Be an Arizona Tourist Even if You Live Here!
I’ve always lived in places where I can be a tourist: the New York area; Washington, DC; Cambridge, England, and now here in Arizona. And as I’ve said before, this is one of the nation’s most beautiful and strange states. It’s a great place with tons of finds for any Arizona tourist, whether he or she is visiting or already lives here.
Arizona Tourists, Prospectors Flock to the Superstition Mountains
The BF and I are both Arizona tourists. I’ve lived here a dozen years; he is a Phoenix native.
We decided to spend our gold (well, really, his) one Sunday a few months ago and check out the scene around the Superstition Mountains.
First, we visited Lost Dutchman State Park, named for an 1880s gold prospector who claimed to have discovered a hidden gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. The Dutchman, Jacob Walz (later Waltz), was actually a German immigrant who came here for the gold prospecting and mining.
Why Walz/Waltz known as a Lost Anything is a little strange because it’s not like he got lost and died out there. But he kept his mine’s location a secret, probably waiting to reveal it to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, he died from pneumonia before he could find a suitable investor. He supposedly gave it to Julia Thomas, a woman who looked after him during his illness. She and her business partners never did find the mine although Julia uncovered 24 pounds of gold under Walz’s bed, according to PBS’ Arizona Stories.
It’s possible that the Goldfield mine recreated at the nearby ghost town is Walz’s mine. Still, people continue to look for another mine, including at least five who died in their quest, probably from the heat.
Former state Attorney General Bob Corbin became as famous for searching around the mountain as for defending Arizona interests. He didn’t get lost but has pretty much concluded that the Dutchman lied. There ain’t no gold out there, says Bob.
We didn’t look for gold but we did walk around a nice little trail just in front of the park entrance that featured lots of Arizona plant life and incredible views of the mountains. Here are a few photos:
Then we headed to Tortilla Flat, which was packed, at least for Tortilla Flat. I wanted to continue on the unpaved road but BF said he’d put highway tires on his truck so that idea was nixed. But since then, I’ve seen that particular road described as one the best scenic drive in Arizona by Frommer’s.
Looks like I’ll be renting an off-road truck, perhaps for a day trip with Junior Yankee before it gets too hot to think.
We headed back to the Apache Trail for lunch at The Mining Camp Restaurant, which yes, is very touristy. BF was curious about the family-style room but they dole out a lot more food than we could eat, so we went The Dutchman’s Hideout for a lighter meal. He had the Bison Burger while I went for the Prospector’s Stew. I also tried a Grand Canyon beer.
For those who worry about carbs, you can eat your burger on a gluten-free bun. They have to satisfy all kinds, don’t they?
Superstition Museum Features Elvis, Bones, and Early Metal Detectors
We returned to the Superstitions a couple of months later with BF’s mom to visit the Superstition Mountain Museum we passed up the first time but kept in mind for another visit.
The museum includes quite of variety of displays that range from historic to artsy to weird. Right now, there’s a small collection of Ted DeGrazia portraits on loan from their foundation home in Tucson. Permanent exhibits include an entertaining display of Arizona memorabilia, Native American artwork, Civil War-era rifles, including early Sharps repeat-shot rifles, and a section on the Buffalo Soldiers. These guys were Negro Union troops sent out these ways to deal with Native Americans who gave them their famous nickname.
I got a kick out out of an early metal detector and Burro Derby flyers from the 196os.
And yes, we did see plenty of out of state tourists. We know they were tourists because they signed the gift shop’s guest book. The gift shop, which is tax-free, has Western-style jewelry, books, and a great kids’ section.
The museum also features the Apacheland Movie Ranch, site of countless film and TV Westerns. The Rifleman was filmed here. So was Gunfight at the OK Corral with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Elvis Presley filmed something called Charro! here and liked the place so much, he paid to restore the chapel used in the film. And my inner geek squealed when I spotted “Deforrest” Kelley’s Stetson-topped headshot among a larger display of actors who worked here: Bones’ life before the Enterprise.
Check out the general store inside the ranch. Prices are very reasonable and tax-free as well. Plus, the proprietor knows a ton of history about the place.
Before heading to the Goldfield Ghost Town—another goofy, fun place that shouldn’t be limited to tourists if you don’t take yourself too seriously—we went to the Lost Dutchman park for lunch. The BF’s mother had packed a picnic lunch.
I was a little bummed that we weren’t going back to the Mining Camp or perhaps having lunch at the Goldfield saloon, but I quickly got over it. We ate wonderful, home-made Greek food: pastitsio, fasolakia, dolmades, and baklava–definitely worth getting lost for!