An Analog Gem: The Arizona Atlas & Gazetteer

My enthusiasm for Arizona Atlas & Gazetteer borders on the ridiculous. The only thing more senseless is the fact that it has taken this long for me to gush about it professionally.

In each of my vehicles live well-worn copies of this cartographic wonder, waiting to guide my family on our next back road, outdoor adventure. Anyone who strays from city limits and interstates in Arizona knows that the mobile GPS and mapping functions we rely on to navigate urban areas are unreliable once you are off the beaten path. With each 15" x 11" page showing a highly detailed 57 x 41 mile section of the state, this atlas makes it nearly impossible to lose your way no matter how isolated the area. Rest areas, boat launches, camping grounds, abandoned railroad lines, windmills, fishing spots, cultural points of interest, water sources: You'll find it all (and then some) in this atlas.

More important than this practical function is the opportunity for unscripted and unplugged exploration that it represents. In a time when we can orchestrate and schedule every moment of a hard-earned vacation, this atlas recalls the joys of simply hitting the road and seeing where it takes you. Turn off the phone, forget the TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews and explore The Grand Canyon State the old-fashioned way. Turn the atlas to the back cover, put your finger on a random spot and pack your bags.

A fun companion to the atlas is Will C. Barnes' classic Arizona Place Names. A mix of folklore, geography and history, this alphabetical guide to Arizona answers the question you will ask yourself more than once: Where did they come up with that name? (Remember, this is an unplugged trip so no fair using Google!)

If you are beginning a Colorado River rafting adventure from Lees Ferry, when you pass Badger and Soap Creeks you'll discover that:

"Jacob Hamblin killed a badger on one of these creeks. It was carried to another creek and put on the fire to boil. In the morning, instead of stew, the alkalai [sic] in the water and the fat from the badger had resulted in a kettle of soap. Hence the name."

Accurate? Maybe. Entertaining? Definitely.

Safe travels! -Stephanie M.

Want to unearth more analog gems about Arizona? Try our Local Interest genre page!