second time, you will start walking away from the river. You will end up in a totally different geographically world of rocks and cactus. The third crossing is probably about three and a half miles from the parking lot. We only went a short distance further to another large secluded pool surrounded by rocks and trees.

If you are really adventurous, the trail continues another 25 miles into the West Clear Creek Wilderness, but remember no matter how far you walk in you have to walk out. Also remember whatever you bring with you to eat or drink, make sure you carry it out with you.

Now once you’ve hiked out and need something to refresh yourself, try some wine tasting at the Clear Creek Winery. Back on highway 260 turn north for less than a quarter mile and the winery is on your left. They are open Wednesday to Sunday 1 to 5 and the tasting is free. If beer is more to your liking, try the Verde Brewery on Main Street in Camp Verde. They have some wonderful hand crafted beers made right on location. Oh, their burgers are the best.

Rick Sprain is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.