Friday, July 24, 2015

National Old Trails Highway

The thing I love about traveling is that it makes you think about things you never knew to even think of! The progression of highways across the nation is one such thing! In our modern times we take for granted that roads have always existed to wherever we might choose to go! From Kingman, AZ we took a ride through history along a portion of what was known as the National Old Trails Highway!
To find the Old Trails Road in Kingman go to the 4th Street and Beale Avenue stoplight and turn south. Go past the train depot and across the tracks. Go past Hubbs Park, which will be on your left, and shortly thereafter the Old Trails Road angles off to the right! Kingman, although having lots of mining history, grew-up as a railroad town. The first train pulled into Kingman on March 28th, 1883. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built this depot in 1907!
The National Old Trails Road (or Highway) is also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. It was established in 1912 and became part of the National Auto Trail system. It was 3,096 miles long and stretched from New York City to California. 
The alignment followed earlier Indian trails, wagon roads, railroad tracks and in some cases new construction. Note how the road hugs the ridge! 
Across the basin is a railroad track and higher up on the side of the ridge is a portion of Old Route 66! Most of the Old Trails Road west of Albuquerque, NM became Route 66! A great deal of Route 66 across the Mojave Desert still bears the name of the Old Trails Highway!     
Roy drove up a side trail to get this great photo of the path of the Old Trails Road and the great basin it followed. Looking online at Google Earth it appears that Old Trails Road continues up the hill to the wind turbines before fading into dusty trails. 
This is looking back down the trail towards Kingman. We turned left off this trail to continue south on Old Trails Road. 
This is a road off the Old Trails Road and is probably a good representation of what the wagon trails and early automobile roads looked like out west. I had read that even Route 66 that came after the Old Trails Highway wasn't  paved in the western states until the 1930's! This view  was just too intriguing not to go exploring. We drove quite a ways through this valley on what mostly appeared to be a natural wash, but at times had some pavement, as though it may have been a road. It went into an area that appeared to be the back way into a ranching operation complete with a corral and windmill. The trail got rougher and narrower, so we returned the way we went in. 
Further south on the Old Trails Road we came off the trail along the side of the ridge and into this open valley. Isn't this just what you would expect early wagon trains to experience! When early automobiles began using wagon trails, the trails were not usually linked to road improvements, although counties and states often prioritized road improvements because they were on trails!
Auto trails in the beginning were usually marked and maintained by organizations or private individuals! The Automobile Club of Southern California put signage along the western half of the National Old Trails Road in 1914.
This is a look at the modern highway coming south out of Kingman. Note how it still follows the natural passage through the plateaus! Do you feel the sense of continuity from our past to our present! It was in the mid-to-late 1920s that auto trails were replaced with the system of numbered U.S. Highways.  Parts of Route 66 later became U.S. Highway 40.
This is heading back north to Kingman. 
If you enjoy train photography, this road has many vantage points to take pictures of trains headed in either direction. With 100 trains a day, you don't have to wait long for a train to go by! Amtrack has two daily stops in Kingman, with one train heading east and the other west! 
This is the view through the valley beckoning one onward to California!