We traversed the dusty back roads of Arizona to find secret splash spots, hidden hikes, off-menu delights and more. Join us for a furtive foray into the dark heart of Phoenix... and beyond.

Hidden Arizona

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Travel Issue: September 2016
Group Free
Pin It

Central Arizona

Metro Phoenix and its surrounds may hold the majority of the state’s residents, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t treasures to be unearthed – quite the contrary, in fact. From secret rooms and speakeasies to bomb shelters and places to buy dead things in jars, here’s your guide to the underside of Central Arizona.

Secret Rooms and “Speakeasies”

Why the quotation marks? Well, a lot of bars with liquor licenses toss the term around to describe the underground style and vibe of their establishments, but the fact is, unless a club is serving alcohol illegally and secretly – à la Prohibition – it’s not a real speakeasy. That said, it’s still fun to pretend (and to have to know a password, even!) in these totally legit but largely unknown speakeasy-esque environs.

Our Favorite The Secret Library at Valley Bar

On any given night, unknown to most folks in Valley Bar’s main basement lounge, the Rose Room, a group of people may be packed into a tucked-away library hidden behind the wine racks and under the stairs, discussing the apocalypse, or maybe infamous local murders, or the lost art of neon signs. Formerly a storage room, the floral-wallpapered space welcomes local literary collective Four Chambers Press and its Get Lit salons the first Thursday of every month, and hosts “Hip Historian” Marshall Shore and his monthly History Underground on second Sundays. Browse the bookshelves and find reads ranging from Webster’s Spanish-English Dictionary to Playboy’s Wine & Spirits Cookbook to Nancy Reagan’s memoir. “What I love about the secret library at Valley Bar is, it only seats about 20 people,” says Shore, who has his own Meetup.com group (Marshall Shore Retro Spectacular) and lectures about Phoenicians like “Trunk Murderess” Winnie Ruth Judd. “There is so much amazing stuff [in Phoenix] that is just beneath the surface.” 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-368-3121, valleybarphx.com

Hidden room at The Bees Knees

Known as “The Back Office,” this secret room within The Camby Hotel’s dark-wood-paneled lounge is “hidden behind a door within a door,” and available for private gatherings. 2401 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-468-0700, thecamby.com

Experience Room at Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs

This newly constructed bar harkens back to yesteryear with retro décor, vintage cocktails and “History Happy Hours.” 11111 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-866-7500, tapatiocliffshilton.com

Ostrich Room at San Marcos Inn

Once a storage facility for A.J. Chandler’s collection of ostrich feathers, this basement room was recently converted into a craft cocktail bar. Events held beneath its industrial-piped ceiling include PHOENIX magazine’s Summer Cocktail Camp series. 10 N. San Marcos Pl., Chandler, 480-917-4903, m.sanmarcosresort.com

Mystery Room at Arizona Biltmore

You need the weekly password (available on the Biltmore’s Twitter page, @arizonabiltmore) to get into this room’s Sunday soirées. Bonus: This was a real speakeasy during Prohibition. 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix, 602-955-6600, arizonabiltmore.com


SECRET SPLASH SPOTS

East Verde River Payson

This tributary of the Verde River flows southwest from the Mogollon Rim near Washington Park through the Tonto National Forest and parts of the Mazatzal Wilderness near Payson and is typically stocked with tons of trout. azgfd.com

Queen Creek Waterfall San Tan

Also known as “Queen Creek Falls,” this waterfall spills down a rocky slope alongside the US 60. worldwaterfalldatabase.com/waterfall/Queen-Creek-Falls-14235

Reavis Falls Superstition Wilderness/Tonto 

National Forest

It’s a hard hike to get here, but worth the effort – especially in spring and after heavy rains, when this majestic deluge spills 196 feet over a craggy cliff. desertusa.com/desert-arizona/reevis-falls-az.html

 

SECRET HIKE

Lone Pine Trailhead to Browns Peak Four Peaks Wilderness

The Lone Pine Saddle Trailhead is your starting point for this 5-mile, moderately difficult sojourn through the Four Peaks Wilderness to the summit of Browns Peak. Along the way, trekkers take in the juniper, pine and oak forests – and see remnants of the damage from the 1996 Lone Pine Fire. The trailhead can be accessed from either FR 143 from the west or from El Oso Road from the east. fs.usda.gov/detail/tonto/specialplaces/?cid=fsbdev3_018736

SECRET SITES

The “Jail Tree” Wickenburg

Legend says from 1868 to 1890, this 200 year-old mesquite tree on the corner of Tegner Street (US 93) and Wickenburg Way (US 60) served as Wickenburg’s makeshift jail before the town had a brick-and-mortar clink. Visit the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce (216 N. Frontier St.) in the old train depot for a downtown walking tour that includes the jail tree display – complete with a fiberglass outlaw lamenting his arboreal incarceration. Hey dude, at least you’re in the shade.  www.ci.wickenburg.az.us/532/Jail-Tree

Harquahala Smithsonian Observatory Salome

Imagine hiking for three hours to the top of Harquahala Peak in the early 1920s, transporting expensive equipment by burro, to study the sky in an observatory without telescopes. That’s what a crew of scientists did from 1920-1925, in a building constructed by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the purpose of studying solar activity (hence the lack of telescopes). Abandoned since 1925, the observatory is now under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management. blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/cultural/harcs.html

Bomb shelters in the Valley

Back in 1967, if you were worried about fallout from the Cuban Missile Crisis, the safest place to be was Cave Creek – or at least a local physician thought so when he built a beautiful home at 6914 E. Continental Mountain Drive… with three vintage railway cars buried beneath it to serve as a bomb shelter. The property later became a B&B, and lost its gun turrets in a 2005 remodel. The Santa Fe Railroad cars remain, and were a selling point for Coldwell Banker realtors when the house was listed for $727,885 in April 2016.

Another common cure for the Cold War may be found underground in Downtown Phoenix, when construction crews break ground later this year on a new Fry’s grocery store planned for a plot at Second and Jefferson streets. This parcel of land was formerly the site of a city-operated jail, as well as a J.C. Penney store. City officials said a bomb shelter beneath the plot wouldn’t be a big surprise, as such shelters were common at the height of the Cold War.

 

HIDDEN HOTELS

Dead Broke Inn Young

Located in the largely unknown town of Young (see page 96), this one-bedroom house has a false front constructed in the popular weatherboard and ramshackle-shingle architectural style of the old Western frontier. The adjacent Dead Broke cabin and saloon sleeps up to 10 people, and offers an even more authentically “Old West” experience, right down to the kitchen sink constructed from an old steel laundry basin and well pump. 47893 Hwy. 288, Young, 928-462-4022, deadbrokecorral.com

Noftsger Hill Inn Globe

An elementary school during Globe’s mining boomtown days, this inn retains its links to the past with rooms featuring a flurry of old mining artifacts and art, as well as chalkboards scribbled with guest comments. “Classrooms” are now work spaces (with free WiFi!), and there’s a view of the Old Dominion mine from the rear room. 425 North St., Globe, 928-425-2260, noftsgerhillinn.com

 

OFF-THE-PATH ODDITIES

Poki, the Two-Ton Tortoise Bullhead City

Resident Bill Hayes commissioned a turtle sculpture composed of concrete reinforced with steel rods. The two-ton marvel stands next to the Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce sign, at 1251 Highway 95. 

Curious Nature Phoenix

Ted Nugent and Marilyn Manson could totally bond at this place. The taxidermy-focused store features all the mounted buffalo heads the Nuge could ever want, and enough weird things floating in jars and bizarre bones (articulated camel toe, anyone?) for Marilyn Manson’s next dozen music videos. Occult books, cockroach paperweights, exotic terrariums and handmade beard oils and “whisker wax” help round out the odd inventory. 5032 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-314-4346, curiousnatureshop.com

 


    

Hidden Town: Young 

Our choice for the quintessential “Hidden Arizona” town is 

a veritable time capsule of the old west. 

The Old West is Young. Perhaps lesser known as Pleasant Valley, this unincorporated town of roughly 500 people sits at the base of the Mogollon Rim, tucked away in the Tonto National Forest. Its history is one of the most violent in the Wild West, thanks to the very unpleasant Pleasant Valley War, a bloody range dispute that lasted from 1882 to 1892 and claimed the lives of an estimated 35-50 men, many in grisly fashion (beheaded, disemboweled by bullets, etc.). 

But that’s hard to imagine almost 125 years later, while standing on a placid, grassy hill above Hwy. 288 with the town’s perpetual breeze blowing gently across your face, looking at the historical Hoghland Store (built in the early 1900s), with its authentic orange globe 76 gas station pumps glowing out front. The inside feels frozen in time, with display cases and shelves filled with an army of artifacts from the past – pristine packs of candy cigarettes from the 1940s, unopened boxes of Wheaties from 1959 featuring bowler Billy Welu, boxes of World War II-era Roi-Tan cigars – and vintage signs and newspapers proclaiming things like “Hoover Is Inaugurated President” and “Nazis Surrender!” The guys from American Pickers would go nuts here – but nothing’s for sale, only for show. Owners Robin and Karla Alborn have spent nearly a year painstakingly cleaning and restoring the property, which sat vacant and deteriorating for nearly 30 years. 

Young’s not the kind of town you stumble upon – you have to mean to go there, and getting there means a 2-and-a-half to 3-hour drive from Phoenix on either the southern route (SR 188 past Roosevelt Lake) or northern route (AZ 260 onto FR 521), both of which lead onto SR 288, the town’s main drag. Each route includes about 10 to 15 miles of dirt road. The Hoghland Store is one of the must-stops in town (a 1941 rock house, a 1930s oil building and an old windmill also occupy the hill). Here are three more, all a short stroll from one another: 

Antlers Cafe & Bar 

Chef Scott Tompkins honed his culinary chops in Metro Phoenix at Mastro’s restaurants and Skye restaurant in Peoria, so don’t be shocked to find a sublime sandwich here. We recommend Trish’s Greasy Patty Melt, a succulent 8 oz. beef patty griddled with onions and topped with Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing between toasted rye buns. 46788 N. Hwy. 288, Young, 928-462-3265, facebook.com/Antlers-Cafe-Bar 215070661894085 

Dead Broke Corral 

Owners Robin and Karla Alborn named their place “Dead Broke” after a term for totally well-trained horses – like the four in their corral. Nearby sits the Dead Broke Inn – a one-bedroom, one-bathroom Western-themed house; and the jaw-dropping Dead Broke Saloon and cabin guesthouse – both of which the Alborns constructed from the ground up, by themselves, and decorated with period-accurate reproductions and ephemera, as well as plenty of authentic antique items. The cabin contains two “bordello”-themed bedrooms, as well as a loft with four twin beds, a bathroom and kitchen, and is connected to the saloon, which is for guests only and includes a pool table. Dead Broke guests can also get trigger-happy in a stunning old-school shooting gallery, learn the basics of calf-roping and horsemanship, or take a sightseeing ride in the back of the Dead Broke Ford Bronco. 47893 N. Hwy. 288, Young, 928-462-4022, deadbrokecorral.com 

Young Cemetery

Located behind the old church (now the Pleasant Valley Historical Society Museum), this pioneer cemetery is the final resting place of many of the men killed in the Pleasant Valley War, including William and John Graham, as well as other figures important to the area, like general store owner Ray Hoghland and Ola Mae Young, proprietress of the town’s first post office. apcrp.org/YOUNG/Young_Cemetery.htm

 

 

Secret Soirées

A single candle sits in the center of the empty dance floor, its flame flickering in the light of the lasers beaming psychedelic designs onto a wall-size screen. The Prince song “I Would Die 4 U” blasts out of the state-of-the-art sound system, slowed down to an eerie drone. At 1 a.m., this floor will be flooded with dancing bodies, as Devin Fleenor – founder of Epic FX light effects company – puts on an epic display of sound-and-laser fusion at Unexpected Gallery on Grand Avenue in Downtown Phoenix. Upstairs, there’s a fully stocked but untended bar where guests – all of whom are here by special invite-only – can make their own tipples. 

This private event took place in early July, and was the first in a series of “secret events” the enigmatic Fleenor will bring to Unexpected Gallery (learn more at devinfleenor.com). We recently caught up with him about his clandestine plans – or lack thereof.

Q&A with Devin Fleenor

Do you have a name for this series of secret events?

No name. No predictable pattern. No commercial agenda. If people are aware of the intentions I’ve been putting out, there really is no secret. Vision manifested.

What inspired you to start holding these events?

Human beings. Long hugs. Genuine interactions. Listening. Honest community. Art for the sake of art is not what I’m after. A sacred place that fosters connection, reflection and evolution in myself is the genesis, intention. The exodus – action – is a community mindfully coming together. Those of us who harmoniously resonate are finding a home.

Describe what some of these events are like.

Love. If you find yourself with us, you will know of which I speak. Yes, we harness the powers of light and sound and algorithm to create otherworldy, interactive environments that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. But the foundation is always love.

How can people hear about these events?

You will receive an invitation. It has never been about exclusion – always about harmony. The secret is out. I’ll see you at the next anointed space and time. 

Northern Arizona

The beauty of Northern Arizona’s landscapes – the thick high-mountain pine forests, the russet rocks reaching toward the baby blue sky – is apparent and oft-appreciated. But its stranger spots – the Flintstones theme park, the dinosaur footprints? – not so much. But take the road less traveled, and you’ll see a whole new side of Northern AZ – one that includes everything from fry bread sold out of old school buses to B-24 bomber wreckage on a mountainside.

ANCIENT ARTIFACTS

Petroglyphs at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural pReserve Flagstaff

An archaeological, riparian and recreational treasure, Picture Canyon landscape is loaded with foliage, fauna and waterfowl and nearly 200 petroglyphs created by the Northern Sinagua people around 1,200 years ago. Trailhead located off El Paso Rd., 928-213-2153, flagstaff.az.gov/index.aspx?NID=2881

Dinosaur Tracks near Tuba City

You won’t find any T-Rex tracks among the giant dinosaur footprints deep in the rusty red earth near Tuba City, but you will see some fantastic footprints from the late Triassic and early Jurassic period that have been verified by paleontologists from Northern Arizona University, including those of the Eubrontes and Grallator dinosaurs. Located along U.S. Hwy. 260 near Tuba City (with signed exits for Moenkopi Dinosaur Tracks).

 

SECRET EATS 

Jeri J’s Indian Fry Bread Truck Payson

Jeri Ann Johnson-Decola (aka “Jeri J”) has been making and selling her delicious, bubbly and chewy fry bread on the Tonto Apache Reservation for more than a decade, and recently brought her “kitchen on wheels” – a converted orange school bus – to the parking lot of Western Village along the Beeline Highway (Hwy. 87) in Payson. Cash only. jerijsindianfrybread.com

Black Mesa Ranch Snowflake

“I’d never even seen a goat before I decided to do this,” Kathryn Heininger says, referring to the time 16 years ago when she and her husband David Heininger decided to “retire” to a remote old ranch in Snowflake and ended up raising a herd of world-renowned Nubian goats instead. Black Mesa Ranch’s baby goats sell for $300 to $600 per kid (they had 80 kids this spring) and are shipped as far as Alaska. Nubian goat milk has the highest butterfat content of any full-size dairy goat, Kathryn explains, and it provides the base for Black Mesa Ranch’s artisanal cheeses, caramels and fudge (made by David), which are available at Whole Foods Market and via the store at blackmesaranch.com. David tries to source all his ingredients locally; the herbs de Provence in the Black Mesa Ranch lavender chèvre comes from Red Rock Farms in nearby Concho, and the tonsil-tickling kick in the Black Mesa Ranch “Arizona Goats Milk Fudge on Fire” comes from the indigenous Concho chile pepper. The ranch, which is not open to the public, is also home to a coop of chickens, some sheep and pigs. Several of the swine are bought every year by chef Kevin Binkley, who picks them up in person and takes them back to Binkley’s in Phoenix to be butchered and turned into meat dish delights.    

HIDDEN HISTORY

Apache Death Cave and Two Guns Winslow

The history of indigenous people in some places is so horrible people stop talking about it, and the space where atrocities take place is largely forgotten – until white settlers build a town called Two Guns on top of it and start to see ghosts. Located off I-40 about 30 miles east of Flagstaff (with its own signed exit), Two Guns today is a collection of crumbling stone structures and ramshackle ruins, but 138 years ago, it was the site of a bloody, black-smoke-clouded conflict between the Apache and Navajo people. 

In 1878, Apache raiders attacked a Navajo camp near the Little Colorado River, sparing the lives of only three young girls, whom they took prisoner. Navajo leaders sent a group of 25 men to track the Apaches. Their search led them to the short edge of Canyon Diablo, and a massive underground cavern in which a large Apache camp and their horses were concealed. The Apache had continued carrying out raids on the Navajo from this cave hideout, and once the secret cove was discovered, the Navajo executed a violent vengeance. 

After quietly murdering the two Apache watchmen at the cave entrance, the Navajo gathered piles of dry sagebrush and driftwood at the entrance and lit it on fire. As the smoke drifted into their cave, the Apaches used the last of their water – and slit the throats of their horses – to put out the fire, and barricade the cave with the bodies of their dead steeds. One Apache man escaped and pleaded for his life, but upon informing the Navajo that their three kidnapped girls were dead, the enraged Navajo fired a fusillade into the cave, fueling the fire. After the death songs and screams stopped, the Navajo entered the cave to find the charred corpses of 42 Apache men who had suffocated inside. From then on, no Apache or Navajo has used the cave for any reason; many will not go anywhere near the place, which is said to be cursed. 

B-24 bomber crash on Humphreys Peak Flagstaff

Many knowledgeable and experienced hikers will not take this rather difficult hike – particularly those with strong sensitivities to the environment who don’t condone off-trail hiking on a delicate tundra. But a few less scrupulous adventurers have (with the aid of GPS and a compass), because the idea of seeing a World War II bomber that crashed 11,000 feet up on a mountain is pretty exciting. In the pre-dawn hours of September 15, 1944, a B-24 bomber on a training mission for the U.S. Army hit the side of Humphreys Peak, killing all eight servicemen on board. The wreckage still sits on the slope, above a rock flow and in a clearing, its metal debris gleaming in the sun. hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=598 

Joseph City

The last of the Mormon Little Colorado River colonies, Joseph City was settled in 1876 by 73 colonists from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led by Captain William C. Allen. First called Allen’s Camp, it was renamed St. Joseph in 1878 (to honor LDS movement founder Joseph Smith), and renamed again in 1923 to Joseph City. Roughly 1,500 people live in the town today, which remains predominantly Mormon. Points of interest include Ella’s Frontier trading post on the outskirts of town, along an abandoned section of Route 66. The 1927 building is made entirely from telephone poles. Ella Blackwell bought the store in 1955 and operated it as a classic roadside tourist joint. It was abandoned in 1984 after Blackwell died. Another worthy stop is the Jackrabbit Trading Post along Route 66, still open and known for its iconic roadside sign proclaiming “HERE IT IS.”

 



SECRET HIKE

Little Horse Trail Sedona

An easy, two-hour roundtrip hike along a moderately used trail through Arizona cypress stands framed by the red rock spires of Sedona. Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900, fs.usda.gov

 

HIDDEN HOTELS

Wigwam Motel Holbrook

Sleep in a teepee at this cooler-than-kitsch roadside classic along old Route 66, which offers 15 wigwams (each 32 feet high and wide enough for double beds, bathrooms and old-school wall-mounted TVs). Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wigwam sometimes has a 1950s model classic car or two parked in its lot. 811 W. Hopi Dr., Holbrook, 928-524-3048, galerie-kokopelli.com/wigwam

Canyon Motel & Railroad RV Park Williams

Another slice of disappearing Americana along Route 66, the Canyon Motel & Railroad RV Park has provided rustic relaxation in 18 cottage-style motel rooms below towering Ponderosa pines since the 1930s. But the real treats are the railway car rooms and suites – three of them in a 1950s Pullman car, all converted into comfortable quarters with modern amenities. 1900 E. Rodeo Rd., Williams, 800-482-3955, thecanyonmotel.com

 

SECRET SPLASH SPOT

Wolf Creek Falls Prescott

Often called “Prescott’s best kept secret,” Wolf Creek Falls can roar more than 90 feet, especially after heavy winter snows (sadly, it’s usually drier than the Phoenix heat during summer). The falls can be accessed via the Wolf Creek Loop Trail #384. Prescott National Forest, 928-443-8000, arizonahiking.blogspot.com/2011/03/wolf-creek-falls.html

 

OFF-THE-PATH ODDITIES

Area 66 Golden Valley

Yes, that is a building-size golf ball you see in the air on the horizon near Golden Valley. Built in the 1970s, this 40-foot, geodesic dome originally housed the Dinosphere restaurant and disco. It has been the private residence of Hank and Ardell Schimmel since 1981. 12716 Alamo Rd., Golden Valley

Flintstones Bedrock City Williams

People drawn to the romantic decay of abandoned amusement parks and Flintstones fans really gotta “yabba dabba do” a road trip to Flintstones Bedrock City. Built in 1972, the theme park once featured actors costumed as Fred and Barney, a Fredmobile tram that made circles through a volcano named Mt. St. Wilma and a Bedrock Theater showing Flintstones cartoons. All of the lumpy, colorful structures (including “rock” homes and giant dinosaurs) are intact at the park, which is currently for sale and still in operation (admission costs $5). 101 S. Hwy. 180, Williams, 928-635-2600, bedrockaz.com

 

Vault of Viruses

Anthrax has been on the campus of Northern Arizona University. And Valley Fever. Maybe ebola, too. In fact, if there were a “treasure trove” of particularly pernicious pathogens, it would be at NAU’s special laboratory, which is certified to handle level 3 pathogens and led by Dr. Paul Keim, Regents’ Professor of Biology at NAU and director of the Pathogen Genomics Division at TGen North.

Like the main TGen facility in Downtown Phoenix, TGen North is dedicated to studying DNA and genomes – but unlike TG main, which sequences the genomes of humans and dogs to try to find genetic mutations that indicate disease and try to find treatments for those diseases – TGen North is dedicated to studying the genomes of viruses, bacteria and other pathogens to try to discover the source of outbreaks and trace the lineage and mutations of various virulent diseases. “That’s what we’re trying to do – the ancestry.com of pathogens. We want to build a ‘family tree’ and find the roots,” explains Dr. David Engelthaler, director of operations at TGen North, as he gives a tour of the TGen North facility in Flagstaff on a breezy day in mid-June. The hallways are adorned with art depicting various viruses (MRSA, influenza, Valley Fever) blown up under a microscope and reimagined in colorful amoeba shapes by local painter Rachel Dillon. Multi-million-dollar machines hum in various laboratories, executing tasks in line with TGen North’s dual focus – public health (their diagnostic tools help support and inform the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and biodefense (the FBI and other U.S. government bodies frequently call upon TGen North’s services; it played a pivotal role in providing U.S. military intelligence with what Keim calls “cutting-edge assays for biological weapons” during the 2001 anthrax investigations).    

“We do some drug development as well,” Engelthaler adds, as we approach a door marked with a big red “Biohazard” sign. This is the BSL-2 Lab, the only one at TGen North that has live organisms. They are studying streptococcus under microscopes behind the door, Engelthaler says. TGen also beta-tests new gene sequencing equipment at the Flagstaff facility, which Engelthaler enthuses about for a good 10 minutes. Clearly, he’s a man who loves what he does. “Oh yeah,” he affirms with a smile. “It can be incredibly exciting and rewarding.” 

 

Mural Mice alley art Flagstaff  

The largest mural in Arizona looms 4,500 square feet along the side of the Orpheum Theater in Flagstaff, on the alley side of the building. Pedestrians are stupefied when they see it – a panorama titled “Sound of Flight” depicting more than 200 birds flying from a piano painted at one end of the wall to the Grand Canyon painted at the other end. In between is an image melding classical culture (a Greek sculpture) with indigenous tradition (a Native American woman). The mural was created by artists R.E. Wall, Margaret Dewar and Sky Black, members of a Flagstaff-based collective known as Mural Mice. We recently caught up with Wall to ask about the collective’s off-the-wall wall art. 

 

Q&A with R.E. Wall

In the "Sound of Flight'' mural, what were some of the Flagstaff-focused ideas and concepts the artists were trying to communicate?

The Mural Mice moved up to Flagstaff in 2013 after we placed five murals in Prescott, and the fifth mural went viral as it was caught up in a controversy over the color of a subject’s skin in a mural. Apparently, the subject was not white enough for some of the people in the town. Margaret and I found a very accepting community in Flagstaff and won a bid for a “history of Route 66” mural on the south side of Flagstaff. There, we met an up-and-coming artist named Sky Black who wanted to paint the largest mural in Flagstaff. He designed the piece to portray over 200 birds from around the world launching from a grand piano and flying over the Grand Canyon. We agreed to help under the condition that the community could participate in some way. We have found that art is a lot more fun and interesting when we all work together on it. We consider everyone a Mural Mouse when they get in the picture. 

If you could paint a mural anywhere, what would be your "dream wall'' to paint?

If we could paint a “dream wall” in Arizona, I suppose it would be the border wall between Mexico and the U.S. This would give us a chance to meet our neighbors and to learn from some of their great muralists. After all, Mexico has contributed quite a bit to the muralista legacy. They influenced the WPA mural movement in America in the 1930s. This put American artists to work and helped to educate the population. We could learn a lot by painting side by side with them. Of course, I’d rather not see a wall built on the border, but if there were, we would love to paint it.

What are some of the Arizona murals people should seek out?

I have a great appreciation for the Roosevelt Row artists in Downtown Phoenix. Long before there was any funding available to beautify the landscape, self-sacrificing artists like Angel, J.D., Griffin One and Jomac have been working hard to claim and define the street. I raise my brush to them. Closer to home, artists Joe Sorren, Kyl Motley and Redwing are just a few of the avant-garde who began placing large-scale art in Flagstaff 20 years ago. Navajo doctor and artist Jetsonorama has been laying down large-scale wheat paste art across the state. His work can be found throughout Flagstaff alleys and across the Navajo reservation. Check his work out if you’re out and about. It gives a voice to the voiceless. Also, go to our website at muralmice.com to see what we’ve been doing to make the world a better place to live in. We always say, “There are many mice in the world, but few know they are big enough to make a difference.”

 

Hidden Dishes AZ

Dine to your own beat with these off-menu gems and alternative preparations at your favorite Arizona restaurants.

Chimale
at Tucson Tamale Co. Tucson

What’s better than a savory, chile-packed tamale? How about said tamale wrapped in a tortilla with guacamole and cheese and tossed into a deep fryer? The folks at Tucson’s favorite tamale haunt will happily perform this delightful abomination upon request. 

2545 E. Broadway Blvd., 520-305-4760, tucsontamalecompany.com

"Water Boil Fish''  
at China Szechwan Tucson

Mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants are notorious for ghettoizing their “authentic” menus behind the counter while offering non-Asian customers the usual assortment of Chinese-American standards. So forget the General Tso’s chicken. Order this old country classic – flounder poached in a flavorful chile oil – instead. 

1800 E. Fort Lowell Rd., 520-795-0888, chinaszechwan.weebly.com

Chorizo Burger
at Dante’s Fire Tucson

Fashioning a hamburger patty out of spiced pork offal surely violates several basic tenets of dietary health. But it sounds goood, no? And it’s topped with an avocado and a fried egg for an extra dose of heat-taming umami. 

2526 E. Grant Rd., 520-382-9255, dantesfireaz.com

Beignets 
at Welcome Diner Phoenix

These super sub rosa Creole pastries at everybody’s favorite Downtown micro-diner are slathered with peanut butter, honey and raspberry-pear preserve. 

924 E. Roosevelt St., 602-495-1111, welcomediner.net

Vegan Vittles
at Seasons 52 Phoenix

The Valley’s restricted-diet diner of record has a vast secret menu of vegan offerings, including cranberry-almond tabouli, ponzu-glazed tofu and penne with farm vegetables.

2502 E. Camelback Rd., 602-840-5252, seasons52.com

Half the Menu 
at Hana Japanese Eatery Phoenix

Chef/owner Lori Hashimoto revels in saving her best dishes for in-the-know regulars. Off-menu classics include the shabu-shabu hot pot orgy, and a luscious, hard-to-source white fish called walu done tataki (seared) style. 

5524 N. Seventh Ave., 602-973-1238, hanajapaneseeatery.com

Blue Cheese Pizza
at Pizza A Metro Phoenix/Gilbert

The beloved artisanal eatery is known for its signature, rectangular pizzas, but less known for this stanky masterpiece: a pizza smeared with white sauce, basil, beef carpaccio and red onions, then topped with the aforementioned ultra-sharp cheese. 

Two locations. 602-262-9999, pizzametrohome.com

Blackened Catfish
at Satchmo’s Flagstaff

Satchmo’s insiders recommend an off-menu mash-up of two of the barbecue joint’s favorite staples: spicy, charred catfish over the classic Creole rice dish jambalaya. 

2230 N. Fourth St., 928-774-7292, facebook.com/satchmosbbq.com

Pizzicletta 
at Mother Road Brewing Flagstaff

Craft beer brewer Mother Road doesn’t have much in the way of a food menu, but locals have discovered a work-around: ordering food from nearby wood-fired pizza institution Pizzicletta, which will deliver pies right to your stool, free of charge. That’s what we call collaborative dining. 

7 S. Mikes Pike, 928-774-9139, motherroadbeer.com

The whole enchilada 
at Tamaliza Market Sedona

Everything served at this take-out-only Mexican food stand in West Sedona is included on the menu by our reckoning; it makes our “secret menu” list purely by virtue of how completely it’s flown below the Valley-foodie radar. With leafy, garden-fresh iterations of Mexican standards like the spinach- and crema-topped pork tamale, it won’t for long. 

40 Soldiers Pass Rd., Ste 13, 

928-202-9056, sedonatamaliza.com

calamari dore 
at Dahl & DiLuca ristorante
italiano Sedona

An original at D&D when the restaurant opened more than two decades ago, this hard-to-find seafood classic – calamari steak pan-sautéed Dore-style with lots of lemon, white wine, a touch of garlic and parsley – is no longer officially on the menu. But if you utter a discreet “dore” to the server, you’ll be pleased.  

2321 Hwy. 89A, 928-282-5219, dahlanddiluca.com

Moules Marinières 
at Cress on Oak Creek Sedona

Ask nicely, and L’Auberge de Sedona master chef Rochelle Daniel just might dust off this crowd favorite from her days at Scottsdale’s Zinc Bistro. It’s not a terribly complex dish, but what about fresh mussels in a broth of leeks, toasted rosemary and French butter doesn’t sound wonderful? 

301 L’Auberge Ln., 855-905-5745, lauberge.com

– Craig Outhier

 

 

Southern Arizona 

Sure, Southern Arizona has some fine wineries, marvelous mountain ranges and globally fÊted food. But did you know it’s also home to some wondrous waterfalls, titanic telescopes and an “enchanted
storybookland” that’s nearly a century old? Prepare to peep under the surface of the Old Pueblo.

 

HIDDEN HISTORY

FallOut Shelter in Colossal Cave Vail

The history of Colossal Cave’s occupants includes indigenous people, bandits, bats and even film crews – movies have been shot here, as well as episodes of Sesame Street and National Geographic Wild. But it was the Office of Civil Defense that really left a mark on the cave – in addition to workers constructing all the pathways and ladders throughout the cave, they used the very bottom of the cave (now accessible only on the advanced “Ladder Tour” and “Wild Cave Tour”) as a fallout shelter during the Cold War. Several 17.5-gallon drums of “Department of Defense Drinking Water” (reusable as commodes, according to the urine-yellow directions on the army-green barrels) remain lined against one cave wall. Colossal Cave Mountain Park, 16721 E. Old Spanish Tr., Vail, 520-647-7275, colossalcave.com

 

Lake Cochise Willcox Playa

The last time anybody saw Lake Cochise, neanderthals and mastodons roamed the Earth. Now a dry sink in the Sonoran Desert, the Willcox Playa held a landlocked, 46-foot lake until the end of the Pleistocene epoch around 15,000 years ago. azgfd.com/wildlife/viewing/wheretogo/wilcoxplaya

 



SECRET SPLASH SPOTS

Bridal Wreath Falls Tucson area

A tree-lined canyon leads to these falls, which gush over a 20-foot grotto into an azure pool shaded by willows. Take Douglas Spring Trail (5.6 miles; moderate) from the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park in late fall or early spring (nps.gov/sagu).

 

Seven Falls Tucson area

This series of waterfalls spills over broken stone and rock along steep canyon sides, and is framed by a few shade-providing cottonwood trees and desert brush. The best time to go is late fall or early spring. Get there by hiking Bear Canyon Trail (8.3 miles; moderate) from the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area (www.fs.usda.gov/coronado). Or take the tram from the trailhead.

 

Ghost Towns

Mormon settlers established the agricultural town of Eden (about 15 miles northwest of Safford on an unnumbered county road) in the 1880s. Several abandoned buildings remain, including the post office, church and dance hall. Much less is left of crittenden (just north of Patagonia, in Santa Cruz County), a rail depot and mining town founded in the 1860s and abandoned by 1900. Its last building left standing is the first story of a two-story hotel that was damaged in an 1887 earthquake. In Yuma County lie the remains of aztec (80 miles east of Yuma, off Interstate 8 at exit 73). Once a stop on the Southern Pacific Railroad line between Phoenix and Yuma, Aztec today has but two standing buildings (including one made entirely from railroad ties), surrounded by scraps and foundations.

SECRET HIKE

Legends of Superior Trail Pinal County

This easy, six-mile hike through the riparian forest along Queen Creek connects the town of Superior to the Arizona Trail, and features interpretive stations at Apache Leap, the old mining town of Pinal, Picketpost Mountain and more. Take the Airport Trailhead from Superior Municipal Airport (lostinsuperioraz.com).

 

HIDDEN HOTEL

Casa De San Pedro Bed & Breakfast Hereford

There may be no better birding hacienda in Arizona. Located near the San Pedro River and Riparian National Conservation Area, this 11-room B&B shares 10 acres with more than 355 species of birds and butterflies. 8933 S. Yell Ln., Hereford, 888-257-2050, bedandbirds.com

 

OFF-THE-PATH ODDITy

Large Binocular Telescope (Mount Graham 

International Observatory) Safford

The LBT has two 27-foot-wide mirrors and instrumentation called Large Binocular Telescope Near-infrared Spectroscopic Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research – or LUCIFER. lbto.org

 

 

Valley of the Moon Tucson

Almost 30 years before Disneyland, there was Tucson’s “enchanted storybookland,” Valley of the Moon. Its founder, an Indiana-born spiritualist named George Leglar (who assumed the role of “The Mountain Gnome”), began building the fantastical attraction in 1923, cobbling together hobbit-like structures from recycled bottles, mud, stones, chicken wire and concrete. Over the years and with the help of volunteers, Leglar gave elaborate storytelling tours to children, drawing annual visitors of around 5,000 at the park’s peak in 1953. In 1947, Tucson Magazine observed, “Should Disneyland cover the entire state of California, not one corner would speak to childhood as does this imperfect, perfect little theatre.” 

Leglar died in 1982 at age 97. Volunteers like Zack Jarrett continue to stage productions at VotM and maintain the property, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. That VotM has never closed in 93 years is a small miracle; that few Tucsonans know about it might be a small tragedy. tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com

 

Q&A with Valley of the Moon President Zack Jarrett

What types of tours are offered?

The most popular “tours” are our magical theatrical productions... groups of 30 or so people are taken on a guided walk through Valley of the Moon where the story comes to life around them along the way. In October we will be open for 12 nights for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow! The shows are the best way to visit Valley of the Moon for the first time.

 

How much has the property changed since George Legler died?

We have mended structures and concrete over the years and added a few handrails and stairs, but otherwise the historic areas remain much as he left them. There used to be much more vegetation around Valley of the Moon and we are working to make it that way again. One large structure is missing and that was Bunnyland Theater. There was a ramada, stage, bleachers, walls, a roof, and even an elevator to move the bunnies into and out of the caves. In George’s day there was a network of caves and tunnels extending Southwest from Pennyland. The caves were unstable; we filled them in 6 or 7 years ago. I’m told by old volunteers that one of the most onerous and regular jobs was mucking out the mud from the caves every time it rained.

 

What contributed to Valley of the Moon disappearing from the public eye?

My feeling is that the 1960s were hard on Valley of the Moon... by the mid-‘60s, 90 percent of households had TV, the Vietnam War was escalating, the Space Race was in high gear and the counterculture in full swing. At the same time George was falling ill, fairytales were falling out of style. Valley of the Moon requires an immense amount of upkeep. [It] would have rapidly become decrepit without someone dedicatedly keeping the decay in check.

 

 

Secrets of the Strange Names

 

Bloody Basin: Along I-17 in Yavapai County, 18 miles south of Cordes Junction

In March 1873, the U.S. Army tracked a band of Apaches to Turret Peak, seeking retribution for the murder of three white men during an Apache raid along the Hassayampa River. While the Apaches camped, troops silently climbed overnight to the top of Turret Peak. They descended at dawn, catching the camp completely off guard, and killing an estimated 26 to 57 Apaches. 

 

Bucket of Blood
Street: 
Holbrook

Back in the 1880s, Holbrook was a cesspool of Wild West debauchery, and stealing horses and cheating at poker would get you killed. According to lore, one (or both) of those things triggered a shootout  inside Terrill’s Cottage Saloon in 1886. The exact number of dead isn’t known, but legend says the gunfight drenched the floor in a bucket of blood. The saloon, renamed the Bucket of Blood Saloon, closed in the 1930s, but the street name stuck.

 

Bumble Bee: Along I-17 in Yavapai County, 55 miles north of Phoenix

Back in 1870, a former slave owner from Nevada named J.X. Theut came upon a creek – and a maniacal drunk named K. Billingsley Callaway, who lived in a cave by the creek. Legend says Theut hurled a rock at a beehive near Callaway, who retreated back into his cave. Theut subsequently named the creek and the town Bumble Bee. 

 

Doubtful Canyon: Cochise County, near the New Mexico
border

When you traveled through this canyon – as many often did in the 1800s, when there was a Butterfield Overland mail station there – your safety was doubtful. One especially violent event took place in 1861, when Apache raiders attacked the Giddings party at Steins Peak. According to a May 11 article in the Mesilla Times: “Nine men are missing, and it is feared have all been massacred... Near the station the bodies of two men were found, tied by the feet to trees...  the evidence of a slow fire under their heads.” 

 

Three Way: Greenlee County, 9 miles southeast of Clifton

Throw the thought of group sex right out the innuendo. The source of this name is innocuous – the town sits at the intersection of U.S. Route 191, SR 75, and SR 78. So from town, you can go three ways