YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Carefree: The town that spreads sunshine and joy

January 27, 1985|JERRY HULSE, Times Travel Editor

CAREFREE, Ariz. — Somebody got awfully cute with Carefree.

Somebody got rich too.

Should anyone be wondering what it's like to live like a Rockefeller, set the jalopy on a course for Carefree. And bring money. Only last week Laurance Rockefeller unveiled the West's slickest new resort.

He calls it The Boulders and it's superb.

Never mind that the site was a desert wasteland once. Indeed, once upon a time Carefree--it's 20 miles outside Scottsdale--was about as inviting as Jaipur in July. Or Angola in August.

Then along came a couple of developers, Tom Darlington and K. T. Palmer. This was in the '50s and they'd heard that a natural reservoir runs beneath Carefree. With an unlimited supply of water, Darlington and Palmer transformed desolation into inspiration, desert sand into gold.

Darlington and Palmer lured buyers with man-made waterfalls, a golf course, elegant homes and avenues with storybook names. The upshot of all this is that residents shop on Easy Street and live the good life on Never Mind Trail, Breathless Drive, Leisure Lane and Ho-Hum Drive. The latter, wouldn't you know, splinters into Ho and Hum streets.

Besides all this, one can also take a stroll down the Primrose Path.

I said they got cute with Carefree.

For the developers the effort paid off handsomely. (The town even named its main drag for Tom Darlington.)

Others who've settled in Carefree are doing nicely on Easy Street. Artist Mary Welsh, who operates a studio displaying her own original paintings and the works of nearly a dozen other Arizona artists, smiles cheerfully. "Life's been good to me on Easy Street," she says, shaking her blonde head. "No complaints."

While her shop isn't exactly the Louvre, it draws shoppers in search of oils, pottery and other artworks.

Next door the proprietress at an odds-and-ends shop called the Collector has on sale a reconditioned barber's chair done up in green velvet and tagged at $2,200. And in the same mall--42 Easy St.--Don Young, an ex-printer from Ohio, turns out handsome handmade clocks, including a grandfather with a German movement. Priced at $3,500, it's a treasure.

But I get ahead of myself.

Carefree is abuzz over Laurance Rockefeller's splendid new resort, The Boulders. With nearly 100 adobe-like casitas, it lies in the shadow of an immense rocky pyramid off which pours a man-made waterfall, its mists settling over swimmers paddling in a pool below.

What with the earth tones of the casitas blending with the desert, Rockefeller's newest prize appears for all the world like some Southwestern Indian village that's been saved for posterity.

It is impossible to fault The Boulders. Without argument it is the conversation piece of the season, Arizona's most unusual new resort.

With his penchant for conservation, Laurance Rockefeller lent his name to a development that boasts miles of saguaro trees, brittle brush, ocotillo, sage, palo verdes and acacia, which in turn provide shelter to road runners, cottontails, coyotes, gila monsters, javelina, the cactus wren and vultures. Even a rattlesnake here and there.

With a $200-million purse, the developers of The Boulders created their own lakes and an 18-hole golf course whose carpet of greenery unfolds across desert sands like an oasis in North Africa.

In another year or so an extra 18 holes will make this a championship 36-hole attraction.

From the beginning, Rockefeller's associates went out of their way to spare the natural flora surrounding The Boulders. This isn't the ordinary garden variety type of desert terrain. Instead, a forest of saguaro trees rises and falls with undulating grace over Carefree's breathtaking countryside. Cottontails dart across one's path at dawn and coyotes are heard in concert at night.

It's the Old West with modern touches.

Casitas feature desert earth tones--beige carpets that match the walls and Mexican glazed tiles. And there are baths with his and her vanities, immense tubs and baskets filled with shampoos, lotions and sunscreens. Wet bars and refrigerators provide spirits, juices and soft drinks--and private patios provide choice settings for those spectacular Arizona sunsets. Later, the sky laced with stars, there's the silence of the desert and the comfort of a wood-burning fireplace.

Peace. That's what The Boulders is all about. (Rates are $220 a day for a single, $270 for a double, which includes breakfast and dinner. After April 15 prices will drop to $180/$230.)

Other casitas are nearing completion and more will become condominiums priced from $200,000 to $275,000 apiece. Homes in the development will fetch up to $1 million a copy.

Los Angeles Times Articles