Thursday, March 5, 2009

Back to the Old West

Travel about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix on Highway 60 and you will find Wickenburg, the town that missed becoming the territorial capital by two votes in 1866.

How a town welcomed the early travelers began with the railroad station. Today, the Wickenburg station presents a greeting that reflects the town's reverence for the past.

The old 761, an original Santa Fe Steam Locomotive, appears ready to carry passengers just as it did in the late 1890s. The coming of the locomotive, which followed the height of the gold rush during the 1860s and 70s, brought additional adventurers and thrill-seekers on its weekly run between Chicago and the west.

Among the gold searches was the adventurer Henry Wickenburg. He came, lured by the dream of abundant gold, and his quest was rewarded by the discovery of the Vulture Mine, 12 miles south of the town. Over $30 million in gold has been dug from the ground.

Together with Henry Wickenburg and the miners, ranchers and farmers helped found the young community of Wickenburg in 1863.

Built in 1905, the Little Red Schoolhouse, long since a scene of education, still seems ready to welcome the next classes of students. Now the home of the Wickenburg Cultural Organization, the schoolhouse has a bell that can still be rung by those who want one more encounter with the past.

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church is a brick structure partially covered with ivy and surrounded by palm trees and cacti.

We continued our walk around town. Here we saw the La Cabana Saloon.

The buildings had the architectural structure and used materials that fit the period of the town's Old West focus. Restaurants (saloons and cafes) and craft shops caught our eyes as we strolled the eight blocks of the downtown business section.

Traffic was heavy in town; we had long waits to cross the main street. This row of shops ended with a longhorn steer atop the building at the far left in the photo.

In this photo, the steer presented quite an imposing figure.

We thought about taking a drive into the hills outside Wickenburg until we read the following description of the route: "...Take Rincon Road to just past the second river crossing, and then make a right down the narrow dirt road that leads to the river. Follow the tracks of other vehicles to stay out of quicksand."

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