Tag Archives: photo

The King of Gold King


Don Robertson

From all accounts, Don Robertson was the heart and soul of the Gold King Mine in Jerome, AZ. Robertson, along with his wife Terry, spent 30 years building the mine to the collection that exists today.

One of the highlights of the collection, is the 1928 Studebaker Indy race car, built by Robertson himself. Don raced the car in vintage races around the west.

My Kiwi friend visited the Gold King Mine a few years ago, and Don started up the old Studebaker for him.

“He was a big-hearted soul with a side of orneriness,” said Jerome Police Chief Alan Muma. “He had this Indian motorcycle with a really loud motor. To stay out of trouble, he’d ask me, ‘Get your sound meter out and check me’ and as long as he kept his hand off the throttle, he would stay out of trouble.”

Don Robertson passed away in October of 2016. He was 73.


Gold King Mine

Jerome, Arizona


Truck Row at Gold King

The historic Gold King Mine, is located where Haynes, AZ once stood. The suburb of Jerome, was home to the Haynes Copper Company, which dug a 1200 foot shaft looking to find copper. The copper strike was minor, but the gold that was found was not.

It was around 30 years ago, when Don Robertson bought the old, played-out mine. One mining shack remained, the bunk house. That, and the mine shafts. Robertson immediately started to drag in trucks, machinery and equipment. The result of this love affair with all things mechanical, is the Gold King Mine, Museum & Ghost Town.

It is quite the collection. From massive generators, to chainsaws, to Fords & Studebakers, if it once ran, it’s now here.

I could have easily spent an entire day here, but the trails were not the easiest for my Dad to travel. Still, I was able to mingle with the equipment for a decent amount of time.

Robertson must have had a thing for Studebakers, because they were scattered all over the area. Easily, the most I’ve ever seen of the iconic brand in one place.

Gold King Mine is a gear heads paradise. A 100 year old sawmill is now powered by a 1943 submarine engine. You can buy huge slabs of wood, if you are in the market for a new dining room table.

Walk among the ruins, take pictures, enjoy the memories. We had a herd of mule deer saunter by us on a trail above the mine. Just be careful of the abandoned mine shafts, resting rattlesnakes and the free ranging chickens and goats.

I’m here on earth to save this beautiful old machinery from a horrible death. I get it running and show people so they can appreciate it.”
— Don Robertson

Rust In Peace


Montezuma Castle National Monument


“Montezuma’s Castle”

Described as a “prehistoric, high-rise apartment complex”, Montezuma Castle was occupied by the Sinagua people between the years 1100 and 1425 AD. The National Monument is located near the present town of Camp Verde, AZ.

The dwelling was built in an alcove, 90 feet up a limestone cliff, and looks out over Beaver Creek. Montezuma Castle is known as one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. At its peak, the Castle housed between 30-50 people in 20 rooms.


Montezuma Site A

Just west of the Castle, is Site A, or Castle A. These ruins show where a much larger dwelling once stood. It consisted of 45 rooms in a 5 story structure. It was destroyed by fire, possibly after it was abandoned. The small caves are actually “rooms”. Some brickwork can still be seen.


Beaver Creek

The site was designated a National Monument in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Montezuma Castle in 1929. Notice the ladders propped against the limestone cliff allowing access to the rooms.


Tonto National Monument

The monument, established by President Roosevelt in 1907, is home to the remnants of two cliff dwellings. We were able to climb up to the most visible of the two. The second one is by ranger-guided tour only, and we were too late in the day for that.

The community appeared around 1300 A.D., and was home to the Salado Indians. The ruins overlook, what was the Salt River, and what is now Roosevelt Lake. The fertile flood plain was well irrigated, and a natural place to grow the community’s crops.


The Lower Ruin

The Lower Ruin originally contained 19 rooms. The surfaces are worn smooth, and the ceiling rocks are loaded with the soot from ancient fires. The Upper Ruin is quite a bit larger, with 40 rooms. The hike to get there is also longer at 3 miles round trip.

Looking at the photographs of the ruins over the years, show remarkable changes. When the Roosevelt Dam was built, workers would visit the ruins and take souvenirs. By the time Arizona became a state in 1912, the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a hotel near the dam. Tours were given to the cliff dwellings, and, in an attempt to make access to the ruin interior easier, a wall was blown up. The Tonto Cliff Dwellings suffered more damage and loss in the 1920’s and early 1930’s than during the previous 600 years.


The Tonto cliff dwellings before the railroad


The Apache Trail

“The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have. To me, it is the most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful panorama nature has ever created.”
— Theodore Roosevelt


Map of the Apache Trail

We headed for Apache Junction to pick up the start of the Apache Trail. Long used by the Apache Indians, the trail became a stagecoach route through the Superstition Mountains in the 1800’s. Today, the route from Apache Junction is officially known as State Route 88.

Goldfield


Mammoth Saloon in Goldfield

The first stop on the trail is the old Ghost Town of Goldfield. In 1890, Goldfield was booming, with three saloons, a brewery, blacksmith, general store, meat market and a boarding house. Once thought to overtake the town of Mesa in population, the mine’s vein suddenly faulted, and the ore quality dropped. From there, the town withered in the desert.


Goldfield’s bordello

Today, you can tour the played out Mammoth Mine, ride the narrow gauge train, eat outside the cafe, or have a cold beer and meal in the saloon. I will say that the ice cream cones are damn good, especially when the waffle cones are fresh out of the oven.


Canyon Lake

The first reservoir on the Salt River is Canyon Lake, which was formed after the building of the Mormon Flat Dam in 1925. Steamboat rides are offered on the lake, and hiking trails abound.

Tortilla Flat: Population 6


Superstition Saloon in Tortilla Flat

We stopped in Tortilla Flat, for what I hoped would be lunch, but it turned out that I was the only one hungry, so we only looked around. I heard the food in the saloon was the best in town, but even that did not convince the relatives.


Inside the Superstition Saloon

The saloon boasted one dollar bills as wallpaper, and bar stools that were actual saddles.

The trail gets interesting

The trail turns to gravel once you travel past Tortilla Flat. Gravel may be a generous term, silt may be more accurate. Either way, I had a blast. The road is a switch-backing, sandy, twisting bundle of pure overland fun.

Apache Lake


Apache Lake

Apache Lake is the next reservoir. The lake is formed by the Horse Mesa Dam, which was completed in 1927. It’s a lake I’d like to come back and explore. The fishing is suppose to be great, and the access restricting. Perfect.

Roosevelt Dam

The 357′ Roosevelt Dam was built between 1905-1911, and raised 77′ in 1989. The addition increased the storage capacity of Roosevelt Lake by 20%. 42 lives were lost building the dam.


Theodore Roosevelt Bridge

Highway 188 used to cross the river over the dam. With the ambitious remodel, the highway was realigned over the newly built Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.

From the bridge, the Apache Trail officially ends. To complete the loop back to Apache Junction, head towards the town of Globe.

Tonto National Monument


The view from Tonto Cliff Dwelling

The Tonto National Monument is on the opposite side of the highway from Roosevelt Lake. The cliff dwellings of the Salado people are the main attraction. More on these in a future post.


Tonto NM cliff dwellings

Globe, AZ

I had heard that the Burger House in Miami was well worth the stop, but I also heard that it was incredibly popular, and I was starving and didn’t want to risk a line. We swung into Globe instead and ate at Nurdberger. The small cafe did not disappoint. Worth the stop, after a day on the trail.


Red Rock State Park


Cathedral Rock from Red Rock Trail

A nice day trip from Sedona was Red Rock State Park. A bit pricey, as most AZ parks are, but a very beautiful trail winding along Oak Creek.


Zen rocks along the Red Rock Trail

It’s a very spiritual place for many. In several spots were little rock piles stacked up making cute, little rock gardens. Some people were quite creative in their stacking.


Oak Creek


Beware Of Bobcats

Not as impressive as Moose, wolves and bears, but…

I’m down in Phoenix with relatives for a rare trip with family. It’s a very different form of travel for this wandering Alaskan, but I should have some sort of adventure to share as the week transpires. Time will tell.