In his 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens compared London and Paris and spawned the phrase, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Crackerjack is like that.
The best of times comes early on Crackerjack. The winding trail passes through juniper, pinion, and sycamore forests, broken at intervals by towering grey and red stone bluffs. Campsites sit near the broad dirt road. A concrete bridge set just at water level with no side railings eases you across the humorously splashy East Verde River, lots of places to picnic or camp nearby. Someone's tow strap became a rope swing over a deeper pool. If your windows are down you'll likely hear laughter, smell someone's barbeque grill. The trail climbs along the river's canyon's northern wall, offering glimpses down into the river's rocky course, passing its namesake mine along the way.
And then after the intersection with Cedar Flat
, Crackerjack's mood changes. The best gives way to the worst. Turning away from the picturesque river, the trail tightens on itself, snakes uphill, begins to make your suspension groan, tosses passengers, and loose cargo, from side to side. There is little space between the bowling ball-sized embedded rocks. Rock shelves barricade the passage at intervals. It seems never to end.
But it does. Just as in Dickens' novel, there is redemption at the end. And satisfaction, too. It was the best of roads. It was the worst of roads. But now you are through both.