© Paul Markow
Something a Little Different
It was all Matt’s idea. We were driving in the McDowell Mountains on a narrow road that points toward the Four Peaks. The view of the mountains was remarkable, and the landscape around us was even more so. We couldn’t believe they’d put a road through a Jack Dykinga photograph. But that’s what they did, and it prompted my younger brother to say, “You should really do a story about roads like this.”
At first, I thought: Huh? We do a scenic drive every month. You’ve never noticed? Then I realized he was talking about something a little different. Instead of the way we usually illustrate our drives — with photos that showcase what you see out the side windows — he was suggesting that we show what’s straight ahead, through the windshield. “That way,” he said, “your readers will get a good sense of what they’ll see when they get behind the wheel.”
I liked the idea, but it wasn’t that simple. Most of our landscape photographers are purists, and to them, the notion of making an image with a road through it is like putting Heinz 57 on a piece of prime filet. Still, after enough insistence, we ended up with what we wanted.
In The Look Straight Ahead, you’ll see some of our favorite scenic drives, including State Route 273, which goes from Springerville to Big Lake. Another one of our favorites is the route through Oak Creek Canyon. Sadly, as I write these words, the Slide Fire is destroying thousands of acres in and around that spectacular place. By the time you read this, the fire will be out and the road will likely be reopened, but the devastation will be obvious.
Because this is a story about “scenic” drives, we considered pulling Oak Creek from the list. Here’s why we didn’t: No matter what happens after the inferno has been wrestled to the ground, the creek will still be a respite, the cliffs will still be majestic, the switchbacks will still be thrilling, and, perhaps most importantly, the good folks at Garland’s, Junipine and the Butterfly will need your support. So will many others. In addition to the attack on Mother Nature, the Slide Fire is plundering the local economy. Now is not the time to abandon all of the above. So, Oak Creek Canyon is in, along with drives through Garland Prairie, the Catalina Mountains and the Navajo Nation.
In all, there are eight scenic drives in our cover story. We also have our monthly drive in the back of the magazine, and a short piece about an interstate highway in the middle of nowhere.
Interstates aren’t typically considered scenic. For the most part, they’re there to move traffic from Point A to Point B. Interstate 15 was built for the same reason. It just happens to cut through the dramatic Virgin River Gorge in the extreme northwest corner of the state — it’s so far away, you have to leave Arizona just to get to it.
When it opened in December 1973, I-15 was hailed as “America’s most spectacular highway.” There’s hyperbole in that, but even our writer uses strong words to describe the 29-mile stretch. “If the notion of a superhighway inside the Grand Canyon is more than a little blasphemous,” Matt Jaffe writes in Virgin Territory, “I-15 through the gorge gives a sense of what that forbidden pleasure might be like.”
Although most Arizonans have never driven it, I-15 is the main thoroughfare for road-trippers going from Las Vegas to the North Rim. Eventually, the highway goes all the way to Canada, but it won’t take you to Navajoland. If you’re headed there, you’ll have to find another way. Marie Baronnet took Highway 89.
Marie is a new photographer for us. She’s French, and we met her about a year ago, after she’d been shooting down in Mexico. On her way to L.A., she stopped in to say hello. She wasn’t pitching anything specific, but as soon as that first bonjour rolled off her tongue, I knew she’d be perfect for a portfolio we’d been thinking about.
We were shooting for something along the lines of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, with the Navajo Nation as Camelot and a non-traditional photographer as Hank. Figuratively, we wanted somebody from the other side of the world, but we weren’t having any luck. Then, literally, in walked la belle fille de Paris.
In French Impressions, you’ll learn more about Marie and the background of her portfolio. More importantly, you’ll see some of her photographs. The most unique is a shot of three Japanese tourists looking at the Mittens in Monument Valley. You’d never see tourists in a landscape shot by one of our purists — that’s Heinz 57 on a filet. But Marie’s take on things is a little different. It’s a fresh perspective. Kind of like what Matt suggested for our scenic drives.
COMING IN SEPTEMBER ...