08 April 2011

Crown King

After John and I visited the barely-a-speck-on-the-map town of Cleator Arizona (see last post) we continued up the mountain with our caravan of family members.

About an hour more of driving up the mountain we reached our destination: Crown King. Crown King is a "ghost town," inhabited by miners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today about 100/150 people live there, running the restaurant, general store, and "bar" (aka brothel- more on that in a minute).

Our first stop was the restaurant for some lunch.
Notice the trees up here; the landscape changed from dusty desert to fields of golden grass and finally to forests the higher up we got! Fascinating.
We were the only guests in the restaurant when we arrived. The building, as you can see, was constructed with a collection of wood siding and tin sheets. Inside the owner kindly advised us to mind our step as we passed over the old crooked wooden floors. Our table and chairs were old but solidly constructed and the decor was a eclectic mix of former mining tools and machines along with some more delicate items like the stained glass installation pictured below.

After a quick stop at the general store we wandered down the dirt road to take a look at the bar.

During lunch we had read about the town's history and saw that this bar was originally a brothel. As it turns out, it seems to still be operational! Much to John's Aunt Barb's dismay. Earlier in the year she and her husband had checked out the local "hotel" to see about spending the night in Crown King as a get-a-way, but after seeing the dingy 4 guest room and ONE bath accommodations, they had decided against it. Good thing because when we saw the "brothel" sign above the bar door and watched a woman in hot pink shorts call out flirtatiously to an older long-haired gentleman "Are you gonna come and see me tonight honey?" as he drove away on his four-wheeler (complete with "DIVORCED" license plate) we got the picture real fast. Poor Aunt Barb exclaimed, "Well now I'm REALLY embarrassed!"
Between Cleator and Crown King our trip up that Arizona mountain was quite an experience! We saw some gorgeous sights, heard some hilarious stories and came back with a few of our own. I think what I was impressed on me the most was how fine the tension is between human strength and frailty. Driving up and down those dusty roads on the side of a mountain was hard enough in our SUV and pickup truck, but imagining those first settlers making the journey on foot and with horses and wagons is just incredible. The strength of those first families who came to mine just blows me away. And on the other hand, looking down the side of that mountain I thought about how fragile my life is. One wrong jerk of the wheel and everyone in our car would have lost their lives. I'm sure many of those early miners lost friends and family members before even reaching Crown King. Poisonous snakes and wild animals about in that area; I wonder how many met their end on that desert mountain.

A precarious journey to life and wealth or to hardship and death.
Mines of gold and copper once abundant, now empty.
One town of thousands now left to few.
"The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)

02 April 2011

Cleator Arizona

10 steps to get a girl from Ontario to Cleator, Arizona

1. Grow up in Ontario
2. Decide to attend a Bible College
3. Decide to attend a Bible College in Michigan
4. Fall in love with John at said Bible College
5. Get married
6. Move to Michigan with husband
7. Have my in-laws move to Arizona
8. Visit in-laws in Arizona
9. Take a day trip up a mountain to Crown King, Arizona
10. Stop in at a very small town bar on the way: Cleator, Arizona.

Hokey Pete. I once visited Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa and in thought that was remote. Turns out "remote" is a very relative term.

On Friday morning John and I get up early with my father-in-law and head out of Fountain Hills where my in-laws live. So far my first Arizona experience has been sipping sun tea and enjoying gorgeous mountain views.

If those mountains are this gorgeous from here, I could just imagine what they'd be like close up. So off we go. About an hour into the trip we meet up with John's Aunt Barb and Uncle Vern as well as my FIL's cousin Tom.

Barb, Vern, Tom and my FIL had all been on this trip before. Their eyes sparkled with sly anticipation as we journeyed on. Our final destination was Crown King, a small mining town in the Bradshaw Mountains (elevation 5,771 feet).

Driving through the mountains was incredible, gorgeous, breath-taking. Any cliche expression you can find to describe a mountain view: they were it.

There were more than a few times when our SUV got a little too close to the edge of the mountain road for my comfort. Guard rails were few and far between and it was a long.way.down to the bottom. *gulp*

So I clenched the seat and closed my eyes while my stomach dropped and before I knew it my FIL was pulling into a... well, "town" might not be the right word. A "place" that looked like this:

Welcome to Cleator, Arizona. Population: 11. And where 11 will gather, there also shall be a bar.

Now I can't decide what was more entertaining. The decor:

Or the locals, who apparently loved visitors like us and had an abundance of stories to tell. Like this guy behind John:
Who lived up there in the truck in the right of this photo for FOUR YEARS before moving into a tin cabin about 500 yards behind the bar:

At first I wondered who'd want to live way out here, so far from all our modern conveniences. But then you see these views:

and it makes sense. Well, almost. ;)

A few more photos of the old (no longer used) Cleator General Store:

Next post: we're going to Crown King!