There is a patch of desert not too far from my home that, I am told, was the original site of Apacheland Movie Ranch. If I am to believe, this is where from 1960-2004, some 44 years, 29 movies, 17 television series and hundreds of commercials were filmed.
But there is nothing out there. Sure, there are trails used by hikers and dirt bikes but nothing else. Nothing that would tell you the self- proclaimed “Western Movie Capital of the World” was here for 40 years.
The first time I walked down Kings Ranch towards Apacheland it was lightly raining.
August in Arizona is hot. Random showers during monsoon season bring us relief. I had no problem wandering around in the drizzle to see what I could find. I had walked over alone. I didn’t bring the dogs because I wanted to take pictures. At that time, I thought for sure if there had been a full movie studio and buildings there would be something worth taking pictures of.
There really is nothing out there except for a rock fence that looks like it could have been some sort of corral.
When I approached this area, I felt this energy then immediately tears welled in my eyes. The only way I could describe it was it felt like someone saying “Finally! What took you so long?”
My reaction surprised me. Why tears? I didn’t feel scared or that I was surrounded by ghosts. I just felt like I belonged there and was wanted.
It bugged me enough to head over to the museum to see what I could learn.
I learned they needed volunteers and the requirements were easy to meet. I could show up for 3 to 4 hours every Saturday, help sell things in the General Store and watch Elvis pretend he’s a cowboy in Charro! Paid with tons of free reading and education.
Besides, where else was I going to learn about this lost era…for free?
Born in Las Vegas, raised in the high desert of California and even lived as a kid for a couple of years in BAKER “the gateway to Death Valley”, I can easily say I have desert running through my veins. I had never heard of Apacheland until moving to Gold Canyon Arizona.
A few months and a few hundred viewings of Charro! later, I am meeting people who worked at Apacheland and that can tell actual stories.
The blacksmith John that volunteers at the museum has fun stories. His mom was an extra on the set of Charro! when he was a kid so he was also hanging around the set. Tells me he tried to sit in Elvis’ chair!
The local newspaper The Independent has printed two full page articles about the Stamp Mill and the Train that I have written and photographed for the museum. The monthly Superstition Living printed both articles as well. With my Blog, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram, I can share what I continue learning about this amazing area. I truly hope to be a part of preserving this little chapter in history.
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