#15 A Week in Arizona

I know, I know… I haven’t posted in a little over two weeks.. (or so it seems). When we last left off I was making my way from Northern California to Arizona to officially begin the “journey”. It was my last morning in the bay so I opted to make it a good one and headed to San Francisco to meet up with my pal Romain and do one last exploration before leaving CA. The location is one that I had my eyes on for the past couple years but never had managed to find a way in. Luckily abandoned buildings are ever changing as they are frequented by photographers, graffiti artists, vagrants and scrappers so my luck had changed and I finally found a way in. The building was nothing short of amazing, I will let the pictures do the talking.

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After spending about 4 hours shooting my little heart out we exited the building and made our way back to our cars. We said our goodbyes and then I began the journey to Arizona which was  12+ hour drive that I knocked out in two parts. I ended up pulling over right before the Arizona boarder in Needles, California. Had I gone any longer I might have fell asleep at the wheel so I found a truck stop and pulled my first night sleeping next to the big rigs. It was kind of funny parking my little danger Ranger next to the big 18 wheelers and crawling into my camper shell. The trucker next to me gave me an inquisitive look and then continued to drink beers in his rig, moments later I was fast asleep.

The next morning I woke up at about 4am so I could enjoy a nice sunrise in Arizona as I made my way towards Phoenix. I had some cliff jumping friends that I know from Facebook that had planned a week long jumping event so my hope was to link up with them on the first day and check out some beautiful spots throughout the week. We met up at Fossil Creek which is outside Camp Verde north of Phoenix. The spot normally has crystal clear water but due to the recent rain in AZ it was brown, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the location though! The next few days consisted of some more cliff jumping adventures before I parted ways with the group and did some abandoned exploring.

After parting from the group on the second day I made my way back into Phoenix and connected with my my long time family friend Steve. Steve was always visited my dad since I was a kid and as a musician he is just a all around cool dude. He provided me a floor to sleep on for the next few nights. The rest of the week was dedicated to trying to cross off all the spots I had on my abandoned map in Arizona. The first location I hit was an abandoned dog or horse racing track, not sure exactly which one but either way it was an old race track. I parked my car about a 1/2 mile away and then made my way along the flat desert land until I got to the titanic building. I perused the back side of the building looking for an easy entrance and was hastily greeted by a swarm of bees who were nesting by the main entry….! After a few stings on my arm and few bees up my shirt I was back peddling from the building whilst swearing under my breath from the painful stings. I made my way around the other side of the building and to my relief, I found way in. The building itself was totally gutted but some of the architecture was absolutely magnificent. I don’t know what it could be described as, futuristic/art deco style? See for yourself.

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After finishing up at the race track I drove further south to check out some abandoned planes I had heard about. After an hour long drive south I pulled off onto a dirt road… there was sign at the entrance that warned of trespassing on NCO military property but as usual I stuck to the motto “its better to seek forgiveness then ask permission”. As I followed my GPS to the exact location I noticed a truck probably a mile ahead in the distance coming straight towards me from the opposite end of the road. I assumed it was another person exploring the back roads and continued forward. After a quarter of a mile I made a right turn to descend down the road towards the abandoned airplanes. My spidey senses were tingling, something was off and I knew it from the get go…. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if I could get a better look at the truck… when I saw the black and white pattern on the truck I knew it was time to think fast and figure out an excuse as to why I was on this land. I was about halfway down the second dirt road that led to the planes but decided my best bet was to turn around, pull the car over, hop out and pretend I was taking a piss. By this point the patrol truck was at the turn off to the road waiting for me to make my way back from the airplanes. After pretending to take a quick piss next to my truck, I hopped back in and headed back the way I came. When I got to the dirt crossroads I saw the Reservation Police truck and knew I was about to get popped. I waved at the officer and slowly tried to creep by and he immediately pull behind me and turned on the blues. FUCK FUCK FUCK I muttered under my breath, how was I going to talk my way out of this one? I turned off my Ranger, rolled down the window and waited for the officer to approach. He walked up and immediately asked “whatchya doing out here?” to which I answered “Just taking a leak, I’m from California and don’t know the rules in AZ and didn’t want to get in trouble for peeing on the side of the road so I figured the farm field would be better”. He kept the questions coming asking why I didn’t pull into a gas station and I told him plain and simple… when ya gotta go ya gotta go. Weirdly enough he hadn’t actually seen me get out of the truck and he had assumed that I didn’t actually pee… he replied “you didn’t get out of your truck though right?” I responded “no” even though it contradicted my story and then he informed me that if I had gotten out of my truck and stepped foot on the property (which I did) he would have given me a misdemeanor trespassing charge. Secretly I think he did see me get out of my truck but he was cutting me a break as he could tell I wasn’t up to anything sketchy. After giving me a warning he proceeded to question me about what I was doing in Arizona and what the deal was with my truck (bed in back, storage on top)? I quickly told him about my endeavors and adventures and he expressed envy of my youth and ability to travel freely! All in all it wasn’t a bad experience. I’ve found if your polite and respectful you can talk your way out of a lot of things… at least trespassing wise. I continued on my way and drove south towards some an abandoned copper mine that I had been dying to visit. I was racing the sun as it was getting closer to golden hour and my hope was that id make it to the mine in time for some shots. When I arrived the closest I could get was still a good mile or more away from the massive gaping hole in the earth. I decided to walk as close as I could and fly my drone to at least get some aerial shots so I could get an idea of what it looked like for a return trip. After that I called it a night and drove back to Phoenix to crash at Steve’s place for the night.

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The following day I booked a night at the experimental urban town called “Arcosanti” in Yavapai county which is about an hour and a half north of Phoenix. Arcosanti was the brainchild of the Italian American architect Paolo Soleri. Although he no longer lives, his creation and community is thriving probably more than ever before. The location hosts daily tours and also offers accommodation in their quaint and cozy eco-bungalows on the property. When I checked in I was given full reign to poke around any part of the property which was kind of weird because at times I didn’t know if I was going to stumble into one of the actual residents rooms by accident. I had a great time just exploring the property all day and then later in the night I had a couple beers and shot around the property under the nighty sky. Im only gonna share a few shots because I want to save the good ones for my book!

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The rest of the week consisted of more explorations (a return trip to the mine) and night time photography of some particularly cool abandoned locations as well. I would love to write about all of it but I’m already so far behind that I will let the pictures do the talking. Its been more than a week since these last adventures so I’m just trying to keep the blog updated as best I can.

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Until next time….

 

  • J.J

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