We started our adventure at the Rock Springs Café (visible from the I10), where I had for breakfast the most delicious Jack Daniel's pecan pie and gave way to a full table's pressure of Bloody Marys. After breakfast, we perused the area and discovered a delightful little creek around the back of the restaurant. With 20 women, photo sessions were obviously a priority.
We got back on the highway and took the exit for Bumblebee, which shortly turned into a washboard dirt road that our caravan shuddered over in a cloud of dust. Twenty miles, two daredevil women hanging out the passenger seat window, and one photo shoot later—we came to the ghost town of Cleator. Apparently, the only thing to do in a town of 11 or so people is drink at the one bar there.
To say this bar is the most charismatic one I've ever been to would be putting it lightly. Between the signed dollar bills that plastered the dusty wood walls and the Jet-Ski parked in the "yacht club" out back, I had a blast just exploring the old place.
The bartender wore a cowboy hat and sunglasses, didn't bat an eye when some of the women joked about how great his ass was, and exchanged good-natured banter with the owner—a smiling grey-haired man in a ball cap who bought us multiple rounds of drinks.
Once the majority of the women got a sufficient buzz, we continued the 15 miles to what they call "Magic Bridge"—a natural crossing that left the Saguaros behind us and brought us into crisp Pine-scented air, and to Crown King shortly after.
With a grand total of a hundred permanent residents, Crown King had a little more going for it than Cleator. It boasted a general store, an attempt at fine dining, a breakfast joint, and (of course) a saloon. But the entire town had a certain charm to it that made you love it. The bunkhouse we stayed in sported comfy couches and fairy lights in the living room and bedrooms of bunkbeds, each with a unique vibe.
While waiting for the other women to settle in, a few of us decided to venture around the property of the lady who owned our bunkhouse. She had a charming bit of land that hosted her own house, a few other shacks she rented out, a most relaxing "hammock haven", and even a bottle museum...complete with a skeleton.
Upon our return to the bunkhouse, we found an addition of two men with what they laughed at us for calling dune buggies. A couple of the women asked them for rides and, once I saw they returned alive, decided it was safe enough to follow suit. They took my friend and I off road on a trail up the mountain, which had some spectacular views.
Once we got back and found everyone was settled in, we all went to have dinner at The Mill that sat atop a hill. Half of us weren't willing to pay a minimum of 19 dollars for one of their six menu items, so we decided to eat later at the saloon and settled for having a beer overlooking the pines.
Something about the combination of elements at that spot—the treetop views, the glow of the setting sun, the chill settling over the mountains—made it a very happy place for me.
Happiness then came in the form of saloon pulled pork and potato salad. We also found the men who gave us the dune buggy rides as well as a couple of their friends. The rest of the night was spent having a ball drinking, dancing to the live band, and accepting both rounds of Fireball one of our new-found friends graciously bought all 20 of us.
Our group began to dwindle as everyone slowly made their way back to the bunkhouse. I was one of the last to go back and, despite being in the state I was, I remembered to stop and gaze at the stars—bright and beautiful amidst the darkness of the secluded town. I've always been fascinated by the night sky. It never fails to both impress me with its beauty and humble me with its vastness.
It reminds me to enjoy the simple things in life.