The Power of the Train

On Saturday November 19 2016 The Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum held it’s SMM Model Railroad Dedication. More than an hour before the announced 9 am start time the crowds began to arrive. Excited kids dragging parents, parents dragging kids, locals and out of towners, they came eager to see the train.img_7737

You cannot beat the fantastic scenery. As you walk past John the Blacksmith hammering away on a horseshoe and head through the Apacheland Barn you see this amazing, huge, outdoor train set with the incredible Stamp Mill towering behind it, the majestic Superstition sitting in command of it all. Add in the history these buildings hold and it’s almost overwhelming.

The train is a gift to all of us from some of the nicest people roaming the planet. Just imagine for a minute, take your own money and years of your life buying, creating, setting up and maintaining a huge train set then, give it away to the museum, reset it up with hundreds of your hours of volunteered hard work, outside, in the desert, just for everyone else to enjoy for free?IMG_7741.JPG

Yes, that’s what they did.

The train set is huge and filled with fun detail that stays true to size and era minus a little fun here and there. The engine itself truly mesmerizes as it travels past you. I wanted to run after it like I was five-year-old boy and I am a forty-seven-year-old woman. At one point, I was so caught up in watching it I lost all sense and wanted to take the controller from the conductor’s hand so I could run the train!IMG_7707.JPG

Thankfully they know this is a common response and have made sure the controls won’t end up in untrained hands. But guess what? They will take volunteers and train them. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.IMG_7701.JPG

It rained last night and I woke up worried. The train needs an outdoor cover to protect it. The little towns and people and sets can’t possibly withstand too many seasons of our extreme weather. A great Thank You for this incredibly generous gift would be for all of us to now find a way to cover, shield and protect our train from getting destroyed by the brutal Arizona weather so it can continue delighting everyone for years to come.

The Stamp Mill


I have some fun “PDR” or “positive desert reporting” for you this gorgeous Monday! At exactly 10 am this morning I watched the 20- Stamp Mill ore crusher demonstration at the Superstition Mountain Museum. If you have not watched the demonstration of this massive machinery get ready to mark it on your calendar!

Like most women I know, I love gold and have spent my entire life just fine with not knowing exactly how gold is found, produced, made, or whatever. I just like gold in the shiny jewelry form… handed to me in a pretty box.

But reality is, if I had to go climb a dangerous, cactus covered mountain and blast holes into it hoping to find rocks that possibly have gold hidden inside only to lug those incredibly heavy rocks back down that mountain on a mule…? Then go smash those rocks hoping there is enough gold inside to have been worth risking my life for?!?!

This is not going to happen. Not ever. Certainly not for jewelry.

It truly amazes me that anyone did this. But they did. Countless men have lost their lives following maps and trails into the Superstition Mountain searching for gold. The Museum is filled with books retelling true stories about the famous and not so famous gold miners. The more I read the more I am fascinated.

These stories of mining gold become eerily real as you stand there with the amazing Superstition Mountain as the back drop while the men running the Stamp Mill explain the process then proudly fire up their rock crushing machine.

It happens once a month, it’s free and the scenery is spectacular.

October 10 @ 10 am Demo is the last Monday. November through April Demos are once a month, twice daily on Saturdays.

November 12 @ 11 & 1

December 3 @ 11 & 1


Apacheland Movie Ranch was in full swing back in the 1960’s making Westerns with the fabulous backdrop of the Superstition Mountain Range. Big stars like Ronald Reagan and Elvis filmed movies there.

The ranch suffered two major fires. The last one on Valentines Day 2004 destroying nearly everything.IMG_4441

The remaining buildings, the Elvis Chapel where Charro! was filmed and the barn, were moved to the Superstition Mountain Museumimage

We were not aware of the movie ranch when we bought our little house on the hill over here in Gold Canyon but heard stories almost immediately once we arrived. Possibly because the charred remains of what was once a place creating magic and entertainment for all was right down the road. Walking distance.IMG_4383

We visited the Superstition Mountain Museum right after we moved. I loved it. The history surrounding this area is amazing. Like most states, it is painfully sad that as a state we don’t work harder at teaching the history of Arizona for more than a day or two to students in overcrowded class rooms. Most of us desert kids get very little real education about the gold rush except for California’s history.

Feeling I needed to see Apacheland’s original home I hiked over there the other morning after I thought the rain had passed.IMG_4403

Drizzling and gray it was a peaceful walk on a muddy trail. It’s always so hot that being slightly wet felt good. Completely alone I reached the section I believe I came for.IMG_4395

As I stood there a wave of energy surrounded me and my eyes filled with tears. This overwhelming feeling as if I had finally arrived, as if I had been waited for, as if it had taken me far too long to get there, took a hold of me for probably no more than a minute or so. Standing there alone with tears streaming down my cheeks I was not afraid but rather sad I had waited so long. It was clear I had been sent there by the energy that surrounds this entire valley and told to give a voice to a piece of history we could lose so easily.IMG_4391

I walked home now knowing I had been given a mission. I dried off and headed back over to the museum in hopes of better pictures or maybe find a volunteer or docent that could tell me more about the fires and the history.IMG_4434

I wandered into the barn where a few of the men were holding down the fort (sitting on benches chatting about life, there was no one around and it was about 100 degrees outside!) Always friendly and inviting they offered me a seat on the bench.

I enjoy being around men who are much older than myself. I have learned to listen. I have also learned that I have enough sass to hold my own but know to not go too far and show the respect deserved.image

The boss rolled on up and hung around to yack with us for a few. After listening to me spar with one of the men who had been prodding me into a political conversation the boss turned to me and asked if I wanted to volunteer at the Museum.

I started Saturday.

Superstition Mountain Museum

Wanna go someplace fun? Something other than some big budget movie or a mall? You should. Do it. Take a drive over to the Superstition Mountain Museum.

What a cool place!

Inside the Museum you get the honor of speaking with volunteers who are just amazing. Beyond the hospitality they show and the warmth, these individuals are a wealth of information.

We got the privilege to talk with Historian Jim Swanson while we were there and I hope to have many more visits with him. Though I am born and raised desert this man to me is the real deal. Riding horses into the Superstition for years now he has stories you can’t imagine. I felt like a city dweller next to him and I lived in Baker CA. so that says a lot! Think I saw a small twinkle in his eye, a moment of desert cred, when I told him that I had lived at the Gateway to Death Valley. But it PALES in comparison when you imagine him on horseback being shot at riding through the Superstition. I bow down not worthy. With really cool intense enthusiasm from a hardened desert veteran he shared routes to get some of THE best views. If you don’t go meet this man you’re truly missing out.


Right down from our house used to be an old movie studio that made westerns. The Apacheland Movie Ranch. Elvis starred in one called Charro! That movie studio burned down but what remained they moved to the museum.imageimage


imageimageSo not only can you get a tour inside of the museum itself but then you can wander around the old movie studio area and even head into the Elvis Memorial Chapel to get a picture with the King. imageThey show movies in there and keep the schedule in the gift shop. We met Doris volunteering in the chapel. She would be more than happy to take your photo with Elvis and hang out and talk. Her husband John volunteers in the gift shop. It is so nice to go somewhere that you are treated like you are welcome to be there and people talk to you never once looking at a phone. If that’s going back in time then yes, take me.

You need to go!