Amboy / Route 66 Shoe Tree


Once upon a time, a half mile east of Roy’s Cafe in Amboy there was a Tamarisk Salt Cedar tree standing proud along the famous Route 66.  The tree had seen many amazing things over its lifespan, the building of the mother road, eager travelers making their way to California to start a new life, and later the slow unfortunate demise of the bustling route after Highway 40 was built.

One day a traveler decided that it would be fun to throw a pair of shoes over one of the tree branches. Soon, another traveler decided to join in on the fun. Within a short time span the tree was filled with unwanted sneakers, and boots. The poor tree no longer resembled anything remotely like a Tamarisk tree.





Feeling ashamed the old tree that had once stood proud, proclaiming victory over the harsh environment began to die. The weight that had been thrust upon it by hundreds of pairs of shoes had crushed its spirit. Not long after withering away, the tree collapsed under all of excess weight.

Today the shoe tree sits where it had fallen, still entangled in the web of shoes that killed it. Those shoes are now a part of the fragile desert environment. An environment that will take hundreds of years to break down the leather and rubber. The shoelaces are a potential death trap for animals and birds that may roam the area innocently searching for food or shelter.

This shoe tree, and any other should never have existed. Sure, the idea of shoes hanging from a tree can bring about a good chuckle. But in action it is a chuckle at the expense of other living things that have fought hard to survive.

The photographs included here were taken by me in 2009. At this time in my life I thought nothing negatively of the shoe tree, and I admit that I had added a pair of sneakers to the tree on that day. So while my article is shaming, I am also shaming myself for being so thoughtless at that time in my life. We all make mistakes, it is learning from them that makes all the difference.


About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.