Checking in from Wickenburg, AZ …
The walk from Sun City and Surprise toward the town of Wickenburg was long, flat and hot. Temperatures continue to approach 100 during my time on the road and rise to 106-108 later in the afternoon, when I’m holed up in the RV or somewhere with AC. I got a nice surprise late in my walk on Friday. A friend of a friend showed up with ice cold water bottles and a desire to participate in the trek. Myron Hartline is a friend of my good friend and former colleague, Kevin Nickson. Now he’s a friend of mine also. Myron was a trooper, walked a little more than a mile with me at a very good pace in hot sun. It was good to have the company and good to get to know Myron. Meeting great people has been a real highlight of this trip for both Brenda and me.
Leaving the Valley of the Sun, the road gradually inclines toward the town of Wickenburg, AZ which bills itself as “where the West is still wild.” The town certainly looks the part with an historic and well maintained downtown that could be right out of the late 19th century. Along the fertile plain of the Hassayampa River, farmers and ranchers began to settle this area following the end of the Mexican-American war in 1848. Then in 1863, a group of miners led by Henry Wickenburg discovered gold at what would come to be the Vulture Mine. They formed the fledgling community of Wickenburg and survived ten years of attacks by hostile Yavapai Indians during which some 400 settlers and 1,000 warriors were killed. Not until the US Army intervened, was the future of Wickenburg assured. Meanwhile the Vulture Mine flourished, with over $30 million in gold taken from the ground. At today’s prices, that would equate to almost $400 million in value.
The downtown area of Wickenburg is vibrant with almost all the buildings occupied by cafes, saloons, western wear stores, and Indian art and souvenir stores. Sidewalks are lined with remarkably realistic sculptures consisting of eight works and sixteen “linking pieces” all in bronze such as a miner walking with his mule and a cowboy talking with a saloon girl. There is an interesting “jail tree” where prisoners were manacled before the town built a jail. The centerpiece of the historic area, however, is the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. This is a first-class facility dedicated to the culture, history and art of the area. There are outstanding collections of western ranching and mining equipment, clothing and furniture. Cowboy paraphernalia including hats, chaps, saddles, bridles, quirts, boots, holsters and guns of all types are on display. A downstairs area recreates exactly how Wickenburg looked in 1880. Additionally, the museum currently has a wonderful special black and white photograph exhibit that traces 100 years of Arizona ranching.
From the 1920’s through the 1980’s, Wickenburg was also known as the “dude/guest ranch capital of the world” with as many as twenty ranches attracting city slickers over the years. Several ranches like the Flying E and Kay El still attract tourists wanting to experience ranch life with varying degrees of comfort. Other dude ranches like the Rancho de los Caballeros have evolved into a golf report while one of the original ranches, the Remuda, has been converted into the nation’s leading eating disorder treatment facility utilizing horses as part to the therapy.
As we leave the nice little town, we will travel west on Hwy 60 through Aguila, Wenden and Salome and then turn northwest through Bouse on Hwys 72 and 95 to Parker on the Arizona border. California is just a week or so away.