Archaeological tours, hikes into the Sonoran Desert, trips to the top of Four Peaks, and peeks into the “hidden treasures” of Cave Creek. When tourists from around the world come to the Valley, the point of contact for individuals interested in such activities is Johnny Ringo.
Ringo owns Carefree Adventures, a vehicle tour service that offers a host of options throughout Cave Creek, Carefree, Phoenix and Scottsdale. He is also willing to customize.
Ringo moved to Arizona from New Jersey nearly 30 years ago. “I started from the bottom and I worked my way up to be a shift supervisor,” Ringo says of his early days as an executive at a paper mill in the 1960s. “I had employees, secretaries, the beeper, the phone, on call 24 hours a day. I made a lot of money, I looked good, I smelled good, I drove big old Cadillacs, and I lived in a 23-room house.”
But something was missing for Ringo. Inspired by his days as a youth watching spaghetti westerns with his grandmother, he says he always wanted to be a cowboy who rides a black and white horse. So, he came to The Grand Canyon State once his children were grown and he eventually landed in the tour industry.
“Now I’m living my dream and sharing it with thousands of people all over the world,” he says.
With Carefree Adventures, one of Ringo’s most popular tours is the Gold Mine Tour into Rackensack Canyon. On 62 acres of land near Cave Creek and Carefree, and surrounded by the Tonto National Forest, the canyon boasts numerous mines: Dallas, El Paso and Fort Worth. They were discovered in 1870 by Confederate Army deserter Edward G. Cave, nicknamed “Old Rackensack.” The land is owned by Charles and Ginger Underwood, who also have a leather making studio and gift shop for travelers.
On the tour, Ringo and his fellow tour guides detail Cave Creek’s mining history and important sights. One 4,400-foot elevation spot reveals breathtaking Arizona views of the Four Peaks Wilderness, Weaver’s Needle and the Superstitions.
Historical findings uncovered after the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Wildfire stock the shelves outside the Fort Worth mine, including containers that once boasted whiskey, catsup (ketchup), mustard and Vaseline.
Inside the Fort Worth mine, guests can see the different tunnels taken by Rackensack and other miners, as well as a football field-length ladder shaft to a lower level – though this isn’t something in which guests can venture.
Ringo and his guides make an impression on their clients. “I believe we’re not the biggest tour company in the Valley; we’re the most recommended,” Ringo says.
And this idea rings true. Rick Loof, a tourist on a five-day trip from Wisconsin with his wife and son, says Carefree Adventures was recommended by a client. Loof and his family rave about it.
“The very first thing he suggested was a Johnny Ringo tour,” Loof says. “The tour was the thing that Tom said, ‘If you don’t do anything else, do this tour.’”
Ringo’s trips don’t only appeal to tourists, though. Desert Mountain resident Tricia Bortz estimates she has been on four of Ringo’s tours. This was her second time on the Gold Mine Tour.
“You also feel like if you’re new to the area or a first-time visitor to the area, you’re actually getting an education, and I thought that was fantastic,” she explains. “It wasn’t just entertainment or killing time. You actually learn something. And at the same time, he and his guides are very entertaining.”
At the end of the day, though, Ringo’s goal is to entertain guests and achieve his dream.
“I was fortunate to be with the right people at the right time and learn from the best,” he says.
For more information, visit carefreeadventures.com.