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Getting Lost at Lost Dutchman State Park
Arizona’s Newest Accessible Camping Area is the Perfect Weekend Getaway
Story by Kade Garner
Photo by Kade Garner
As the sun sets, the mountains glow like fire. The jagged rocks kiss the sky like flames while shades of red, orange and yellow dance across the stony features. The last ray of sunshine fades to black and a campfire roars to life as Don Price and his travel companion settle down to make s’mores.
With gray hair that is always neatly combed, a long face that is clean shaven, rectangular glasses, and deep-set, blue eyes, Price looks like your childhood friend’s dad who acted as an extra parent. He wins one’s trust almost right away.
Price has been using a chair for over 30 years. He has always been adventurous and loves the outdoors. During one of his many adventures, Price was involved in a diving accident. The accident resulted in a spinal cord injury and paralysis.
Price’s need for outdoor recreation didn’t change after the accident, but the way he explores new frontiers did.
It’s been more than 15 years since Price went camping, and his reintroduction began at The Lost Dutchman State Park, one of Arizona’s newest accessible camping areas. Located just a few miles northeast of Apache Junction, the park is a great weekend getaway.
With a rich–and sometimes dark–history filled with superstitions and tall tales of gold, ghosts and sometimes murder, the park has been a staple location for adventure-seekers in Arizona for decades.
Now, with the addition of the accessible cabins, the park offers some of its superstition-filled magic to even more patrons.
The natural beauty of the parks is paired with five modern-day cabins that provide electricity, air-conditioning and heat. Each cabin is accessible, but for those who will need to be transferred from chair to bed, cabin one has a queen bed that sits lower to the ground. Campers have an option to get a two-room or three-room cabin, all of which include a queen bed and a pair of bunk beds.
The only real downside is that there are no bathrooms and bed linens are not provided to guests.
Just a short stroll from the cabins are bathroom and shower facilities. Campers who have different levels of mobility may ask for a special code that will allow them to use the family/accessible bathroom.
Getting to the campsite is an easy process. From making a reservation online to checking out at the end of the trip, Lost Dutchman is accessible for campers.
For Price, getting around the park was a bit difficult. For that reason, he decided to come on the trip with a travel companion who could lend a hand when needed.
They arrived at the park on Friday just as the mountains began to put on a show of colors at sunset. “That’s something to look at,” Price said as he got out of his car and gazed towards the Superstition Mountains.
From the driveway to the cabin door, the path is paved and flush. No lips, no steps, no ramps. It is easy access for people of differing mobilities.
The front door is keyless. Instead, Price entered the last four digits of their confirmation number to get in. The process was easy for Price who has limited finger dexterity. However, closing the door behind him wasn’t quite as simple. “Handles on the door would be good so people who use chairs would have some way to pull the door closed,” said Price.
Entering the cabins is like walking into the woods. The pine used for the walls and ceilings fills the entire room with a pleasant aroma and casts a warm golden glow onto all the surfaces.
“The bed is low which makes it easy to transfer,” said Price. Not only is the bed low for easy access, but coat hooks are found on the walls at different heights for people with different reaches. Electric outlets are located everywhere throughout the cabin–even near the beds.
Windows look out into a desert dusted with wildflowers, cacti and gorgeous rock features. To help tenants enjoy the scenery to the fullest, each cabin has a picnic table in the back as well as a small fire pit with a grill.
This area was the hardest for Price to access. It is just off the pavement and is full of loose gravel and soil. Price suggested having the table on the pavement or at least closer, so someone who uses a chair could pull up right next to it and join in on the fun and food.
The sun went down and the desert got chilly. Price and his friend settled down for the night. The next morning they woke to an unusual sight in Arizona.
Fog fell upon the park like a thick blanket. The sun fought to get a small amount of light through the cotton-colored clouds. Smooth surfaces were beaded with dew.
It was perfect weather to go on a walk. Price explored some of the more accessible trails near camp, sipping on a cup of coffee as he went. As the fog began to lift, Price decided to go fishing.
For those looking to do more than hike, one benefit to camping at the Lost Dutchman is the many things to do nearby. Goldfield ghost town, the Superstition Mountains Museum and other Wild West attractions are just minutes away.
“Just rough it. Here you don’t have to rough it too much,” laughed Price as he thought about his time at the campsite. For those who have restricted mobility, camping is often not possible (like it was for Price the last 15 years). To them, Price says to try it out. In cabins like the ones at the Lost Dutchman State Park, camping is accessible.
Kade Garner is a Northern Arizona native. When he is not hooked up to an IV filled with diet soda, he is probably filming an event, taking pictures of his dog, or binge-watching a new series. He’s an okay writer.
Read more by Kade Garner.