Before our trip, people kept asking me why, in the name of all that’s holy, would we go to Arizona in the middle of summer? Short answer: People we love live there. (And my husband had just finished a grad school quarter.) Timing perfect! Funny thing is, the residents of Wickenburg kept asking us the same question!
This is our third trip to Wickenburg, and although I must admit to preferring the cooler weather, there is always something to do and see, even out “in the middle of nowhere” as one local put it. Just in case you find yourself in the area, here are some thoughts… First, if you are coming in from the east on 60, stop at the Chaparral Ice Cream Shop You will regret passing them by! Their Hassayampa Mud Fudge is delicious, either with or without nuts, and just in case you need to know, it is amazing paired with their cappuccino ice cream. We were lucky to be there for live music from the Chaparral Cowboys who were kind enough to play a couple of requests for us.
When we lived in Spain, my neighbor, Carmen kindly explained to me her foolproof sightseeing method. When in Spain, head for the town’s main square, often the Plaza de España, find the tourist office and get tips from them. We continue to take that advice, modified for the country at hand! In W’burg, we hit the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce, which does double duty as the tourist office. This trip, they were in temporary digs at the old Wickenburg Hotel, across and up from the old train station (their usual spot).
We decided to do some poking about in the shops before getting lunch. We stopped at the fabulous Double H Custom Hat Company. This is the place to go if you want a real hat! Jimmy the Hat Man has been making custom hats for years, and they are gorgeous! I am thinking Christmas present for my husband… (Shhhh, don’t spill the beans!) Last visit I bought a beautiful straw hat from them that is a pleasure to wear. Here, custom means custom. They fit and shape hats on the spot. Another great place for gifts is the Rusty Rooster. My husband and I both fell in love with their woven wire baskets, and found the gourmet food treats hard to resist.
By now we were getting peckish (It happens quickly for us.), so we stopped at The Local Press Sandwich Bar, a great little sandwich shop! If there is no seating left inside, they have kindly put an umbrella over the outside table. My husband loved The Local, and the crunchy apples on the Gobbler were a cool touch on a very hot day. Beautiful and tasty sammies, served with a side of humor!
Early (around 5 AM) the next morning headed to the new Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park. We thought that it was going to be a bit like the Stations of the Cross in nearby Yarnell, so were unprepared for a long hike. (No water, no sunscreen, no hats = desert disaster trifecta!) We decided to head up until the sun caught us, and then head back down to try again next visit. Watching the sun rise over the mountain made for a stunning climb. Every few hundred yards was a plaque dedicated to one of the Hotshots who died in the Yarnell fire. My husband commented how beautifully thought out the memorial climb was because it gave you a real feeling for these men and their passion for their vocation.
Later that day we headed back to town for dinner at Anita’s Cocina. We knew even before boarding the plane in Atlanta that we wanted to eat there again, and were praying they were not taking some sort of summer vacation. It is always a good bet to try their daily specials, and this afternoon was no exception!
On our way home that evening I was struck again by the severe beauty of the desert, and how different it is from our green and humid Georgia. On our drive from the airport, I had been overwhelmed by the vast dry landscape; this evening I was thankful we had stayed long enough for my eyes to adjust and see the subtle beauty I had previously overlooked.