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Mysterious Ways: Secret Spaces

Explore these sanctuaries of calm and solitude, discovered by our editors and readers.

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Sunset Point, Arizona
The Mystery Christmas Tree
Who decorates the Mystery Christmas Tree? The festive juniper growing on the median of Interstate 17 in Arizona, near the Sunset Point rest area, has intrigued drivers for almost three decades. The Department of Public Safety knows it’s a team effort. The anonymous decorators once sent its office a photo of the group hanging ornaments and tinsel—with their backs to the camera, of course. The mischievous elves also installed water barrels to keep the tree healthy during dry spells, an act that may have saved it from going up in flames during a wildfire in 2011. The fire burned furiously along the freeway—right up to the trunk—but only singed a few branches. Tom Foster, a retired Arizona Department of Transportation engineer, claims to know the elves’ identities, but he’s not spilling—even though the department disapproves of unauthorized roadside displays. “The juniper brightens the drive to Phoenix,” he says. “So we’re treating this as a special case.”–Allison Churchill, Mysterious Ways Contributing Editor