Touring the American Southwest in a cowboy’s boots
You cannot ride off into the Arizonan sunset without the proper footwear. Bootmaker Espinoza in Phoenix handcrafts beautiful cowboy boots custom-fit to the shape of each customer’s feet. This intimate workshop and store is a veritable museum of artisan leather products, providing visitors a glimpse into every stage of creation. The leather is buttery soft, the designs are intricate, and the resulting boots, which one customer described as clouds for your feet, will last for the rest of your life.
Get back up on the horse in Utah for a trail ride with a stunning backdrop. Navajo cowboys lead horseback tours of arrestingly picturesque Monument Valley, taking tourists to the national park’s sacred Navajo monuments and mighty sandstone formations. Monument Valley has been part of the Navajo Nation since the 1800s.
North of the valley, visitors can retrace the steps of Utah’s historic outlaws. In the midst of canyon country, Robbers Roost, near the town of Green River, was both a hideout and base for Butch Cassidy, leader of the Wild Bunch Gang, a thieving group infamous for its train and bank robberies. Within the Robbers Roost area lies Bluejohn Canyon, revered in the canyoneering community for its remoteness and grandeur. Bluejohn garnered national attention after climber Aron Ralston amputated his own arm to survive an accident that trapped him under a boulder. Safer hikes and climbs can be found throughout the surrounding Canyonlands National Park. The park also offers opportunities for camping, star-gazing, four-wheel driving and horseback riding.
Nevada is known for its gambling and so was the Wild West. One of the oldest casinos still operating is the Golden Gate Casino in Las Vegas, first opening in 1906, though its lost some of its historic look over the years. From the casino, head to an old timey saloon. Near Lake Tahoe on the border with California lies the oldest saloon in Nevada – or so it claims. Genoa Bar and Saloon was built in 1853 in Carson Valley. The watering hole’s owner also claims that its clientele has included historic figures and celebrities such as Mark Twain, Clark Gable, Lauren Bacall and US presidents Ulysses S Grant and Theodore Roosevelt. The high-stakes poker tables have been replaced by pool tables at Genoa, but the place still looks and feels like a typical Old West saloon.
California’s mining tradition has left behind many relics for travellers to explore. The ghost towns of Bodie and Deadwood (no relation to the acclaimed television programme based on the real South Dakota town of the same name) in the north and Calico in the south are all former mining camps where gold and silver were found in the 19th Century.
Outside of Sacramento in northern California, Coloma is home to the site where James Marshall found gold in 1848. People from all over the world flocked to California the following year in what was known as the 1849 Gold Rush. Seduced by the hope that this glistening metal would bring prosperity to their lives, they forever changed the face of California’s population. This area is now the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, which has a museum on the history of gold in California and various historic buildings.