After looking at the historical winter temperatures for southern Utah I made an educated decision to head further south for the winter…something I would later come to regret.
I had been to Kingman, AZ some years earlier and thought it would be a small enough town to enjoy but not so large as to be overwhelming to a small-town girl.
I initially found a decent boondocking location fifteen miles east of town which gave me the chance to get a feel for the area and start looking for work. Within a week I had found a piece of property to rent and from there, with power and good cell service, I was able to search for and secure a decent job for the winter.
Almost immediately I realized my chosen rental site was not going to work…the dreaded puncture vine was everywhere and my dogs were suffering, not to mention the amount of stickers I was pulling out of my shoes daily.
I was contacted by a wonderful couple (via my Craigslist ad) who had a fenced area and full hook-ups available and after three weeks I moved my RV to the new spot, in a much nicer area of Golden Valley, the day before I started my new job.
For the next two weeks I also had a friend in town and we explored the area together. These are the highlights of the Kingman area:
The famous highway goes straight through Kingman, AZ coming in from Peach Springs and Seligman to the east and heading out to Oatman in the west. The old downtown of Kingman, Beale Street, has been run down for a long time but new investment and new businesses in the area are beginning to revitalize and renew the beautiful old town. Places of note include the Black Bridge Brewery, Floyd’s Wood-Fired Pizza Company, Diana’s Cellar Door Wine Bar, the Arizona Route 66 Powerhouse Museum and the Mohave Museum of History and Art.
Oatman is a town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, west of Kingman. Located at an elevation of just over 2700 ft on Route 66 it began as a small mining camp soon after two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find in 1915, though the vicinity had already been settled for a number of years.
Oatman’s most famous attractions are its wild burros, which freely roam the town streets. Many can be hand-fed hay cubes otherwise known as “burro chow,” readily available in almost every store in town although this is highly frowned upon and not recommended. Burros all have “Do Not Feed Me” stickers on their foreheads. Though normally gentle, the burros are in fact wild and signs posted throughout Oatman advise visitors to exercise caution and I saw a couple of people threatened with kicks and several received bites.
The burros are descended from pack animals turned loose by early prospectors, and are protected by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Weekends in Oatman can see anything from classic car rallies to mock “Wild West” shootouts right down the middle of old Route 66
Keepers of the Wild
Thirty miles east of Kingman is a non-profit sanctuary for dozens of wild indigenous and exotic animals that were rescued, surrendered or re-homed with the facility by other animal welfare agencies. Housed within large enclosures you will find wolves, lions, leopards, monkeys and many more animals who have found a secure and safe home for the rest of their lives. The animals are healthy and happy, and while the entry fee may seem a little steep it all goes towards continuing rescue, rehabilitation and education. This is not a zoo and do not expect it to be as such.
We did not take the guided tour but I suspect it would have been worth it; the tour provides the history and stories of each of the animals in the sanctuary.
They are currently hoping to expand their operation and continue the process of providing a safe and secure home for rescued exotic and indigenous animals.
For more information, or to donate to their wonderful cause, please check out their website: Keepers of the Wild
Hualapai Mountain Park
An afternoon drive up into the Hualapai Mountains is worth some time. From scrub desert you climb swiftly into pine trees and beneath moderate peaks. It is the gem of the Kingman area. We were lucky enough to see a large herd of elk, including a couple of large bulls, in the yard areas of some of the homes. The area is reminiscent of any alpine settlement and it reminded me of my home back in Wyoming, although slightly warmer and a lot drier. There are a handful of good hiking trails as well as a nice lodge where decent food and cold beer can be acquired.
Other Kingman recommendations:
Food: Kingman Chophouse (amazing steaks), Bangkok Thai Cuisine (pretty good Asian food for a desert town), Five Guys Burgers (is there any where else for burgers?), El Rancho Restaurant in Golden Valley (very good authentic Mexican food).
Things to Do or See: Any of the copious abandoned mines in the area especially one just north of Chloride, Secret Pass hike or four wheel drive trail, Fort Beale (free permit required), drive to Lake Mohave on the Colorado River.
Unfortunately I came to really dislike the area and its barren and dead-looking landscape. Some parts of the desert, like southern Utah, are beautiful…this area of northern Arizona is not. I was not doing the things I wanted to be able to do in a warmer winter, like backpacking trips, due to the lack of time, money and places where I could go to do such things. With much contemplation and discussion with family I made the decision to leave Arizona early and head up to the Pacific North-West where trees and water were abundant (the things I missed the most).