Apples and Pies Just Part of Julian’s Appeal

Julian is an old gold mining town, now famous for its apples and apple pies

While many boomtowns eventually became ghost towns, Julian had more to offer than mining.

In the lush rolling hills and mountains, just 60 miles northeast of San Diego, is the small town of Julian. It’s not on the way to anywhere for most folk, but if you’re even close it’s well worth visiting for a day or two.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Confederated, veterans from Georgia headed west to seek their fortunes in a new, mostly unsettled land. Among these were cousins, Drue Bailey and Mike Julian, who found a lush meadow between the Volcan Mountains and the Cuyamacas to their liking.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town was named Julian, in honor of Mike Julian, who later was elected San Diego County Assessor. The town was never large; at the most, it boasted a population of about 600. Rumor has it that Julian almost became San Diego’s county seat.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A cattleman, Fred Coleman, found the first fleck of gold in a creek in early 1870. It was San Diego’s first and only gold rush. The gold rush was short-lived, lasting from 1870 until around 1900 with some mining still later on. But the pioneers stayed and began farming the rich land.

Related: The 10 Best Day Trips in Southern California

While many crops were planted and animals pastured, Julian proved to be a fine place to grow apples. Julian apples, “Twenty-one varieties of well-grown and carefully selected apples”, received the Bronze Wilder Medal, a top honor, from the American Pomological Society at the 1907 Tri-centennial Exposition held in Jamestown, Virginia.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apples continue to be produced in Julian. Their sweet, fresh flavor lures thousands to the mountains each fall when visitors will find fruit stands overflowing with crisp fruit, homemade cider, and other delicacies and enjoy U-picking.

Apple picking season in Julian arrives in early September and lasts until mid-October. But even if your trip doesn’t coincide with the harvest you can still enjoy the spoils: there’s no shortage of bakeries in town and everyone you ask will have a personal favorite.

Julian Pie Company © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The biggest name in town (and possibly in the West) is Julian Pie Company. Along with the most widely distributed apple pie throughout Southern California, they carry more than 20 pie varieties, apple cider donuts, apple nut bread, and “apple memories,” bits of extra pie crust cut out into hearts that are perfect to snack on during the ride home.

Mom’s Pie House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Mom’s Pie House, you’ll find a laundry list of pie options and other equally delightful confectionary goodness but not to be missed are their apple dumplings loaded with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and baked in cream cheese to absolute perfection.

Related: The Charms of Julian

Apple Alley Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An unassuming spot right off the main drag, Apple Alley Bakery turns out a spectacular apple pecan pie with a crunchy crumb topping plus a killer lunch special that includes your choice of a half sandwich and a side of soup or salad and a slice of pie for dessert.

Julian Cafe and Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also noteworthy, Julian Cafe and Bakery’s boysenberry-apple is the perfect mix of sweet and tart, and Juliantla Chocolate Boutique covers cinnamon-scented caramelized apples in a flaky crust that’s also completely vegan.

Julian is an official California Historical Landmark, meaning that any new development must adhere to certain guidelines that preserve the town’s architectural integrity. Once you’re settled in, get your bearings with a self-guided walking tour and explore Julian Town Hall, historical homes, and the Pioneer Cemetery as well as the Julian Gold Rush Hotel, the oldest operating hotel in Southern California and one of the first businesses in San Diego County to be owned and operated by African Americans.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the longest-running mining operations in town, The Eagle Mine is a popular spot to take a tour and try your hand at panning for gold as they did in the olden days. Julian Mining Company also has all your gold-panning needs covered, plus gem mining, tomahawk throwing, and train rides.

Related: Where is the Best Apple Pie in America?

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s also worth checking out the outstanding collection of historical artifacts at the Julian Pioneer Museum where you can learn about how local Indigenous groups and pioneer settlers lived and worked as well as The Barn Vintage Marketplace just outside town in Wynola, a great spot to shop for vintage keepsakes, furniture, and souvenirs. Be sure to say hello to the sweet emus who call the latter home.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You won’t be leaving this little town hungry and for a trip down memory lane, Miner’s Diner is the spot. Operated within the Historic Levi & Co. building (the first brick building erected in Julian, 1885) the historic significance doesn’t stop there. From the eclectic mix of vintage signage to old prescription medications which line the shelves to the numerous photos of the town and the building, customers receive an understanding and experience of old Julian which is available nowhere else.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dating back to 1929, this charming vintage soda shop has classic diner fare on deck—stacks of pancakes, bacon, and eggs, burgers, dogs, and melts included—plus a “Fun Stuff” menu where you’ll find old-timey treats like phosphate soda, ice cream floats, thick shakes and malts, banana splits, and, yes, apple pie.

Related: Julian Is World Famous For Apple Pies

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Established in 1977, the California Wolf Center is home to several gray wolf packs including one of the rarest and most endangered species, the Mexican gray wolf. Reservations are required to visit so schedule one of three different tours to learn about wolf conservation and meet with the wolf packs.

Worth Pondering…

Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.

―Yogi Berra

A Haunting Good Time: Your Guide to 5 Ghostly Cities Across America

We’ve got spirits, yes we do

We know America as the land of spacious skies and amber waves of grain but it also happens to be the land of a million ghost stories. Take a coast-to-coast tour of the most haunted cities in the U.S. where lingering spirits roam through the halls of mansions, authentically haunted hotels, a haunted theater, a retired battleship, and more of the scariest places scattered across the country. Haunted? Quite possibly. Storied history? Absolutely!

And if ghosts aren’t your go-to travel companions, fear not—these sites offer enough culture, history, and beautiful scenery and architecture to keep you firmly planted in this realm.

Related: Visit a Spooky, Creepy, Weird & Haunted Place

Ashton Villa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas: Galveston

Since Galveston has been the scene of much death and many tragic events, it is no wonder that Galveston is as haunted as it is.

Ashton Villa was built by James Moreau Brown in 1859. The ghost of Brown’s daughter Bettie is said to reside there today. In life, she was reportedly an eccentric, free-spirit, and her ghost seems to be the same. Her spirit has been reported to be seen in various areas of the house. Odd happenings have frequently been reported including Bettie’s bed refusing to stay made. Bettie is not the only haunt in the house. Visitors and caretakers also claim to hear piano music playing at times. It is thought to be Bettie’s sister Tilly since Bettie never learned to play the piano in life.

Bishop’s Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bishop’s Palace, a beautiful Victorian home was built in 1892 by Walter and Josephine Gresham. It is widely regarded as one of the most prominent Victorian architecture examples in the United States today. Perhaps this is why Walter’s ghost roams around inside and outside the home, according to legend. Visitors widely suspect that Walter is protecting the property. On stormy nights Walter’s spirit seems to be more active, pacing the front porch. Perhaps he remembers the fright of the Great Storm?

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia: Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is a stunningly beautiful stretch of sun-soaked sand, trees, and grass on the Georgia coast. Rich in history, it is one of the crown jewels of the Golden Isles. In addition, some say it may be one of the most haunted islands in the world!

Goodyear Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A vacation resort populated by some of the most powerful men and women of its day, the Jekyll Island Club thrived from 1886 until World War II. Its members included the Morgans, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts. The magnificent “cottages” of the club’s wealthy members still stand in the Jekyll Island Historic District as does the Jekyll Island Club itself.

Moss Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is so well known for its amenities and service that stories prevail of guests who checked in—but never checked out! Among the ghosts said to haunt the hotel is railroad magnate Samuel Spencer. Killed in a 1906 train collision, Spencer still returns to enjoy his coffee and morning newspaper. Room 3101 of the Annex is said to be haunted by the benevolent spirit of Charlotte Maurice. She has encouraged guests to enjoy their lives.

Related: Celebrate Halloween RV Style

Indian Mound © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel’s most famous ghost stories involves the son of club member and railway magnate Edwin Gould who was shot and died in a hunting accident in 1917. The hotel is also said to be haunted by a bellman mostly seen on the second floor.

duBignon Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Suite 2416 on the second floor of the main Club House has been the subject of much talk of supernatural events. During a visit by one couple, they were stunned when a balcony door suddenly burst open and an explosion of light illuminated their room. Just as quickly, the light went out and the door closed with a slam.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Tombstone

On a trip to southeastern Arizona, you just might want to bring your infrared film, an open mind, and plan to spend a night or two in Tombstone. Tombstone is home to many ghosts and haunted places.

Tombstone Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In its day, one of the wildest places in the west with its saloon, casino, dance hall, prostitutes, and theater; the famous Birdcage Theater has had hundreds of visitors recount hearing people singing and talking in the box seats above the stage. There are dozens of testimonies by both tourists and employees of the theatre of seeing people wearing clothing from the 1800s and numerous sightings of a man wearing a visor walking across the stage.

Boothill Graveyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A number of other buildings in Tombstone are also haunted. There have been sightings of ghosts in the Aztec House Antique Shop, Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, Nellie Cashman’s Restaurant, the Wells Fargo Bank Building, Shieffelin Hall, and Boot Hill Cemetery to name a few.

Sign at Boothill Graveyard © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This graveyard, filled with colorful characters who lost their lives under less than peaceful circumstances, boasts a number of spirits that just couldn’t take death as the final word. Perhaps this is how Tombstone became known as “The Town Too Tough To Die.”

Related: The Best Place to Scare the Crap Out of Yourself & Add a Little Spook to Your RV Travels

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama: Mobile

Mobile has over 300 years of hauntings that are just waiting to be explored by those brave enough to dare! From ghost hunts to the dark secrets woven into Mobile’s history, the Azalea City has no shortage of spine-tingling experiences for those looking to get spooked. 

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hear tales of darkness, death, and dismemberment on Mobile’s Dark Secrets History Tour that explores pre-Civil War mansions, overgrown gardens, and an old church with a mysterious past. Or, book an evening tour exploring Mobile’s mysterious spirits and strange happenings on Mobile’s Own Ghost Stories tour. Your guide will share stories of Mobile’s ghostly residents, folklore, and other strange events from our city’s past!

USS Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t forget to pay a visit to the USS ALABAMA where aboard this historic battleship several people have reported hearing ghostly footsteps, strange voices, and the slamming of hatches.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: Bisbee

Fifteen miles north of the Mexico border, Bisbee was at one time one of the world’s most productive gold, copper, zinc, and lead mines. For thrills and chills in the “Most Haunted Town in America” check out the Bisbee Seance Room set in Magic Kenny Bang Bang’s Victorian Parlor where you’ll hear about the historic haunted history of Bisbee.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Celebrating over 14 years of bringing you haunted and macabre stories, the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour is a great way to experience the town after dark. Or, be spirited away on a haunted walking tour of Bisbee’s most spooky bars. Before you enter each of the five locations your Spirit Guide will regale you with tales of the haunted history of the location. As you sip at your drink of choice your host will recount tales of Bisbee and its unique and interesting characters. The tour is estimated to last approximately 3 hours with 35 minutes spent at each location. Don’t forget that your spirits will not materialize unless you tip your bartender and Spirit Guide!!

Worth Pondering…

I’m just a ghost in this house
I’m a shadow upon these walls,
As quietly as a mouse
I haunt these halls.

—Allison Krauss, Ghost in This House

Become Best Friends with a Burro in Oatman

The burros own the town

No trip to Laughlin is complete without a detour to Oatman, a Route 66 ghost town in Arizona that has become a bit more touristy over the years. The new escape room at the local jail is fun. The Oatman Hotel is a great stop for lunch. The restaurant has killer buffalo burgers and the walls (and even parts of the ceiling) are covered with dollar bills.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the real draw is the burros roaming Oatman whose ancestors were brought in to work during the mining days. A few unwritten rules to follow: first—burros and dogs don’t mix. Second—don’t feed the burros carrots which are high in sugar and do a number on the digestive tract. You’re more than welcome to feed them alfalfa squares, sold in bags for a dollar.

Finally—when the burros are in the middle of the road (which they frequently are), they have the right of way. Cars have to wait, no matter how long it takes. No honking, revving engines, or doing anything else to encourage them to move along.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They know how to have fun in Oatman where good-humored shops line the street and the burros contribute to the annual fall Burro Biskit Toss.

More than 500,000 visitors are drawn annually to Oatman’s gold mine history as well as the legend of its namesake. Olive Oatman is entrenched in western lore as a woman who was kidnapped by an Indian tribe, then sold to a friendly local tribe before being freed to her family near what became Oatman.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman was sparsely settled starting in 1863 when a small bit of gold was discovered in the surrounding Black Mountains. Not much came of the discovery until two lucky prospectors struck it rich in 1915 with a 10 million dollar claim. The town grew rapidly after that, and in the course of a single year the tiny tent village became a town of 3,500 people. In the 1920s and ’30s, the population grew to around 10,000. In 1921, a fire swept through the town destroying most of Oatman’s buildings.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman certainly prospered during a decade-long gold rush, but when the mines dried up, so did everything else. The town’s biggest mine closed in 1924, and by 1941, the government ordered the closing of Oatman’s remaining mining operations as part of the country’s war efforts.

Because of its location on Route 66, local commerce shifted toward accommodating motorists traveling between Kingman, Arizona and Needles, California. From 1926 to 1952, the Mother Road coursed through the heart of Oatman, sustaining a healthy tourism business. Interstate 40 bypassed Oatman in the early 1950s, however, and by the early 1960s, the whole area was all but abandoned.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A revitalized interest in historic route 66 saved Oatman from demise, and while it may not be thriving, it’s got a lot to offer visitors looking for that kitschy slice of Americana. Oatman is often described as a ghost town, but that is not quite accurate. The current human population is 128. The burro population is close to 2,000.

The town prides itself on maintaining a Wild West feel, down to the wooden sidewalks, staged shootouts, and kitschy shops. (You can even adopt a wild burro and take it home!)

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard allegedly honeymooned at the 1902 two-story adobe Oatman Hotel after marrying in nearby Kingman. Some say the lovebirds’ spirits as well as other former lodgers still vacation there. The hotel remains open as a museum and restaurant.

Oatman is surrounded by Bureau of Land Management wilderness which is also home to desert bighorn sheep. Outdoor activities include hiking, camping, hunting, photography, and rock climbing.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman is a day trip full of surprises—of ghost towns and ghost roads and wild burros. And one of the most scenic drives in the state. Now that’s something to bray about.

Worth Pondering…

So many ghosts upon the road,
My eyes I swear are playing tricks;
And a voice I hear, it’s Tom Joad,
Near Oatman on Route 66.

—Dave MacLennan

Tombstone: The Town Too Tough To Die

Stagecoach rides, Old West saloons, trading posts, dance hall girls, and shootouts enhance any visit to Tombstone

Tombstone invites visitors to walk in the footsteps of the West’s most famous outlaws and good guys, the Clantons and the Earps. During its 1880s heyday, Tombstone, the “Town Too Tough to Die,” boasted 10,000 gunslingers, gamblers, prospectors, and prostitutes.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sparked by Edward Schieffelin’s silver strike (skeptics warned he’d only find his own tombstone), the raucous town boasted more than 60 saloons. Tombstone is known for the famous street fight near the OK Corral between Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday vs. Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy and Ike Clanton.

The fierce gunfight was quick and when the bullets stopped flying, Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury lay dead. Billy’s brother, Ike Clanton, kept his life that day but was eventually murdered near Springerville, Arizona. Virgil and Morgan Earp needed weeks to recover from serious wounds but Doc Holliday was barely grazed by a bullet. Surprisingly, Wyatt Earp was unscathed.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The OK Corral still stands and gunfights are re-enacted as visitors are thrown back to a time when life was bold and uncompromising. Tourists can visit the many historical buildings dating back to the 1880s. Stagecoach rides, Old West saloons, museums, trading posts, dance hall girls, cowboys, and unique photo opportunities also add to the adventure.

In 1889, the New York Times referred to Tombstone as the “wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and Barbary Coast”. And while the American West had many of these old Western towns at one time, most of them have crumbled away to nothing or been torn down for the creation of modern buildings.

Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was probably the extreme violence that played up in dime-store novels that gave Tombstone its special mystique and allowed it to survive. Home of the fabled Boot Hill Graveyard, Tombstone is not a recreated town, but contains the actual buildings that existed in the 1880s when it grew up around the rich silver mines in the area. Western movies by the dozens have depicted the wild tales of Tombstone and, even though its heyday lasted only seven or eight years, this small town south of Tucson has come to epitomize the essence of the Old West.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Called “The Queen of the Boom Towns”, Tombstone is an especially popular vacation spot for vacationing families as well as snowbirds wintering in Arizona.

Cowboys and outlaws, frock coats flapping and six-guns ready, prowl the streets looking for a fight. Gunfire erupts and smoke drifts through town while marshals try to keep order. Ladies of the evening lounge on street corners in their colorful and daring outfits, while proper ladies in long gowns and parasols stroll the boardwalk.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tombstone isn’t hard to explore by foot—being all of three blocks long and two blocks wide­—but it’s more fun to do in style by riding a stagecoach through town and listening to the colorful history unfold around the various buildings as you ride past.

Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other buildings worth exploring include the Tombstone Courthouse where much of Tombstone’s history is displayed, and the Bird Cage Theatre (6th and Allen, you can’t miss it), where ladies of the night entertained their male callers in small cage-like compartments suspended from the ceiling. Anyone who remembers the song, “She was only a bird in a gilded cage,” can relate to this. The song, highly popular in its day, was inspired by the Bird Cage Theatre.

Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Among the many attractions of Tombstone is Boot Hill Cemetery on the northwest edge of town off Highway 80. Surviving a day in Tombstone was a victory as its famous Boot Hill Cemetery overflowed with those shot during poker games, killed in drunken-induced gunfights, and even hung for simply becoming a public nuisance. Undertaking was no doubt a lucrative profession. The cemetery takes its name from the fact that many of the people buried there died quickly and violently and were buried with their boots on.

OK Corral, Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As might be expected, the arid desert around Tombstone also boasts a number of towns that went bust—leaving in their wake skeletal remains of buildings and mines. For Old West enthusiasts, these ghost towns are well worth searching out. They include Charleston and Millville (nine miles southwest of Tombstone on Charleston Road, Fairbank (nine miles west of Tombstone on State Highway 82), Courtland (21 miles north of Douglas, off US Highway 191, Gleeson (16 miles east of Tombstone on Gleeson Road), Hilltop (36 miles southeast of Wilcox on the east side of the Chiricahuas), and Pearce (28 miles south of Wilcox on State Highway 186.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Fast is fine but accuracy is final. You must learn to be slow in a hurry.

—Wyatt Earp

A Braying Good Time in Oatman

Oatman prides itself on maintaining a Wild West feel, down to the wooden sidewalks, staged shootouts, and kitschy shops. (You can even adopt a wild burro and take it home!)

You’ve got to see Oatman to believe it. This tiny town is in a rugged area carved out of the wilderness by determined miners and now populated by more wild burros than people.

On the road to Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They know how to have fun in Oatman where good-humored shops line the street and the furriest residents—small donkeys descended from miners’ beasts of burden—contribute to the annual fall Burro Biskit Toss.

Burros on the road to Oatman

More than 500,000 visitors are drawn annually to Oatman’s gold mine history as well as the legend of its namesake. Olive Oatman is entrenched in western lore as a woman who was kidnapped by an Indian tribe then sold to a friendly local tribe before being freed to her family near what became Oatman.

On Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town of Oatman is 28 miles southwest of Kingman along old Route 66. This town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County was founded back in 1915. Two miners discovered gold in the nearby hills and put the place on the map. By 1915 these two miners pulled out over $10 million worth of gold in a short time. That would be about a quarter of a billion dollars in today’s dollars. Oatman grew to nearly four thousand people within the year.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the town has a very sad tale that accounts for its name. Pioneers from the east looking for a new life came west in search of a better life. One such pioneering family was the Oatmans from Illinois. Royce and Mary Ann Oatman had seven children and one on the way as Mary Ann was pregnant. As their wagon train made its way toward Maricopa Wells along the Southern Emigrant Trail, it was approached by Yavapai Indians. Royce Oatman was prepared to give some supplies but when he refused to give the Yavapai more of their already limited supplies, the family was massacred.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Only their son, Lorenzo, and two daughters, Olive and Mary Ann, survived. Believing the boy to be dead, the Yavapai stole the Oatman’s possessions as well as the two girls as slaves. Mary Ann later died in captivity but Olive survived and was reunited with her brother in 1856 at Fort Yuma. In honor of the family that lost their dream for a better life, the village of Oatman was named for them

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The area surrounding present-day Oatman was mined for decades before the two miners showed up in 1915. Back in 1863, Johnny Moss discovered gold in the Black Mountains and staked a couple claims. One, he named after himself—a very thoughtful choice—and the other in memory of Olive Oatman.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As with most small mining communities, this area had its ups and downs, depending on the prices for minerals and the cost of getting them to market. But in 1915, that large deposit of gold was discovered and Oatman was on the map as the largest producer of gold in the American West.

By the 1960s, the boom had gone bust and Oatman was nearly deserted. So what to do with an old mining camp? Why not make it a tourist attraction?

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to visitarizona.com, more than 500,000 visitors are drawn annually to Oatman’s gold mine history as well as the legend of its namesake. For a village, that’s a lot of people walking up and down the streets. Actually, when visiting most people walk along wooden sidewalks—just like they did way back when.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But when the burros come visiting most anything goes. The burros that live in the nearby hills are a major calling card for Oatman. They are everywhere—and I mean everywhere. The early miners used burros to carry their belongings as they went from one gold strike to hopefully, the next. Being a miner was a lonely business. Often, when a miner died alone, the burro simply wandered off. Over time, the burros thrived in the hills near Oatman. The burros strut along the streets, brush up against vehicles, and bray at anyone who will listen.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman is such a tourist destination that back in 1939 Clark Gable and Carole Lombard allegedly honeymooned at the 1902 two-story adobe Oatman Hotel after marrying in nearby Kingman. It is no longer an actual hotel but tourists can eat at the first-floor restaurant or have a drink at the bar before visiting the museum on the second floor where the lovebirds spent their wedding night. Some say the lovebirds’ spirits as well as other former lodgers still vacation there. The hotel is the oldest two-story adobe building in Mohave County.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman has been used as a backdrop in numerous films, too. There’s “How the West was Won” (1962), “Roadhouse 66” (1984) and “Killer Holiday” (2013).

There are numerous shops along the main street and some of the activities offered during the year include the Great Oatman Bed Race in January, the sidewalk egg frying contest on July 4, and the Christmas Bush Decorating held in December.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We stayed a few hours, wandering here and there. We patted the burros and made sure that each store saw our feet. We crawled into a pub or two, as well. One does get thirsty wandering a village.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oatman is surrounded by Bureau of Land Management wilderness which is also home to desert bighorn sheep. Outdoor activities include hiking, camping, hunting, photography, and rock climbing.

When in this part of Arizona (it really isn’t that far), take some time and visit Oatman. You’ll have a braying good time.

Worth Pondering…

So many ghosts upon the road,
My eyes I swear are playing tricks;
And a voice I hear, it’s Tom Joad,
Near Oatman on Route 66.

—Dave MacLennan

The Charms of Julian

There is always a reason and a season to visit Julian

Though COVID-19 has stalled a lot of travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

Julian is a small mountain community in Southern California located at the intersection of California highways 78 and 79, about 50 miles northeast of San Diego and 100 miles south of Palm Desert. This historic gold-mining town is nestled among oak and pine forests between the north end of the beautiful Cuyamaca mountains and the south slope of Volcan Mountain. Take a step back in time to the days of Julian’s beginning rooted in the 1870s gold rush and discover the charms of Julian.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The original mining-era buildings in Julian are now home to unique shops—but my interest lay elsewhere, in the gold mining history of this small town and the famous apple pies of the region.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Confederate veterans from Georgia headed West to seek their fortunes in a new, mostly unsettled land. Among these were cousins, Drue Bailey and Mike Julian, who found a lush meadow between the Volcan Mountains and the Cuyamacas to their liking. The town was named Julian, in honor of Mike, who later was elected San Diego County Assessor.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town was never big, at the most it boasted a population of about 600. Rumor has it that Julian almost became the San Diego County seat.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A cattleman, Fred Coleman, found the first fleck of gold in a creek in early 1870. It was San Diego County’s first and only gold rush. The gold rush was short lived, near over in less than a decade. But the pioneers stayed and turned to the land for their livelihood. While many crops were planted and animals pastured, the rich land and mountain weather proved to be ideal for apples and orchards cropped up around the town.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apples continue to be produced in Julian. Their sweet, fresh flavor lures thousands to the mountains each fall, when visitors will find fruit stands overflowing with crisp fruit, homemade cider, pies, and other delicacies.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At 4,235 feet, Julian’s high elevation provides clean air, blue skies, and four distinct seasons, unusual in sunny Southern California. The first cold spell of fall prompts a blanket of color as the trees prepare for a winter of gentle snowfalls. Sledding and snowball fun add to the season’s activities.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its tiny, four-block-long Main Street is home to country stores, wineries, bed and breakfasts, galleries, and fine restaurants.

A year-round getaway, Julian has a wide variety of activities for visitors. Enjoy a cool summer evening riding down Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage or explore the many gems that dot Main Street.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy a tour, sample wines from the local wineries, visit the historical museums, ride a horse through serene meadows or hike to the top of Stonewall Mountain for a panoramic view that goes on for miles. Julian has something for everyone’s taste regardless of the season.

The entire township of Julian is a Designated Historical District. Its image as an early California frontier town with pioneer store fronts, historic sites and guided tours of Eagle and High Peak Mines accounts for much of its modern appeal.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Housed in the restored walls of the Treshil blacksmith shop, Julian Pioneer Museum offers artifacts from the Julian of yesteryear―wall to wall photos of local pioneers, examples of mining equipment, an old carriage, clothes, and household items. You’ll leave with a taste for what life was like when the town was established.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unlike other gold rush towns, Julian never became a ghost town. Maybe it’s just too pretty to leave. Whatever the reason, today’s Julian exudes small-town charm and country friendliness.

I enjoy visiting Julian for its laid-back charm, historical buildings, beautiful surroundings, and the delicious apple pies.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During our recent visit, we bought four pies, one each at Julian Pie Company, Mom’s Pies, Julian Cafe, and Apple Alley Bakery. It’s all for the sake of science; taste testing required to determine a favorite. And, that my friends, is the subject of another post.

Worth Pondering…

Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.

―Yogi Berra

Explore Arizona’s Spooky, Haunted Ghost Towns

You need not travel far in Arizona before encountering a ghost town or two. These quirky towns make the perfect spooky road trip.

Arizona’s 19th-century mining boom gave rise to numerous towns that bustled with near-instantaneous commerce, but whose rapid growth ended abruptly when precious metals were depleted.

Today, many of these outposts are little more than abandoned buildings. Yet others have taken on new life, drawing artists and free spirits who embrace their town’s haunted past and welcome visitors in search of spooky tales and Old West lore.

In a state full of ghost towns, you have your pick from the famous (Bisbee) to the infamous (Tombstone). Below are some of Arizona’s most distinctive ghost towns, each with its own quirks and curiosities.

Bisbee

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Delve deep into Arizona’s mining past in Bisbee, a town of colorful architecture and equally colorful characters, and a ghost or two—many of the town’s locales are rumored to be haunted.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you stroll through Bisbee’s winding, narrow streets and alleys, the town’s historic mining role resounds through remarkably preserved architecture, museums, and the underground Queen Mine Tour. Beautifully landscaped parks, cultural activities like the Bisbee Farmers Market and Arizona’s oldest baseball park, along with unique events like the Bisbee Stair Climb, Sidepony Music Festival, and Alice in Bisbeeland embody a community dedicated to entertainment for locals and visitors alike.  

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those interested in the town’s spookier side, an evening walking tour with Old Bisbee Ghost Tour will introduce the towns dearly departed.

Oatman

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This tiny town in a rugged area carved out of the wilderness by determined miners is now populated by more wild burros than people. Good-humored shops line the street and the furriest residents—small donkeys descended from miners’ beasts of burden—contribute to the annual fall Burro Biskit Toss.

Oatman Hotel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 500,000 visitors are drawn annually to Oatman’s gold mine history. The town prides itself on maintaining a Wild West feel, down to the wooden sidewalks, staged shootouts, and kitschy shops.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard allegedly honeymooned at the 1902 two-story adobe Oatman Hotel after marrying in nearby Kingman. Some say the lovebirds’ spirits as well as other former lodgers still vacation there.

Jerome

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1876, Jerome was once home to the wealthiest mine in the world owned by one man; the whole town was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1967.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The third largest town in Arizona at its peak, the boom town was called the Wickedest City in the West in 1903. A local count showed 37 bars, 13 bordellos, and four churches. Jerome was the largest producer of copper, gold, and silver in Arizona in the 1920s before the mines closed in 1953 and it became the largest ghost town in the west.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beginning in the 1960s, the town was restored with historic accuracy and revitalized as an arts community.

Jerome and the red rocks of Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled a mile high on the side of Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley with spectacular views of the Red Rocks of Sedona and the distant San Francisco Peaks above Flagstaff, Jerome is a clear ‘don’t miss’ stop in Arizona.

Tombstone

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The spirits of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton Brothers live on in the authentic old west town of Tombstone, home of Boothill Graveyard, the Birdcage Theatre, and the OK Corral.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After getting its start as a silver mining claim in the late 1870s, the settlement grew along with its Tough Nut Mine, becoming a bustling boomtown of the Wild West. From opera and theater to dance halls and brothels, Tombstone offered much-needed entertainment to the miners. In 1886, the mines flooded and the miners moved on to the next claim.

Boothill, Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the “Town Too Tough to Die” didn’t earn its nickname name for nothing. Now a tourist hotspot, you can still hang up your cowboy hat and dust off your chaps in the numerous saloons, restaurants, and shops that line Allen Street.

Worth Pondering…

The undiscovered places that are interesting to me are these places that contain bits of our disappearing history, like a ghost town.

—Ransom Riggs