Christopher Creek observed the 62nd ride of the Hashknife Pony Express with around 20 folks showing up at Creekside for the event. It was a sunny day, but the fire on the patio was inviting. The Jenkins, from Hunter Creek, stopped by on their way to find that perfect location to capture the riders and get the perfect shot to present to their photography class. The riders were a bit ahead of schedule. With lights flashing and siren blaring, a Navajo County sheriff’s vehicle historically preceded the rider down the hill and around the curve to announce the arrival. That didn’t happen this year and a few of us missed the handoff. The riders, support team, and spectators were invited into the restaurant for an impressive buffet of cookies, doughnuts and several large jugs of Starbucks coffee, compliments of the new owner of the Creekside Steakhouse and Tavern.

The event afforded some of us the opportunity to meet James Haviland and his girlfriend, Jena Bunda. James recently purchased the Creekside restaurant and cabins. We had the pleasure of a face-to-face interview with him to get some insight into his background and plans for opening. James hails from Canton, S.D. and came to Arizona in the early 1990s to complete his studies at ASU. His enjoyment of hunting and fishing brought him to Rim Country many times through the years. That is when he came to know of Creekside and Christopher Creek. While we sat on the porch, his crew was at work with a deep cleaning. He spoke about a soft opening, at first, but then a return to a menu inspired by the food Olive Matus served during her 39 years running Creekside. He mentioned the return of draft beer and his desire to make area residents his focus.

Donny Stafford, who was with the restaurant for 25 years, will return to the kitchen and Ingrid will handle cabin rentals. Opening date will be announced soon. The Creek extends warm wishes and good fortune to James and Jena!

Ethel Cain, over at the Double D in Tonto Village, hosted the 50 folks who came to say farewell to Jim and Dee White. There were more than a dozen of us from the Creek, including Chief Lockhart and some of his staff, to give those longtime residents a sendoff. We wish the best for Jim and Dee with their new home in the Valley.

Tuesday morning saw a fresh coat of white around the area with two to three inches of powdery snow blowing about. The preceding rain brought us to just over an inch for the year. This is a great opportunity to announce the “Midtown” weather station in operation since Jan. 1. Recently retired Rich Johnson established a link to his weather instruments. wunderground.com/dashboard/pws/KAZPAYSO159

The station is located about halfway down Columbine Road at the white picket fence. Thanks to Rich for sharing with the Creek.

Last week in Payson, Phyllis came out from the nail salon to tell me Jack Kalmar was sitting in her car. Jack was having a snooze when we tapped on the window. We had a nice chat and he told me he was feeling good. He looked good, too.

On Monday, we spoke over the phone with Gary Werlinger. G-Dub had recently had serious heart surgery and was resting comfortably at home. He told stories about his hospital adventure and one nurse who got on his nerves. He is looking forward to getting his driving privileges back in 10 days. The Creek continues to wish Gary a speedy return.

So, what’s next? Before the end of the month, Susan Keown has wrangled an invitation for us to visit the Gillette ranch. That will be another interesting trip back in time. Thanks to Susan for loaning her Tonto Trails a while back.

Remember the Landmark is reopening the second weekend in March.

My upcoming trip to the Valley next week will afford an opportunity for local author, Dave Elston, to step in here. We look forward to seeing what trails he will take us down ... and that’s another week in the Creek.

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