Riding With The Desert Angels
How a group of women at LDMA’s Stanton Camp bonded over adventure and exploration in the Arizona desert.
By: Donny Karr
The many different Lost Dutchman’s Mining Association camps found throughout the United States are a playground for people who are passionate about gold prospecting and mining. Each year, some of the most dedicated gold prospectors and LDMA members make their way to camps and claims that are scattered across the country, bringing their spouses, family members and friends along for the journey.
These camps are full of opportunities for gold prospecting and mining, but they also offer a prime opportunity for visitors to enjoy the great outdoors in a variety of different ways. Last year, a group of ladies joined together and went on a short trip to explore the area surrounding LDMA’s Stanton, Arizona camp. What began as a spontaneous trip to get away from the Stanton camp and ramble around the vast desert surrounding it would lead to these ladies forming a group specially dedicated to exploration, adventure, and good, old-fashioned fun.
They call themselves the Desert Angels.
The name might bring to mind certain connotations to the infamous motorcycle club known as the Hell’s Angels, but the origins of the Desert Angels is much more positive. The group was formed by Wendy Larsen, Jane Melser, Liz Perez and Vickie Parker one blazing-hot afternoon at Stanton.
“It all started when Jane and Liz decided to stay in the camp area while their husbands went out prospecting that morning,” says Wendy. “They agreed to bring their husbands some lunch later in the day and they quickly realized that they really enjoyed just riding around, taking in all of the sights out here.”
After the short ride, Jane and Liz remarked how much fun they had cruising around the trails and roads surrounding the Stanton camp and they soon rallied a few of their friends to join them the next day for another desert joyride.
“We had a group of about seven or eight ladies and we all got into some of the buggies, or side-by-side vehicles that some people had at camp and off we went,” says Wendy.
The group explored the area around Stanton for many miles. The landscape in and around LDMA’s Stanton Camp looks like it’s straight out of a Western film with its expansive stretches of desert that’s dotted with a variety of cactus species, which can create magnificent sight to behold at times of the year when these prickly plants are in bloom. The ladies also report seeing many different types of animals from horned toads to snakes, rabbits and gila monsters around the area.
LDMA’s Stanton Camp presents visitors with a picturesque view of the Arizona desert in the heart of the Weaver-Rich Hill Mining District. This location is notable among gold prospecting enthusiasts and historians. The camp sits directly on an area where Pauline Weaver, a famous gold prospector who lived during the area’s gold rush in the mid-1800s, found "spud-sized" gold nuggets in 1863. For many years following the Gold Rush of 1863, the property at Stanton was an abandoned ghost town which has since been restored.
In addition to the vast desert around camp, the Desert Angels took in the view from some of the trails that led up to the top of the high-desert mountains and hills that are found around Stanton, Arizona. It’s common to see a few old, haggard buildings and houses that have long-since been abandoned, as well as a real ghost town that’s just a few minutes’ drive from camp.
“We all had so much fun,” says Liz. “There’s a lot of history in and around that area that dates back to the early settlers and pioneers, as well as gold miners who came to the area in the late 1800’s. We went out to Box Canyon, which is a historic pass where anyone would travel through before there were cars and trucks. We also visited the Octave Cemetery, which has some very old graves from more than a century ago and other places.”
The ladies all agreed that forming the Desert Angels group was something they should have done long ago as it affords them the opportunity to enjoy one another's' company and it also offers something to do that isn’t related to gold prospecting or mining.
“We love coming out here, but there are a lot of women who don’t want to stay out at a claim all day with their husbands prospecting,” says Vickie. “This gives us something to do where we can have some time to hang out with the girls and there aren’t any men around to bother us.”
The gold prospecting community is often made up of men and women of all ages who are a bit more rugged and adventurous than the average person, but the Desert Angels group provides a brief hiatus from the work and toil that’s associated with prospecting.
“It’s a chance for us to be women and joke and giggle with one another for a while, but to also enjoy the beautiful scenery around this part of the country,” says Vickie.
LDMA’s Stanton Camp is often described as a living ghost mine and some have compared it to stepping back in time more than a century to the glory days of the old American West. The camp sits on 120 acres of land that offers 150 different RV campsites that offer water and electricity hookups, as well as dozens of tent-camping sites as well.
In the center of camp, visitors will find a communal shower house and bathroom that allows campers to enjoy a refreshing shower after prospecting and playing in the dirt all day. The clubhouse is a popular hangout for members and campers of all ages and the Stanton’s community fire pit is a place for everyone to pull up a chair and swap stories or listen to a prospector strumming an old guitar from time to time.
Wendy says she has been an LDMA member for many years now and the Desert Angels is something that has become extremely popular with ladies who are visiting the camp with their husbands.
“We have a lot of different activities here that let people get involved with things outside of gold prospecting and mining,” says Wendy. “We like to do potluck dinners from time to time and we sometimes have a little book club for those who stay here for many months out of the year. I’ve been running the craft room at the clubhouse for years and a lot of ladies really enjoy getting together to paint or to create different types of things with arts and crafts.”
The ladies who founded the Desert Angels group have had considerable interest from other women who want to participate in trips for the upcoming gold prospecting season. They are already planning some of their first rides and mapping out their intended routes to visit some of the old ruins and many of the early gold mines that were created by miners and prospectors during the great gold rush era that took place more than a century ago in Stanton.
“We welcome anyone who wants to join us—ladies who don’t want to spend the day digging in the dirt or anyone who just wants to get away and enjoy the beauty that the desert has to offer,” says Liz. “If you want to find out more about Desert Angels and when we will meet up, as well as where we might be headed next, you can keep up with us on the Stanton Camp’s Facebook page.”
Wendy says that the group plans to have Desert Angels t-shirts available this year for the ladies who participate in their adventures and the group welcomes any who are interested to reach out to them through the Facebook group or ask them at camp.
“We are planning to really have some fun with this whole idea next year,” says Wendy. “We’ll still have the buggy rides out into the desert twice per month or more, but we will also be getting together to make some trips into town to have lunch or to see a movie. We want this to be something that every woman in camp can get involved in and that we can all enjoy.”