Christopher Creek is about a two-hour drive from most parts of the Valley if you don’t dawdle in Payson. It is a leisurely drive on a divided highway, with the exception of the five-mile stretch coming out of Star Valley. Most folks don’t even give it a second thought. You make sure you have enough gas and go. You arrive having traversed “The Beeline Scenic Parkway.”
It was just a little over 40 years ago that sections of the highway construction began. The link-up from the Valley to Payson was finally completed in 2001. Today’s two-hour trip from the Valley was more likely a three-and-a-half to four-hour journey back in the time frame of 1958 to the late 1970s. The “Beeline Highway” was a shortcut across two reservations and the Mazatzal mountain range. Many were the 45-mile-an-hour blind curves and steep grades on the old Beeline. Part of your travel time was the obligatory 30-minute stop at the Sunflower store. Even if you didn’t need gas, you stopped. You either sat at the counter for a slice of pie or grabbed a bottle of pop from the chest-style Coca-Cola cooler and sat on the porch. Your pop cost a dime. Going back to when Paul Ashby bought the CI Ranch in the late 1930s, the trip from the Valley took a full day. The route took you through Mesa on Highway 60 to the Buckhorn Baths. While the Bush Highway begins at Power Road these days, back then the route turned left at Buckhorn and headed across the desert toward Granite Reef Dam. The road followed the Salt River, crossed the bridge at Blue Point, and passed by Saguaro Lake on the way to Sunflower, then made its way across the mountain. At the base of the north side of Mount Ord, the highway hooked around through Reno Pass down to the 188 coming out of Roosevelt.
The year 2020 marks the centennial of the automobile’s introduction to Rim Country. We may not know the route taken to get here. Perhaps we don’t know the exact date, but we know there was a vehicle at one of the area ranches in 1921 and Grady Harrison brought his flatbed truck from Payson to rescue Leo the MGM lion in 1923. And, besides, 2020 is a good round number for a 100 years of motor vehicle traffic in the area. Karen Thornton hosted the local book club on a rainy Saturday in the Creek. There were a dozen there to hear local author, Marsha Ward, speak about her many books.
February is one of our wet months, but things weren’t going so well up until last Saturday. A soaking winter storm last weekend doused much of the state, with the area under the Rim being a major rain recipient. Rain and a dusting of snow left us with 2.42 inches in the gauge. This was sufficient to get the Creek running nearly a foot deep across the expanse of Mimi’s Crossing, thus bringing out the barricades.
While paying close attention to Rich Johnson’s online weather station, we noticed two other such weather station locations east of the Creek along Colcord Road. One of those is near the Thirteen Ranch and the other is near the Colcord Estates subdivision. Given that there is a distance of about 16 miles across our Christopher/Kohl’s fire district and a thousand feet of elevation change, weather conditions can be dramatically different. So, at the same time that Sheila Marcum is making snow angels at Elk Haven on Colcord, Rhea Hoedl might be sunbathing over at Hoedl’s Hideaway in Tonto Estates. Or not.
Just a reminder that the first day of spring is just three weeks away — The Arizona Diamondbacks’ 2020 Season Opening Day is just one week later on March 26.
The newly reopened Creekside Steakhouse and Tavern got its first taste of a Friday evening crowd. It amazes me that there can be more than 30 thirsty Creekers show up for cocktails in the middle of winter!
Tuesday morning, we joined Susan Keown and Bill to brave the Chamberlain Trail after all of last weekend’s rain. Our destination was the Gillette Ranch along Haigler Creek. Next week, we will let you know all about that.
We want to thank Dave Elston for his contribution in this space last Friday.
During my trip to the Valley last week, we visited with nine classmates from Washington, Iowa. We also made an overnight visit with Mother, who cooked a turkey dinner for me. Thanks, Mom ... and that’s another week in the Creek. She will be 96 in July.