January 2011

The first few days of January were still cold but it soon started getting warmer. We had 4 nights in a row of temperatures below freezing – this is a rarity here in the valley. We then enjoyed temperatures in the high 60’s and low 70’s for most of the month – this is the reason we spend our winters in Arizona!

Our friends, Leroy and Jinx, from Benson, AZ visited us for a couple of days. We took a drive to Canyon Lake and enjoyed a cruise on the Dolly – it was windy and a little chilly but we had a great ride and got to see some Big Horn Sheep and a Bald Eagle.

After our cruise we had lunch at Tortilla Flats, one of our favorite places.  Tortilla Flats is an old stage stop between Roosevelt Lake and Apache Junction.  It is located a couple miles upstream from Canyon Lake.  There is a restaurant, a gift shop, an ice cream store and a small museum.  The walls of the restaurant are covered in $1 bills and the bar stools are saddles.


The restrooms are unique and a lot of fun

The ladies – you can stand behind the stall doors and have someone take a picture with your head on top of one of the paintings.  You too can be a saloon vamp!


And the gents

We also went shopping at the Mesa Marketplace.  We really enjoyed our time with Jinx and Leroy.

Rex was able to go on a couple of the park hikes in January and Nancy hiked twice a week all month.   On one hike we drove to just outside Superior, AZ and hiked to an abandoned perlite mine where we found some Apache Tears.  Apache Tears are obsidian that is found embedded in perlite.

We found a lot of Apache Tears just lying on the ground. Some from our group went into the mine area and dug the tears out of the cliff. You can make some very nice jewelry from these once they are cleaned up and polished.

On the way to the mine we had to cross Queen Creek near where the Queen Creek Silver Mine was located in the late 1800’s.  We saw wagon tracks in the rock where the ore cars were pulled from the mine to the stamp mill.  In some places the tracks are carved over a foot deep in the rock.  You can also see imprints of where the mules stepped – we can’t imagine how many trips they made across these rocks.  We also saw what is left of the stamp mill – only some foundations.

We also stopped at some small one room ruins in the cliffs after we crossed Queen Creek.  We looked at three different ruins - this one had the largest portion of rock wall still standing.

After eating a great lunch at the Buckboard City Café in Superior - where the world’s smallest museum is located, we drove to the Ray Copper Mine.  This mine is one of the largest copper mines in Arizona.  It was pretty impressive watching the huge dump trucks hauling their loads up the switchbacks from the bottom of the mine.

On the way back to Apache Junction we stopped at the Pinal City Cemetery.  Pinal City was a mining town but no longer exists.  The cemetery was very interesting because it was out in the desert by itself and the graves were scattered and not in any order.  We didn’t see any graves dated later than 1914.

We stopped in an area where there were volcanic impact craters in the rock.

There was also a stone corral that was built by Spanish gold seekers in the 1700’s in the same area.

We took another hike into the Superstition Mountains to Siphon Draw.  This was a 5 mile round trip hike starting in Lost Dutchman State Park and going about halfway up the mountain.  The scenery in the Superstitions is spectacular.   This is looking up towards Siphon Draw about halfway up the trail.

Looking back down the trail towards Apache Junction.

Our hiking group taking a break at the top of Siphon Draw.  After a rain there is a waterfall that cascades into the small pool to the right of our group.  When the waterfall is active the water will run down the draw that we hiked up.

Starting back down through what is called “The Bowling Alley”.  You can see where the water flows down when it rains.

We took a park bus trip to the Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery of Western American and Native American Art. This is a wonderful private collection of western and Native American art. The Basha family owns a grocery store chain here in Arizona and shares their art collection with the public. There are over 3000 pieces in the collection including oils, water colors, bronze sculptures, seed pots, Katsinas and baskets. We enjoyed a pleasant morning looking at all the fabulous artwork and then had a great lunch at Joe’s Real BBQ. Inside Joe’s they have a full size John Deere tractor in the seating area. It was a fun place to go and the BBQ was excellent.
The last Saturday in January we attended the Agri-County Bluegrass Festival at the Pinal County Fairgrounds with friends. This was a great festival with bluegrass bands, a classic car show, a quilt show and antique tractor pull. We had a fun day listening to some really good bluegrass music and looking at all the displays and activities.


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