How often do you get a chance to visit ghost towns? Check out Arizona Ghost Towns by Noah Austin. We are slowly making our way across Arizona to find all the places that he wrote about in his book published by @arizonahighways. We chose a beautiful Sunday to search an area near Congress Arizona in the Weaver Mountains. This area was known for producing gold which lead to many small towns supporting people who worked the mines. If you look around you can see recent activity where some are still trying to strike it rich. Now the term “Ghost Town” makes me think of an actual abandoned town. Old buildings bleached out and kiln dried by the relentless Arizona sun. You know the look, like you are walking down main street in Tombstone. Actually, the term has a more liberal use; sometimes what we are searching for is simply the foundations of where buildings used to be. It is the history of what was there that is the fun part of finding these glimpses into the past.
On the way into the area we found an interesting small stone building on the side of the road – not sure of its purpose, but we could tell someone had spent some time maintaining this little oasis from the sun. The door had been recently reframed and the roof patched and a few new rocks added to the wall. All I could think of was this would be an ideal place for a snake to be taking a nap. Sam and I and the dogs did some exploring around the small building. Sam was trying to find one of the big chuckwallas we spotted on the rocks as we bounced in. He loves to catch and play with the crawly things, in reality, he rarely actually catches them any more because as Sam say’s “lizards are getting faster these days.” Sam never found the lizards but we did find a cool vein of quartz running through some of the big rocks that we were climbing around on. This area has many current mining claims, and not knowing the area – we did not do any rock hounding.
One of the many lizards we saw sunning themselves on the rocks.
Next stop was Octava – or in this case what appears to be an old homestead as the information we could find was that Octava is now privately owned and the gate was closed. (We heard that the owners are friendly and will let you look around if all you take are pictures.) Looking around the old buildings we did find some weathered clothes and the remnants of an old fire pit, evidence of a much more recent inhabitant perhaps? Probably the coolest part was the old fence made from ocotillo branches, some were actually still alive. Even though we never quite made it to Octava, we still got to explore some of Arizona’s past.
Next stop was The town of Stanton. It truly was the “wild west” in its day and had it’s share of old west history including gunfights and murders. As the story goes, the person who the town was named for Charles P. Stanton was murdered, but not before doing some gun slinging of his own. Seems the town namesake was involved in at least a couple of murders himself. What is left of Stanton is being maintained by the Lost Dutchman Mining Association and they have added an RV Park with hook-ups. Many folks come and stay to get access to the mining claims and look for a little gold. You can visit the buildings as a guest by checking in and signing a release. What could be that dangerous here I wondered?
We parked the car and Sam had Bruce, and I had Missy on a leash and we headed toward the old buildings to get the feel of living in the desert in the late 1800’s. I looked down and was within inches of stepping on a big snake. I jumped back and Missy didn’t even notice the snake. I screamed and ran dragging Missy with me, but Sam hurried over to the rescue. Once he saw it he laughed and said its just a gopher snake, beautiful and non poisonous, not sure that made me feel any better about the situation. At this point, I could tell he wanted to try and catch it but he did what I thought was the smart thing, he took pictures of it instead. Funny thing was that just few minutes earlier he had just mentioned it had been a while since we have seen a gopher snake on our travels.
We finished exploring the old town and then headed for home. Took the back road to Yarnell then down the hill into Wickenburg. We never did stop to eat our picnic lunch – I may have been to traumatized by the snake, but what a great day exploring the ghost towns of Arizona.
Disclaimer: Please don’t let the snake incident keep you from exploring Arizona.