Hi-ho Show Low: a gallop through the Tonto National Forest

My main purpose during this western jaunt is to find a small piece of land in the mountains were I can build a place. Unbeknownst to me, there are some pretty significant elevations in northern and eastern Arizona. In fact, there are 12 peaks over 11,000 feet, all in Apache and Coconino counties. I spied several lots for sale that were of interest around the town of Show Low, so off I headed to check it out.

Show Low sits at about 6500 feet, so the drive from Phoenix (at 1000′) was mostly uphill all the way. Much of the drive on Hwy 87 and then Hwy 260 goes through the Tonto National Forest. Coming out of Phoenix until about 3000′ elevation it is very much a desert scene: lots of rocks, cactus, some yellow flowers (desert marigold, I think). There were some places that were almost a “cactus forest” where the saguaros were tightly bunched together. From maybe 3000′ to 5000′ the terrain was noticeably different: less rocky, starting to get some shrubbery other than cactus. From 5000′ and above the rocks were pretty well covered with greenery and pine trees became abundant, the cacti but a fading memory. It was a very interesting drive and strikingly beautiful in many places. But I went totally Homer Simpson and didn’t get any photos.

At some point Tonto gives way to the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I don’t know why they have different names for national forests that are totally contiguous with one another. Bureaucrats fighting turf battles, I suppose.  But the town of Show Low is totally surrounded by Apache-Sitgreaves. It seems to be prospering quite nicely due to a ski resort nearby, and other wilderness attractions. The story they tell about the colorful name is right out of an old western movie. Two leading citizens decided the town “t’weren’t big enough for the both of them” and one of them had to get out of town by sundown, or something. So they played cards to decide the stayer and the leaver. The card game was apparently an epic battle and the participants tired of fate not taking a hand, so they decided to cut the cards, low card the winner. One feller drew the two of clubs and the other sidewinder had to hit the trail. The main drag is now named Deuce of Clubs Street. Gotta love it, right?

I took a different route back to Phoenix and it was quite scenic as well and this time I came to my senses and got some photos.

Road from Show Low (9)Road from Show Low (8)Road from Show Low (7)

The road out of Show Low goes through the Fort Apache Reservation and then returns to the Tonto NF, presenting some very nice canyon scenes, courtesy of the Salt River.

Road from Show Low (4)Road from Show Low (3)Road from Show Low (2)Road from Show Low (1)

An interesting day indeed.

I ran across some more intriguing eateries in PHX last week. First was Little Cleo’s. It was hard to find because it was in a complex that houses 3 restaurants. Each has their separate interior but they share a common open area outside that included ping pong tables and foosball tables and the like.Little Cleo's (6)

The first thing to notice inside is a huge open kitchen/bar area. Takes 2 photos to capture it all.

Little Cleo's (4)Little Cleo's (3)

Then the menu. First thing you see is they have 13 different absinthes. Perhaps a bit over the top? Never seen anything like that.

Little Cleo's (9)

The food menu was interesting too.

Little Cleo's (7)

Little Cleo's (2)Little Cleo's (1)

I got the scallops with charred avocado, the black kale salad and hush puppies, and then the bouillaibaise (no picture of that). All the food was very good, service was great and such a cool vibe. Ranks as my fave spot in PHX.

A couple of nights later I went old school at a place called Avanti. It’s been around since the 70s and looks like it hasn’t changed a bit.

Avanti entranceAvanti interior

The food was pretty good. They had a dish I don’t remember seeing before: a Pasta Combo, determined daily by the chef.

Avanti pasta combo

This was penne pasta, gnocchi and ravioli. Nice!

Next up: California here I come!


3 thoughts on “Hi-ho Show Low: a gallop through the Tonto National Forest”

  1. What is with all the absinthe in Arizona?  Brennan’s carries 4 which rarely sell. Great pictures.  Thanks for posting. Best,rRichard MiddletonBrennan’s of Houston-The Courtyard Barrmiddleton@brennanshouston.com713-535-3330   

    From: RoadThrill To: richardmiddleton@sbcglobal.net Sent: Tuesday, March 28, 2017 11:13 AM Subject: [New post] Hi-ho Show Low: a gallop through the Tonto National Forest #yiv8348110122 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv8348110122 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv8348110122 a.yiv8348110122primaryactionlink:link, #yiv8348110122 a.yiv8348110122primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv8348110122 a.yiv8348110122primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv8348110122 a.yiv8348110122primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv8348110122 WordPress.com | roadthriller posted: “My main purpose during this western jaunt is to find a small piece of land in the mountains were I can build a place. Unbeknownst to me, there are some pretty significant elevations in northern and eastern Arizona. In fact, there are 12 peaks over 11,000 ” | |


  2. I suppose because the arid west is so foreign to me, when I am in it…the light, air, smells, wildness of the desert…all of my senses are on full and joyous alert. There exist amazing ecosystems with unbelievable diversity, but for critters, it’s mostly a nocturnal affair. My main bucket list topic is to have some more real time in especially Arizona, but also New Mexico and Nevada. I shall return. Thank you, Steve, for sharing and writing great descriptions of the full experience…including those amazing meals (I think you should offer a warning though: do not read when hungry!). Keep it coming.


    1. So true, Scott. The beauty is haunting, arresting. And it teaches an important lesson about the miracle of water. Desert alone is wonderful, but desert plus water = wonderful, but totally different.


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