She stands behind the counter, and says hello to tourists as they come in. I always feel awkward coming in to artisan shops when I know I probably won’t buy anything, but Monika seems to enjoy watching people enjoy her art, whether or not they make a purchase.
Everything in this small shop was made by her, with the exception of the frames around her beautiful paintings—her son and his friends made those. They are incredible frames, uniquely made, and none is exactly like another. They are made from saguaro cactus skeletons, or dried cactus “wood.” The shop is full of these beautiful frames, paintings, painted rocks, painted vases, and other items. The prices, as far as handmade items go, are very reasonable, and I buy two items to gift to family when I return home. After purchasing my pieces, Monika carefully wraps them in copious amounts of bubble wrap, since I told her I’m concerned about the items breaking in the RV before we get home. It’s obvious Monika’s delighted that someone will enjoy her creations forever.
Artisan items are plentiful here at Goldfield Ghost Town shops, but there are many other interesting things to see and do as well. You can take a horseback ride through the trails just outside the town, visit the mystery shack, look at reptiles, get a bite to eat, prospect for gold, or savour some of the best fudge around. You can take professional photos wearing antique costumes and get yourself on a wanted poster. You can sign up for a guided jeep tour of the area, and even check out a kid-friendly tour of the Bordello (we skipped that last part).
After visiting the Bordello, you could go pray at the church that’s almost right next door. The church is built in 1800’s fashion, and is an active church, holding services each Sunday at 11:00 a.m. When services aren’t happening, tourists are welcome to come into the church and look around—though the pews are blocked off.
There are plenty of recreation opportunities in Goldfield—even a zipline near the entrance. The place mixes 1800s, Old West Culture with modern amenities fairly well. Goldfield is a recreated Old West town, of which there are plenty in the US Southwest. But the reason I wanted to visit this particular one was twofold.
Firstly, although recreated, Goldfield stands on the site of an actual Old West town, and has been recreated to mostly look like the town that stood here in the 1800s. It’s not nearly as big as the original, but the buildings are authentic-looking, and many of them have artifacts from the time period on display.
Secondly, whereas most ghost towns charge an entrance fee, Goldfield is free to enter. But if you plan on coming, do budget for it. Meandering through the streets and checking out the buildings is free of charge, but all the fun things do cost money. If you don’t plan ahead, you could blow a budget pretty quickly.
To be able to travel for a year, we do watch our spending, so we don’t do all the available activities in Goldfield. We decide to do the train, since that’s what all the children want to do. The train that runs through Goldfield Ghost Town operates on the only active narrow-gauge railroad in Arizona, and it costs $9 per adult, $8 per senior, and $6 per child 5-12. Kids 4 and under ride free. The train engineer/tour guide is funny, and tells us all about the history of the area as the train travels around the perimeter of the town. He tells us not to hug a cactus, because they’re not friendly, and reminds us to carry a comb with us in case we ever do accidentally hug one.
Then he tells us about the Superstition Mountains and what the native people in the area believed about the rocks up top, but I think something got lost in translation. As I was researching the legends of the area, I couldn’t come up with a story that matched the narrative on the train. As the conductor wasn’t native (as far as I know), I’ll let a native history website tell the story. And please note—I understand that “native” isn’t the preferred term in Canada; however, in the parts of the US where I have visited, the words “American Indian” and “Native Americans” have been used most often by the people I have visited who are part of these groups.
Regardless of the legend(s) about these mountains, they are absolutely a sight to behold, and they are visible form almost everywhere you look within Goldfield. The sights from the ghost town are amazing, and both the town itself and the area surrounding it are steeped in Native American and Old West history.
In addition to its authentic-looking Old West buildings, Goldfield does have flush toilet facilities, and most shops take credit cards, though some only take cash. There is an RV park onsite, though we chose to stay at a free wild camping location nearby (Coon Bluff, Apache Junction – note camping date restrictions).
One day, I’d like to return to Goldfield with a bigger budget, and do the full experience—including purchasing some more items to take home.
Have you ever been to a ghost town?