Socializing With The Dead, The Living & The Old West – Congress, AZ

The Old Pioneer Cemetery next to our boondocking spot

My, my it’s been an activity-filled couple of days. For those of you who read Bayfield Bunch & TinTeePee you already know where we are. In fact since both these folks do daily blogs (yes, I am in total awe) you’ve probably already read about us twice. Makes me feel almost passé to be writing about all this stuff several days later, but I’m going to blame our rather awful internet connection…or possibly the dead. You see we’re camped just outside of Congress, AZ within spitting distance of the site of historic Mill Town and not only one, but two cemeteries. This is a spot of ghosts, gold and stories past…and you just know all those spirits are messing with our signal.

 Quirky Congress Downtown

Remains of the Old Mill at Congress, AZ
Remains of the Old Mill at Congress, AZ

Congress, AZ started as a gold mine back in 1884 and although the mill and the pioneers are long gone it’s kept alot of it’s quirky charm and history from that time. It’s a teeny spot of a place with only ~1700 people and a mish-mash of nice houses intermixed with run-down dumps. At first sight it really doesn’t look like somewhere you’d want to stop, but as with any place if you take the time to dig deeper you find some hidden gems. The 2-block downtown hides cute rummage shops and the Congress Depot Mercantile, a fabulous little shop with all kinds of superb knick-knacks and delicious Pizza (seriously). Around the corner is a stunner of a surprise -> 5-star restaurant Nickols West started by a couple who ran a place in New York, but decided to move west and bring that same cuisine to the the little no-where town of Congress (who would’ve thunk?)

 The Spirits Of Congress Cemetary

Old headstones at the Pioneer Cemetary

And of course there’s the dead, the dead. Two excellent cemeteries sit right outside of town along Ghost Town Road. The new cemetery and, further down the road, the historic one with the ruins of the original Mill only ~1/4 mile away. I always love to knock around these spots and imagine the lives of the folks who migrated out west. Many lived short lives and survived incredible hardships, all for the lure of gold. Wonder how many struck it rich? It’s an fabulous spot to bring doggie, walk the dirt roads and imagine some history.

 Western Love At Wickenberg, AZ

The lovely Caballeros Western Museum
The lovely Desert Caballeros Western Museum

And that’s not all there is here. Just around 15 miles south is another Old West gem, Wickenberg, AZ. This was yet another gold town which sprung up around 1863 from the mine found at Vulture Peak. It’s now a cute spot which could easily call itself “the most western town in the west”. The town thrives on the history in old downtown which has all kinds of active western & livery shops (seriously, you want western gear this is the place for it!), the Desert Caballeros Western Museum (labelled as the best western art museum in the entire SW) and a slew of fabulous, life-like statues by artist J. Seward Johnson sprinkled around the streets (there are 6 large bronze and 16 linkage pieces -> not to be missed!). Outside of town there are even four Dude Ranches offering the authentic western experience.

Even Polly gave this place her paw-approval. The local Wickenberg Veterinary Clinic was a laid-back lovely guy who charged only $18 (total !!) for Polly’s annual heart-worm test, and the downtown coffee-shop (Nana’s) had a gorgeous flower-filled back porch which was completely paw-friendly. My kinda place.

 Socializing With Friends

Happy hour at Janna & Mike's
Happy hour at Janna & Mike’s

Outside of these little gems, part of the real reason we stopped here was to visit some RV buddies. Janna & The Cowboy have been hanging just south of us in North Ranch Escapees Park and we’d planned to see them ever since our last meet-up in Oregon last year.  We invited them over for dinner at “the beast” and had a most excellent evening catching up. I even managed to “trick” the Cowboy into doing something he didn’t expect. You’ll have to read Janna’s account of the evening to find out exactly what I got up to :)

Hiking with the Bayfield Bunch at our boondocking site
Hiking with the Bayfield Bunch down the road from our boondocking site

Closer to our boondocking spot Bayfield Bunch have established their winter home. They got a steal of a deal on a run-down house just around 2 years ago and have done an outstanding job of refurbishing it in gorgeous southwestern style. Bayfield Bunch was one of the very first RV blogs we ever read and were the folks that inspired us to try boondocking. Al’s down-to-earth style, good humor and excellent pictures have kept me coming back to his blog for years and it was an absolute pleasure to spend some quality time with them both. Polly was especially excited to meet their lovely doggie Pheebs, but the poor thing had gotten a bite on her nose and came bounding out of the door with a massive plastic cone on her head causing Polly to think she was being attacked by an alien creature. The two doggies eventually worked it out, but I’m sure Polly thought we were nuts. We had a wonderful afternoon with both Kelly & Al followed by an equally lovely morning walk around our boondocking spot the next morning. We even topped off the entire experience with a joint happy hour at Janna & Mike’s that evening. Told you we’ve been social!!

Was that really only four days of activities??? Phew!! We actually planned on staying here a little longer but yesterday afternoon I saw a 5-foot long Rattlesnake basking just south of our boondocking spot…eeeek!!! Can you say a sign to move on?? We’re heading north and if everything works out as planned my next post will be from Nevada. See ya there!

RVillage_Logo_FinalP.S. Speaking of socializing, if you haven’t seen the announcement for RV Village check out this post by Technomadia about it’s launch. This cool new site enables RVers of like interest to meet-up during their travels. By far the coolest feature is the interactive map which shows you where everyone is at anytime. You can plan social interactions on here, meet like-minded people and create special interest groups. We’ve been beta-testers of the site since before it was launched and have already engaged in two meetings as a result of the cool map. We totally love it! Check it out!!

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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Rowanova says

    I love the beautiful pics of old western looking towns. I know it’s better to be there tho.
    Rattlesnakes?!?! Yikes!!! I’d be headed off to better locales too! Don’t blame you there. :)
    Have fun and travel safe.

    • libertatemamo says

      It’s been such a warm winter here in AZ that the rattlesnakes are actually out earlier than expected. Definitely time to move on :)


  2. says

    How neat to read all three of your blogs in a row! What a fun time getting to catch up with each other. We’ve never met either couple but hope to next year.

    I was glad to read that Polly and Pheebs had a second chance to get together under more “normal” circumstances. They both seem like such fun, friendly, happy dogs that it seemed like they could be best friends.

    I hope we never have a meeting with a rattle snake. It sure would make me nervous hiking.

    Love that you got to try out your dessert on Janna and Michael!!! It sure is surprising to learn that it is avocado!

    Looking forward to your tour of Nevada.

    • libertatemamo says

      It was fun to try out that avocado desert again. Everyone who tries it just loves it and no-one ever guesses what it’s made from.


  3. says

    I see you got you pic with Al, just a week after I did. I am sure these will be collector items when Al starts charging for the event. I guess my timing was off a bit, I could have had a Tom and Nina pic to go with my others.

    Stay safe and far away from Rattles out there, just got back from Key West and it was Beer Crawl Day or perhaps drink until you can only crawl. A lot of cops had cars pulled over on the way back…..

    • libertatemamo says

      Guess we juuust crossed paths, but you made some ground since your visit. Key West is not exactly next door! Enjoy your stay out there.


  4. Wayne Dyer says

    If it makes you feel any better, any rattler you SEE will not bite you. Its the ones you DON’T see that do the trick. Sure glad you saw that big one so he wouldn’t bite.

  5. says

    Your socializing tires me out just reading your posts Nina! I’m certain we could not keep up with the two of you. It was interesting to read about this area of AZ after having not visited for many years.

    • libertatemamo says

      Even I’m surprised at how social this winter has been! I’m thinking Nevada will be more remote, especially when we get north of Vegas.


  6. says

    I have been following your travels and really enjoy it. Thanks for all the information that you have provided. My wife and I are full timers based in Chandler,AZ. We are heading up to Blanding, Utah to walk the canyons the first of April. Any chance that you may be going that way? Hope to meet you two someday. Keep up the good work.

    • libertatemamo says

      We’ll be going through NV this year, but we did drive to Blanding last year so I have lots of posts in the Utah archives on that one. Enjoy! It’s a gorgeous spot.


  7. says

    All the best to you guys in your travels & thanks for putting Congress on your map as a stopping point. Enjoyed spending time with you folks & learning some new things. Our talks & your rig also gave us a few more welcomed ideas to mull over:))

  8. says

    Looks like a bunch of fun with a bunch of fun folks to hang out with (esp. the live ones) Sounds like a really cool spot to check out. On our list for next fall on the way back to the south for the winter.

    • libertatemamo says

      There’s definitely a lot to see here, and we didn’t even drive up the mountain to Yarnell and Prescott. On the list for next time.


  9. says

    Hey Nina thats a great post!!! I am into the cowboy, old west thing and plan to go to Wickenburg when I leave Quartzsite. Plus there is dupposed to be some good turquoise flat and varisite etc in the desert scattered about.

    Sadie n Bill

    • libertatemamo says

      If you decide to boondock at Wickenberg I’d recommend Vulture Peak Road…very nice area with lots of space.


  10. Rattlesnake Joe says

    I spotted two of the largest Gila Monsters I ever saw just about 50 yards from the old cemetary at Congress. This was back in 2009. If it weren’t for the locals dumping their junk out that way it would be a good boondocking site. I filled up a 5 gallon plastic bucket with broken glass when I was there. Have to watch the paws when camped in this area. I spent a lot of time at the Congress library. Friendly vendors along Hwy 89 going south from Congress towards Wickenburg. There is a fine old Ghost Town, I think it is called Stanton just off the way to Yarnell. I met an old timer who had been there since the 1930’s. People still find Gold there but you have to be a member of the Miners club before you start panning. It is worth a visit by truck but cars may have a hard time as you need some ground clearance.

    • libertatemamo says

      The trash at Ghost Town was probably our biggest disappointment. There were at least two nice campsites that had been completely ruined by junk. Other than that it’s a really pretty area with lots of desert life. Cool tip about the ghost town and gold! I actually heard about a local guy who had bought himself a jeep from panning…so it seems there is still stuff out there.



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